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This article is taken from PN Review 267, Volume 49 Number 1, September - October 2022.

Getting the Last Word Martina Evans
Thomas McCarthy, Poetry, Memory and the Party: Journals 1974–2014 (The Gallery Press) €20.00

‘I am a deeply conservative person. I have been conservative since I was about seven-years-old,’ Thomas McCarthy writes in May 2011 after a day spent at the Anglo-Irish writer Molly Keane’s house in Ardmore, with Virginia her daughter and Lani, their literary advisor:
Maybe I’m too attached to these Anglo-Irish people and their houses: it’s certainly true that I’m too attached for my own political and literary good. Everything in Irish life now eschews aristocracy and anything that smacks of grace or grandeur. My attachment to Molly Keane or the Brigadier’s memory is among the most real emotional strings of my adult life. I have no hope of seeing this attachment reciprocated but that’s not what it’s about. It’s something else, some very deep recognition of universal values that I also associate with a life of writing. For me writers, and especially poets, are born aristocrats – their instincts are value-laden, elitist in a technical sense, and associated with established comfort in that writing requires huge tranches of uninterrupted time the way that the making of a great garden or a great family requires centuries rather than moments of sensation.

There is something in the way that Thomas McCarthy pins his unfashionable colours to the mast that is engaging. Is McCarthy a ‘true blue’ conservative? That is debatable. Is love of beauty confined to conservatives? Is this conservatism political or cultural or can there even be a dividing line? It is true that writing does require ‘huge tranches ...


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