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The Collected Stories [Paperback]

John Mcgahern
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
John McGahern may partake of the enormous literary legacy willed by Joyce, but he steps proudly from its shadow on his own two feet. "Wheels", the first story of the collection, demonstrates with its' very first lines the wonderful paradox McGahern achieves in the best of his writings: deeply descriptive economy. With but few words, an idea, location, feeling or time is evoked so substantially that the reader feels necessary to the story being told. McGahern's prose relies on the reader's interpretation and experience of the events depicted; one can read the same piece at different times and come away with vastly differing impressions. What you bring to the story is almost as important as the story itself. The argument could be made that this is the hallmark of great literature; while you are discovering the tale, you are also discovering yourself. While this is a natural recommendation for fans of Joyce, I urge anyone entranced by the magic of language to immerse themselves in this wonderful, tragic, funny, perplexing- so very much like life, book. Also in this vein, but with a different style, may I suggest "A River Sutra" by Gita Mehta
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Master March 18 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
For anyone that reads, McGahern is an essential reading companion. He speaks for the man in Dublin, single running into middle age, or brimming it, and whose heart is a flutter for a nurse too far, or a far field where a father is dying into a landscape that nobody wants, that nobody values. McGahern maps the difficult transition of Ireland from a largely rural perspective, and then from the rural to urban. A sef confessed Joyce freak, McGahern has tried to emulate Portrait, and Dubliners in his own way. The rain will fall very gently on this mans tombstone.
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Format:Paperback
Whatever you're doing, stop now and go and buy this book. McGahern is among the greatest writers of short fiction of the modern era (a short list including Joyce, Chekhov, Hemingway, Babel), and perhaps the greatest practitioner working today. Tell your friends.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Master March 18 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
For anyone that reads, McGahern is an essential reading companion. He speaks for the man in Dublin, single running into middle age, or brimming it, and whose heart is a flutter for a nurse too far, or a far field where a father is dying into a landscape that nobody wants, that nobody values. McGahern maps the difficult transition of Ireland from a largely rural perspective, and then from the rural to urban. A sef confessed Joyce freak, McGahern has tried to emulate Portrait, and Dubliners in his own way. The rain will fall very gently on this mans tombstone.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BLEAK, BLEAK... Aug. 11 2003
By Larry L. Looney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
McGahern writes beautifully, and he obviously has a keen eye - his portraits of the various Irish men and women who populate these stories are well-drawn, and he evokes not only the speech but the total experience of the Irish very well. If only these stories weren't - at least for the most part - so bleak, I could personally enjoy them much more. There's humor to be found within this volume, for sure - but for the most part I found hopelessness and resignation and emptiness and pathos. Far too many of these tales - for my taste - involved people who were living in doubt: doubt about their lives, their loves, their faith, their very place in life, the very land in which they dwell. Doubt is not necessarily a bad thing - it calls us (hopefully) to reassess our beliefs and values, so that we may, when needed, reorder our lives. The doubt that has entered the lives of these characters, however, seems to cover them like a blanket - and rather than struggle with it, they seem to welcome its false warmth, pulling it more tightly about their shoulders.
The stories take place in an Ireland in flux - torn between its spirited yet peaceful, more agrarian past, and the `new' world that encompasses industry and the so-called luxuries of modern life. It's a change that has obviously ripped the very heart and soul out of many of these characters - even the ones whose stories are clearly taking place, more or less, in the present. They inwardly and silently bemoan their state, yet they do nothing about it - and many of them use this dissatisfaction to justify the shallowness and dishonesty of the lives they lead.
All that being said, I did find a good deal of fine reading in this collection - especially the stories `The wine breath' and `Swallows'. For me, these two stand head and shoulders above the rest - but different ones will no doubt appeal to different readers. McGahern's writing is clear and powerful - I certainly wouldn't recommend any reader passing him by. At the same time, I don't think I'd put him on a level with the short stories of James Joyce. For modern Irish stories, I'll take the work of William Trevor any time.
I have McGahern's novel BY THE LAKE - I've read many good things about it, and I look forward very much to reading it. Some things I've read about another novel of his, THE DARK, are intriguing as well.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest collections in English Oct. 26 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This career-spanning collection deserves to stand on a short list that might include Dubliners, the collected stories of Hemingway, Katherine Anne Porter, K. Mansfield, Malamud (and you may as well include Maupassant, Chekhov, Babel, and Tolstoy on that list). The understated magnificence of these stories raises them to the level of high art. Read these now.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Many facets of life intertwine in this engrossing collection March 14 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
John McGahern may partake of the enormous literary legacy willed by Joyce, but he steps proudly from its shadow on his own two feet. "Wheels", the first story of the collection, demonstrates with its` very first lines the wonderful paradox McGahern achieves in the best of his writings: deeply descriptive economy. With but few words, an idea, location, feeling or time is evoked so substantially that the reader feels necessary to the story being told. McGahern's prose relies on the reader's interpretation and experience of the events depicted; one can read the same piece at different times and come away with vastly differing impressions. What you bring to the story is almost as important as the story itself. The argument could be made that this is the hallmark of great literature; while you are discovering the tale, you are also discovering yourself. While this is a natural recommendation for fans of Joyce, I urge anyone entranced by the magic of language to immerse themselves in this wonderful, tragic, funny, perplexing- so very much like life, book. Also in this vein, but with a different style, may I suggest "A River Sutra" by Gita Mehta
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Decent Collection Oct. 27 2007
By B. shields-farrelly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a good introduction to McGahern's work, who I personally think is under-represented in other short story anthologies.

One of the promos on the cover refers to McGahern as the best Irish short story writer since Joyce. Hmmmm.... not so sure about that for several reasons. I understand that the statement isn't intended to be direct comparison between the two, but it's unfair to both writers and to the reader. I would compare McGahern to the often over-looked Frank O'Connor instead.

While some of the stories included in this collection are set in Dublin, it's the stories set in the country where McGahern's characters, themes, and prose really work best. Like O'Connor, McGahern's best stories allow the reader to "see" what isn't said or what isn't done. It's the absences and the mis-fires between everyday people doing everyday things that resonate so achingly in the best stories in this collection.

I do like that the stories are arranged in such a way so that when a character or set of characters appear in multiple pieces, the reader finds herself pleasantly surprised to encounter someone again after having read about someone or something completely different. This organisation of recurrent characters or settings allowed me to create a mini-novel in my head and to think about the various conflicts, relationships, and absences even after I'd put the book down.
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