MICHAEL JOE by William Cotter Murray


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This novel of Irish life in the small village of Corrigbeg in County Clare is a triumph of objectivity and unspoken judgment. Where Joyce reproduced the subjective lives of his Dubliners, Mr. Murray chooses a big bull of a man whose introspective life is limited to petty jealousies and football plays. Michael Joe McCarthy is one of Corribeg's three shopkeepers. He considers himself the town hero because of his football prowess. He has inherited his father's store and lives alone with his domineering mother. His earliest memories are of this shop and he intends to live and die in it. One day Michael Joe begins courting a town beauty. Later, when he discovers that she had a baby in England and gave it up for adoption, he jilts her summarily. His best friend marries the girl, and Michael Joe roars with jealousy. In retaliation he marries the mousiest girl he knows. The rest of the story shows how Michael Joe's prideful arrogance leads him eventually into listless captivity by his wife and mother. The bedrock meanness of spirit in these villagers seems the result of a religion which insistently wrings the life out of their flesh. Simple provincialism is not the only virus in their existence. The story is perfectly observed and totally gray.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1965
Publisher: Appleton-Century