Limerick born author Kevin Barry is coming to Waterford for the greatly improved Imagine Festival and he is expected to read from his first book of short stories, There Are Little Kingdoms. A winner of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, he comes with a reputation for telling truths about the new Ireland.
There are 13 stories in this first collection, that chronicle aspects of small town life, identity, loneliness, occasional sex and lust fuelled longings, a touch of magic or telepathy, lots of song references and a nice quirky sense of underplaying.
The title story opens with – It was a deadening winter, one of those feeble afternoons with coal smoke for light. The first story Atlantic City, looks at a detailed game of pool, before a group of girls arrive like summer and the songs of the juke-box carry the ache of the place, as the story ends with the sad slow momentum of the year’s turning.
But a hill-walking story, To The Hills, sizzles with sexual longing and the thoughts of two females and a non-stop talking man who would rather lie in bed naked with a woman and talk, talk, talk.
Animal Needs looks at the come-uppance of a randy married poultry farmer that has a quiet, matter-of-fact, savagery. Then there is the crazy, cursed buffalo or bear of a taxi-driver who lives in a world of songs that people sing, hum or mangle and you can feel the malevolence of the place and of the people.
Breakfast Wine opens with – They say it just takes three alcoholics to keep a small bar running in a country town… Stories open so matter-of-factly and then a slow boiled puss squeezed stew oozes out, full of the fascination of fine words, great descriptions of a world that Barry makes his own with our memories. A need spiteful trick, I suppose.