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The sociologist Ervin Goffman in his book 'Presentation of Self in Everyday Life' (1959) coined the phrase 'front-stage, back-stage' to explain how a person's public personality and behaviour often does not tally with what goes on behind the scenes in their private life.
'Pieces of Me - A Life In Progress' is a three-year collection of Róisín Ingle's columns for The Irish Times, combined with some new writing which, as she herself puts it, lets the reader take a good peek at her own back-stage area.
Her extended introduction, where she describes her life, quickly destroys any preconceived notion that this writer comes from a privileged background which oiled her rise to columnist for The Irish Times. She talks candidly about the shocking death of her father when she was eight, leaving her 41-year-old mother to fend for eight children. She describes her troubled teenage years and the pain of her marriage breakdown, which she dealt with by upping her self-destructive behaviour.
In this introduction Ingle is hard on herself and realistic about her own personality, but at the same time never looks for pity from the reader. She describes how everything got easier once she accepted that life is full of suffering and the way to cope is not to wallow in your misery, but rather to learn to be aware of it and also aware that everything passes.
Readers of her entertaining weekly column will be aware of her jaunty writing style and how she manages to be simultaneously light-hearted and serious as she seamlessly juxtaposes the tragedy and hilarity of everyday life. When she was first asked to write the weekly column it was only for three weeks until The Irish Times found a permanent replacement.
Ingle said she could not see herself as an expert commentator on economic issues and politics so instead made the decision to write about what she was familiar with. Her critics may moan that she is not serious enough and deals with frivolous matters but it is these frivolous matters which make up most people's lives – ask anyone who is in the process of decorating their home!
People also want writing that directly relates to their own life and Ingle provides this, and at the same time often talks about big issues such as poverty or religion - but in a micro way that people can easily identify with. In her writing Ingle is honest and is brave enough to give her readers a back-stage pass to her private life whether it is in a happy, light-hearted place or has temporarily strayed down a darker avenue.
As she points out herself, if you feel you know her from reading her columns – then you probably do.