A Comedian Novel, a Thriller, a Love Story, a Melodrama — All About Phrases
THE LIAR’S DICTIONARY
By Eley Williams
You wouldn’t anticipate a comic book novel a couple of dictionary to be a thriller too, however this one is. In actual fact, Eley Williams’s hilarious new guide, “The Liar’s Dictionary,” can be a thriller, love story (two of them) and cliffhanging melodrama.
The dual protagonists are separated by greater than a century. Mallory and Peter work at Swansby Home in London, house of Swansby’s New Encyclopaedic Dictionary, she within the current and he in 1899. What progressively weaves their alternating tales collectively is the curious energy of phrases, each actual and imagined.
Because the novel opens, Mallory is the corporate’s solely remaining worker, a bored intern whose sole activity is to reply the cellphone. It’s not a lot of a job, because the cellphone rings simply as soon as a day (with a cryptic bomb menace). She passes her time studying the dictionary, a dusty behemoth that for all sensible functions is useless. Work on it was deserted round World Warfare I, far wanting the letter Z, and it exists solely in an incomplete nine-volume version printed within the Nineteen Thirties. The corporate is stored alive by the persistence of its proprietor and editor in chief, David Swansby, who rents out many of the elegant Queen Anne constructing for occasions.
In the meantime, again within the nineteenth century, Peter can be numbingly bored at Swansby’s, the place he’s considered one of greater than 100 lexicographers toiling at what he considers “a pointless census of language.” However he has a few secret amusements. One is a faux lisp, which he cultivates for sympathy (it received him his job). The opposite is a furtive expertise for making up phrases, like “abantina (n.),” outlined as “fickleness,” and “agrupt (adj.),” in regards to the “irritation attributable to having a denouement ruined.” They’re his “secret, foolish phrases,” his “cuckoos-in-the-nest.”
The cuckoos have now come house to roost. David Swansby, who desires to replace and digitize the dictionary, discovers two faux entries and asks Mallory to root out any others. Earlier than lengthy, she’s amassed piles of suspicious-looking blue index playing cards from the corporate’s archives, written in the same hand. Fascinated, she tries to think about the creator of those “small candy observations, inconsequentialisms.” Ought to she expose them, or let sleeping canines lie? (Interpret “lie” nonetheless you would like.)
Williams, a British author who can be the creator of the story assortment “Attrib.,” ingeniously hyperlinks these parallel narratives. Peter wakes one morning with a pounding head after an evening of ingesting and wonders why there’s no phrase for his situation. Later, Mallory displays on the various trendy phrases that by no means made it into Swansby’s, just like the bibulous sense of “hangover.”
Their love lives are ambivalent, every in its personal manner. Peter, who’s excruciatingly shy, is keen about a colleague’s fiancée. Mallory is homosexual although not fairly out, whereas her lover, Pip, is “out-and-out out.” When Mallory ruminates on all of the phrases we don’t have — like one for the kindness of people that attempt to free trapped bugs — Pip asks, “What a couple of phrase for not being out?” (Peter, within the meantime, struggles to launch a moth from his railway carriage.)
“The Liar’s Dictionary” is a raucous orgy of phrases. Williams juggles them, performs tunes with them, tries them on and takes them off, tastes them and spits them out. All of the whereas, she’s utilizing them to border a considerate inquiry into reality and which means. And her denouements are so satisfying that it could be agrupt to spoil them.
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