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From the author of the wildly acclaimed Night Boat to Tangier, one of the New York Times' 10 Best Books of 2019, stories of rural Ireland in the classic mode: full of love (and sex), melancholy and magic, bedecked in some of the most gorgeous prose being written today. With three novels and two short story collections published, Kevin Barry has steadily established his stat From the author of the wildly acclaimed Night Boat to Tangier, one of the New York Times' 10 Best Books of 2019, stories of rural Ireland in the classic mode: full of love (and sex), melancholy and magic, bedecked in some of the most gorgeous prose being written today. With three novels and two short story collections published, Kevin Barry has steadily established his stature as one of the finest writers not just in Ireland but in the English language. All of his prodigious gifts of language, character, and setting in these eleven exquisite stories transport the reader to an Ireland both timeless and recognizably modern. Shot through with dark humor and the uncanny power of the primal and unchanging Irish landscape, the stories in That Old Country Music represent some of the finest fiction being written today.


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From the author of the wildly acclaimed Night Boat to Tangier, one of the New York Times' 10 Best Books of 2019, stories of rural Ireland in the classic mode: full of love (and sex), melancholy and magic, bedecked in some of the most gorgeous prose being written today. With three novels and two short story collections published, Kevin Barry has steadily established his stat From the author of the wildly acclaimed Night Boat to Tangier, one of the New York Times' 10 Best Books of 2019, stories of rural Ireland in the classic mode: full of love (and sex), melancholy and magic, bedecked in some of the most gorgeous prose being written today. With three novels and two short story collections published, Kevin Barry has steadily established his stature as one of the finest writers not just in Ireland but in the English language. All of his prodigious gifts of language, character, and setting in these eleven exquisite stories transport the reader to an Ireland both timeless and recognizably modern. Shot through with dark humor and the uncanny power of the primal and unchanging Irish landscape, the stories in That Old Country Music represent some of the finest fiction being written today.

30 review for That Old Country Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paromjit

