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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 31rd March 2017 > Fringe Benefits Alan McMonagle goes out on the edge

Fringe Benefits Alan McMonagle goes out on the edge

IN THEIR WORDS

THE IRISH short-story writer Alan McMonagle, 46, tends to hear things before he sees them. “For me, a story begins with a voice,” he says, speaking by phone from a writers’ retreat in Ireland. “If the voice is strong enough, it becomes a character, and then the character becomes a plot.”

His debut novel, Ithaca, also begins with a voice, that of 11-year-old Jason Lowry, its “youthful, playful, slightly of-center, slightly unreliable” narrator. Sensitive and bewildered by life, Jason lives in a dismal town in the Irish Midlands— an amalgam of the many places McMonagle, who grew up in County Sligo, has “rocked up in.” It’s the summer of 2009, and the affluence of the Celtic Tiger years, when Ireland’s economy boomed, has come to an abrupt end. Swathes of uninhabited developments populate the edges of towns. Shops are closed down, windows boarded up.

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