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Liar, Liar

Alan McMonagle

" Eventually, as I knew would happen, we get around to talking about women. We don’t know a lot about them, Jules and I, but every time we meet up Jules says we should try to chat about things we know nothing about.…"

Reviewed 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 rereading. 

From a purely personal viewpoint the following works are the ones that most loudly call me back:

The 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 rebelliousness. 

The 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, 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 relationships. 

Making 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. 

Lap 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 events. 

My 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

 Mark Dalligan's short fiction has appeared in a number of on-line and print publications.

Mark's other Short Reviews: Kim Newman "The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club" 
Philip K. Dick "Human Is?"

Robert Shearman "Tiny Deaths"

Publisher: Wordsonthestreet Press

Publication Date: Oct 2008

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

First collection?Yes

Awards: Longlisted, 2009 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award

Author 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.

Read an interview with Alan McMonagle

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James Thurber "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Other Pieces"

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