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In his second collection of short stories, Mike McCormack joins head and heart in a series of tales which weave a fluid vision of a world morphing between the real and the hyperreal.
Amid much hollow laughter a prisoner is drawn from his cell in the middle of the night to play a video game; two rural guards ponder the security threat posed by the only man in Ireland not to have written his memoirs; a child tries to offset his destiny as a serial killer by petitioning his father for a beating; a late night American cop show becomes a savage analysis of a faltering marriage in the west of Ireland; two men turn up at the door of a slacker to give him news of his death and recruit him to some mysterious surveillance mission; an older brother worries about the health of his younger sibling; the prodigal son returns to reveal the fear and hypocrisy which lies at the heart of his brothers life.
In twelve stories McCormack’s characters find themselves trying to hold onto their identities in a world where love is too often and too easily obscured.
reached—not another inch. We drew up at the stream and he was breathless and laughing his head off, his face broad with glee. I couldn’t understand it at first but after a moment I thought I knew: he was glad, glad for both of us, glad I’d won and glad that he’d made more than a fight of it. I tried not to sound surprised. “I never knew you were that fast.” He continued laughing and turned toward the sea, hauling in deep breaths. “Not running,” he said, “handball was my game, doubles; myself
finally did get it straight in my mind I could hardly believe it. To the best of my knowledge I have never experienced anything like it before, nor, living the type of life I’ve done, is there any reason why I should have. Take this example, an incident with my eight-year-old son only last week … It was, on the face of it, a simple enough disappointment involving a school trip to an open farm outside the city. Giddy with anticipation, Jamie had talked about nothing else in the days leading up
the template is fixed.” “I know, I can only help them make a better fight of it. Well, fairer at least.” “What sort of job is that for a grown woman?” I teased. “The type of job that pays the rent and puts food on the table.” I sat on her chair and gazed at the screen. Two elves were streaking toward a great forest where they would find refuge and a cache of arms. Somewhere off-screen they were no doubt being pursued by a posse of murderous orcs. Tipping the balance of power, tilting the odds
this new habit lately—his left thumb in the palm of his right hand and this continual twisting action that threatens to torque it out at the root. She has noticed how it becomes particularly vengeful during these pauses in his story. On resumption he will stop, overcome with that irresistible brightening that always brings him back to himself. As if on cue … “And what did I say?” “You said that the Messiah would come out of the west.” “I did indeed. That’s exactly what I said. And did I lie?”
the road behind her. Then he stands back and motions her inside. She steps past him into the hallway and then turns into the sitting room; he leaves the door open to follow her. “I thought you people came in pairs,” he says. “I didn’t think they sent anyone on their own.” “We’re only having a conversation; why would I need to be chaperoned?” “It’s just that on the telly … suit yourself.” “Are you alone, Mr. Crayn?” “Yes, my wife is at work.” “Where does she work?” “She works in Allergan, a