Liam Harte reviews the McGahern Yearbook 2011 in today's Irish Times here. I have an essay in the book on the novel Amongst Women.
Harte quotes a line from my essay which says: 'Moran is not altogether unpleasant'. In the essay this sentence is preceded by five paragraphs explaining his deep unpleasantness, in case anyone should think that I am a fan of the bullying Moran. Here are the six paragraphs in question, just to balance things out a little:
"This book is about a man who, to my mind, never matured. Like a toddler, Moran wants to be the centre of attention, but only in the small kingdom of his immediate family. He is an awkward man; he delights in being contrary and difficult. Outsider are treated with suspicion and disdain.
One can only conclude that Moran is based on John McGahern’s own father, such are the similarities between the two men. In Memoir, McGahern refers to his father as a ‘violent and wilful’ person, devoid of a sense of humour, who ‘looked on any manifestation of enjoyment in others as a symptom of irresponsibility’ crucially because it diverted attention away from him: the king of the castle.
Moran is not a man for fun – levity is allowed into the house on his terms only. His daughters hide giddiness from him – they conceal their true personalities – especially when younger. And, early on, his new wife Rose, though she hardly knows Moran, instinctively does the same.
Money, and the supposed lack of it, is a constant source of concern for Moran. On a summer holiday in Strandhill, he sends his children door-to-door selling turf. He and Rose have a modest wedding at her family home because he does not want to squander money at the local hotel. Later, with the cost of his daughter’s wedding fresh in his mind, he attacks son-in-law Seán for not being ‘mature’ in his attitude to the importance of his pensionable civil service job.
We are to believe from the narrative that Moran’s personality stems from his disappointment after the way things panned out in the country after he had fought for independence. Surely, though, his depressed nature worsened after the death of his first wife, and his tendency towards lording it over people is long ingrained.
Moran is not altogether unpleasant, it must be said. He certainly has some welcome highs when he feels secure amongst his women. If he were analysed today he might be diagnosed as manic depressive: after the highs come the lows."