Winner of the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, the Guardian First Book Award, and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. Enter the small, rural town of Glanbeigh, a place whose fate took a downturn with the Celtic Tiger, a desolate spot where buffoonery and tension simmer and erupt, and booze-sodden boredom fills the corners of every pub and nightclub. Here, and in the towns beyond, the young live hard and wear the scars.
Mr. Barrett’s style, both exact and poetic, is reminiscent of any number of Irish writers who keep language on a string. His stories are crowded with young men and women making a racket while going nowhere, with ambitions that don’t really stretch past scoring the next high or kissing the next girl ... One sign of his striking maturity as a writer is that his characters stay in character ... Mr. Barrett keeps their dialogue tight and leaves any attempts at lyricism to himself, when he describes their surroundings or adopts their perspectives ... What separates his tough characters from those written by others is how carefully he applies the details that soften their edges ... Mr. Barrett does foundational things exceedingly well — structure, choices of (and switches in) perspective — without drawing attention to them. These are stories that are likely to be taught for their form.
Barrett evokes the lives of his young characters – bouncers, petrol station attendants and minor criminals – with great skill, describing sensitivity and harshness in a way that doesn't overdo either side of that equation ... His stories invite second readings that – the mark of really good work – seem to uncover sentences that weren't there the first time around. Chekhov once told his publisher that it isn't the business of a writer to answer questions, only to formulate them correctly. Throughout this extraordinary debut, but particularly in the excellent stories that bookend it, Colin Barrett is asking the right questions.
Colin Barrett’s short, brutal collection of stories presents clearly and without sentimentality a picture of the young Irish small-town male, in his current crisis of hopelessness and alienation ... The centrepiece of the collection is a 73-page novella, Calm With Horses. In its high-octane violence and profound nihilism, it reads like a Martin McDonagh screenplay, although it is substantially more self-aware than that writer ... The intricate and sophisticated facility with language is often a counterpoint to brutish purpose ... The stories could do with a little more leavening.