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Kevin Barry Presents His Unique Writing Style to BC

Kevin Barry, an Irish author of six fiction novels including That Old Country Music and City of Bohane, was welcomed by Boston College on Wednesday, April 6th to present his recently published short story “The Pub with No Beer” and to explain his unique creative process after nearly three years since last publishing.  

In his previous works, Barry explores themes of self-reflection, sentimentality, and romanticism. In this most recent short story, inspired by the circumstances of Ireland’s strict lockdown during the pandemic, Barry unexpectedly writes a ghost story reflecting on the state of local pubs during and after the pandemic. 

“The Pub with No Beer” is set in a pub in western Ireland, where the owner comes to clean and hears the voices of regular customers. Barry explained that what he vowed not to do was write any more stories set in a pub, as he has previously published many, or to venture into ghost stories. In the solace of writing during lockdown, he ended up doing both. The short story is a hauntingly accurate portrayal of the feelings evoked during the pandemic for small business owners - feelings Barry conveyed to BC students through a reading of the story. 

Although Barry always wrote from home, as most writers do, during the pandemic he suffered at first from a lack of creativity. However, he soon found comfort in writing about the changes Ireland was experiencing. 

 “You don’t write from a place of happiness, you write from a place of anxiety,” he says. 

Barry also read a short piece of Dermot Healy’s work, explaining how the perfection of quick and unmarked dialogue creates a “lightness on every page” that has directly influenced his style of writing. Healy is another Irish author known for his short stories.

After his reading to BC students and faculty, Barry reflected on his experiences writing and his growth as a writer. He explained that an ideal for writers is to live in a state of subconsciousness. Barry even writes when he is half-asleep because he says you're “not afraid to embarrass yourself when half asleep.” 

Reflecting on his experience writing, being inspired unconsciously, and accessing the imagination produces the best ideas for making a story come to life. 

Barry reflected that any event that has happened, whether good or bad, can be used as inspiration at any time in the future when drawing from the subconscious.

Kate Karafin

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