    Kevin Barry's collection of short stories bear all the trademarks of his vital, vibrant, poetic and lyrical prose, his beautiful rich textured descriptions are to be savoured, then there is his compassion and humanity in the offbeat, occasionally cunning, criminal, feckless, sexually confident, fastidious, sensitive, addled and flawed characters he creates. There is dark humour to be found in these stories, with their focus on broken hearts, the sorrow, torments, cruelty and sadness of love, the Kevin Barry's collection of short stories bear all the trademarks of his vital, vibrant, poetic and lyrical prose, his beautiful rich textured descriptions are to be savoured, then there is his compassion and humanity in the offbeat, occasionally cunning, criminal, feckless, sexually confident, fastidious, sensitive, addled and flawed characters he creates. There is dark humour to be found in these stories, with their focus on broken hearts, the sorrow, torments, cruelty and sadness of love, the well worn shapes of desire, erotica, lust, loss, heartbreak which can hold the seeds of madness and insanity. His depiction of the ancient Emerald Isle overflows with the psychic, a magic, a spiritualism, the tangible soul and atmosphere of the land, its bogs, its beauty, mountains, and hissing seas, emanating a timelessness, brimming with moodiness and feelings, brooding, singing its beguiling music for those that can hear. The people, families and communities are deeply connected, an earthy connection that often lives beyond death such as can be found in Old Stock, the death of Uncle Aldo and an old inheritance. Love can be a tricky affair, as it is for 35 year old Seamus Ferry, bedevilled by the fear of committing his heart to his love, the Polish Katherine Zielinski, driven by an inner compulsion to destroy all that he loves. Collecting old folk songs that have yet to be recorded leads to the discovery of a troubling song, of matters of the heart, all its destructive powers, the deranged souls, its ephemeral nature, incorporating erotic wickedness and greed. Con McCarthy is the connoisseur of death, an expert, elaborating on it in depth, with a particular relish of the slapstick death as he rearranges his face for each death that he relates. A grim but necessary and vital messenger of death for his city. As always with short story collections, some are more substantial than others, but with Barry, every single one is a revelation, a tribute to the transformative and artful power of his storytelling, even within the short story format, in which he is entirely at home. My favourite stories were Ox Mountain Death Song, Toronto and the State of Grace, and Roethke in the Bughouse, which tells of the American poet Theodore Roethke, married to Beatrice, on the island of Inishbofin, having a breakdown, to be committed to a mainland psychiatric hospital. It's always a sheer joy to read virtually anything Barry writes, as indeed these short stories are, but I did on occasion hanker for greater length, and I was shocked at how quickly I reached the end of the book, it all seemed too brief an experience. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Canongate for an ARC.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    3.5 stars rounded up because the writing is beautiful throughout. A mix of themes in this collection of short stories elicited from me a mix of reactions. Themes of lust, loneliness, love, death are contained here. Some were a bit dark, but the one consistent thing is the beautiful writing. Barry allows us to get inside the character’s heads, see the lovely Irish surroundings, as he depicts profound moments. I found “THE COAST OF LEITRIM”, the first story, to be especially sad at times and a litt 3.5 stars rounded up because the writing is beautiful throughout. A mix of themes in this collection of short stories elicited from me a mix of reactions. Themes of lust, loneliness, love, death are contained here. Some were a bit dark, but the one consistent thing is the beautiful writing. Barry allows us to get inside the character’s heads, see the lovely Irish surroundings, as he depicts profound moments. I found “THE COAST OF LEITRIM”, the first story, to be especially sad at times and a little bit creepy at the beginning. The ending felt, well - open ended - could be hopeful or maybe not. But there’s nothing questionable about how these words moved me: “ The Coast of Leitrim sat under a low rim of Atlantic cloud. The breeze made the cables above the bungalows whisper of the Sunday afternoon’s melancholy. The waves made polite applause when they broke on the shingle beach. “ “SAINT CATHERINE OF THE FIELDS” tells of a song, of love and loss .”The aching music of love was to be heard now across the hill, and the hill was not used to it. ...It felt as if the wind was holding its breath. “ My very favorite is “ROMA KID” about a nine year old Roma girl who runs away from a life of strife and hunger, finding kindness and care, solace and a quiet life with an old hermit. Every word in this story moved me . I read it twice. “The understanding that grew between them was first of tone and gesture, and then of words,as she took them one by one ...The pretense that they must puzzle out their dilemma was soon dropped . It became clear that this was where she wanted to be....He gave her his life. He gave her the routines and tiny errands of it. “ And so much more, but I can’t duplicate the story here . It’s a must read. I can’t say that I was pulled into and moved by all of the eleven stories, but I will bump up to 4 stars because Barry’s beautiful writing deserves it. I will definitely have to try something else by this author. Glad to be back reading with my book buddies , Diane and Esil. Always a pleasure. I received an advanced copy of this book from Doubleday through Edelweiss.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    3.5 My first read of Kevin Barry, this grouping of short stories, but definitely not my last. His writing is rich, descriptions sublime, such as this found in the story, Toronto and the State of Grace, "The hills displayed with arrogance the richest of autumn and glowed, and I walked in a state of almost blissful sadness." This also happens to be one of the stories that has stayed with me. Many of the stories exude loneliness, melancholy, but for some reason I found this one a tad amusing. Well, 3.5 My first read of Kevin Barry, this grouping of short stories, but definitely not my last. His writing is rich, descriptions sublime, such as this found in the story, Toronto and the State of Grace, "The hills displayed with arrogance the richest of autumn and glowed, and I walked in a state of almost blissful sadness." This also happens to be one of the stories that has stayed with me. Many of the stories exude loneliness, melancholy, but for some reason I found this one a tad amusing. Well, until the ending but even that seemed fitting. I also liked the title story, the realism was spot on and I again appreciated the ending, which wasn't sad so much as accepting, this is how it is, and was for me unexpected. This was a read with Angela and Esil and all three of us loved and favored Roma Kid. Just a wonderfully written piece full of meaning, making the most of what you have and finding a home when you least expect. A beautiful and poignant story. Their is liberal use of the F word throughout and two of the stories for me, didn't work. On the whole though this is a well drawn collection of shorts. ARC from Edelweiss

  4. 4 out of 5

    Peter Boyle

    For my money, Kevin Barry is the finest Irish writer of his generation, and the first story in his latest collection backs up my theory. In The Coast of Leitrim , a lonely man, who sees himself as far more cultured than his peers, develops a crush on a waitress at the local café. It contains the perfect blend of humour and romance, with hints of a darker obsession thrown in. The last line is a triumph. The rest of the stories don't quite scale the same peaks, but there are plenty of highlights For my money, Kevin Barry is the finest Irish writer of his generation, and the first story in his latest collection backs up my theory. In The Coast of Leitrim , a lonely man, who sees himself as far more cultured than his peers, develops a crush on a waitress at the local café. It contains the perfect blend of humour and romance, with hints of a darker obsession thrown in. The last line is a triumph. The rest of the stories don't quite scale the same peaks, but there are plenty of highlights. Old Stock tells of a writer who inherits a Donegal cottage from an uncle, finding that his new lifestyle makes him irresistible to the ladies. Ox Mountain Death Song plays like an Irish Western - a dogged sergeant and an unrepentant criminal end their epic battle in a final showdown. The old man in Who's-Dead McCarthy has unhealthy fascination with death, verging on the comical. The only effort that didn't really work for me was Roethke in the Bughouse, an ambitious attempt to capture the American poet's mental state during a breakdown in a Ballinasloe hospital. Throughout the collection, Barry proves a rare ability to capture the thrills and heartaches of rural Irish life, shot through with a black comedy that is pitched at just the right level. He is a true master of the short story and I can't wait for his next anthology. Favourite Quotes: "He had the misfortune in life to be fastidious and to own a delicacy of feeling. He drank wine rather than beer and favored French films. Such an oddity this made him in the district that he might as well have had three heads up on Dromord Hill." "Seamus Ferris could bear a lot. In fact, already in his life he had borne plenty. He could handle just about anything, he felt, shy of a happy outcome. As the summer aged he became unseated by her trust of him and by her apparent want for him. What kind of a maniac could fall for the likes of me, he wondered. The question was unanswerable and terrifying." "The pale-green days of these Atlantic reaches could be enlivened only by fucking and fighting - moments of violent glow - and the Canavan magic was to make sparks from little." "The caves at Keash Hill were no more than a fifty-minute haul from the Ox Mountains and there lay the remnants of elk, wolves, bear. It was a place haunted by desperate mammals since the hills and mountains had cracked and opened—as the province of Connaught formed—a place with a diabolic feeling sometimes along its shale and bracken stretches; a darkness that seeped not from above but from beneath." "At my age - I had long since cleared the vault of fifty - it was not unreasonable to assume that this might have been my last great love. But still my pain had that shimmer of bliss at its edges - I had gone to the end of passion with someone, once more, and I knew that the achievement was, as it always is, a quiet miracle."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Esil

