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This mighty woman certainly was somebody

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Author Nuala O'Faolain spent her last weeks and months travelling after being diagnosed with cancer in February

Author Nuala O'Faolain spent her last weeks and months travelling after being diagnosed with cancer in February

Author Nuala O'Faolain spent her last weeks and months travelling after being diagnosed with cancer in February

Nuala O'Faolain focused her formidable intellect on the psychotic female from hell in 'Fatal Attraction'. She gasped as the pet bunny was dropped into the boiler and then stifled a scream at the end when the obsessive Glenn Close propelled herself from the bath to murder Michael Douglas.

The then Irish Times columnist thought the movie's message -- "it's all right for a man to have an affair as long as it's not with a nutcase" -- was morally dubious. But she really enjoyed the film.

The point is that Nuala put as much of her considerable powers of critical analysis into the box-office smash of 1987 as she did into the works of Marcel Proust. She reckoned his classic 'Remembrance of Things Past' is superior gossip, a sort of elegant soap opera.

Nuala thought as deeply about the popular arts as she did about the classics but she could ignore the clever presentation and separate the real thing from slick hokum.

Just a couple of months ago, she appeared on RTE's 'The View' and gave a unique insight into 'The Wire'. She was a joy to be with, according to those who met her that evening, and didn't tell them about the diagnosis of cancer, to which she finally succumbed last Friday.

She could be enchanting company, charming and funny, wicked and witty; a very attractive woman, kind and generous, helpful and concerned about others. And, despite her little girl voice and apparent wide-eyed innocence, she was also a complicated and very sophisticated woman.

Her talent to write was fired from a fierce intelligence, and nurtured by a lot of learning. But that conglomeration of privileges comes with a compensating downside.

Those who tell stories for a living are occasionally compelled to include friends and family, and they get hurt, like literary collateral damage. And Nuala was hurt when they were hurt. It's an occupational hazard for serious writers.

Even before her phenomenally successful memoir 'Are You Somebody?' was published, it was eagerly anticipated in New York, even though she was unknown in the US at the time.

I have very fond memories of visiting the house in Ranelagh in Dublin that she shared with Nell McCafferty. I knew Nell better, although Nuala had gone on a faux date with me to review the film 'Fatal Attraction' for a radio programme.

I met Nuala under Clery's clock on Dublin's O'Connell Street and bought her a box of Cadbury's Milk Tray chocolates on the way. And for years after that, we would meet occasionally by chance and chat earnestly about current affairs but inevitably we would swap scurrilous gossip.

It was not easy listening to her interview with Marian Finucane and in the end, as Nell noted, Nuala was "spared by a swift death".

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She was a mighty woman. And a very, very special somebody.


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