Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dark Lies the Island, by Kevin Barry


Stories -- powerful, effective stories -- pack your bags and send you traveling to places boggy and foreign, and to places darkly familiar. To lands where the slang puzzles your reckoning, and to realizations that you never would admit to yourself but are as true to you as the wrinkles on your palm.

If those are the criteria for a strong story, then Kevin Barry has some darn muscular ones in Dark Lies the Island.

Stories this insular, with their peculiar dialects and speech rhythms, with their reliance on local geography and entrenched politics, with their undoubtedly Irish sensibilities and remoteness, are as particular to Ireland as the Gaeltacht. Reading them places you as soggily in the rural counties as reading Mark Twain places you rocking upon a river boat. And yet... you'll find a piece of small universality in each of them. These are truths that fit inside our psyches and transcend oceans.

No doubt about it, Barry's writing quirks the usual. (In ways like verbing "quirk." And verbing "verbing.") But sometimes, you learn more by studying the world through funhouse lenses. When the same old isn't the same and it isn't old, it reveals itself. It discovers itself. And once it finds a home in a story, it brings you along for the ride.

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