Reading Journal: Monday 6th January 2014

Young Skins

So yeah, my journal entry for Monday 6th January. Emmm…bit of a problem there as it happens. I’m sure you know how it is when you spend so much time reading that you leave no time for writing, or you spend so much time writing that you leave no time for reading. Well I fell victim to the latter i.e. spending too much time writing, and so I sit here in front of you today, with not much of a reading journal entry to give you.

What I thought I’d do though, is briefly speak about a spot of reading I did a few weeks back, which I failed to mention in my reading journal update on Friday. The writer in question is Colin Barrett, and the book, his debut short story collection, Young Skins.

Published by that phenomenal Irish publishing outfit Stinging Fly Press – the very same publisher who introduced the brilliant Kevin Barry to the world – Young Skins is already causing ripples in the literary world, so much so that the collection has been snapped up by the bigger but most certainly not better fish, Jonathan Cape, who will be republishing it in March, and for good reason. You see, the young Barrett who hails from County Mayo is something a bit special. I’ve only read a handful of the stories in his collection so far (to be honest there are only seven in total), but already I’m discovering a talented writer who reminds me massively of a younger version of Kevin Barry (which trust me, is a big compliment). His ability to capture place and to fill it with delightfully engaging characters is tremendous. Even reading the first story in the Young Skins collection – The Clancy Kid – pays testament to this.

I first read The Clancy Kid in my favourite branch of Costa, in Edinburgh. I don’t know why I’m telling you this. It’s not like reading it in this particular coffee shop gave any enhancement to the story. It was just a delightful way to spend a spare half an hour, and I remember it fondly.

The story of The Clancy Kid itself centres on Jimmy Devereux and his friend Tug, who are heading home from the pub on a Sunday evening, but not before bumping into Jimmy’s on-off casual girlfriend of sorts, who is out with the father of her child. To tell you more would be to spoil the story, but I will say that Tug, nicknamed ‘Manchild’, is something of a man mountain with a very unpredictable temper. I can sense that you see this story ending in a particularly violent way, but believe me it doesn’t.

The ending to this short story may be one thing, but it’s the great characters, and the great interactions between them and the sharp dialogue that really makes this one. And it’s all repeated over again in the other stories that I’ve read from the collection. I aim to bring you a full treatment of my journey through Barrett’s collection next month, but I just wanted to get my initial feeling about Barrett off my chest for now.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve really got for you today in the way of a reading journal entry (pathetic, I know). I’ll be back with another entry on Thursday, when hopefully I’ve got my reading/writing balance a little better sorted out. Until then, happy reading!

‘Reading Journal’ provides an unedited, on-the-fly record of the bookish highlights in Rob’s reading day.
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. Hey Rob, I read this collection on your recommendation, and am immensely glad that I did. I think Colin Barrett is a terrific author, and every story in this book struck me as just perfect. Powerful, lyrical stuff, and not an “off” note in the book.

    I suppose this means I should check out this Kevin Barry person you compare to Barrett. Sigh… too many good things to read, too little time!

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      *punches air* DELIGHTED that you enjoyed the Barrett collection Karl, but what’s not to love? You must get on to Barry immediately. Lack of time is no excuse. You’ll be delighted with what you discover, I’m sure.