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No Way Out

Colin Burrow: John McGahern, 20 October 2005

Memoir 
by John McGahern.
Faber, 272 pp., £16.99, September 2005, 0 571 22810 0
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... John McGahern is an extraordinary writer of charm and violence. His most recent novel, That They May Face the Rising Sun (2002), has a looseness and a gaiety which it took him nearly seventy years to allow himself. His earlier work marked him as one of the great writers of claustrophobia. His novels tend to evoke small places – single houses or tiny communities – and to crush into those places a set of family and moral ties that make them feel even smaller and tighter ...

Street Wise

Pat Rogers, 3 October 1985

Hawksmoor 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 218 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 241 11664 3
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Paradise Postponed 
by John Mortimer.
Viking, 374 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 670 80094 5
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High Ground 
by John McGahern.
Faber, 156 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 571 13681 8
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... which Dyer makes from London to Stonehenge. A sign of the times, by the way, that both Ackroyd and John Fowles, in his latest novel, should send their Georgian creations crawling about Stonehenge, which not long ago would have seemed one of the purest un-Augustan activities. Ackroyd has taken Hawksmoor’s known interest in pre-Gothic architectural theory and ...

Alphabetical

Daniel Soar: John McGahern, 21 February 2002

That They May Face the Rising Sun 
by John McGahern.
Faber, 298 pp., £16.99, January 2002, 0 571 21216 6
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... bridge over the river; until at last you get to Roscommon town, somewhere you might have heard of. John McGahern’s new novel demands a kind of triangulation if you’re to make sense of it. Carrick-on-Shannon is (perhaps) a short drive away; in the other direction you’ll get to Longford in a while. If you don’t try to make sense of it, the barely ...

Diary

Anne Enright: Censorship in Ireland, 21 March 2013

... it is?’ ‘No,’ said the man, and he shook out his newspaper, leaving my father to walk away. John McGahern went to London in 1954 to work for a few months on the building sites: ‘When I walked off the boat at Holyhead to the waiting London train – and thought of Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, all the great English writers I had read and studied ...

McGahern’s Ireland

D.J. Enright, 8 November 1979

The Pornographer 
by John McGahern.
Faber, 252 pp., £4.95
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... victory.’ The argument strikes one as considerably less silly when removed to the context of John McGahern’s fiction. One may never know why the narrator of McGahern’s new novel chooses to write pornography for a Dublin magazine – one may never quite believe that such a decent sad fellow would so choose ...

Stuck in the slot

D.J. Enright, 8 October 1992

The Collected Stories 
by John McGahern.
Faber, 408 pp., £14.99, October 1992, 0 571 16274 6
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... One of John McGahern’s stories begins thus: ‘There are times when we see the small events we look forward to – a visit, a wedding, a new day – as having no existence but in the expectation. They are to be, they will happen, and before they do they almost are not: minute replicas of the expectation that we call the rest of our life ...

Self-Effacers

John Lanchester, 24 May 1990

Chicago Loop 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 183 pp., £12.99, April 1990, 0 241 12949 4
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Lies of Silence 
by Brian Moore.
Bloomsbury, 194 pp., £12.99, April 1990, 0 7475 0610 8
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Amongst Women 
by John McGahern.
Faber, 184 pp., £12.99, May 1990, 0 571 14284 2
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The Condition of Ice 
by Christopher Burns.
Secker, 170 pp., £12.95, April 1990, 0 436 19989 0
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... an element of the energy which makes attractive fictional monsters as disparate as Richard III and John Self. Chicago Loop (terrific title) is another book that has a cold, clear surface and a lurking nastiness underneath. Its central character, Parker Jagoda (terrific name), is a 37-year old architect-turned-developer who, unknown to his ...

Gaelic Gloom

Colm Tóibín: Brian Moore, 10 August 2000

Brian Moore: The Chameleon Novelist 
by Denis Sampson.
Marino, 344 pp., IR£20, October 1998, 1 86023 078 4
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... about middle-aged women suffering. They were Moore’s The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1955), John McGahern’s The Barracks (1961) and Aidan Higgins’s Langrishe, Go Down (1966). It is no coincidence, either, that the best novels about men in the period after independence dealt with figures in extreme and exquisite isolation, as in the novels of ...

