Wednesday, June 11, 2008

book review: later, at the bar by rebecca barry

I love the premise of Rebecca Barry's Later at the Bar: it's a novel in stories. Interconnected short stories are among my favorite means of literature. I've also spent a fair amount of time at bars in my life, and I have an appreciation for the curious assortment of souls who gather there. Furthermore, the stories take place in an unnamed town in upstate New York. Everything is in place for this book to be magnificent, at least in my esteem.

It's good. I enjoyed some stories more than others. My favorite character by far is Linda, who writes advice columns for various magazines. My two favorite Linda quotes from letters she pens to her boyfriend of sorts rather than her readers:

Aren't you a little in love with me? It would be so convenient if you were.

It's such a comfort to be a regular at a bar, especially when you live alone. I mean that in the least pathetic and nicest possible way.

I admire the attempted scope of the novel. Telling interconnected stories through so many different points of view, albeit always through an omniscient narrator, is difficult. I wanted more depth. I found myself imposing personalities on the characters I'm not convinced were in the text, although perhaps I don't give Barry enough credit. The book itself checks in at 224 tiny pages of big font. It's a quick, enjoyable read. I believe the characters have more stories to tell, and I hoped for shared experiences. The stories are nice, but ultimately, not much happens, which I suppose is the point.

It's good, and it's worth a read. I'm more excited to recommend Barry's next book than this one. She's a lovely writer, and many of these characters are lovely, but I still find myself slightly unsatisfied at the end. Perhaps intentionally and definitely ironically, I feel like a character in the book myself as I search for that happiness, comfort, contentment or feeling of accomplishment that seems almost within my reach. Instead, I follow their suit and reach for a cocktail.

Rating: 2 stars (liked it)

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