Permission to Lie
‘… engaging reading. There is also a genuine satisfaction to be derived from the interconnections between stories within each sequence which is reminiscent of Alice Munro’s short story cycles ..’ Selena Samuels,
SOUTHERLY 72:1 2012
‘The standout feature of Permission To Lie is the authenticity of the diverse settings. In the prison stories, the scenes are particularly well drawn, raw and gritty without ever trying too hard to shock, or descending into the lurid. When Chevalier switches to the second person and puts ‘you’ in the Long Bay Jail visiting room in This Awful Brew, it’s easy to slip into the character’s shoes.
Even in the more quotidian settings (where, paradoxically, the even more incredible stories take place), Chevalier displays a poet’s knack of picking out the detail that makes us grin in recognition and put our trust in the narrator. In Wearing Clothes is Not Compulsory, Stephanie joins a bushwalking group and meets Len, engaging with him in that halting dance of hope and distrust that probably occurs everywhere in the world, but just feels so quintessentially Sydney.
Compact phrasing, pinpoint imagery and a wicked sense of humour are hallmarks of Chevalier’s writing. The story quoted above contains a wish-I’d-written-that description of a nudist barbecue: “they were bangers as the bangers and HP sauce. We were as white as the sliced bread.” – Mark Vender, FAMOUS REPORTER 44 Dec 2012
Permission to Lie is a collection of twenty stories set in Australia and the US. Seven of the stories are a discontinuous narrative set in Long Bay.
‘This Awful Brew’ is set in the visiting area of a jail. It is told from the second person point of view of the former principal of the jail school, Cathie, who is visiting Gav. When he was her inmate clerk he called her Chalkie.
The whole room throbs. You turn in time to see Max’s hand move under his lady’s skirt. Probably she isn’t wearing knickers. Gav says she tapes a sawn-off fit loaded with heroin to her thigh, a take-away for Max. Are drugs more a commodity than sex? You can never figure it out. That’s Berko coughing, the one whose missus claims she got pregnant in this room. You cross your legs and check out what a toddler conceived during a jail visit looks like. Brown eyes, sticking-out ears, and sticking-up brown hair – just like Berko. The air, thick with volatilised juices, wraps around you like a body suit of sperm, sweat and sour breast milk. Thank goodness for cotton knickers.
Also from ‘This Awful Brew’:
‘Instant coffee with fake milk and sugar?’
The legs of his chair scrape on the cement. Screams and swearing bounce off the high gloss walls. People intertwine like pretzels – hands down neckbands, hands under shirts, hands up skirts, hands down pants. Berko’s clone, snot dripping from his nose, careens into the legs of your chair.
‘This awful brew,’ Gav places the coffee on the table.
You drain the last bitter drop and dig your right thumb nail into the bottom edge of the polystyrene until crescent-shaped dents ring the bottom, like the moon has orbited for the entirety of someone’s lagging, one crescent for each month. He jiggles his legs.