Repetition and the writer

Young John McGahern: Becoming a Novelist by Denis Sampson. Oxford University Press, €26. Reviewed by Tom Mathews.

4th March, 2012
Repetition and the writer
John McGahern: his fiction is 'a continuous process of self-definition in literary images'. Photo: Getty

"John McGahern is a writer's writer," runs the received version. "His prose is that of a poet's." Well, if poetry is "emotion recollected in tranquillity", as Wordsworth would have it, the received version is right on the money. The pared-back language, the morbid sugared with the pastoral, the cynicism morphing into stoicism: all are straight out of Mr Hardy's little black bag. But where is Mr Laurel when he's wanted?

Shakespeare, Joyce and Flaubert are...

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