    I tend to love books set in Ireland or about Ireland. These short stories are all set in Ireland. Many are dark and melancholy. There’s a fair bit of sex, swearing and raw emotion. I loved three of the stories (Roma Kid, the title story and The Coast of Letrim), liked most others and a couple lost my interest. But throughout Barry’s writing is absolutely beautiful. His use of language is extraordinary. So even if I didn’t like all of the stories, this is still a solid 4 star read for me. This wa I tend to love books set in Ireland or about Ireland. These short stories are all set in Ireland. Many are dark and melancholy. There’s a fair bit of sex, swearing and raw emotion. I loved three of the stories (Roma Kid, the title story and The Coast of Letrim), liked most others and a couple lost my interest. But throughout Barry’s writing is absolutely beautiful. His use of language is extraordinary. So even if I didn’t like all of the stories, this is still a solid 4 star read for me. This was a welcome buddy read with Angela and Diane. I think we all had similar reactions to the stories. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Barry writes exquisite lyrical sentences that transport the reader to western Ireland with the all-too-human characters that reside there. Barry has an eye for loners and oddballs—characters that yearn for love, suffer heartache and self-doubt. There is Seamus in ‘The Coast of Leitrim’ who falls hard for Katherine, a Polish immigrant, but has a hard time believing that she could really like him after they start dating; or there is 17-year-old, pregnant Hannah, who waits in a van for her 33-year- Barry writes exquisite lyrical sentences that transport the reader to western Ireland with the all-too-human characters that reside there. Barry has an eye for loners and oddballs—characters that yearn for love, suffer heartache and self-doubt. There is Seamus in ‘The Coast of Leitrim’ who falls hard for Katherine, a Polish immigrant, but has a hard time believing that she could really like him after they start dating; or there is 17-year-old, pregnant Hannah, who waits in a van for her 33-year-old boyfriend (formerly her mother’s boyfriend) to rob a gas station in ‘That Old Country Music’. In ‘Roma Kid’, a 9-year-old girl runs away from the ‘asylum park’ where her family is being kept and forms a beautiful friendship with a hermit in the woods. Enjoy!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    In an interview with The TLS, Kevin Barry was asked, "Which author (living or dead) do you think is most overrated?" and his reply was "I shall courteously refrain from naming names but any of the acclaimed authors (and there are many) whose work is essentially humourless. High seriousness on the page is always the giveaway mark of mediocrity. The very best work is always funny." This is interesting because this collection of 11 short stories contains a lot of sad people in sad situations. It is In an interview with The TLS, Kevin Barry was asked, "Which author (living or dead) do you think is most overrated?" and his reply was "I shall courteously refrain from naming names but any of the acclaimed authors (and there are many) whose work is essentially humourless. High seriousness on the page is always the giveaway mark of mediocrity. The very best work is always funny." This is interesting because this collection of 11 short stories contains a lot of sad people in sad situations. It is one of Barry’s gifts as a writer to write about sad situations in a way that makes you smile or even laugh out loud. There is humour in the darkness and a lot of it comes from the wonderful turn of phrase that Barry seems to be able to summon up whatever the circumstance he is writing about. Some of the smiles are smiles of recognition that he has captured something with his words. The other remarkable thing Barry can do when writing is write a short story that feels complete but leaves you wishing it was longer. I have read all of Barry’s novels but this is my first experience with his shorter work. I have read other short story collections where the stories felt that they needed to be longer because they were incomplete or where the stories felt like they had actually run their course about halfway through. Telling a good short story is an art. And Kevin Barry is very good at it. Take the opening story here where a young man meets a young girl but is totally unprepared for the way love will open him up. Tears welled up in his eyes and he had to make out it was the breeze off the river was the cause of them. ‘What is it?’ she said. ‘Really?’ ‘I didn’t realise I was so on my own,’ he said. ‘If we’re going to be brutally f**ken honest about things.’ (asterisks mine to try to avoid offending anyone!). And a few pages later, we read: He could handle just about anything, he felt, shy of a happy outcome. The course of true love ne’er runs straight, but you will have to read the story to find out whether there is a happy outcome and whether our protagonist can actually handle it. I think my favourite story in the collection is “Extremadura (Until Night Falls)” in which a vagrant crouches by a dog at the edge of town in Spain and watches the people whilst remembering why he has left Ireland and found himself wandering in a foreign country. I actually read this one twice before moving on to the next. This is only a short book (I am really not sure I believe the Goodreads information that has it at 240 pages, but my NetGalley ARC has no page numbers), but it is full of Barry’s trademark beautiful sentences and turns of phrase. It tells us darkly humorous and moving stories of people, as the blurb says on the cusp between love and catastrophe, heartbreak and epiphany, resignation and hope. It is a pleasure to read. 4.5 stars and highly recommended. My thanks to Canongate for an ARC via NetGalley.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    The writing was going tremendously. I was due to deliver my third novel. The central philosophy underpinning all of my work to date was that places exerted their own feelings — nonsense, of course, half-thought-out old guff that sounded okay at literary events but now, here in Aldo’s cottage, there was incontrovertible evidence that it was the case. In this place I was calm, lucid, settled in my skin, and apparently ravishing . Elsewhere I was, as ever, a bag of spanners.~ Old Stock This idea th The writing was going tremendously. I was due to deliver my third novel. The central philosophy underpinning all of my work to date was that places exerted their own feelings — nonsense, of course, half-thought-out old guff that sounded okay at literary events but now, here in Aldo’s cottage, there was incontrovertible evidence that it was the case. In this place I was calm, lucid, settled in my skin, and apparently ravishing . Elsewhere I was, as ever, a bag of spanners.