Gallivanting

Karl Miller: Edna O’Brien, 22 November 2012

Country Girl: A Memoir 
by Edna O’Brien.
Faber, 339 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 0 571 26943 3
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... so outraged by her pursuit of pleasure. The absolution and reverence that came to the novelist John McGahern from the penitent monsignors who used to persecute him has yet to be granted to Edna, though I expect it will come. It may not last till the millennium, but for the time being at least, the curse of the Catholic Church no longer carries as far ...

Like a Failed Cake

Edmund Gordon: Keith Ridgway, 6 December 2012

Hawthorn & Child 
by Keith Ridgway.
Granta, 282 pp., £12.99, July 2012, 978 1 84708 741 6
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... Keith Ridgway used to be compared to John McGahern for his dourly lyrical stories of a changing Ireland. (‘Fr Devoy nodded his head and sipped his tea and waited. He watched the sky move and thought he saw rain in the distance but could not be sure.’) That stopped with the publication of his third novel, Animals, in 2006 ...

Little Red Boy

Elizabeth Lowry: Alistair MacLeod, 20 September 2001

Island: Collected Stories 
by Alistair MacLeod.
Cape, 434 pp., £16.99, June 2001, 0 224 06194 1
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No Great Mischief 
by Alistair MacLeod.
Vintage, 262 pp., £6.99, June 2001, 0 09 928392 1
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... Alistair MacLeod is a Canadian of Scottish descent, and, like John McGahern who has written a foreword to his collected stories, an astute observer of a very specific local setting – Cape Breton, Nova Scotia; of its landscape and industry, its closed communities, quotidian tragedies and domestic disappointments ...

Dykes, Drongs, Sarns, Snickets

David Craig: Walking England, 20 December 2012

The English Lakes: A History 
by Ian Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £16.99, March 2012, 978 1 4088 0958 7
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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot 
by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 432 pp., £20, June 2012, 978 0 241 14381 0
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... glowing in the vee of the col beneath the cloud-wrack. It is not. Instead we are given bits of John McGahern and John Nash, Neil Gunn and Nan Shepherd and Edward Thomas and Adam Nicolson, and the place itself is disappeared: ‘To my mind the Pools [of Dee] possess a near supernatural presence, recalling the ...

Demented Brothers

Declan Kiberd: William Trevor, 8 March 2001

The Hill Bachelors 
by William Trevor.
Viking, 245 pp., £15.99, October 2000, 0 670 89256 4
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... unspent was left to happen as fearfully as it would.’ In the hands of such writers as Trevor and John McGahern, the short story in Ireland has made an unexpected comeback. Earlier generations – that of Frank O’Connor and Sean O’Faolain and, before them, of George Moore and James Joyce – had established it as the quintessential genre for a ...

English Fame and Irish Writers

Brian Moore, 20 November 1980

Selected Poems 1956-1975 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 136 pp., £3.95, October 1980, 0 571 11644 2
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Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968-1978 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 224 pp., £7.95, October 1980, 0 571 11638 8
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... it is true that some American magazines, notably the New Yorker, have welcomed the talents of John McGahern, Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel, Edna O’Brien and Benedict Kiely, among others, one could give long odds against a manuscript by an unknown Irish novelist or poet seeing the light of first publication in Boston or in New York. So it’s back to ...

Après-Mao

Michael Hofmann: Yiyun Li, 14 June 2017

Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life 
by Yiyun Li.
Hamish Hamilton, 208 pp., £14.99, February 2017, 978 0 241 28395 0
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... non-Li. It seems she is most drawn to Irish and Russian writers: William Trevor, Elizabeth Bowen, John McGahern; Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Gorky, though her pantheon is unpredictable and expands to take in Hardy and Mansfield, some oddly straightforward passages from the letters of Philip Larkin or the conundrum that is Marianne Moore (and her ...

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