Kevin Barry: Looking Across a Bog to the Bluestack Mountains

Sligo, Leitrim and Limerick are some of Ireland’s smaller, less populated counties. So what did they do to deserve the talents of Kevin Barry? The answer lies in the tender and humorous short stories of Barry’s newest collection, That Old Country Music. Here, in a dozen vignettes, is a vivid portrait of the rural west coast of Ireland, painted in the colours of its oddball residents. ‘Limerick, in the bone evil of its winter, and here came Con McCarthy, haunted-looking, in his enormous, suffering overcoat.’ So begins one bittersweet story about a man with a morbid interest in death. Using language that is by turns lyrical and razor sharp, Barry conjures up a rural life that is hard-bitten and contemporary but also somehow shrouded in an older magic. It’s a cocktail that led Colum McCann to describe him as ‘one of the most original, daring and seriously funny writers ever to come out of Ireland.’ In this event, filmed live at the 2021 Edinburgh International Book Festival, multi award-winning Barry talks to Peggy Hughes about his remarkably atmospheric writing and the land that inspires it.

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