~ Old Stock This idea that “places exerted their own feelings” does seem to be a recurring theme in Kevin Barry’s work, and to the extent that I have long had a fondness for Irish storytellers writing about their narrow, oppressed lives in mouldering pebbledash cabins under depressing, grey skies, I was delighted to find that the majority of the short stories in That Old Country Music are set in and around Barry’s west coast hometown of Sligo, in the shadow of Ox Mountain, weedy with unlucky whitethorn. For the most part, these stories are melancholic and haunting — exploring loneliness, death, and the yearning for love — and the only thing keeping most of these characters out of the bughouse is their ability to find release in moments of dark humour. This is a truly strong collection of engaging stories and I’ll let Barry speak for himself from here. (Note: I read an ARC through NetGalley and passages quoted may not be in their final forms.) The Coast of Leitrim Seamus Ferris could bear a lot. In fact, already in his life he had borne plenty. He could handle just about anything, he felt, shy of a happy outcome. Deer Season It was the idea of him rather than the fact — the idea of a long, thin, sombre man, in a soak of noble depression, smelling of lentils, in a damp pebbledash bungalow, amid a scrabble of the whitethorn trees, a man ragged in the province of Connacht and alone at all seasons, perhaps already betrothed to a glamorous early death, and under some especially mischievous arrayment of the stars he was all that a girl could ask for. Ox Mountain Death Song The Canavans — they had for decades and centuries brought to the Ox elements that were by turn very complicated and very simple: occult nous and racy semen. Saint Catherine of the Fields Love, we are reminded, yet again, is not about staring into each other’s eyes; love is about staring out together in the same direction, even if the gaze has menace or badness underlain. Toronto and the State of Grace The moving sea gleamed; it moved its lights in a black glister; it moved rustily on its cables. Who’s Dead McCarthy Why are you so drawn to it? To death? Why are you always the first with the bad news? Do you not realise, Con, that people cross the road when they see you coming? You put the hearts sideways in us. Oh Jesus Christ, here he comes, we think, here comes Who’s-Dead McCarthy. Who has he put in the ground for us today? Roma Kid There were times of great change beyond the woods, but it did not matter, and the noises of the towns sometimes grew frantic — it did not matter; she read her books — and there were times of mobbed voices and great migrations — it did not matter — and there was the time of the fires across the lakes — it did not matter — and the gaseous blue of their after-glare, but all of it soon faded again and passed, and did not matter. Extremadura (Until Night Falls) I used to be afraid of the dogs but they got used to me. Ever the more so as I walk I take on the colours and notes of the places through which I walk and I am no longer a surprise to these places. My once reddish hair has turned a kind of old-man’s green tinge with the years and this is more of it. What the ramifications have been for my stomach you’re as well not to know. I have very little of the language, even after all this time, but the solution to this is straightforward — I don’t talk to people. This arrangement I have found satisfactory enough, as does the rest of humanity, apparently, or what’s to be met of it in the clear blue mornings, in the endless afternoons. That Old Country Music She looked out across the high fields. Just now as the cloudbank shifted to let the sun break through the whitethorn blossom was tipping; the strange vibrancy of its bloom would not tomorrow be so ghostly nor at the same time so vivid; by tacit agreement with our mountain the year already was turning. The strongest impulse she had was not towards love but towards that burning loneliness, and she knew by nature the tune’s circle and turn — it’s the way the wound wants the knife wants the wound wants the knife. Roethke in the Bughouse By the time they get you in the bughouse, usually, the worst of it is over. His left hand rests on his fat belly to feel out each breath as it moves through his ribs and eases him. His right hand lies limply by his side but the index finger is busy and scratches quick patterns on the grey starched sheet — it makes words.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Kevin Barry is an Irish writer in the very best sense of word. The rhythms and melancholy of Irish banter and the lush beauty and stark isolation of the Irish countryside is always part of his novels. It is, I think, no accident that he ends his new collection of short stories with a tale about the American poet, Ted Roethke, who spent time with his wife off the coast of County Galway. The poet, whose work was also characterized by intense lyricism and love of the natural world, says at the end o Kevin Barry is an Irish writer in the very best sense of word. The rhythms and melancholy of Irish banter and the lush beauty and stark isolation of the Irish countryside is always part of his novels. It is, I think, no accident that he ends his new collection of short stories with a tale about the American poet, Ted Roethke, who spent time with his wife off the coast of County Galway. The poet, whose work was also characterized by intense lyricism and love of the natural world, says at the end of the tale written about him, “…brokenheartedness is the note that sustains always and this he can play at will.” There is brokenheartedness in these stories as well as yearning and longing that, in sometimes leads to self-recognition. In the opening story, we get a sense of what’s to come when a young man meets a girl who seems too good to be true and manages to blow it (or at least, it appears that way): “He could handle just about anything, he felt, shy of a happy ending.” We meet a vagrant crouching near a lonely old dog in a Spanish love-starved town and a tiny old man with the smell of the woodlands who rescues a poor knacker childIn one of the more humorous stories, we encounter a man named “Who’s-Dead McCarthy” who is obsessed with death and moves out from reporting on actual occurrences of death to considering in advance the shapes it might yet assume. We come across an old folk singer who narrates a song about a love-possessed herdsman who is cruelly played by the object of his desires. And in “Old Stock” we discover Uncle Aldo, a neer-do-well, whose nephew “inherits” his magic that has “broken the hearts of nuns and blind girls.” Part poet, part gnome, part chronicler of a timeless yet changing Ireland, Kevin Barry never disappoints. A big thanks to the publisher Doubleday and NetGalley for providing me with a sneak peak of this new collection by a favorite author in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    SueLucie

