“The Coast of Leitrim”
by Kevin Barry
from the October 15, 2018 issue of The New Yorker

One of the more memorable New Yorker stories I’ve read since starting this site was Kevin Barry’s “Fjord of Killary,” way back in January of 2010 (here). I was excited, then, to see not just another story by Barry in this week’s magazine, but also to see one with a title that calls back that 2010 story. This week we get “The Coast of Leitrim.”

Barry has published two collections of short stories and two novels. His debut novel, City of Bohane, won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His second, Beatlebone, won the Goldsmiths Prize. I have yet to read one of his novels, and I am tempted, despite a mountain of books to read, to pick up these two and spend a bit of my fall with Barry’s longer works.

But first we have “The Coast of Leitrim.” I’m not sure what tone the story has, but the first bit talks about how hot it is while the graphic the magazine placed with the story shows a foggy mountainside. Where I sit here, it’s a rainy Monday in the mountains where just a bit higher up it’s snowing. Seems like a good day to sit down with this short story.

I hope things are going well wherever you are and that you are also ready for some reading. Please share your thoughts on “The Coast of Leitrim” below!

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By |2018-10-08T12:37:30+00:00October 8th, 2018|Categories: Kevin Barry, New Yorker Fiction|Tags: |4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Diana Cooper October 8, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    I read and thoroughly enjoyed Barry’s novel Beatlebone after having read and liked one of his stories in the New Yorker. If you like his short stories I’m quite sure you will enjoy this novel. Give it a try!

  2. Reader October 9, 2018 at 8:06 pm

    I’ve never read Kevin Barry–never heard of him, actually–so I walked into this story without any preconceptions. As it turns out, that was a real boon for me. “The Coast of Leitrim” is both well crafted and genuinely funny, so much so that I quite unexpectedly found myself laughing out loud a handful of times. The closest approximation that I can think of as far as encapsulating the tone and tenor of the writing is the literary lovechild of William Trevor and George Saunders. Early on, the way sentences of are handled and descriptions rendered, it struck me as rather Trevor-esque, to Barry’s credit. And yet, somewhat implausibly, the finely chiseled, ornate–almost filigreed–prose slowly opened itself to moments of neurotic hilarity a la Saunders. Think “Al Roosten” meets, well, anything Trevor wrote. Though an odd pairing on paper, Barry executed it quite well. And as the story unfolds, the prose style becomes intentionally more overwrought, lending itself perfectly to the unraveling and increasingly melodramatic psyche of Seamus Ferris. In this way, it serves as a pretty effective piece of self-serious literary satire.

    I think I’ll be seeking more of Barry’s work out in the future. Hopefully, this comic blend isn’t a one-time deal for him.

    PS: My first go at the piece was actually listening to Barry’s reading as I was taking care of chores, and I think his delivery does the piece a great service and only enhances its humor. Having gone back to the text now to reread a few of my favorite exchanges scenes, it seems that the writing might have benefited from a few key dialog tags that are more descriptive than merely ‘said’, as Barry’s reading carried much more dramatic intonation in these places. Still, a minor quibble.

  3. Ken October 27, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    Very interesting that the last response was based on hearing the story and I wonder if that’d also have caused me to feel differently about it. LIke “Reader,” I liked the story but I didn’t sense much humor or irony and took it more at face-value as a story about a character’s mental/emotional confusion and as a love story of sorts. I liked the ambiguities here–we’re not sure exactly how “mentally ill” Seamus or Katharine are. Is this a story of pathology? At the start he seems to be stalking her? Or is it a deeply romantic tale? Either way, it was a page turner.

  4. K. K. Malpathak November 13, 2018 at 8:46 am

    I think the story’s sting is in the tail- it’s final sentence. Is Ferris supposed to be disillusioned by Katherine’s spontaneous reaction, without even recognizing who was scraping the door?

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