“A playful paean to lexicology…” ―The New Yorker
Mountweazel n. the phenomenon of false entries within dictionaries and works of reference. Often used as a safeguard against copyright infringement.
Peter Winceworth, a Victorian lexicographer, is toiling away at the letter S for Swansby's multivolume Encyclopaedic Dictionary. His disaffection compels him to insert unauthorized fictitious entries into the dictionary in an attempt to assert some sense of individual purpose and artistic freedom.
In the present day, Mallory, a young intern employed by the publisher, is tasked with uncovering these mountweazels before the work is digitized. She also has to contend with threatening phone calls from an anonymous caller. Is the change in the definition of marriage really that upsetting? And does the caller really intend for the Swansby's staff to 'burn in hell'?
As these two narratives combine, both Winceworth and Mallory discover how they might negotiate the complexities of the often nonsensical, relentless, untrustworthy, hoax-strewn, and undefinable path we call life. An exhilarating debut novel from a formidably brilliant young writer, The Liar's Dictionary celebrates the rigidity, fragility, absurdity, and joy of language.
“The Liar’s Dictionary is the book I was longing for. So eudaemonical, so felicific and habile! A harlequinade of cachinnation! It's hilarious and smart and charming and I loved it. Read it. It’s the book you’re longing for.”
―Andrew Sean Greer, 2018 Pulitzer Prize winner for Less
Eley Williams is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She is the author of Attrib. and Other Stories, and her work has appeared in The Penguin Book of the Contemporary British Short Story, Liberating the Canon, The Times Literary Supplement, and London Review of Books. She lives in London.