Gillman Noonan

1937- ; ed. UCD; worked on a German newspaper, living in Germany; stories of sexual liberation, for good and ill; issued A Sexual Relationship (1976); also Friends and Occasional Lovers (1982). DIL

A Sexual Relationship (Swords: Poolbeg Pres 1976), 147pp.; also Friends and Occasional Lovers (Dublin: Poolbeg Press 1982), 124pp.

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Maurice Harmon, ‘First Impressions: 1968-78’, in Terence Brown & Patrick Rafroidi, eds., The Irish Short Story (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979): ‘In some ways it is easier to illustrate the changed attitudes towards traditional values by examining a number of stories that incorporate the more permissive aspects of Irish society in the ’seventies. Gillman Noonan’s “God and Ye Olde Curiosity Shop” turns the traditional portrait of Irish mother and son upside down. The first person narrator had what he calls an “agnostic and liberal upbringing in the obscurantist forties and fifties”, an opening sentence that alerts us to the deliberate aim of this story to place imaginative landmines under sacred cows. Gus mother, a ravishing, liberated widow, is an agnostic and free-thinker. At first he adores her, as does everyone else. She is a doting mamma, even to the point of encouraging and facilitating his love-affairs as soon as he is able to have them. So what more could a boy want? The twist comes, when he grows to hate his mother for the very things that make her so acceptable in the first place: her liberal morals and the civilised veneer that she has created for both of them. He is a Stephen Dedalus without the nets. Not having God thrust upon him in boyhood, he has to find Him for himself, which he does: he rejects his mother’s hedonism and becomes a Church of Ireland minister.’ (p.69.)

Maurice Harmon, ‘First Impressions: 1968-78’ (1979), further [after remarks on Seán O’Faolain’s studies of the deep layer of pietism under the modern Irishman’s agnosticism]: ‘Noonan’s character overcomes his mother’s influence by turning religious, or, more exactly and more ironically, by finding a form of Christianity not too different from what he had found in the antique shop run by his mother. In his view the Church of Ireland has an old-fashioned, antique look about it; it therefore suits his dilettantish character. / Gillman Noonan is interested also in what binds men and women to each other. Opposed to sentimental notions about love, marriage and living happily ever after, he is fascinated by the inexplicable oneness of some couples, whose relationships persist, when young love has long passed, or when sex has become routine. Something else is there - acceptance, defeat, consideration, a realisation of the pitiful human condition - any number of possible explanations suggest themselves to him. And it is this something that he would have us see, sometimes harshly, as in “Between the Cells”, sometimes gently, as in “Money for the Town”, sometimes more complexly, as in “Shamrocks”, in which the Irish wife exiled in Germany sees beyond “the trite acceptance in for better or worse”. The title story of his collection is a satirical send-up of the conventional male role of cunning pursuit of the female object. Here the Irish Romeo is matched against the teutonic Helga, who has herself programmed to find a sex partner for every other month, which is when she can conceive. Sean (what else can he be called?) is put off his stroke by such calculation, so unexpected, he thinks, in a woman; he does not see it as a mirror image of his own carefully cultivated manner.’ (p.70.)

Maurice Harmon, ‘First Impressions: 1968-78’ (1979), further: ‘Frank sexuality is a feature of the new writing, although it is not excessive. Some writers have a harsh vision that resembles that of Patrick Boyle. Gillman Noonan’s “Between the Cells” is a confessional account of a sordid and unhappy relationship a husband and wife estranged, the wife in hospital, the husband’s girl friend pregnant. Trying to raise money for an abortion, he (vels debased, yet his love for his wife endures, as though they [71] were “outcasts of some kind full of a mixture of damnation and sainthood, people who will only find themselves in a new dimension of growth that setmmed from beneath layers of decay and disease. Yes some all-acceptance is there already, however tentative.”’ (pp.71-72.) Further: ‘In Gillman Noonan and Neil Jordan we find new images in the Irish imagination: the techniques emphasis the swirl of objects, broken figures, images, a dance of phenomena, what Noonan calls in “Artefacts” “the drift of senseless forms”. (p.74.)

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