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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 56 | volume X | September-October, 2007



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 56September-October, 2007

Later, at the Bar

p. 1
Jill Meyers

The novel written of short stories “Later, at the Bar” (Simon & Schuster) by Rebecca Barry is a lovely debut populated by characters trying to make sense of their messy lives, writes Jill Meyers in Bookslut [ php]

In Rebecca Barry’s graceful, loose-limbed stories, characters congregate at Lucy’s Tavern and talk and fight about love. “Later, at the Bar” is a novel written in stories, an intimate study of lonely people that hearkens back to Sherwood Anderson’s classic “Winesburg, Ohio”. Barry’s people live in a small town in upstate New York; they are farmers, food truck drivers, cooks, small-time felons, and advice columnists. They cheat, steal, and yearn. They make bad decisions, even ridiculous ones, but Barry’s luminous generosity shines through all these stories.
    The best story is the funny, bittersweet “Men Shoot Things to Kill Them.” Its premise is simple: a jealous husband wants to check up on his wife. Grace has taken a ride with another man to a bowling tournament forty-five minutes away, and Harlin is considering shooting out the man’s tires. Matters escalate, of course – when Harlin arrives at the bowling alley with his brother and brother’s ex-wife in tow, he is late, drunk, and confrontational. Many fiction writers would have wrapped it up here, but Barry pushes on. The rest of story feels new, as if Barry has discovered a fresh way to write short stories. She has given the story space to breathe: on the drive home, the characters unite behind a cause and then splinter apart into their solitary lives again. The piece mingles slapstick (involving a drooling, heartbroken goose) and sorrow to beautiful effect.
    These stories also possess smart dialogue and a psychological insight bordering on the Munroesque. Whiling away one afternoon, Harlin and his gang drink and discuss a young girl who menaces animals:

“That kid doesn’t need a pet, she needs a cactus,” said Moneybags.
    Even Harlin had to laugh at that. He wasn’t proud of it, but he liked it when other people had bad kids. He hadn’t seen his own girl in years, didn’t have a clue what he’d say to her if he did, and other people’s rotten kids made him proud of the child he didn’t know.

This is not simple schadenfreude, but rather a wobbly glee that (barely) covers a painful absence. Here, and elsewhere, Barry reaches deeper into psychology. Although her characters live relatively straightforward lives of

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