‘Burn the Bad Lamp’ by Kevin Barry

Title: ‘Burn the Bad Lamp’ by Kevin Barry
Collection/Anthology?: There Are Little Kingdoms (Stinging Fly Press)
Date Read: 14 September 2010
Briefly: Ralph Coughlan has a small antique shop in the wrong part of town. Wistful and optimistic that customers are going to come through the door, the somewhat nervy man sets about the routine of housekeeping his stock. Eventually Coughlan gets around to polishing a lamp, and we all know what happens when we starting rubbing lamps, right folks?
Afterthoughts: I love this tale because aside from anything else it shows that Barry can have as much fun writing the phantasmagorical, as he can writing the ‘real world’. The story is superbly inventive (it’s ingenuity reminds me of another short story writer I adore, Alex Burrett), with the indisputable star of the show being a contemporary genie who ruminates over the ramifications of granting certain wishes. Absolute genius, and if I wasn’t tickled enough by Barry’s genie character, then his mention of seagulls with deranged eyes being ‘jacked up from weird emissions from chemical plants downriver’ made sure I left this story 100% chuckling and 100% satisfied.

Rating: ★★★★★

This story was read as part of a review of Kevin Barry’s short story collection, There Are Little Kingdoms. If you want to find out more about this collection then I invite you to either visit my ‘forethoughts’ post, or to pop along to the product page for the collection, on the publisher’s website.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn’t bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. 5 out of 5! Think that’s the first time I’ve seen that on your site. Most was always 4.5 out of 5.

    I’ve just ordered myself There Are Little Kingdoms and two of van Booy’s – looking forward to getting as much enjoyment out of them as you clearly have.


    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      Ha, you’re right Colin, normally my highest score is 4.5/5 because I go by the philosophy that nothing is quite perfect. Fact is ‘Burn the Bad Lamp’ is absolutely faultless in my opinion, and it’s a story that pretty has everything. Definitely one for universities to use as a perfect example of how a short story should be written. Can’t wait to see if you agree.

      And well done on ordering the books. You seriously won’t be disappointed (whispers: I hope :))
      Take care mate


  1. […] in its eyes makes an appearance. They fellows have turned up in Barry’s stories before, in Burn the Bad Lamp, and in his novel, City of Bohane for instance, and Barry clearly has an affection for them . I […]