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by Kevin Barry

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-55597-651-4
Publisher: Graywolf

In his latest, Irish author Barry (City of Bohane, 2011, etc.) offers 10 pieces of literary fiction.

A postmodern lens reflects youthful ineptness in "Across the Rooftops." In "Wifey Redux," perhaps the collection’s best story, Saoirse, "blonde and wispily slight with a delicate, bone-china complexion," marries, births Ellie and turns to Pinot Grigio, while her dutiful husband becomes consumed by their daughter's beauty and her sex-obsessed suitors. A blocked poet turned innkeeper herds horny Belarus staff and droning, alcoholic locals in "Fjord of Killary" until, epiphany-flooded, "I felt a new, quiet ecstasy take hold. The gloom of youth had at last lifted." In "A Cruelty," a boy/man/child, autistic perhaps, time-obsessed, fixated on lunch-pack Chocolate Goldgrains, is accosted by a bully, perhaps a rapist, certainly "hyena," his safely circumscribed world forever fractured. Later, a sad group of ale fanciers makes a humorous and melancholy "Beer Trip to Llandudno." Irish lyricism shines throughout the collection. "Ernestine and Kit" opens so—"the world was fat on the blood of summer"—but relates a tale as black as a witch’s heart. A kitchen steward, "black mass of backcombed hair and a graveyard pallor," fumbles into a double-dealing bombing plot in "The Mainland Campaign." A broken lover laments in "Wistful England," and Jameson whiskey–loving "Doctor Sot" finds drunken perceptions reflected by psychotic Mag, a traveler. An on-the-run drug dealer confronts the devil, twisted overseer of two sisters, eight wild children and chained feral dogs in "The Girls and the Dogs." A rattletrap "White Hitachi" van is home to Patrick, incompetent thief, intent upon saving his brother from "Castlerea prison, or the secure ward at the madhouse (many a Mullaney had bothered the same walls)." The title story is penultimate, a young artist, a cutter, from a fractured family seeks west Ireland solace. "Berlin Arkonaplatz—My Lesbian Summer" concludes the collection, Irish writer Patrick entrapped and enlightened by bohemian Silvija, "beautiful, foul-mouthed and inviolate."

Winner of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, Barry writes stories that are character-driven, archetypical yet magnetic, pushing toward realism’s edge where genre becomes irrelevant.