Harp (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
In such novels as True Confessions (1977) and Dutch Shea, Jr. (1982), John Gregory Dunne has explored the lives of Irish-American priests, policemen, politicians, and lawyers. In Harp, he takes a more personal look at the Irish-American experience. Vegas: A Memoir of a Dark Season (1974), Dunne’s previous memoir, used his fears of death and a nervous breakdown as a starting point for a somewhat fictionalized examination of both his own neuroses and those of his times. In Harp, heart problems trigger what he says is his first in-depth consideration of his Irishness. Dunne also looks at the tensions among members of a large family, class prejudices in America, and the process of being a writer.
Mortality runs throughout Dunne’s depiction of his family. Harp opens with the suicide of his younger brother, Stephen, at forty-three. Dunne was closer to Stephen, a graphics designer, than to his other four siblings, but not until after Stephen’s death did Dunne learn that his brother had been haunted by severe bouts of melancholy. Dunne says that he considered depression a form of “emotional extortion a demand for a close-up on the soundstage of life,” and the last time he saw Stephen, the two brothers performed a routine poking fun at such indulgence. That they shared a sense of irreverence and enjoyed each other’s company so much made the shock of Stephen’s suicide all the more devastating for...
(The entire section is 2163 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
Booklist. LXXXV, July, 1989, p.1851.
Commonweal. CXVI, November 3, 1989, p.592.
Kirkus Reviews. LVII, June 15, 1989, p.889.
Library Journal. CXIV, July, 1989, p.79.
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