The History of Magpies by Desmond Hogan
Pictured at a Lilliput Press Christmas party in 2013 are Luke Sheehan (L) and Desmond Hogan. File photograph: Dave Meehan
The History of Magpies
Desmond Hogan doesn’t tell stories with a beginning, middle and end. Instead they proceed by means of associations of words and images as he weaves together historical details, Greek mythology, descriptions of art works and snatches from poems, plays and nursery rhymes in apparently disjointed narratives that have an internal logic of their own. Many of the stories feature tragic characters: Travellers who hang themselves, addicts who die of overdoses, young homosexual men who die from AIDS. They also strongly feature people who live on the margins of society. Hogan was given a two-year suspended sentence in 2009 for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2006 and in Brimstone Butterfly, one of the best stories in the collection, the prison and post-prison experiences of a paedophile figure prominently (there are references in other stories as well). The Spindle Tree is a beautiful story of a memory of a garden in the hometown of his childhood, both garden and childhood now gone forever. This is a troubled collection from a troubled genius whose narrative technique won’t appeal to traditionalists.