Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

"Town & country" by Kevin Barry (ed) (Faber, 2013)

I bought this commissioned anthology of stories in Dublin for €5. I liked Dermot Healy's story. Julian Gough is near-future SF, which makes a change. I liked Lisa McInerney’s story, which had this interesting sentence near the start - "It wasn't something she had to approach from different angles, like a nugget of truth suspended in a pyramid of excuses". I've seen Barry's "The Clancy Kid" before. It's good. Keith Ridgway's story had its moments. But I didn't much like the stories by Michael Harding, Andrew Meehan, Sheila Purdy, Mary Costello, Eimear Ryan, Neasa McHale or William Wall. Several stories feature writers.

Other reviews

  • Valerie O’Riordan (an anthology of specially commissioned works ... if this particular selection of stories represents the pinnacle of contemporary Irish short story writing, then I’d conclude that it’s not the greatest of outlooks ... What disappointed me overall, I guess, was ... a lack of experimentation. ... Greg Baxter’s ‘The Mark of Death’ is riddled with clichéd misogyny ... Pat McCabe rambling in full overly-elaborated and awkwardly adjectival style ... Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s ‘Joyride To Jupiter’ ... though it’s decently written, it’s a fairly predictable story, up to and including the ending. Mary Costello’s ‘Barcelona’ expertly captures the misery of a drifting couple on holidays ... Colin Barrett’s ‘The Clancy Kid’ has vicious energy, characters that pulse with life, and a linguistic verve that was massively refreshing ... Lisa McInerney’s story about a pair of teenage friends shopping was one of the most nuanced portraits of female friendship I’ve read in a long time)
  • James Smart (The collection doesn't quite match the bold introduction, in which Barry claims the Irish story has undergone a thrilling rebirth, but there are some fine highlights: Desmond Hogan's hallucinatory tale of Balkan immigrants is brutal and poetic, while Lisa McInerney sets girls' discussions about virginity in a shop, the unsaid bouncing between them)
  • Giles Newington (What remains, though, is emigration, the emigrant viewpoint and the strand of surrealism that goes with it. Although the playful self-reinventors in these stories are not downtrodden exiles, they are often dazed by displacement.)
  • Maureen Boyle (One of those in the book to whom the older category of ‘best’ would apply for me, and who always worked fluidly between fiction and memoir, is Des Hogan. Hogan – the consummate stylist and genius of his generation – makes nonsense of any idea that experimentation or mixing of genre is new in the short story.)

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