    Some heartfelt stories of longing and loneliness here, emotionally charged in that understated way we have come to expect from Irish writers these days and at which Kevin Barry is a master. I particularly enjoyed the first one ‘The Coast of Leitrim’ where a young man falls in love but is afraid of committing his heart. Seamus Ferris could bear a lot. In fact, already in his life he had borne plenty. He could handle just about anything, he felt, shy of a happy outcome ..... To experience a feelin Some heartfelt stories of longing and loneliness here, emotionally charged in that understated way we have come to expect from Irish writers these days and at which Kevin Barry is a master. I particularly enjoyed the first one ‘The Coast of Leitrim’ where a young man falls in love but is afraid of committing his heart. Seamus Ferris could bear a lot. In fact, already in his life he had borne plenty. He could handle just about anything, he felt, shy of a happy outcome ..... To experience a feeling as deep as this raised only the spectre of losing it. My other favourite, which shares some of the same angst, is the title story ‘That Old Country Music’ in which a young girl is disappointed in her dreams of a different life, yet resigned to its inevitability. The strongest impulse she had was not towards love but towards that old burning loneliness, and she knew by nature the old tune’s circle and turn - it’s the way the wound wants the knife wants the wound wants the knife. Looming over many of the lives here are the mountains of west Ireland, the wilderness just beyond, and Kevin Barry conjures this atmosphere so well. The day was up and about itself. The fields trembled. Catastrophe was a low-slung animal creeping darkly over the ditches, across the hills. A collection of stories to be savoured, beautiful writing. Highly recommended. With thanks to Canongate via NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    Further example of the poetry embedded in the soul of Irish writers. They spin out in ancient styles, but are set in the present The stories sing, sometimes lustily, of rural delights and rascals, with only one that really didn't work for me, but the others make up for it. Further example of the poetry embedded in the soul of Irish writers. They spin out in ancient styles, but are set in the present The stories sing, sometimes lustily, of rural delights and rascals, with only one that really didn't work for me, but the others make up for it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    'There were times of great change beyond the woods, but it did not matter, and the noises of the towns sometimes grew frantic -- it did not matter; she read her books -- and there were times of mobbed voices and great migrations -- it did not matter -- and there was the time of the fires across the lakes -- it did not matter -- and the gaseous blue of their after-glare, but all of it soon faded again and passed, and did not matter.' 'There were times of great change beyond the woods, but it did not matter, and the noises of the towns sometimes grew frantic -- it did not matter; she read her books -- and there were times of mobbed voices and great migrations -- it did not matter -- and there was the time of the fires across the lakes -- it did not matter -- and the gaseous blue of their after-glare, but all of it soon faded again and passed, and did not matter.'

