High Ground

John McGahern, Author
John McGahern, Author Viking Books $15.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-670-81181-6
Reviewed on: 02/01/1987
Release date: 02/01/1987
The prevailing tone in this modest collection of stories by the Irish novelist is civil, deliberately subdued, even slightly depressed, warily watchful of a world of which not much can be expected. In the title story, a young man is offered a desirable academic appointment by a devious politician at the expense of a beloved old teacher who would be ousted to make way for his successor. Whether he will accept the tainted offer is the moral conundrum of the tale, a subtle one undercut by some awkward narrative devices and an ending that is essentially a trick, a facile shortcut. In the final story, the love of a young American visitor in Dublin and a middle-aged lawyer is a little too effortless, too easily achieved. But the author's strength lies not in the portrayal of love won but in setting an atmospheregray, bleak, drizzlyof loss, desolation. That, the stories seem to say, is how life goes, on both the high ground and in the low-lying, boggy terrain of modern Ireland. (February)
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