The day after winning the Man Booker Prize, Howard Jacobson spoke of the typical judging panel and its collective fear of the comic, the difficult and the unknown, suggesting that ‘a beautifully written elegy set in Connemara is likely to disturb that panel a lot less’. He’s right, of course. As a former member of various judging panels I have given my nod to many such beautifully written elegies with barely a word of discussion. William Trevor, John McGahern – what’s to criticise? Your Irish elegy is the Haydn string quartet of the literary world.
Occasionally, I confess, I have grown tired of reading about rural Ireland. I have slightly resented the fact that beautiful prose seems to come so naturally to these gifted so-and-sos. Frankly, I am tempted to take against short stories like Claire Keegan’s for their sheer bloody perfection. Her