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    Kevin Barry is an Irish author I had not yet read, and seeing the short stories available on NetGalley, I took the opportunity to read them. The two which I found most enjoyable were Ox Mountain Death Song and Old Stock. The author has a delightful lyrical tone. I am looking forward to reading his 2019 Booker nominee, Night Boat to Tangier, which I have waiting for me on my Kindle. 3 out of 5 stars Many thanks to NetGalley and publisher Double Day for an ARC of That Old Country Music in exchange fo Kevin Barry is an Irish author I had not yet read, and seeing the short stories available on NetGalley, I took the opportunity to read them. The two which I found most enjoyable were Ox Mountain Death Song and Old Stock. The author has a delightful lyrical tone. I am looking forward to reading his 2019 Booker nominee, Night Boat to Tangier, which I have waiting for me on my Kindle. 3 out of 5 stars Many thanks to NetGalley and publisher Double Day for an ARC of That Old Country Music in exchange for an honest review. Published January 12, 2021 Review posted to Goodreads 3/02/21

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    Having really enjoyed Night Boat to Tangier (2019) I was keen to sample more of Kevin Barry's writing. That Old Country Music (2020) is a splendid selection of short stories. I listened to them narrated by the man himself, and given that they are all set in the west of Ireland, his accent and rhythm really added something. The stories are variously lyrical, mysterious, dark, amusing, wry, eloquent, imaginative, magical, and surprising. Tremendous 4/5 Having really enjoyed Night Boat to Tangier (2019) I was keen to sample more of Kevin Barry's writing. That Old Country Music (2020) is a splendid selection of short stories. I listened to them narrated by the man himself, and given that they are all set in the west of Ireland, his accent and rhythm really added something. The stories are variously lyrical, mysterious, dark, amusing, wry, eloquent, imaginative, magical, and surprising. Tremendous 4/5

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    The inimitable Kevin Barry returns with a veritable feast of short stories, of rural Ireland in the classic mode: full of love (and sex), melancholy and magic, bedecked in some of the most gorgeous prose being written today. This is an eclectic short story collection featuring Barry’s trademark rich prose, perceptive skill and mordant characters who come alive on the pages. As always, his writing probes the dark sides of life — and this includes exploration of loneliness, loss, grief and quiet r The inimitable Kevin Barry returns with a veritable feast of short stories, of rural Ireland in the classic mode: full of love (and sex), melancholy and magic, bedecked in some of the most gorgeous prose being written today. This is an eclectic short story collection featuring Barry’s trademark rich prose, perceptive skill and mordant characters who come alive on the pages. As always, his writing probes the dark sides of life — and this includes exploration of loneliness, loss, grief and quiet rumbling despair. A lot of his characters’ could be said to merely exist as opposed to living. The propensity for life to guide you in one miserable direction and then another. The tedium of quotidian life. A pregnant 17-year-old waits for her fiancé to return from robbing a petrol station; a loner falls for a Polish girl working in the local café; a policeman stalks his foe through the brooding Ox Mountains. At each turn, Barry makes his fiction a matter of life and death. Never less than thought-provoking in nature and vast in scope, Barry delivers us some superb characterisation and plotting all tied together by the Emerald Isle in which they are set whilst gently but firmly reminding us of his exquisite storytelling gift in the process. Those who have loved and enjoyed his work to date will find much to adore amongst this collection of poignant gems. All of his prodigious gifts of language, character, and setting in these eleven exquisite stories transport the reader to an Ireland both timeless and recognizably modern. Shot through with dark humour and the uncanny power of the primal and unchanging Irish landscape, the stories in That Old Country Music represent some of the finest fiction being written today. Full of the damaged characters, menacing rural scenery and darkly comic, slantwise prose that have become his trademark, this is a melancholy masterpiece. Many thanks to Canongate for an ARC.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Penny (Literary Hoarders)

    No rating. Last year I read this book that was sadly shortlisted for the Giller Prize. Here the Dark: A Novella and Stories. I completely panned it for being sexist, misogynistic and plain distasteful. The stories in That Old Country Music read the same. Why is this published to critical acclaim? Why do men get a pass for this shit? Some of these stories were downright creepy to read. Ew. Needed a shower after reading to cleanse my soul. No rating. Last year I read this book that was sadly shortlisted for the Giller Prize. Here the Dark: A Novella and Stories. I completely panned it for being sexist, misogynistic and plain distasteful. The stories in That Old Country Music read the same. Why is this published to critical acclaim? Why do men get a pass for this shit? Some of these stories were downright creepy to read. Ew. Needed a shower after reading to cleanse my soul.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tom Mooney

