‘The perfect book’, Eley Williams writes in the preface to The Liar’s Dictionary, ‘should grab the reader and the perfect dictionary should be easily grasped.’ Eight pages into a self-confessedly ‘garbled’ preface filled with meandering metaphors and imagery worthy of Anne Carson, these words struck a slightly hopeless note in my head: could Williams, to date acclaimed for her finely crafted short stories, successfully make the transition into novel-writing? I was not yet grabbed. The preface didn’t seem to ‘know when to shut –’.
Two paragraphs into the first chapter, ‘A is for artful (adj.)’, I knew I needn’t have worried. The Liar’s Dictionary is deft and clever, refreshing and rewarding, and, as Williams asks with tongue firmly in cheek, ‘who reads the prefaces to dictionaries anyway?’