Proust Questionnaire 3: Kevin Barry

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Kevin Barry’s first short story collection There are Little Kingdoms won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 2007, since then has written a novel City of Bohane (2011) which was recently shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and last year saw the release of his second set of short stories Dark Lies the Island.

He has recently edited Town & Country: New Irish Short Stories, which will be launched at the Faber Social on 25th May in The Clarence Suite, and which features work from Paul Murray, Patrick McCabe, Nuala Ní Chonchúir, Michael Harding, and Eimear Ryan, among others. The Faber Social promises to be a brilliant night of readings and music, featuring many of the authors, Little John Nee, and music journalist and author Dorian Lynskey.

What is your idea of happiness?

The absence of misery. Not feeling a constant desire to writhe on the floor in torment. No great impulse to wail, or keen, or weep. And so forth.

What is your favourite virtue?

Modesty. (And he kept a straight face.)

What do you most value in your friends?

Sufficient sobriety to drive me home.

What is your biggest weakness?

Oh, the naked seething ambition, I suppose.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Singing voice like a thrush.

What is your idea of misery?

To be on a plane trapped beside a talker. Or piles. Or moany novels.

What is your favourite bird?

I’ve thought long and hard about this, actually, and I don’t think I can get past the goldfinch. With the little red faces on them? Just lovely.

Who are your favourite writers?

I’m very old-fashioned, so Dickens, Saul Bellow, V.S. Pritchett. Generally writers with vivacity and effervescence in their styles.

Who are your favourite musicians?

We could be here for the night. But ‘70s dub reggae is mainly my thing, I suppose, so I’d be thinking about people like King Tubby or Lee Scratch Perry.

Who are your favourite heroes and heroines in fiction?

Moses Herzog from Bellow’s ‘Herzog’. And I really love the clairvoyant lady in Hilary Mantel’s ‘Beyond Black.’

Who are your favourite heroes and heroines in history?

Geronimo. Calamity Jane.

What is your favourite food and drink?

Big plates of gambas. Small glasses of sherry. But we could be here for the night …

Which historical figures do you most dislike?

Fascists generally. And J Edgar Hoover was definitely a bit of a langer, wasn’t he?

What event in history do you most admire?

Lee Scratch Perry’s burning down of the Black Ark Studio in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1979, when – paranoiac, inspired, ablaze in the fires of creation etc – he realised that it had been infiltrated by unclean spirits. Legend. Jah Rastafari.

What is your present state of mind?

Cheerful. (But try me in an hour’s time …)

(SK)

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