Thursday, May 26, 2016

By the Lake/That They May Face the Rising Sun


I'm just about winding up reading "By the Lake" a novel by John McGahern. Like some other readers of this book I am putting off reading the last few pages as I just want to savour, more slowly, the language. The unspoken words lying underneath.

Like this - from the loss of a tiny newborn lamb on the small holding of the main protagonist and his wife, Ruttledge and Kate:

P283 "It was as if the black lamb reached back to other feelings of love and disappointment and gathered them into an ache that was out of all proportion to the small loss."

P234".....ran the sense, like an underground river, that there would come a time where these days would be looked back on as happiness, all that life could give of contentment and peace."

P141 "But how can time be gathered in and kissed? There is only flesh."

As I read his scrumptiously detailed writing about the ordinary local doings and the comings and goings of characters and seasonal changes, I find memories resurface, my words more fine tuned as I explore some poetry I'm writing, richer ideas for stories. For there are no plotlines to many of his works, it's all in his observations, of the lake, of candlelight, of sun and shadow and rain and most of all the complexity beneath the surface of his characters.

This book was John McGahern's swan song. He was dying of cancer at the time he wrote it. His other books and short stories are dark, with threads of anger and hopelessness until the characters escape from the savagery of rural Ireland, unsuccessful in the hiding of their scars.

14 comments:

  1. How much we writers learn from the writing of others. I've noticed my whole style change for the better after reading words that have touched my soul, just as these touched yours.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I think to write well we need to read well, RJA. Language is the music of the heart and can be enhanced when we hear the music of others.

      XO
      WWW

      Delete
  2. Sounds wonderful. Something to save for quiet times when one can read a book undisturbed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly Hattie, I read this over many mornings very slowly.

      XO
      WWW

      Delete
  3. Seems there are thoughts that resonate for me that are expressed so musically in selected books I read that I mark for later reference with post-it strips.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually write them down in a special book Joared and reflect on them many times. Particularly on a "bad" day.

      XO
      WWW

      Delete
  4. One more book for my bucket list. Thank you for the good review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will be curious as to what you think of it, Rummy. It is VERY Irish.

      XO
      WWW

      Delete
    2. Ah, then it may just have to wait!

      Delete
    3. But if you like detailed descriptions of nature and farming small holdings you may love it :)

      XO
      WWW

      Delete
  5. Your phrase "the savagery of rural Ireland" is going to hang round for a few days as a hard truth. xx

    ReplyDelete
  6. Don't you think rather than read the writings of those that plumb their own, others and natures depth you would instead become a better writer searching and plumbing yourself firsthand...isn't the rest just whispers of another's thoughts merged into your own?

    ReplyDelete
  7. It's a beautiful book, full of gentle wisdom and rich, subtle observation. One day I will re-read it for, as you say, the language.

    ReplyDelete

Some of you are having trouble, I've removed captcha and verification so we'll see how that goes. My apologies. Blogger is putting up far too many roadblocks. Thanks for the emails alerting me.
wisewebwomanatgmail.com