"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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