There are Little
" An indisputable fact: our towns are
sexed. Look around you. It’s easy enough tell one from the
other. Foley’s town, for example, is most certainly a woman
– just take in the salt of her estuarine air – but
she’s not a notably well-mannered or delicate woman. She is
in fact a belligerent old bitch."
Reviewed by Elaine Chiew
Kevin Barry’s collection is like finding a shiny two-pound
coin in a pile of muck. It brings unexpected pleasure. Not just because
he gives you priceless glimpses into the lives of individuals in a
small Irish setting, but also because it’s one of these
collections you literally cannot finish in one sitting. It sent me into
spirals of associations, memories, and universal contemplations.
Double-takes of pure aesthetic admiration of prose. And bleats of
laughter at the scrapes his characters get into (here, I’m
specifically referring to Animal
Needs, where one lust-soaked farmer winds himself deeper
and deeper into a fandango -- an erotic dance – with
characters in Barry’s collection comprise, inter alia, a
young buckaroo at the top of his billiard game, two fast girls looking
for trouble, a lonesome hillwalker, an amnesiac, a genie with wry
humor, a gigantic taxi-driver, an antique collector, a contemptuous air
Rendered in lilting Irish brogue,
what struck me is how often these characters are on aimless journeys,
destinations unclear. The amnesiac who finds ownership documents in his
duffel bag for a chip shop, surprises himself with his own porn
collection (See the
Tree, How Big It’s Grown). The incessantly
talkative old biddy (The
Wintersongs) riding a bus gives us a glimpse of her young
fellow passenger at the crossroads of abandoning an old life and
seeking a new one. Even the four corners of a felt-lined billiard table
become a metaphor for trippyness, a purposeless ride of sorts, until
the bright young star himself is vanquished in death.
more thing. Barry’s power of description is awe-inspiring.
Nothing soporific about it. It’s not sentimental, but it
contains lushness. It makes you believe there are little kingdoms
invisible to the eye. “And Broad Street was on fire. The last
of the evening gave out in a show of dying golds and reds. The street
lamps came on. The blue flicker of television screens could be seen
behind terraced windows. The summer night announced itself, with its
own starlit energies. It brought temptation, yearning and ache, because
these are the summer things.” (Atlantic City)
there’s anything to fault, it’s the light plotting
hand Barry wields – often, these stories feel like character
sketches; it leaves one craving – I would have liked to stay
longer with any of them. Party
at Helen’s actually reads like a series of
shifting character point-of-views and tantalizing profiling. The last
couple of stories in the collection are also weaker by comparison
– the title story itself, There Are Little Kingdoms,
is a dip into an unstable wino’s mind. But that’s
all there is and I can’t help wishing for more.
Even so, this
will be a
rewarding read for the prose aesthete, for those who admire robust
narrative voices, and for the enthusiast of the common and the strange.
Chiew lives in London, England with her husband and two children. She
was a securities lawyer before becoming a mother and writer. Her work
has appeared in Verbsap, Juked, The Summerset Review, In Posse Review,
Edifice Wrecked, among others. Her story in In Posse Review was a Top
Ten Notable Story in Storysouth’s Million Writer’s
2006 and one of her flash in Juked has been selected for Dzanc
Books’ Best of the Web 2007.
Publisher: Stinging Fly Press
Publication Date:March 2007
Paperback and casebound
Prize for Irish Literature
Barry was born in Limerick in 1969 and now lives in Dublin.
He writes sketches and columns for the Sunday Herald in
Glasgow and the Irish
Examiner in Cork. He has written about travel and
literature for The
Guardian, The Irish Times, The Sydney Morning Herald and
many other publications. He was awarded the 2007 Rooney Prize for Irish
Literature for this collection.
with Kevin Barry
you liked this book you might also like....
William Trevor "Cheating at
Canasta" & "The Collected Stories"
George "Walking the Labyrinth"
other reviewers thought: