Review:Town and Country:New Irish Short Stories edited by Kevin Barry (Faber and Faber)

Review: Faber and Faber Town and Country: New Irish Short Stories edited by Kevin Barry.

The title and cover give a  hint towards a  far from Post Celtic landscape in Ireland and its writing. The cover art in futuristic yellow, black and white design, paints a landscape of religious buildings and skyscrapers amongst buildings in constructed transience.

Ireland is being built again from inside out and so to its writing. It is unsure to what its identity is. The title, Town and Country demonstrate a wide open feel as a member of a larger, ever expanding community. What we thought was true post boom is not and so to the Irish short story. Kevin Barry, the editor writes that:

“The Irish short story is changing and is pulsing with great, mad and rude new energies.”

But, as Ireland and its literature changes and pushes through into new ways, it is still committed to the universal theme of what it means to be a human. The strength of the short story is the ability to capture a human moment and Barry says this too:

“the contours of our great human aches and sorrows are traced here.”

To represent a new Ireland, to try to capture what it is that is Irish now, Barry has presented an anthology that contains many new voices. The book is all the better for this; With these new voices,we get stories about a  sometimes confused Ireland. The title Town and Country is an easy one to work with now, we move all around Ireland and outside of it. From the countryside, coasts and cities, we hear Irish voices and non-Irish ones.

The anthology is made up of twenty stories, never too long or short. Quite perfect. Relationships have changed in Ireland. How we love and what happens after we lose love is reflected throughout the anthology. Humanity in all its sadness and warmth comes rises up, time and time again.  A collection that tells us where we may have gone wrong and asks if we can get back on track again. Relationships and humanity are the short story’s finest strengths and it is hard not to be warmed by these snippets of humanity.

In Tiger by Michael Harding, it is 2006 and we see the remnants of the good times in a marriage and all the material items that have to be divided up in the aftermath of a divorce. The narrator now lives in a flat surrounded by “Eastern Europeans in small apartments with paper-thin walls.” His possessions are all left behind in the family home-the Aga cooker, the wok, coffee pot-all things synonymous with the Celtic Tiger years. At the end, he yearns for something real that he can never have.

Again, in Saturday, Boring by Lisa Mc Inerney, we see a new Ireland of mixed messages and pressures. This story is told from the perspective of a fifteen year old and it frightened me how real this story probably is. The teenage girl is setting out to have sex for the first time with her boyfriend of 3 weeks. The uncertainty of this act is revealed on a journey to the till in Penneys with her best friend. Once, she pays for the adult-like lingerie, the die is cast and the Rubicon has been crossed. She has made up her mind and her relationships with her father and  friendship with her best friend have changed forever. This story is handled well, it tells of the pressures young children encounter today. She feels “like there was so much to learn and so much expected of her.” but this is no naive girl. She concludes that it is all nonsense and she wants “the world to slow down its revolution as to make space for her.” By the end of the story, she feels “as old as the sea” and the adult reader will have the  benefit of knowing that her next action will not bestow any maturity on her.

In Second-Best Bar in Cadiz, we get drawn into a non-conventional love story. A man from Castlebar wants to make it big as a chef. He deludes himself, his lover is unfaithful, his brother is a dangerous gimp and his job is uncertain and uninspired. He rests all of his dreams on Oscar, his boss. The narrator wants to be more than “the man with a plastic fork in the emperor inn in Castlebar” but he cannot get away from the drugs and pointless relationships. I feared the worst for him and was relieved when Oscar’s fate was safe but the ending is worse than this. He realises that he is “The man with a plastic fork in the emperor inn in Castlebar.” We have all been there and we know he may have to settle for a part of life that he may not have imagined for himself. A return to Castlebar and all the truth it brings with it for him.

In Barcelona, Mary Costello continues to grab my admiration. She always makes it seem so simple but with one sentence, we are caught in her world, one she controls to its last breath. In this story, the narrator, Catherine is multi-faced, she is revealed piece by piece until the end. Her manic thoughts pervade the text and the setting until the ending where her husband is left confused, looking into a corner. Catherine realises that she has been too honest, she has gone too far. Her marriage is unable to cope with the reality and rawness of life. Again, a brilliant post Celtic Tiger theme and a story we have come to associate with Mary Costello, she thinks and observes and so do her characters.

Relationship breakdown and the honesty between two people is dealt with in Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s Joyride to Jupiter. The story of a man whose wife is starting to collapse with dementia in old age. Storytelling  comes too easy to Nuala. She writes the type of stories that the reader might think they could do but the way she builds this story to a tear provoking climax is a gift that is hard to come by. In Barcelona and Joyride to Jupiter, we see two very different relationships. Both deal with being true to yourself and the one you love. However, the ending for Nuala’s character was made chillingly real and left me affected. Anyone who loves takes risks, the narrator realises this and he is stirred to memories of their life together, the good times of  “paradise squares, our daughter’s nervous glancing in the rear-view, dancing in Banba Hall, a single coral rose, the spongy hump of the pillow.” The risk was worth it.

The Clancy Kid by Colin Barrett is a stand out story. Colin’s stories have been coming up every so often with these wonderful stories. His collection is due this September, an excitement for me. I find his writing very cool and urgently unique. The Clancy Kid is a good, solid Irish story centering on the character’s  relationships. It opens up in any old pub in any town in Ireland. Two men are speaking about their obsessions. One a woman he can’t have and the other a child that disappeared, the Clancy Kid. Their friendship drags through the story, rising until the strength at the end. This is a story of the bromance. A typically Irish one, there are emotions all over the place, left unsaid and at the end the narrator concludes that “we all have things we won’t let go of.” The narrator cannot let go of what he could have had with this girl and his friend cannot let go of the Clancy kid. They look back on their nameless town after a wonderfully troll fairy tale-like adventure with some scary children and they see that the kids have gone. Were they there at all? The story tells us of the importance of the simple things, growing up and the fear of letting go as we do so.  Brilliant characters, typically Irish yet brought to life with a contemporary feel. A story that left me thinking and counting the days off till September and Colin’s book is published with the Stinging Fly.

In City of Glass, its opening gives the impression that this is another story about immigration and poor old Ireland in the early 1990s where then old men cycled in bicycles. Was this another landscape heavy story by an American writer with a glint in their eye for Ireland?  But, it wasn’t. In fact, this story summarises the story of Ireland in 1989 and compares that Ireland with the one we are living in now. The author Molly Mc Closkey  says that “The country was like a beautiful failure.” She brings the main character through a series of relationships pre and post Celtic Tiger and concludes that “Now, it was like we all existed in some nebulous after-life, a vantage point from which we gazed down on everything we had destroyed…all the parallel dimensions in which we were reconciled.” A humanistic take of what went wrong in the world and Ireland and how strong relationships matter. This story cements the meaning of the stories in this book, a non sentimental look to the past can push us forward to feel gratitude that we will survive. We may not know where the future is but we can feel excited that we have come this far, from the days of the original game makers like O’ Connor and Trevor to a new pulse and style.

Barry advises us to “Watch it now as it spirals and spins out” I wait patiently  for the next Faber and Faber anthology with a strong  hope that our new community who are living here, originally coming from outside Ireland will add to this changing landscape of the Irish short story. This is my biggest wish for Irish writing and we are moving towards this. The Town and Country Anthology is a step towards that landscape.


Town and Country Short Story Anthology

I feel like I’ve been waiting forever but the day is nearly here!
I’m waiting on my review copy to arrive, Kevin kindly organized for me to get one before the launch on the 25th May.
The pressure will be on to finish reading it and write a review on it before the launch…
Can I do it? Yes! Absolutely! I take your challenge, Faber!
Bring it.

Stay tuned for my review but in the meantime, here’s a press release sent from Rebecca, Faber Publishing..

“These are Irish short stories and often they come in the shapes that we know and have loved in the form but also they come at a very interesting moment, I believe, when the story is being considered anew and is being pulled in many strange and unexpected new directions. The Irish story is changing and is pulsing with great, mad and rude new energies. Watch it now as it spirals and spins out –” Kevin Barry, introduction to Town & Country

After previous volumes edited by Joseph O’Connor and the late David Marcus, Faber and Faber are delighted to present a fourth collection of all new Irish short stories. Edited by novelist and short story writer Kevin Barry – whose story ‘Beer Trip To Llandudno’ appeared in the 2011 collection and went on to win the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Prize – this volume once again mixes fresh new voices with established names such as Dermot Healy, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Julian Gough, Patrick McCabe and Paul Murray, and will seek to offer fresh renditions to the Irish story; new angles, new approaches, new modes of attack.

‘This volume proves that one thing we needn’t be ashamed of is the quality of Irish writing.’ Irish Times (on New Irish Short Stories 2011)   ‘This fine anthology offers reassuring proof that whatever the state of the economy, Irish writing is as strong as ever.’ Irish Mail on Sunday  (on New Irish Short Stories 2011)

Kevin Barry is the author of the story collections Dark Lies the Island and There Are Little Kingdoms as well as the novel City Of Bohane. He has been awarded the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Prize, the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award, and has been shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Prize and the Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year award. His stories have appeared in the New Yorker and many other journals and anthologies.

For further information please contact Rebecca Pearson, Publicity Manager, on 020 7927 3886 or

A gutted and distraught Rozzie cannot go to Faber launch event

Faber Socials is on the Saturday, 25th May and am so not going to miss it.

Except I am. It coincides with a big family event at home, in the West and my sister would cut me off if I missed it for a book launch.

But, this is not just any ol’ launch. It’s a brand new anthology of Irish short stories. Edited by the man,  Kevin Barry, Town and Country  is featuring contributors like Patrick McCabe,Paul MurrayNuala Ní ChonchúirEimear Ryan andMichael Harding.

Apparently, everyone is going to be there. Like, everyone.

One has to even buy a ticket to attend so it must be all very special. It’s going to be launched in the Clarence Suite in Dublin at 6 p.m.

Hey, wait a minute, I don’t have to be in the West until 10:30 a.m. the day after. I could go to the Faber event, mingle and quaff nice drinks for a couple of hours and then either travel to the West that evening, arriving after midnight. Or, I could get up at 4:30 a.m. the next morning and arrive in perfect time for the West event. A third option would be to make someone dress up as me for the West event and I would take their place at the Faber event. A fourth option would be to write to the Dublin Writers’ Festival and demand(ask) that they switch the event date to the Friday instead of the Saturday. The most important thing is that I am there.

The final option is that I don’t go and just go to the West and enjoy that family day, and I will enjoy it but I would love to have two enjoys.

What do you think I should do? Click on  the poll below to help me decide. [polldaddy poll=”7068965″]


Kevin Barry has had quite the year( 3 years…) of it!

IMPAC award

The good news and awards just don’t stop for Kevin Barry. He has been on a roll for a constant.

His novel City of Bohane been shortlisted for the International Impac Dublin Literary Award. The shortlist of 10 writers for the €100,000 prize was announced yesterday.

I’ve blogged about this brilliantly quirky, Kevin Barry style, inventive, entertaining and swaggerish novel before. I’m not even sure if swaggerish is a word but it fits. If you haven’t read City of Bohane, then there’s nothing like a deadline. The winner will be announced this summer so plenty time for you to show how hip and happening you are. And I know how hip and happening you are. And I knew how much you’d want me to gently motivate you.

This is a really important award for a full-time writer like Kevin, obviously on a merit basis, we want him to win it. But, he is the only Irish writer in the short list but the biggest thing is the prize money-€100,000 would set him for a couple of years and free him up to write more for me…Sorry, the general public. If there were a public vote, I’d be lobbying but there isn’t but what you can do is

Get the book, like now, here.

(and while, you are there, get his two short story collections too, Dark lies the island here and There are little kingdoms here

Colin Barrett in the Stinging Fly

I love when I get my copy of the Stinging Fly. I look at the front cover for ages, leaving it ruminate on the kitchen table, until it’s taken up and started.

That’s my routine.

This issue, the Spring 2013 one is particualrly lovely. The cover is softer and more tactile than usual. A commanding sketch juts out of the light grey background and it has me. I show it off to everyone who will look.

I read the editorial first and then it’s straight to a name that just keeps coming up-Colin Barrett. He is a Mayo man so there is an affinity there! His bio reads well and sensibly. He has done the MA in U.C.D. He’s been published in the Stinging Fly a couple of times and they’re bringing out his own collection of short stories in September 2013. He also is getting one of his stories published in the upcoming short story collection Town and Country alongside the huge Eilis Ni Dhubihne and Nuala Ni Chonchuir. It will be edited by the lovely Kevin Barry so you can guess I’m reserving a copy already.

I’ve already told myself that I’m going to like Colin’s story Kindly forget my existence.  I’ve concluded this from his bio. Some of the bios I read in certain magazines make me itch and feel annoyed. I don’t want to read your story or poem if you are trying to be too funny, too serious and trying to pretend that  writing is just a small distraction for you in your wacky life. So, get your bios checked and vetted. I charge a small fee for this type of vetting and I’m good.

Kindly forget my existence is a very good piece. Nice and long and plenty time to settle into it. Two friends, Eli and Doran meet in a pub with an Eastern European barman who goes awol during the story, allowing the real story come out.There’s a funeral and lots of smoking. I felt echoes of Kevin Barry’s Fjord of Killary story. The men and what they speak of also come from a Kevin Barry slant but use language and vocabulary that are the author’s, Colin Barrett’s own. Colin uses big and clunky words, he does not shy away from adverbs or adjectives when needed, which makes me feel happy. His story telling is not sparse, it gives us plenty detail but leaves out many parts of the story that we don’t need to know. The title speaks of Joyce, borrowing from The Dead.

More of this is needed. I really liked it and of course I see a future for Mr. Barrett.

And now, onto a poem in the Stinging Fly. Hmmm, who has the shortest bio? Michael J. Farrell, it is.

It’s just a personal theory, please don’t think I’m crazy or right.

Here’s a freebie Colin Barrett short story from the fiftytwostories blog


Great interview with Kevin Barry in New Yorker Magazine

Kevin Barry seems to be everywhere again, all of a sudden. A nice teacher lady on twitter sent me a poster, telling me that Mr. Barry was reading at the Westport Literary Festival. Unfortunately, I won’t be there, I can’t be everywhere!
Then, I ordered a copy of The Moth Magazine and it contained a really detailed interview with Kevin. It was the first time I read much about his personal life and past career so I loved it!
Then, the New Yorker magazine online handed me another free gift of Kevin Barry! Kevin speaks about how landscape and places leave a remnant of mood on him, this then influences him to write a story. Brilliant and this will make sense when you read his stories.
Check the link out here

I’ll be reviewing the Moth Magazine in my next post. Life is good. Anyone got any Kevin Barry interviews or any form of literary, reading or writing links, send them onto me, please! You can follow me on twitter @rozzlewis


Cork International Short Story Festival 2012:Review Part 2:It’s Kevin Barry!

I was most excited about hearing Kevin Barry read again. I don’t want to sound like crazy lady from “Misery” film but I am officially the number one Kevin Barry fan. I get very annoyed when I see someone else having the cheek to read his books and even worse when they dare to comment on his writing.




Okay, I am exaggerating slightly but you get the idea. Kevin Barry rocks.

He was up first and he read a short story from Dark lies the island( you have to put this on your Christmas list-now!).  This story is set in Gort and about a man called Evan who ends up sleeping in a caravan owned by a strange man who likes kicking staircases and two sisters that like the strange man who kicks staircases. The sisters also have an array of skin haired-lice ridden children running about the place looking “crazed”. Things gets stranger and darker as the story goes on when Evan is locked in the caravan and ends up trying to survive on a tin of Campbells’ tomato soup. I won’t spoil the ending for you but it is very jumpy. Kevin reads with drama and devilment, which kinda reminds me of Eddie Lenihan. Remember him? No, Kevin doesn’t look like him at all but he sounds like him somewhat! I always wonder what the crowd will make of Kevin as his stories are not for the fainthearted and are quite naughty. They seemed to enjoy and laugh at the right moments and anyway, they all paid to see him so they should know what he is like.

Will Boast came on after Kevin, reading from his short story collection Power Ballads, which I haven’t read and probably won’t. Reasons being that I have a heap of books to read and I don’t really “get” American short stories. Yet. I might one day and maybe, then I will feast on his stories. Also, I found it hard to listen as really, Kevin should have read another and the moment was spoiled for me. They both read very differently and their voice and style are completely different and hard to put together. But, there seemed to be a  lot of Will Boast fans as well.

I briefly said hello to Kevin before he read and he tells me he is busy, busy writing! Great or I might have to lock you up in my house and buy you a typewriter and instruct you to get the sequel to City of Bohane finished quickly. I probably wouldn’t hurt his legs though. He has to be able to walk. But, only if he behaved himself.


A chat with Kevin Barry author of “City of Bohane” at the West Cork Literary Festival

Kevin Barry:West Cork Literary Festival, 2012


I got to meet and chat with Kevin Barry,author of “City of Bohane: at West Cork Literary Festival. I’ve uploaded the interview as it is. Kevin was so generous with his time and I think you will find lots of practical, solid advice for the writers out there. I’ve certainly taken it on, since the festival, I’ve focussed myself to writing a new story every day. The idea is that over the year, I’m bound to find a couple of good ideas to run with. And, it happened today! I made a kernel of something that I think I can turn into something, story like! It also occurred to me that writers are mostly inclusive and motivating folk. I don’t know any other aspect of the media world that would be so giving of their time and help. And yes, Kevin has described himself as having a gigantic ego but he absolutely hasn’t. I miss Bantry and all the writers, cannot wait to return next year. In the meantime, we have the Cork Short Story Festival to look forward to, which I will be covering. Kevin is reading at this too. Those Cork people really have it worked out, don’t they? If you haven’t had the pleasure to read “City of Bohane”, I insist you get it and devour it! You can buy it here.         This edition is the new,swankier cover. I have only got the old, orange original. Anyway, you just want to listen to Kevin. Enjoy! Listen here. kevinbarry1 I will upload part 2 after a few days!

The 2nd Best City of Bohane cover