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He always took his time, scrapping much more than he kept, sometimes writing more than 20 full versions of a single story. But then you could say, the more you explore his work, that most of it is a rewriting, a revising of a small stock of theme, incident and location.

The setting is sometimes Dublin, occasionally London, but usually Co Leitrim where the soil is poor, "in places no more than an inch deep". The period is most often the s, and even in stories set later the Troubles do not intrude. He delves into the tensions between Catholic Irish and representatives of the Protestant Ascendancy , but always at a personal level. On the page McGahern is a realist, and some consider him conservative, but taken collectively the stories have an experimental edge, or at least a strange one. Consider the way he reuses certain characters, most notably an emotionally abusive farmer and his second wife, Rose, who appear prominently in the stories Wheels, Sierra Leone and Gold Watch, and are mentioned in several others.

In each of these stories the narrator visits from Dublin and clashes with the father. Yet Rose, the farmer and the returning son are not intended to be the same characters from story to story. Rather they are archetypes of some kind, and through its repetition the struggle enacted in each story comes to seem like some eternal battle from myth.

The father is there from the beginning, incarnated as a Garda sergeant in McGahern's first novel, The Barracks At the time Anthony Burgess said the book "has caught so well the peculiar hopelessness of contemporary Ireland", and it is true that a strand of hopelessness runs throughout McGahern's work. As Nicholas Wroe notes, "the horrors are always there in McGahern" , even if they are of a quiet, despairing sort, as when a hungover and jilted man looks on a Dublin street:.

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Or when a teacher McGahern's occupation before his second novel, The Dark, was banned, and he was driven from Ireland stares out of the classroom window, willing three o'clock:. Or when a priest remembers his mother's descent into senility :.


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This is brutal material in its way, and McGahern's dark energies are nowhere more forcefully expressed than in the extraordinary Hearts of Oak, Bellies of Brass Collecting his pay after another punishing day of shovelling on a London building site, the narrator reflects:. The men labour, drink, and "go round to Marge and Kathleen", prostitutes who live "in the condemned row, moving from empty house to empty house ahead of the demolition. Limp rubbers floated in the gutters Monday mornings while they slept in the daylight.

In Parachutes it reappears as a depressive's vision:. In the story Sierra Leone, one of several McGahern stories about unsuccessful love affairs, the narrator notes with weary acceptance, "the old wheel turned and turned anew, wearing my life away; but if it wasn't this wheel it would be another.

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The seeds pushed above ground, were thinned. The roses and the other flowers bloomed. The soft fruit ripened and Mrs Sinclair started to make jams in the big brass pot. From McGahern's earliest books there is an extraordinary grace and power to his descriptive writing, particularly of landscape. Dublin does not receive the same careful attention, and remains — perhaps intentionally — insubstantial.

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His descriptive abilities grew as he continued to labour at his style, culminating in the descriptions of Gloria Bog in The Country Funeral, located in the heart of the territory where so many of his stories take place. He describes the bog with great beauty and plainness of language, first at dusk:. If you have not read McGahern before these passages may seem unremarkable. I suspect their effect, and that of his prose generally, depends in part on repetition, its wheeling returns to the same places, the same people, the same situations, and that its impact grows with each repetition just as a ritual accretes meaning the more it is performed.

In , readers of Prog magazine voted it no. Contributions were made by Harry Edgington and Alan Clare. Gallico's original story was adapted for this recording by Spike Milligan in Australia in The music is published by Clowns Music Ltd. Spike Milligan provided the narration throughout.


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Virginia, the widow of Paul Gallico, co-operated in the project. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The Nebraska State Journal. April 30, Retrieved March 31, — via Newspapers. Ballantine Books. The Snow Goose. Retrieved Paul Gallico works.

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