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her preparatory materials and her analyses. This is the most distracting problem of the book, as the reader is at times forced to make the critical connections—correct or incorrect—long before Kealy gets to them. This, however, is failure of organization raither than argument. Overall, Kealy’s Kerry Playwright: Sense of Place in the Plays of John B. Keane is a welcome addition to both the study of theatre and of Ireland. Her validation of Keane’s plays as worthy of critical and scholarly consideration is both strong and persuasive, and urges use to look further into Keane’s work. —Patricia L. Ireland Outstaring Nature’s Eye: The Fiction of John McGahern, by Denis Sampson, pp. 267, Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1993, $34.95. Denis Sampson has written a useful book analyzing the fiction of John McGahern at a time when his collected short stories have just been published and when McGahern himself is turning to other media, such as adaptations and original dramas. Sampson’s analysis centers on the intertextual connections McGahern has with Yeats, Joyce, Beckett, Synge, and Kavanagh, among others, especially in their European context, and with the major English tradition from Shakespeare to T.S. Eliot. Sampson also finds resonances with Proust, Chekhov, Flaubert, D.H. Lawrence, Hardy, Tolstoy, and Wordsworth in McGahern’s fiction. Sampson’s title Outstaring Nature’s Eye comes from McGahern’s Getting Through, in which the main character in the tale “Gold Watch” outlasts his feelings of guilt and false love as “outstar[ing] the eye of nature.” Another way of outstaring nature ’s eye is “the artist’s ability to see and to remove what he sees from the flow of time.” According to Sampson, McGahern’s use of “resonant minutiae” introduces the reader to a “symbolic reality” that is nevertheless rooted in concrete experience . Sampson explores that reality by examining the details which allow McGahern ’s characters to outstare nature. He finds an intimate connection between place and style, and McGahern’s style is anchored in the Leitrim-Roscommon world from which he came and which he reinvented in his solid fiction. Sampson sees McGahern’s fiction as being part of one large work in which the various pieces illuminate each other. McGahern’s themes illustrate a coming to grips with the world through a minute examination of realistic details which transform the real into the fabulous. Sampson shows that McGahern’s eperiments with style in his short stories affected his subsequent novels. McGahern’s fiction, according to Sampson, concerns growing up, losing a suffering mother, and struggling with a mythic father. The young man who survives the struggle has indeed outstared nature’s eye, finding himself in his survival of the ordeal. Sampson traces two major influences on McGahern’s fiction: Proust, whose writing features details through which the characters see what life means; and BOOK REVIEWS 189 Joyce, whose shaping of fiction brings some order to life. McGahern sees “the most vicious and painful of human experiences with an intimate and serene perspective.” Sampson sees McGahern’s fiction through The Leavetaking as arranged chronologically . The Barracks and The Dark are highly detailed in the first parts of each novel, then move more swiftly. Both Elizabeth Reegan in The Barracks and young Mahoney in The Dark find serenity and freedom—Reegan in countering despair with endurance, and young Mahoney in choosing freedom through accepting a job with the Electricity Supply Board. Mahoney moves from the dominance of his father to a rejection of the religious life, another male dominating force, through the struggle to gain a scholarship to University College, Galway, the withdrawing from university to go with the ESB. An American author would have shown the path to freedom through the possibilities opened up by a college education rather than through the dull routine of a civil service job; McGahern shows that the security of the ESB releases Mahoney from the tyranny of the older generation. The short story collection Nightlines represents, according to Sampson, a substantial truth about Irish life in particular and human life in general; the collection, like Dubliners, is unified by its consistency of method and its...


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pp. 189-191
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