‘The Wine Breath’ by John McGahern

The Wine Breath by John McGahern, 1977

The magic trick:

Turning a man’s thoughts and memories and thought about memory into a whirlwind

So much of the entire short story form is about memory. What story we choose to tell about ourselves or anyone else is memory in action.

But some stories, of course, are more explicitly about memory than others.

This one is about memory.

Our first-person narrator shares with us memories, then interrupts himself to ponder about why that particular memory is so vivid, then talks about what is happening in his present moment, before soon slipping into another memory.

The combination is so fluid that pretty quickly the reader struggles to understand which is which.

And that’s quite a trick on McGahern’s part.

The selection:

And making sure that Gillespie hadn’t noticed him at the gate, he turned back on the road. The bed wouldn’t be ready for another week. The news could wait a day or more. Before leaving, he stole a last look at the dull white ground about the sawhorse. The most difficult things seem always to lie closest to us, to lie always around our feet.

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