Kevin Barry: “Fjord of Killary”

Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage. Kevin Barry’s “Fjord of Killary” was originally published in the February 1, 2010 issue of The New Yorker.

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Click for a larger image.

I read this story a few days ago, but until now I haven’t had time to do any kind of write-up of it. Besides lack of time, however, I have also suffered from a lack of anything to say about it. Time to ruminate, in this case, failed to produce anything of substance, but I blame the story.

The story opens with the beginnings of a foreboding storm off the western coast of Ireland. We get an immediate sense the our narrator, who runs a lodging, is not from the area and the folks apparently don’t really take to him. He is an outsider, as we suspected, and has purchased this hotel on the fjord as some kind of romantic dream. He’s a wordless poet, and he hopes the work will keep him busy enough not to worry about that; and maybe in the evenings words will come dropping slowly.

The storm builds and the flood waters threaten, as the narrator and his workers begin to usher in the night with drinks.

Unfortunately, it’s not much more interesting than that. Many times when I finish a story and think, “Hmmm, I didn’t get anything from that,” I blame myself because I at least captured a glimmer of promise. This time, I don’t even care if it was my fault; it meant that little to me.

9 thoughts on “Kevin Barry: “Fjord of Killary””

  1. Comments are open for this week’s piece of New Yorker fiction.

  2. Colette Jones says:

    In case you’re wondering, I did read this the day you posted it up. I just can’t think of anything to say about it!

  3. Your comment says a lot, of course, Colette! I still haven’t gotten around to reading the piece yet, and I’m not sure when I’ll get a bit a of time (busy busy busy!), but hopefully it will be soon.

  4. Very strange story — not one of my favorites by any means but I did get all the way to the end. I’d have to say the New Yorker is not off to a very good 2010 in fiction.

  5. Colette Jones says:

    The situation had potential which the author did not realize. It wasn’t funny or interesting or anything really.

  6. Quite right, Colette. Irish in a bar midst threatening weather — seems almost a cliche. Possibilities kept getting opened up, but none was developed. A disappointment more because of what could have been that what was published.

  7. My thoughts, which are the same as Kevin’s and Colette’s, are up now. I too suffered from an inability to say anything about it — and it looks like with three relatively astute readers suffering from the same malady that it was the story’s fault.

    Kevin, I seem to think that the fiction in 2009 didn’t get off to a very good start either. The first story I liked was George Saunders’ “Al Roosten,” which was followed by another favorite, Steven Milhauser’s “The Invasion from Outer Space.” Then things were alright but not great until a burst of energy in April and May. I hope that first great story comes along soon now or I’m afraid Colette might start an uprise against us for enticing her to joing us. I guess I did enjoy last week’s natural history lesson about the ants enjoyable — but not what I mean by great.

    To others not commenting — whether because you’re not reading, because you haven’t liked the story, or for whatever reason — we’d love to get some more voices in here, even if they are just occasional.

    Though I wouldn’t recommend you jumping to pick up this story.

  8. radsroc says:

    I thought this story was sharply observed and hilarious- it captured in a humorous way so many features- the stultifying boredom of life in a small village, the repetitive circular pub conversations, the difficulties of minimum wage immigrant workers in those communities, the desperation and idealism of the blocked poet. And then the joyful coming together of this disparate community in response to a crisis. Definitely the best New Yorker story this year

  9. Obviously from my comments above, radsroc, I don’t agree with you, but I appreciate your views here. When a team of editors at the premier short story publication choose a story, there certainly must be some merit, even if it doesn’t connect with everyone.

    Still, I have to say, with stories like this I sometimes wonder. Then with your comment, I realize that it just didn’t appeal to me. I saw the elements you mention above, but nothing came together for me, even if the community came together in the face of a storm. I’m glad it did for you, and I hope you will continue to share your views :).

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