THE LEAVES ON GREY by Desmond Hogan


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Hogan's The Ikon Maker (p. 876) was a book that fairly hugged itself--it was so tight, local, and sad. This new one casts a wider net. James McMahon, the narrator, can't lose the memory of the Russian-born mother of his best friend, Liam Dehilly; the independence of her disturbed spirit--she was a young suicide--seems to hang over all the life he's ever known in his native Ireland. The pearl of that life came during college, when James, Liam, and a girl named Sarah established ""an affair, a triangular relationship, one buried, unspoken but always there, a mystery, a voice in itself telling of some extraordinary dance, some exciting welcome into a world of love."" Such clause-heavy sentences tell the whole story here, which continues as James (against the background of the Irish Republic's parochial naivet‚ in the 1950s) watches his friends grow up and go away; Liam to California and spiritual fads; Sarah to be a very white nun in black Africa; James into bored success as a lawyer. It isn't until Liam returns to become a monk on an island that James can come to terms with adulthood--he sees in Liam's act a serenity, an abnegation, that balances all his (and Ireland's) anxieties. Rich material; but somehow it's dissipated in Hogan's unsensual, lugubrious, almost joyless approach, his one- or two-sentence paragraphs, the constant, iron rhythm of his prose. Again, then, as with The Ikon Maker, talented work that doesn't quite connect.

Pub Date: Feb. 21st, 1979
Publisher: Braziller