Belfast Telegraph

Insight into literary giant Bernard MacLaverty who chooses his words carefully

By Terry Blain

The 27th John Hewitt International Summer School is underway in Armagh, and last night one of Northern Ireland's biggest literary hitters, Bernard MacLaverty, visited the Market Place Theatre.

MacLaverty's latest publication is a handsome hardback volume collecting most of his short stories, and he chose two of these for his readings.

A Pornographer Woos, from 1977, wryly anatomises scenes from a family seaside holiday and was chosen partly because MacLaverty had recently been approached to make a film of it.

A more recent story, The Clinic, followed, chronicling an ageing man's first visit to a diabetes clinic in prose peppered with dry humour and telling observation.

A common thread in both stories is MacLaverty's extreme economy regarding use of adverbs and adjectives. The style is enviably lean and uncluttered by spurious imagery, reflecting the writer's faith in the ability of precisely observed detail to yield its own truths.

In conversation with Paul McAvinchy, MacLaverty spoke about the fraught process of revisiting his earlier stories to prepare them for republication, wondering whether they would withstand scrutiny. Most did, he said, and he had even indulged in a little retrospective editing. MacLaverty also drolly recalled failing his English A-Level, and once handing a stack of poems for appraisal to the young Seamus Heaney, who advised him to stick to writing stories.

He did, and he hasn't finished yet, apparently – another work of fiction is currently in the MacLaverty pipeline.

Four stars

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