Monday, 29 August 2005

All Will Be Well

John McGahern, Ireland's finest fiction writer, is publishing his memoirs on Thursday, Memoir (Faber, 2005). I am very excited. It is a really important publishing event, and for anyone interested in the best Irish fiction around.

I have also come home for this, to Co Leitrim, where McGahern himself is from. Quiet countryside, watching the sun try to shine all day. It's exactly where I want to be reading it.

Read this interview in yesterday's Observer.


Anonymous said...

I'm quite curious about the McGahern book... I've only read Amongst Women, found it quite interesting, especially the portrayal of Michael Moran who is at the same time antipathic and yet awakening pity. I found this ambiguity quite interesting... Someone told me his tyranny over his family was modelled after McGahern's father who raised him quite tyrannically after her mother's death... wonder what the Memoirs say about it.

By the way, as far as I know, McGahern is originally from Dublin, he only moved to Co. Leitrim sometime around the early 70's. But correct me if I'm wrong.

Miglior acque said...

No no he's from Co Leitrim.

I recommend his other books. No other Irish author will give you a better understanding of Ireland as it was passed on to our generation. At least that goes for rural Ireland, someone like Darragh might disagree.

His upbringing of course was an important factor in is characterization.

Read more McGahern. I promise there is nothing better in Irish fiction.

Anonymous said...

Darragh does disagree!

I won't argue that McGahern is a consummate master of the craft of writing; but I do think that the intellectual content of his work is shallow, insipid, insular and devoid of ideas. Maybe that's how he likes it, but I'm unimpressed. If there really is nothing better than McGahern in contemporary Irish fiction, then that's a sad indictment of the current state of Irish literature.

I won't be reading his Memoir because I haven't the time to waste on such uninteresting, self-indulgent navel-gazing.

Anonymous said...

According to the site of the NUI Galway, he was born in Dublin, but raised in Leitrim. But this is indeed a side issue.

When I have survived my first chaotic weeks as a Fresher at Univ, I'll check out the rest of him. See if I agree with you or Darragh.

Miglior acque said...

"Shallow, insipid, insular, and devoid of ideas". Gawd Darragh, this really is falling out material for us. My only conclusion is that you cannot read. The sad indictment of the current state of Irish literature is that there are readers like you around, not that there are writers like McGahern around. I'm flabbergasted. Literally.

Anonymous said...

No need to get so emotional or ad hominem, miglior acque. If you disagree with my estimation of McGahern, then try to offer critical evidence backed up by sound reasoning as to why I'm wrong. Don't just assert you're right and I'm wrong; that type of rhetoric proves nothing.

I stand over what I wrote; I don't esteem McGahern because, to cite a cliche, if he ever had an original idea, it would die of loneliness. And like I said, time is short, so I prefer to read someone like Borges in whose shortest of short stories there are many more ideas than in the whole of McGahern's oeuvre.

Miglior acque said...

Darragh! The very rhetoric you accuse me of is being deployed by your good self to your own ends. You are wrong. No Irish writer has managed to get to the heart of the Irish psyche in a country desperately trying to come to terms with its nationhood, its religion, its economic well being. In depicting the microcosm of the Morans (in Amongst Women) he has traced universals of emotional crises, longing, suffering, and lonliness. His masterful short stories are modern classics of the Irish short-story (read "Korea").
It's a bit invidious to compare Borges and McGahern: they are doing such different things in their respective oeuvres and doing it in such different ways.
True, there are some Irish people for whom these themes are rapidly becoming obsolete. We are children of a different generation. And you are a city slicker, perhaps worse, a Dub. Your world cannot have been more different from that world traced out by McGahern; but I can tell you, as an Irishman growing up in rural Co Leitrim, I identified very strongly with it, because I could see it all around me.
So maybe this isn't really about the quality of McGahern's fiction. Maybe this is about us coming from two different countries.

Anonymous said...

Now I can respect your argument, miglior acque, because you've made explicit everything that was implicit in your original unsubstantiated assertion.

Yes, you and I come from 2 different countries, so McGahern who comes from yours does not speak to me. My sine qua non of good fiction, however, is the old Horatian injunction: de te fabula narratur; but McGahern's work is not about me or any of the literate poeple I know (not all from Dublin) to whom I've spoken on the subject in the last 2 days. Hence McGahern fails my criteron of good fiction whereas Borges qua fiction writer sails through.

You argue that a work like Amongst Women contains universal themes concerning human emotion, relationships or simply the perennial problems of the human condition; but I can't connect with it, and so I see the work as insular, for I can certainly connect with other authors of other times and places concerning universal themes (Borges and his Argentine mileau, for instance).

McGahern speaks to you for particular reasons that you've clearly articulated, and that's fine. My only concern is that you acknowledge other readers' critical independence to disagree with your opinion without slighting their intelligence or education. Debate is refreshing; ex cathedra evaluation stifling.

Are we agreed?

Miglior acque said...

Ok, so we've got different views on the matter. Fine. Yes I do have a problem accepting your views against McGahern. That is because I think you are wrong. I'm sorry. I am in the very difficult position of being pretty much convinced that I am right about this, and I sincerely have difficulty understanding how you have been able to arrive at such a critical position.
Whether that has anything to do with your intelligence or education I'm unable to say. However, it is certainly a fault, a problem, a critical failing. Whatever you want to call it. I am sure of that. And if you were telling me that you didn't get Borges, in a funny way I would probably not think it as serious.

I'm sure this make me a bad person. A bad critic, and a bad teacher. But I am convinced that if I end up being like this teaching students McGahern they will be getting good stuff. No crap. That's what it's about.

Anonymous said...

Let's move on.

Anonymous said...

Besides Hungary, you're the only country in Europe where you can have this debate.

Be proud of it.

Miglior acque said...

Quite. That last post was written in a state of slight inebriation and put a little more strongly than I would have normally allowed myself.
We have very different opinions on this, for very different reasons. End of story.
I'll buy you a pint Darragh, so there's no hard feelings.

Anonymous said...

Pint accepted!

Anonymous said...

I think I deserve a pint too for actually scrolling through all that.


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