There are Little Kingdoms: Stories by Kevin Barry Paperback – 29 Oct 2007
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A collection of 13 short stories.
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Top Customer Reviews
Characters overly familiar perhaps: drinkers, talkers, singers, fighters, dreamers, chancers: 'fine specimens of fear and bile and broken sleep'.
There are quiet country pubs and desperate farms and collapsing old houses. There is drizzle and general damp. There are old fellas. There is stout; 'the rush and mingle of the brown and cream notes, and the blackness rising, a magic show you would never tire of.'
The language is vernacular and the dialogue comic: 'You're like the auld farmer hitting off to a matchmaking festival. He's had the first bath of the year. He has the hair slicked back with strong tea. He's dragged a comb through his teeth...and he's set the hens on automatic.'
The mood is melancholic, resigned, regretful: 'The years come in, the years go out. The longer you'd sit and look at it, the life of the town would contract to almost nothing, to the merest glimpse of life, the tiniest crack of light against the black.'
Men long for a fine tenor voice and girls for keys to cars.
We're in Ireland all right. Oh yes indeed, sor. That violent, sentimental, feckless land mythologised by countless writers over the centuries. Barry's version is slightly O'Disneyfied: no internet, mobiles, politics. In pictures, the author wear a battered brown hat. His prose and turn of phrase steer these stories away from cliche (though one character does actually say 'To be sure, to be sure', and eejits abound) though he never ventures towards the true despair of Beckett. His future-set novel, 'City of Bohane' seems to be an interesting way forward.
He has a great turn of phrase and describes the settings and landscapes brilliantly - afternoons are feeble, people have furious eyebrows, you could be on the expressway bus trundling through the damp Tipp countryside.
I used to love his Examiner column and hoped that this book wouldn't disappoint and happily it didn't.
One to go back to.
This first story is typical of the majority of pieces in this book; it captures the very essence of its location; it portrays the characters in a vivid reality; it uses the real language of the people involved.
Atlantic City describes the activities, characters and conversations in a makeshift amusement arcade, or more accurately a shed with a pool table and a couple of pin-ball machines in a small rural town. I was very struck by this story as I have spent many hours in just such an establishment and Barry managed to capture the place, its atmosphere and its characters perfectly.
In most of the stories that follow Barry uses the same skill to present the reader with accurate vignettes of life, mostly in Ireland. He describes the location, captures the atmosphere, uses accurate language, and brings real characters to life. His writing is so realistic I could almost name some of the characters in his stories from my own life.
I didn't feel the last two stories were as strong as the eleven preceding tales, but that does not take away from the power of this marvellous little book of stories.
Kevin Barry won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature on the basis of this collection. He then went on to write a novel, "The City of Bohane". I have read and enjoyed his novel, and it was based on my experience with this novel that I sought out the author's collection of short stories. His name has been added to the list of writers whose work I will read as soon as it becomes available.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of the best books of short stories I've ever read. Kevin Barry has a voice like no other. I strongly recommend this book for any lover of literature, Ireland, or Irish... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Anna Hart
Having read The city of Bohane I half expected to come across a collection of short stories written in some mythical argot or dialect. Read morePublished on 20 Jun. 2013 by A. Browne
A terrific collection of mad cap short stories that will make you laugh and gulp in the space of a few pages. Great use of language and dialogue. Love itPublished on 27 Jun. 2011 by MadaboutBooks