A variety of narrative perspectives, most drenched in alcohol, enhance this debut collection of six stories.
Practically every character in these stories is Irish-American—except for the improbably varied cast of entertainers in the long, last title story—and most of them drink, mostly to excess. It is thus something of a marvel, if not a contradiction, that the observations remain so sharp, the prose so precise, as the narrators slosh toward oblivion or awaken to horrendous hangovers. The whole notion of narrative perspective proves tricky throughout, as the plots unfold through the eyes of narrators who initially present themselves as observers but often become the pivotal characters, revealing as much or more about themselves in the process of telling about others. In the opening “Dead,” for example, Connor stereotypes those making a pilgrimage to Atlantic City as a way of distinguishing himself: “I tell myself I am different from these bus people. I have a job, and a profession to which I will eventually return. I’ve eaten in five-star restaurants. I’ve slept with a Lands’ End model—twice.” Connor (or at least someone with the same name) returns in the last story, now a property speculator in Atlantic City in a building where a gangsta rapper throws all-night orgies, a deadbeat entertainer with a short-term lease keeps a tiger, and a single mother provides a slim possibility of romance and redemption. “Weddings and Burials” offers a subtle, emotionally complex story about an Irish wedding that somehow encapsulates a previous generation’s marriages, relationships and missed opportunities, while “Sullapalooza” presents an even more raucous celebration, narrated in the second person by the black-sheep drunk brother of the town’s powerful fixer.
This short collection seems like a sampler platter from a writer who may well have a fictional feast in him.