Empty American Letters

Thomas McGonigle


ISBN 978-1-956005-73-8          318 pages          $20.00


Like Samuel Beckett, McGonigle observes what might be full is empty and what appears to be empty may, in fact, be full. In this collage of verbal snapshots (where remembering becomes forgetting and the attempt to forget becomes obsessive frustration), we wander through the byways of Bulgaria and America during the forty days via the Orthodox aerial toll booths until the soul is judged. Absurdity becomes sanity and vice versa. Autobiographical fragments coalesce in mosaic format conjuring a pilgrimage to discover love, loss, laughter, irony, and significance in the oddest quirks of life….

     —Kevin T McEneaney,

     Author of Hunter S. Thompson: Fear, Loathing, and the Birth of Gonzo and other books


on Thomas McGonigle's The Corpse Dream of N. Petrov


There is a remarkable moral force at work here, and it gives the jagged prose a dense and illuminating quality and marks McGonigle as something more than talented; he is willfully intelligent as well.

      Andre Codrescu in the New York Times on Corpse Dream of N. Petrov


This is a unique and profound work of innovative fiction.

     Bloomsbury Review on Corpse Dream


Such a book as THE CORPSE DREAM OF N. PETKOV by Thomas McGonigle was missing here [in Bulgaria] for a long time—expressive, multi-faceted, short of breath and choking [the reader] at the same time. A voice coming from outside—different, strange and startling, uttering that which we ourselves have not yet uttered.



The Corpse Dream of Nikola Petkov is the lost avant-garde Bulgarian novel that never happened in Bulgarian. A novel, which, like a ghost, returns at last to its native home after long years of otherworldly exile in order to tell us about our own past. Thomas McGonigle has succeeded in doing for Bulgaria what Faulkner once did for the American South: to elevate the gray facts of a historical event into a literary myth.



Thomas McGonigle interweaves facts and imagination in a striking and stunning narrative about the last minutes of the life of an honorable statesman—Nikola Petkov—brutally tortured before he was hanged.  Petkov’s story—of a man departing this world—sounds so powerful that it has to be true. And it sounds so true that it could only have been born in a writer’s imagination. What must have provoked precisely this American writer to empathize with some of the most painful pages in the history of faraway Bulgaria, remains a mystery to me. One of those mysteries that make me believe that stories follow invisible and unfathomable ways. And that stories can bring us closer to the truth—not the abstract truth that is taught in textbooks but the other truth—concrete, personal, and human.



Thomas McGonigle was born at 110 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn, some years ago.  His patriotism is divided between: Patchogue, Dublin, Sofia and a base on East First Street in Manhattan.


His books: In Patchogue, The Corpse Dream of N. Petkov (in English and Bulgarian), Going to Patchogue, Diptych Before Dying (in Bulgarian), St. Patrick's Day another day in Dublin.


Reviews and articles by TM can be read at The Guardian (London)The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, Newsday. The Hollins Critic etc.