    There are some absolute belters in this very fine collection by a modern master of the art of the short story. The theme that runs through them all, I suppose, is loneliness. But, rather than being depressing or dreary, Barry injects violent life into these tales with humour, both gentle and riotous. He's a real gem. There are some absolute belters in this very fine collection by a modern master of the art of the short story. The theme that runs through them all, I suppose, is loneliness. But, rather than being depressing or dreary, Barry injects violent life into these tales with humour, both gentle and riotous. He's a real gem.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Pekka

    For some reason, I often have a problem reading short stories, but these were mostly fine.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    Even when he's working in steady and predictable modes, Kevin Barry remains perhaps my favorite word-for-word author working today. His ear for language and speech and a keen turn of phrase is unparalleled and while these stories aren't as daring as some of his earlier work (or his novels), they're no less pleasurable. Reading his work brings a smile to my face every single time. Even when he's working in steady and predictable modes, Kevin Barry remains perhaps my favorite word-for-word author working today. His ear for language and speech and a keen turn of phrase is unparalleled and while these stories aren't as daring as some of his earlier work (or his novels), they're no less pleasurable. Reading his work brings a smile to my face every single time.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

    Such a much of a much of an Irishness. It just doesn't get any Irish-er. Such a much of a much of an Irishness. It just doesn't get any Irish-er.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Thank you, NetGalley and Doubleday, for providing me with an uncorrected proof of "That Old Country Music" in return for an honest review. Credit where it's due: this collection is named after its best story, a stream-of-consciousness account of a pregnant girl stranded in rural Ireland while her much older boyfriend botches a gas station robbery. A lesser writer would make a point of juxtaposing the desperation of her situation with the magnificence of the scenery, but Mr. Barry makes it a cont Thank you, NetGalley and Doubleday, for providing me with an uncorrected proof of "That Old Country Music" in return for an honest review. Credit where it's due: this collection is named after its best story, a stream-of-consciousness account of a pregnant girl stranded in rural Ireland while her much older boyfriend botches a gas station robbery. A lesser writer would make a point of juxtaposing the desperation of her situation with the magnificence of the scenery, but Mr. Barry makes it a continuum, not a contrast. Criticism where it's due:: The title story does not belong in this book. The rest of the pieces are about lonely men in the west of Ireland. (Okay, one of his protagonists is intriguingly gender-neutral.) If that sounds a bit repetitive, rest assured that Mr. Barry find plenty of variation on this theme: comic, erotic, mournful. If Mr. Barry's muse for the excellent "Night Boat to Tangier" was mortality, his inspiration here is solitude, although death appears as a punchline in the bleakly hilarious "Who's-Dead McCarthy." Unity of theme, breadth of tone. Not a bad achievement.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shane Campion

    Kevin Barrys collection of short stories set in the west of Ireland are perfect for the dark winter nights. They are moving and evocative. I often find fiction set in Ireland to have the clichéd trademarks of clergy, alcohol, parochialism etc...However, this collection highlights all that is complex about the Irish psyche and the subtle commentry on the struggles people endure in everyday life were wonderful. Its a reflection on modern Ireland and I thoroughly enjoyed reading a story on a coffee Kevin Barrys collection of short stories set in the west of Ireland are perfect for the dark winter nights. They are moving and evocative. I often find fiction set in Ireland to have the clichéd trademarks of clergy, alcohol, parochialism etc...However, this collection highlights all that is complex about the Irish psyche and the subtle commentry on the struggles people endure in everyday life were wonderful. Its a reflection on modern Ireland and I thoroughly enjoyed reading a story on a coffee break.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Helen Precious

    That Old Country Music is an eclectic collection of snapshots of everyday life set in the West of Ireland. Covering the whole spectrum of human emotion and experience from a desperate virgin to a Romany migrant, Barry brings you alongside his characters as they endure what life is offering them at key moments in their lives. Some of the stories are more engaging then others, but as a whole the book is a joy to read with an easy style of writing, that will last in the memory.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn

    Kevin Barry back writing short stories and making me laugh out loud and ache with the details, the beauty, the observations. I listened to the audio book, gorgeously read by Barry himself, which I highly recommend especially if you enjoy the Irish accent.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Tindell

    I was a little disappointed to be honest as I loved Night Boat To Tangier. A short story collection is a different animal to a full novel I guess and most of these stories are very good. They just didn't move me in the same way. I await the next work from Kevin Barry with eager anticipation though - he is a truly gifted writer. I was a little disappointed to be honest as I loved Night Boat To Tangier. A short story collection is a different animal to a full novel I guess and most of these stories are very good. They just didn't move me in the same way. I await the next work from Kevin Barry with eager anticipation though - he is a truly gifted writer.

