Skip to main content

New Yorker Fiction Review #165: "Deer Season" by Kevin Barry

Review of a short story from the Oct. 10, 2016 issue of The New Yorker...

Something possessed me to listen to this story instead of read it. IDK why or if it makes a difference in one's appreciation of the story, but Kevin Barry has a cool Irish accent that makes the word "thighs" -- for example -- sound like "ties." And who better than the author themselves to know how to massage a story properly so as to bring out its full meaning. Also, it was late and I didn't feel like reading.

Powerful and engaging story about an Irish girl on the verge of her eighteenth birthday who decides that she needs to lose her virginity before she goes back to school for her final semester High school? I was never sure how they do it in Europe. So she seduces a local drifter and causes him to be run out of town after it's found out that they slept together.

I think Hemingway said something about love, sex, war, and death being the best material for writers to work with (and if he didn't he should have) and let's face it...those subjects rarely fail to entertain. Especially sex. There's a great amount of prurient tension in this story as we know, once the girl has decided it's going to happen, it's going to happen, one way or another, and it's probably going to be awkward. Incidentally, the girl delivers just about the best post-sex comment I've ever heard about in fiction or in real life, asking the man, "Is that about the size of it??" moments after he's finished and has pulled away, far sooner than she's expected.

The story is about a teenager's first experience with sex, but it's about much more, and the final sentence of the story speaks to that. She has gone to visit the house where the man she slept with used to live, well after he's been run out of town: "When she at last rose to go she was stiff from the cold and felt many years older as she left the house and made for home through the night and dark and the pads of her feet beat out the new soft rhythm of her power."

That last phrase "the new soft rhythm of her power" is what I find most intriguing and thought-provoking. The idea that, before the incident and before she (sort of) caused the man to get run out of town, she did not understand the power of her sexuality. Now she does.

Barry's fine and insightful handling of the girl's awkward first foray into seduction is also one of the highlights of this story, and is to me the mark of a master writer.


Popular posts from this blog

New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Apologizer" by Milan Kundera

Issue: May 4, 2015

Rating: $$

Review: It took me five years and three separate attempts to finish Milan Kundera's famous novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but in spite of that, quotes and insights from that book still rattle round my head on a weekly basis. What I mean to say is: my feelings on Kundera are very similar to my feelings on Haruki Murakami. I enjoy reading his work, but in small doses, like this short story.

Like Murakami, Kundera uses elements of magical realism, but where in a Murakami story you might encounter a flying dolphin or a disappearing hotel or a person who has lived his whole life in the same room, refusing to leave, Kundera's magical realism offers more direct insights and perspective on real life.

In Kundera's worlds, time and space are malleable and everything that ever happened in history is happening at the same time, and the narrator is a completely omniscient, caring, witty, and hands-on god-like being.

And so it is with "The Apo…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "Meet the President!" by Zadie Smith

Each week I review the short fiction from a recent issue of The New Yorker. If you told me when I was 12 that I'd be doing this I'd have been like, "Dork. There's no such thing as blogs," and I'd have been right...

Issue: Aug. 12 & 19, 2013

Story: "Meet the President!"

Author:Zadie Smith

(Please note: I've developed a highly sophisticated grading system, which I'll be using from now on.  Each story will now receive a Final Grade of either READ IT or DON'T READ it. See the bottom of the review for this story's grade...after you've read the review, natch.)

Plot: Set in England, far into the future (lets say 2113) a privileged youth of 15, named Bill Peek, encounters a few poor villagers from a small, abandoned coastal town on the southeast shore. He meets a little girl named Aggie, who is going to her sister's funeral. Peek is cut-off from real life by a sophisticated video game system that is implanted in his head, therefore th…

A Piece of Advice I Learned From My Grandfather

My grandfather was one of the most learned men I know. He read widely and voraciously, and not just in the sciences (he was a doctor); he loved politics, philosophy, and great literature as well. Whenever he finished a book he would write his thoughts about the book in the front cover and then sign and date it. To this day every once in a while I will open a book from my bookshelf or my mother's bookshelf, or at one of my family members' homes, and there will be my grandfather's handwriting. He was also a great giver of his books; if you remarked that you liked a particular one or wanted to read it, you were almost sure to take it home with you.

Reading is a very solitary pursuit but my grandfather was not a solitary person. He relished having family and friends around him which is convenient because he was blessed with a lot of both. And he carried out his intellectual life in a very "public" way as well. He was, in some ways, an intellectual evangelist. If he r…