by Mark Dalligan
This is a first collection of short stories by a Galway writer who has
recently completed an MA in Writing. Earlier this year it reached the
long-list for the prestigious Frank O’ Connor International Short Story
Award, quite an achievement.
Seven of the sixteen stories have
previously been published in a spread of literary magazines that
include The Stinging Fly
and Southword. Each
tale stands alone, but there is a connectivity that comes from the
Irish setting and the youthful eyes through which many of the
proceedings are viewed. Cinema, music and pubs are reference points in
the landscape, backgrounds against which the plots play out.
The author is a gentle but
insightful observer with a great sense of humour. Life is to be enjoyed
in Mr McMonagle’s world; the glass is very much "half full".
I can recommend any of these
stories as an antidote to boredom and an entertaining and fresh look at
attitudes and issues. My copy of the collection is as well thumbed as
many of the much older books on my shelves, because it rewards with
From a purely personal viewpoint
the following works are the ones that most loudly call me back:
Wake is a light-hearted look through a child’s eyes at the
way the dead are remembered and their lingering influence on the
living. People make excuses for the behaviour of the departed, or are
unforgiving, but an important part of being alive is not to forget they
have existed. On another level it also portrays the relationship
between the adult generation that knows best and youthful
Girl Who Liked Words is about a rational young man, a
mathematics student, who falls under the thrall of a girl who is
obsessed with the texture, feel and meaning of words. She is lauded by
her flatmate as an epitome of intellect and womanhood. He becomes
desperate to meet her.
Liar again uses a child protagonist to come to terms with
the strange way adults behave. It’s a very short piece that I think has
undertones of James Thurber’s The
Secret Life of Walter Mitty in the way the unreal, in the
form of cinema, mixes with real life to affect perception and
Love To Lana Turner has a timber salesman in a steamy
affair with the 1950s Hollywood actress. Guilt at their imaginary,
though very real to him, lovemaking, convinces the salesman that his
wife is replacing his presence with objects, inanimate and otherwise.
His anxiety is appropriate as the surreal ending confirms.
Dancing witnesses a favourite pub being converted to a lap
dancing club. The protagonist follows his single friend on his quest to
find his "other half", as he begins
an active protest that strips him of his charm. The story resolves in
an unexpected manner showing the inconsistency of human attitudes and
how positive things can come from what others could view as negative
Good Lady begins with a case of absentmindedness and
stolen car number plates and mutates into a wry look at close
relationships and overcoming the grind of working life.
Read a story by this author in Pindeldyboz
Dalligan's short fiction has appeared in a
number of on-line and print publications.
Longlisted, 2009 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award
bio: Alan McMonagle lives in Galway, Ireland,
and recently completed his MA in Creative Writing at NUIG. He has been
published in a number of journals including Crannog Magazine, The Stinging
Fly, Southword and Pindelyboz.
with Alan McMonagle
this book (used or
Author's Recommended Bookseller: Wordsonthestreet Press
forget your local booksellers and independent book shops! Visit IndieBound.org to find an independent
you in the US
you liked this book you might also like....
James Thurber "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Other Pieces"
other reviewers thought: