[In] the world of Bernard MacLaverty … the loss of innocent illusions is usually comically ironic—not at all as the characters imagined—yet … the loss seems to matter less than the innocence itself.
Several of the better stories in Secrets and Other Stories deal with a boy's loss of innocence or his initiation into a corrupted adult world. Yet in MacLaverty's stories these transitional steps do not destroy the former, innocent world. Indeed, those worlds seem to take on new depths of tenderness and reality by exposure to the new. In "The Exercise," a story reminiscent of Stephen Dedalus' disciplining in A Portrait of the Artist, a boy is caned by his Latin teacher for daring to suggest that his homework must be right because it was done by his father—a mere barman. Both father and teacher warn that henceforth Kevin will have to work Latin problems out for himself. At the story's conclusion, the boy hasn't yet faced telling his father that his assertion, "'Son, your Da's a genius,'" no longer applies to Latin. Yet characteristic of MacLaverty, and in marked contrast to Joyce, this beginning of disillusionment produces no alienation between father and son…. (pp. 130-31)
Several of MacLaverty's comic situations seem material for raucous one-liners, not the stuff which a grant-winning academic dropping allusions to Joyce, Hopkins, and Forster (and Mr. MacLaverty is also one of these) would find satisfyingly complex….
But darkness intrudes...
(The entire section is 626 words.)