Gaelic gabber Keyes (Sushi for Beginners, 2003, etc.) provides a treat for fans: a book divided among essays and stories, the former tastier than the latter.
The nonfiction pieces that take up half of Keyes’s latest (flip the book over to read the fiction taking up the rest) are written with grace and good humor, giving even the most seemingly trivial of experiences a goodly going-over, and all of it with at least one brilliant turn of phrase per page. Keyes is at her best when writing on travel, as in “Stack’n’fly,” in which she does her determined best to puncture the myth that it’s better to travel than to arrive: “It is NOT better to travel. To travel is AWFUL and to arrive is LOVELY.” Elsewhere, readers are treated to her many loves (Kit Kats, 16 hours of sleep a day, being sick in bed so that somebody has to take care of her) and many hates (exercise, sun-tanning, her fellow Irishmen’s need when traveling to be the life of the party). The author includes a hilarious account of her travels to Russia: “Flight to St. Petersburg. The plane was disappointingly normal. Seat belts and the like.” It’s not all chocolate and lazing about, however. She revisits in one nonfiction piece a look at her own years-long struggle with alcoholism, recounting it with honesty and a refreshing lack of pathos. Things fare less well on the fiction side, where the stories seem more like forced attempts to capture the self-deprecating good humor of her magazine pieces. This is especially true of “A Moment of Grace,” a story about a forlorn angel’s attempt to commit all the seven deadly sins. It’s all easy enough to read, even the one about the alien and English girl bopping about L.A., but can seem like sloppy seconds.
Sure to be snatched up by fans.