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In contrast to the broad brush-strokes of Sampson's exploration, Maher's is a more unified thesis, dedicated to an idea about which McGahern has written and spoken often: that "all good writing is local", that the depiction of village life, rendered into art, attains a universal truth. However, Maher's pursuit of this idea seems not to register its second part, as set out by McGahern: that, if all good writing is local, then "nearly all bad writing is national". This statement isolates the artist and his task from the commentator, the historian, and the journalist; the artistic image stands clear of nation, of concepts of identity, of such props of the actual world.

But Maher regards "local" as synonymous with the novelist's actual rural roots in Leitrim and Roscommon; for him, McGahern is "chronicler" and anthropologist, and his real achievement is to capture "the closing chapters of rural Ireland", to "reveal to us from whence we have come". This "we" is taken for granted throughout Maher's study as an unambiguously Irish readership which can "commune" with McGahern's rural characters.

So deep is the resonance, for many, of McGahern's fictional worlds that this much may be forgiven.


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But more worrying is the analysis of scenes and characters in terms of their relevance to real life; the behaviour of two men at Elisabeth Reegan's funeral in The Barracks, for example, is "typical of how many people feel when they are attending funerals". Of Leddy, a character in a short story, it is asked, "how many men like him can be found scattered across the country even today?

Outstaring Nature S Eye Sampson Denis

But none of this is the artist's concern, unless he is driven by an agenda, which cannot be said of McGahern. That said, several promising theories jut out from Maher's narrative.


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  • He suggests, interestingly, that McGahern's own critique of the endeavour of The Leavetaking, which drove him to revise the work in , could equally have applied to The Dark. So, too, does his insight that the description of Monaghan Day, in Amongst Women, bears a close relationship to Padraig Pearse's description of the rising; that the interjection of authorial comment, at only one point in that novel, deserves deep analysis. And there is valuable observation of elements of That They May Face the Rising Sun - the paganhood of the lakeside community, the absence of the old McGahern theme of family, the ungrounded, almost unworldly, sense of time.

    But Maher neglects to develop these ideas, and substitutes generalisation and an increasingly irksome parochialism - in emphasis and in expression - for scholarly analysis. He often writes in a style so colloquial as to seem almost an affectation, as if in the hope that imitation of the simplicity of the speech with which McGahern endows his characters would bring also its profundity.

    Tellingly, he is ill at ease with the more abstract, "experimental" passages in the early novels, particularly The Dark and The Pornographer, describing them as "unusually awkward". His discomfort at the atheistic universe of much of the fiction pushes him to seek for signs of religion where none exist, and there are signs of an associated discomfort as he cloaks commentary on the sexual landscape of the works in jokes and euphemism. Maher's feeling for the work is evident, and, when he brackets preconception, it can move him towards real insight.

    But he lacks confidence, smothering his own thoughts with lengthy quotations from other critics making the same point more eloquently, and in most chapters, the last word is not even his. The specific requirements or preferences of your reviewing publisher, classroom teacher, institution or organization should be applied. The E-mail Address es field is required. Please enter recipient e-mail address es. The E-mail Address es you entered is are not in a valid format. Please re-enter recipient e-mail address es.

    Denis Sampson

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    Preview this item Preview this item. In The Barracks and The Dark , McGahern's unapologetic eye for shocking truths and his scrupulous preoccupation with style and form made comparisons to the young James Joyce commonplace. The mantle of "silence, exile and cunning" also seemed to fit the young novelist, who was fired from his job and whose second novel was banned. Find a copy online Links to this item Table of contents.

    Allow this favorite library to be seen by others Keep this favorite library private. Find a copy in the library Finding libraries that hold this item Washington, D. A study of the fiction of John McGahern which traces his development as an artist by providing a detailed reading of each of his five novels and three collections of short stories.

    This work examines his treatment of time and consciousness, of self, story, of memory and narrative voice. Reviews User-contributed reviews Add a review and share your thoughts with other readers.

    - Document - Defining McGahern

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    The Found Voice: Writers' Beginnings

    McGahern, John, -- Ireland -- In literature. English fiction User lists with this item 1 banned books display items by smurgai updated Linked Data More info about Linked Data. The Barracks: Suffering, Memory, and Vision -- 2. The Dark: Choice and Chance -- 3. Nightlines: Repetition of a Life in the Shape of a Story -- 4.

    Outstaring nature's eye : the fiction of John McGahern

    The Leavetaking: Memory Becoming Imagination -- 5. The Pornographer: The Writing on the Wall -- 6. Getting Through: Imperfection in a Mirror of Perfection -- 7. All rights reserved. Remember me on this computer. Cancel Forgot your password?