2/1/10 – Fjord of Killary, by Kevin Barry. Loved the premise: a struggling poet drops everything and buys an old hotel in small-town Ireland. And there’s a huge storm rolling in one night while he’s working the bar. And the locals ignore him. And there’s killer foreshadowing and tension-building/ominous lines all over the place (howling dogs, mute elderly couples, birds killing other birds); and the fjord outside begins to flood the hotel. The final scene is straight out of some indie film – a scrappy group of strangers and lovers and locals dancing and drinking on the hotel’s second story dance-floor, while the water levels rise and the lower levels flood. A great story, with entertaining dialogue and vivid characters, but…I just didn’t care enough about the narrator to celebrate the “acceptance” he finds at the conclusion. The story certainly has purpose – it’s a turning point in the narrator’s life, a moment that will stand out in his memory forever. But not knowing more about his past, about his motivation for coming to Ireland, left me feeling indifferent/”meh” about the story as a whole.
The beginning of the narrator’s “acceptance” speech is nice: “The waters were rising yet. And the view was suddenly clear to me. The world opened out to its grim beyonds and I realized that, at forty, one must learn the rigors of acceptance. Capitalize it: Acceptance. I needed to accept what was put before me…”
And so is this moment, during the flood: “I opened the bar, and the locals weren’t shy about stepping up to it. We drank. We whispered. We laughed like cats.”
Again, lots of amusing “Irish” dialogue throughout, if you like that sort of thing. Worth a read…as are all stories published in The New Yorker, right?