Irish Short Story Week Year II
There seems to be a lot of interest in the short stories of Kevin Barry. He is from Limerick Ireland and in 2007 he won The Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. His first novel, City of Bohane, was published in 2011. (I have previously posted on his really fun short story about some beer buddies, "Beer Trip to Llandudno". Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat has posted a very perceptive account of this story also.)
"The Fjord of Killary" (available in the free sections of The New Yorker, here is the link) is about an man with a bit of money from the big city, maybe a bit snobbish about country folk, that buys an old hotel on a fjord. Here is the opening paragraph, if you do not like this, you will not like the story:
So I bought an old hotel on the fjord of Killary. It was set hard by the harbor wall, with Mweelrea Mountain across the water, and disgracefully gray skies above. It rained two hundred and eighty-seven days of the year, and the locals were given to magnificent mood swings. On the night in question, the rain was particularly violent—it came down like handfuls of nails flung hard and fast by a seriously riled sky god. I was at this point eight months in the place and about convinced that it would be the death of me
The locals spend a lot of time in the hotel's lounge bar. The locals ignore him because " I was a fretful blow-in, by their mark, and simply not cut out for tough, gnarly, West of Ireland living."
A lot of the story is taken up with conversations of people in the bar. The narrator finds the place and the people very depressing and he seems sorry he bought the hotel, at times any way. Here is what when through his mind when he bought the hotel:
I had made—despite it all—a mild success of myself in life. But on turning forty, the previous year, I had sensed exhaustion rising up in me, like rot. Before forty, you think that exhaustion is something like a long-lasting hangover. But at forty you learn all
about it. Even your passions exhaust you. I found that to be alone with the work all day was increasingly difficult. And the city had become a jag on my nerves—there was too much young flesh around. The brochure about the hotel appeared in my life like a revelation. I clutched it in my hands for days on end. I grew feverish with the notion of a westward flight. I lay in bed with the brochure, as the throb of the city sounded a kind of raspy, taunting note, and I moaned as I read:
Original beams. Traditional coaching inn. Thackeray.Estd. 1648.
The hotel had the promise of an ideal solution. I could distract myself (from myself) with its day-to-day running, its endless small errands, and perhaps, late at night, or very early in the morning, I could continue, at some less intense level, with the poetry.
They were all nut jobs. This is what it came down to. This is the thing you learn about habitual country drinkers. They suffer all manner of delusions, paranoia, warped fantasies. It is a most intense world indeed that a hard drinker builds around himself, and it is difficult for him not to assume that everyone else in the place is involved with it.There is an exciting development and the central character learns something about himself from his experiences at the hotel. I think most people, Caroline and I did, will enjoy this story a lot.
I hope to read more of his short stories in the future and perhaps his novel.
I will next be posting on some drinking stories by Eddie Stacks. Barry's stories are about mates whopping it up in the bars, having a good time and hoping the meet some women. Stacks stories,ones I read anyway, are about the kind of scary looking people in the dark corners of the pub.
Stay tuned please!