Remembering Eileen Battersby
Sir, – I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Eileen Battersby. I was a dedicated admirer of her writing for over two decades.
On July 13th, she published two brilliant pieces on Paul Simon –an appreciation of his music and a review of his farewell Dublin concert; the review was posted online within two hours of the concert ending.
Having attended the concert, I emailed her at The Irish Times to compliment her on the way in which her writing had brilliantly captured the transcendental nature of Paul Simon’s music and the magic of his performance on the night.
I was surprised that she emailed me back – almost immediately – explaining how her laptop “had hit the ground about a dozen times” as she was trying to write her review, surrounded by fans who were up on their feet dancing. She also said that it made her sad, as an ardent fan, that she would never see Paul Simon play live again.
I was deeply struck by how hard it must be to write criticism in and about the moment of experience and the discipline needed to do it to such an unbelievably tight deadline – and with such wonderful accomplishment. The joie de vivre she felt at the concert had found its way into the very rhythm of her words as they danced off the page.
I was also greatly impressed by the awe-struck enthusiasm she had for her subject, her sense of poignancy at the passage of time, and her generosity in bothering to reply to me in the first place.
Her email crystallised, for me, what made Eileen Battersby a truly great and highly influential critic. She had that the rare ability to heighten, not only the intellectual, but also the emotional response of the reader, the viewer or the listener to a work of art.
But there was a lot more to her writing. Rarely found in critics, she had a deep humanity, a generosity of spirit and a vulnerability that connected her to her own readers: her thoughts and feelings about books greatly enriched the experience of reading them.
Eileen Battersby will be very sadly missed by all of her countless readers over the years. The tragedy of her death affects us all and we will remember her every time we read something that she wrote about too.
In her appreciation of Paul Simon, Eileen Battersby wrote, “Thank you: two small words and far too small for what you have given”.
The compliment is now returned by all who were inspired by her own work: thank you. – Yours, etc,