“You just have to admire all the possibilities,” says one character in Patrick Lawler’s short story collection,
The Meaning of If—a sentence that encapsulates the myriad of “if’s” explored in these pages. At times
surreal and yet so realistic, we hear each “muffled whisper,” we see each “muddy photograph,” we know
each “secret life,” as if it were our own. These are familial stories of transition and transformation—both
mental and physical—that consider the question “What if?”
From “When the Trees Speak”:
There is no way I could handle the cutting, the dragging, the stacking. And to suggest my sister would be involved is certainly absurd. She’s got more on her mind. And why would I arrange the logs in a self-incriminating way? I personally feel that would be ridiculous. Why would I leave my name at the scene of the crime–if that’s what you want to call it? None of it makes much sense, but especially that part.
Should I speak louder or anything? I mean, is this thing on? I don’t want to have to do this again. OK, I guess this is my statement. That’s it, right? First, let me say I didn’t do it. And second, I don’t know who did. That should be the end of it–but I know how people talk, so I just want to set the record straight. Though you should know this: I wouldn’t be upset if the person never got caught. Nothing against you, Ike. I mean, I know you got a job to do–protecting people and like that. But I got my job, too. Not as important in some ways, but in some other ways it’s more important. Helping to put a roof over people’s heads is nothing to look down at.
“Patrick Lawler is a word magician–he waves a wand and the ordinary glows and vibrates. Up his sleeve you’ll find Borges and Kafka. From his top hat he pulls out Nabokov and Marquez. But the Lawler show is completely his own: prepare to be dazzled as this master storyteller conjures up pain, joy, awe, and yearning so intensely, they feel like new experiences. With their unique poetic inventiveness, the stories of Patrick Lawler’s The Meaning of If announce a new force in American short fiction.” – David Lloyd
“Patrick Lawler’s great gift as a storyteller is his utterly convincing vision of the absurd. With magician’s glee, these stories expose the vanities of small town America and the pathos of family life. The Meaning of If is a wild carnival ride; look, listen, and prepare to be exhilarated.” – Megan Staffel
“Wickedly amusing, insightful, the stories reach into our souls with questions about the meaning of living now and perhaps later, our being in word and action reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut.” – Kyle St. Claire, Bucks County Herald
“This book is fantastical, and tangible and honest and sad and riotous. I underlined and dog-eared and asterisked. I mouthed entire paragraphs. Patrick Lawler revels in the comic and heart aching business of being alive and being dead. There is nothing more delightful than engaging in the industry of his mind. Read it.” – Tara Taylor