  26. 4 out of 5

    ThereWillBeBooks

    Kevin Barry is beginning to become a favorite of mine. Night Boat to Tangier and City of Bohane being both beautifully written and unique. His novel Beatlebone, while original in premise, never worked for me. So he was 2 for 3 for me before reading That Old Country Music. I'm happy to report he is now 3 for 4. Instantly memorable, and often darkly funny, Barry has a great skill in creating richly rewarding stories. Set in Ireland, these stories feel of a place and time. The tone of the collectio Kevin Barry is beginning to become a favorite of mine. Night Boat to Tangier and City of Bohane being both beautifully written and unique. His novel Beatlebone, while original in premise, never worked for me. So he was 2 for 3 for me before reading That Old Country Music. I'm happy to report he is now 3 for 4. Instantly memorable, and often darkly funny, Barry has a great skill in creating richly rewarding stories. Set in Ireland, these stories feel of a place and time. The tone of the collection doesn't stick to one note, and Barry is talented enough to succeed in different registers. Definitely will return to this collection for its humor, heart, entertainment, and humanity. -Peter

  27. 5 out of 5

    Daragh O'Reilly

    They may be short stories but I took each at a slow pace, happy to constantly retread over sections to try and fully appreciate the evocative language and the wonderful, fulsome sense of atmosphere that Barry is able to create in such a short format. Reading these stories is to see the West of Ireland in a new light; the land dense with mysticism and dark energies which profoundly impact on each of the characters in different ways. Simply fabulous writing.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Regan

    I really don’t have a great review for this one. That Old Country Music by Kevin Barry is a collection of short stories inspired by the landscape of Ireland as well as its many, many songs. Irish songs, often popularized as pub songs, are generally several stanza ballads encompassing love and loss, as well as magic and the mundane. This collection aims to combine the oldest of Irish traditions with a modern Irish populace, all set against the never-changing background of the Irish countryside. So I really don’t have a great review for this one. That Old Country Music by Kevin Barry is a collection of short stories inspired by the landscape of Ireland as well as its many, many songs. Irish songs, often popularized as pub songs, are generally several stanza ballads encompassing love and loss, as well as magic and the mundane. This collection aims to combine the oldest of Irish traditions with a modern Irish populace, all set against the never-changing background of the Irish countryside. Sounds incredible, right? But I was... bored. And I didn’t get it. I don’t know if it was just that the short story format didn’t connect with me or what, but besides the first story in the collection, I felt like everything flew above my head and I was missing references left and right. It’s definitely the type of book I needed to read with a professor and a group. Now, if you aren’t familiar with Kevin Berry, you should definitely try his debut novel, City of Bohane, which has A Clockwork Orange-type vibe. I absolutely loved that book and found his dystopian interpretation of Ireland interesting. But this one just didn’t do it for me. However, if you like lyricism, grey areas and short stories, it might be for you! That Old Country Music is out in early January — thank you to @netgalley for the e-ARC!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joe O'Donnell

    This is the real Wild Atlantic Way. In his collection of short stories “That Old Country Music”, Kevin Barry tells tales of the seedy underbelly of the North-West of Ireland, that mostly unexplored terrain well away from the well-worn tourist trail. In “That Old Country Music”, Barry tells the stories of those who so seldom see their voice represented in Irish literature: shy country lads, polish immigrants, petty criminals, lonely aul farmers. He explores a landscape – grim direct provision cent This is the real Wild Atlantic Way. In his collection of short stories “That Old Country Music”, Kevin Barry tells tales of the seedy underbelly of the North-West of Ireland, that mostly unexplored terrain well away from the well-worn tourist trail. In “That Old Country Music”, Barry tells the stories of those who so seldom see their voice represented in Irish literature: shy country lads, polish immigrants, petty criminals, lonely aul farmers. He explores a landscape – grim direct provision centres, death notices, mental hospitals in Ballinasloe – that you won’t see in any Failte Ireland brochures. This is not to say “That Old Country Music” is overly gloomy or earnest, because it most assuredly is not. Kevin Barry’s writing is shot-through with verve and wit, but also with humanity and sympathy for even the most gormless of his characters. Fans of Kevin Barry’s previous novels like “Night Boat to Tangier” and “City of Bohane” won’t be remotely disappointed by this collection of hugely original tales.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cherise Wolas

    Eleven stories, all set in the west of Ireland, all atmospheric, with weather and land and whitethorn blossoms, wild emptiness, forests and birds, lore and legend, romantic impulses, failed love, and more than a few touches of madness. A man in love with a Polish waitress wins her, only to force her away; a 17 year falls for her mother's fiancee's; another girl, approaching 18, decides to lose her virginity to a man she's seen on the banks of a river; a young Roma girl escapes from an immigrant Eleven stories, all set in the west of Ireland, all atmospheric, with weather and land and whitethorn blossoms, wild emptiness, forests and birds, lore and legend, romantic impulses, failed love, and more than a few touches of madness. A man in love with a Polish waitress wins her, only to force her away; a 17 year falls for her mother's fiancee's; another girl, approaching 18, decides to lose her virginity to a man she's seen on the banks of a river; a young Roma girl escapes from an immigrant shelter and finds a new life in the country; a neighbor in a constant heavy overcoat, informs those on his street of deaths near and far; a writer loses himself in translating from the Gaelic an old Irish song about a wild marriage, the husband and wife altering the life of a shepherd; and so on. Though the stories aren't of equal strength, the language is marvelous, the invocations keen.

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