Why I Lie: Stories

Why I Lie: Stories

by Michael Gills
     
 
Why I Lie tells the painful and hilarious story of a down home Arkansas boy's efforts to make good. Jack Smith, the protagonist of this story cycle, is an unwilling ne'er-do-well, from "people who ate roadkill, whose hearts got broken early on and stayed that way," for whom "being poor was a way of thinking, a mindset you couldn't outrun with a suitcase full of money.

Overview

Why I Lie tells the painful and hilarious story of a down home Arkansas boy's efforts to make good. Jack Smith, the protagonist of this story cycle, is an unwilling ne'er-do-well, from "people who ate roadkill, whose hearts got broken early on and stayed that way," for whom "being poor was a way of thinking, a mindset you couldn't outrun with a suitcase full of money." The ten stories in this powerful collection trace Jack's ongoing attempts to outrun the violence and tragedy of his past and create a viable life-despite a native state that often traps its rural poor.

The road to Jack's future self is as convoluted as a Delta bayou and as colorful as an Ozarks' autumn. He inhabits an uneasy world where memories of the integration of Central High in Little Rock are still raw, and blacks and whites regard one another with suspicion and bitterness; where family ties bind tightly, no matter how difficult to love one's family may be; where freshly fried fish and hushpuppies and sliced tomatoes, washed down with ice-cold beer, constitute one of life's greatest pleasures; and where fate is never generous to the poor. Rich in insight into the human condition and fraught with the shimmering power of Gills' unique voice and perception, these ten linked stories reveal Jack's capacity for sympathy and his capacity-all of ours-to go crooked.

Gills has sipped at the fountain of magical realism, and one can see in his stories the influence of those southern masters from Faulkner through Fred Chappell and Lewis Nordan. But the Arkansas folk he depicts are his own, as is the hardscrabble, chaotic world they inhabit. Gills is a talent to be watched, and these engaging stories will delight and move their readers.

Michael Gills was born in Arizona and grew up in and around Lonoke County, Arkansas. At age 33, he returned to the West and explored a radically new landscape seen through the lens of a lifetime spent in the American South. His stories have been widely published, and several in this collection have received critical recognition and selection for New Stories from the South. He currently teaches writing at the University of Utah. Why I Lie, which won the Utah Arts Council's 2001 Publication Prize, is his first book.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
An Arkansas redneck with his eyes on something bigger and better flails drunkenly through life, in a promising but limited debut collection of linked stories. The ever-so-blankly-named Jack Smith hails from an off-the-beaten-path armpit somewhere in the depths of Arkansas and acts as though he were intent on fulfilling most of the stereotypes out there for people like himself. Gills starts off with Jack-back home in his mother's trailer after flunking out of his college-football scholarship-and his brother Jimmy trying to figure out how to cook a freshly road-killed deer in "For Everything About To Fall." From there, it's a quick slide down to Jack doing contracting work and having issues with his black boss in "Conviction," an uncomfortable piece of work that wrestles with some tough problems without unfortunately delivering much in the way of good fiction. The book leaves Arkansas with "Paradise," where we find Jack living in codependent hell with his girlfriend Louisa in Washington, D.C., but the home state's humid smell lingers over everything Jack touches. Throughout, he seems to flirt with the idea of being a writer, a novelist, a something, but generally his drinking, temper, and habit of looking at the stars through the scope on a high-powered rifle get the upper hand on his best intentions. The latter part of the collection is concerned mostly with Jack's schizophrenic relationship with East Coaster Louisa, who can generously be described as tempestuous. There's not much of an end to all the noise and anger, but Gills doesn't try to layer his stories with more importance than they deserve. As such, he has delivered a modestly successful and occasionally gripping volume. Theauthor does what he can with his fish-out-of-water protagonist who won't let much get between him and a drink. Some harsh gutter poetry is etched out of the downward spiral of a life poorly lived.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780874175141
Publisher:
University of Nevada Press
Publication date:
08/01/2002
Series:
Western Literature Series
Pages:
144
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.40(d)

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