Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

McGinley’s tactic of situating his philosophical interests in the fictional context of a violent death has led his work to be rather misleadingly classified as “crime fiction.” Bogmail resists generic classification even as it seems to invite it. While the core of its action is indeed a somewhat botched murder, and while the resolution of the plot occasions another murder, the intervening material is, if anything, a parody of the detective procedural, as the activities of the policeman, McGing, confirm. Rather than develop an intensifying air of mystery and suspense, as might be expected from a traditional crime novel, Bogmail offers a deliberate slackening of tension, and obtusely fails to thrill. As Potter notes, thrillers “lacked the imponderable ingredient that makes fiction truer than fact.”

Bogmail becomes a much more interesting and resourceful text if its nonmurderous elements are highlighted. Its vision is more far-reaching and sophisticated than that of the vast majority of crime stories because this drama of cognition probes questions of visibility and demonstrates that reality comprises myriad subjective individual perceptions.

McGinley’s work belongs to an Irish literary tradition of antirealism (epitomized in the novels of Flann O’Brien) in both his vision of the nature of the world and his view as to how it should be treated. This tradition typically satirizes epistemological procedures and aims to reveal mockingly the presumption of normalizing or fully knowing the world, with the objective of showing the individual mind in all of its frailty, in all of its innocence and delusions, and in all of its criminal pride. Appreciation of what Bogmail achieves as a first novel, and of what McGinley has to offer as a novelist, is more likely to derive from a consideration of its overall range and ambition rather than from an unexamined acceptance of its quirkiness as a crime story.