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Maureen (Patricia) Duffy Biography

Nationality: British. Born: Worthing, Sussex, 1933. Education: Trowbridge High School for Girls, Wiltshire; Sarah Bonnell High School for Girls; King's College, London, 1953-56, B.A. (honours) in English 1956. Career: Schoolteacher for five years. Co-founder, Writers Action Group, 1972; joint chair, 1977-78, and president, 1985-89, Writers Guild of Great Britain; chair, Greater London Arts Literature Panel, 1979-81; vice-chair, 1981-86, and since 1989 chair, British Copyright Council; since 1982 chair, Authors Lending and Copyright Society; vice-president, Beauty Without Cruelty; fiction editor Critical Quarterly, Manchester, 1987; since 1992 vice-president, European Writers Congress. Awards: City of London Festival Playwright's prize, 1962; Arts Council bursary, 1963, 1966, 1975; Society of Authors travelling scholarship, 1976. Fellow, Royal Society of Literature, 1985. Agent: Jonathan Clowes Ltd., Ironbridge House, Bridge Approach, London NW1 8BD.



That's How It Was. London, Hutchinson, 1962; New York, DialPress, 1984.

The Single Eye. London, Hutchinson, 1964.

The Microcosm. London, Hutchinson, and New York, Simon andSchuster, 1966.

The Paradox Players. London, Hutchinson, 1967; New York, Simon and Schuster, 1968.

Wounds. London, Hutchinson, and New York, Knopf, 1969.

Love Child. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, and New York, Knopf, 1971.

I Want to Go to Moscow: A Lay. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1973; as All Heaven in a Rage, New York, Knopf, 1973.

Capital. London, Cape, 1975; New York, Braziller, 1976.

Housespy. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1978.

Gor Saga. London, Eyre Methuen, 1981; New York, Viking Press, 1982.

Scarborough Fear (as D.M. Cayer). London, Macdonald, 1982.

Londoners: An Elegy. London, Methuen, 1983.

Change. London, Methuen, 1987.

Illuminations. London, Sinclair Stevenson, 1991.

Occam's Razor. London, Sinclair Stevenson, 1993.

Restitution. London, Fourth Estate, 1998.


The Lay-Off (produced London, 1962).

The Silk Room (produced Watford, Hertfordshire, 1966).

Rites (produced London, 1969). Published in New Short Plays 2, London, Methuen, 1969.

Solo, Old Thyme (produced Cambridge, 1970).

A Nightingale in Bloomsbury Square (produced London, 1973).Published in Factions, edited by Giles Gordon and Alex Hamilton, London, Joseph, 1974.

Radio Play:

Only Goodnight, 1981.

Television Play:

Josie, 1961.


Lyrics for the Dog Hour. London, Hutchinson, 1968.

The Venus Touch. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971.

Actaeon. Rushden, Northamptonshire, Sceptre Press, 1973.

Evesong. London, Sappho, 1975.

Memorials of the Quick and the Dead. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1979.

Collected Poems. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1985.


The Erotic World of Faery. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1972.

The Passionate Shepherdess: Aphra Behn 1640-1689. London, Cape, 1977; New York, Avon, 1979.

Inherit the Earth: A Social History. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1980.

Men and Beasts: An Animal Rights Handbook. London, Paladin, 1984.

A Thousand Capricious Chances: A History of the Methuen List 1889-1989. London, Methuen, 1989.

Henry Purcell. London, Fourth Estate, 1994.

Editor, with Alan Brownjohn, New Poetry 3. London, Arts Council, 1977.

Editor, Oroonoko and Other Stories, by Aphra Behn. London, Methuen, 1986.

Editor, Love Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister, by AphraBehn. London, Virago Press, 1987.

Editor, Five Plays, by Aphra Behn. London, Methuen, 1990.

Translator, A Blush of Shame, by Domenico Rea. London, Barrie andRockliff, 1968.


Manuscript Collection:

King's College, University of London.

Critical Study:

A Female Vision of the City by Christine Sizemore, Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, 1989.

* * *

Maureen Duffy is a prolific novelist, poet, and playwright whose work has consistently developed in range and importance. That's How It Was won her immediate acclaim for its simplicity and forcefulness. It is a moving account of the relationship between a mother and daughter; their existence is poor, insecure, even brutal, but transcended by mutual love. "I grew six inches under the light touch of her hand," explains the narrator. The little girl has an acute sense of social isolation and a fierce loyalty to the one constant figure in her universe; her mother's death is thus cause for more than grief, it brings total despair. The loneliness, restlessness, and sexual hunger which spring from the situation are the dominating themes of each subsequent novel.

Realism is the touchstone of Duffy's style; like many other observers of working-class life, she is at her best when she relies on accurate, detailed reportage and at her weakest when tempted by sentiment. The Paradox Players is an example of her writing at its most compelling. It describes a man's retreat from society to live for some months in a boat moored on the Thames. The physical realities of cold, snow, rats, and flooding occupy him continually and the hardship brings him peace. He is a novelist, suffering from the hazards peculiar to that profession and has some pertinent comments to make about the vulnerability of the writer. "When I saw the reviews I could have cut my throat. You see they're very kind to first novels for some mistaken reason but when the poor bastard follows it up with a second and they see he really means it they tear its guts out." The experience of winter on the river restores his faith in his own ability to survive.

Duffy's observations are acute, her use of dialogue witty and direct; this authenticity is complemented by an interest in the bizarre, the fantastic. Her best-known book uses these qualities to great effect in a study of lesbian society which is both informative and original. The Microcosm begins and ends in a club where the central characters meet to dance, dress up, and escape from the necessity of "all the week wearing a false face." Their fantasies are played out in front of the juke box; then the narrative follows each woman back into her disguise, her social role. Steve is Miss Stephens, a schoolmistress; Cathy is a bus conductress; Matt works in a garage. Their predicament as individuals, the author suggests, extends beyond the interest of their own minority group. A plea is made for tolerance, understanding, and that respect without which the human spirit must perish. "Society isn't a simple organism with one nucleus and a fringe of little feet, it's an infinitely complex structure and if you try to suppress any part … you diminish, you mutilate the whole." Wounds and Love Child reaffirm this belief.

In Illuminations, a retired professor journeys through post-Cold War Germany, and there finds not only a lesbian lover, but a counterpart of sorts in the person of Tetta, an eighth-century nun. Eventually she sees her own world as a reflection of Carolingian Europe. Occam's Razor, too, dwells on a historical parallel, but not one involving William of Ockham (sometimes rendered as Occam), the fourteenth-century philosopher who helped bring an end to medieval dogmatism; here, instead, Duffy draws a line between the old (c. 1916) and the latter-day IRA, and between these and the Mafia.

—Judy Cooke

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