Saturday, June 22, 2013

Going home and it bringing to mind your family members' mortality and thus your own.

long time since last post. what, a year? dammit. i should either give up or be much better at this by now.

this is another sort of call to arms, writing-wise, to myself. i don't know what it'll accomplish yet.

this weekend--friday, saturday--my middle sister and i left springfield to visit our family in cassville, a very small town an hour away and where we grew up. we'd set aside the time a month in advance because going home is sort of important to us, in various ways difficult to verbalize.

the reason for our going was--if we ever need one--was to see some obscure relatives of our mother's who'd be down for this weekend only. a death in the family prevented them from coming. so it goes. we came down anyway.

home-going's always weird and lovely and sad. and that's what i want to address, here. the concept of home itself is tricky: i call cassville home, sometimes, usually to close friends. But it doesn't seem right.

i heard there's a saying that goes a man knows where he's from when he knows where he wants to be buried. i don't want to be buried in cassville, or springfield, or maybe missouri, for that matter.

we went out to fast food restaurants, like always. even when my parents come up to sgf i can't get them to go to a decent, real restaurant. we bought booze and s'mores makings and set up for a campfire. before we did that, a friend of mine and my sister's from that older time visited and the three of us visited an old haunt, changed now just so as to be bothersome a little, but the smells were the same, the view. something's always different and something else is the same. we walked back through our odd little town, how odd especially now, from a perch outside, and the highway smelled new but stretched the same, houses empty now but subject to the same projections. that house, i've always associated with Halloween, or the devil and god are raging inside me, or when grandma was really into gardening. highways in small towns, my city friends, are uniquely spooky places. i've written about it before, and damned if the subject won't turn up again sometime. one of those things i think about.

we got back to the bonfire and told ghost stories, things i've never been good at telling. i get nervous i'll give away too much so i go for laughs. it was a great time. dad told us about his ufo encounter.

when the people who raised you are preternaturally smart but are open to impossibilities, i love that.

so eventually we left, which is good, because staying too long would turn me soft. being there for any amount of time makes me drowsy, in a land-of-nod sort of way. things are too easy, dreamlike.


distance and death work together. it's weird with your family, and it was vague, nebulous, in my head until my sister articulated it on the drive home. (car held together, thank god.)  part of the sadness about returning to your parents' house is that the span of time and distance has mortalized them. being on your own brings you to responsibility, to adulthood, so on, and this weaves a web of understanding about the vulnerability of your people. i realize that this works especially for me because my life hasn't been touched by much death. obviously, i've never lost a parent. 

or maybe it's not death, so much as it is this: in establishing your own adultness, the narrative of your life is no longer parallel to that of your parents, it breaks away, and so their narrative line is vulnerable without your attention. the danger of initiating change in you life is in the realization that things have been changing all along. the power of it is (hopefully) the coping mechanisms you get along the way, the adaptability. 

anyway you spin it, i suppose:

death = change = death = change...and so on.

going home is a realigning with the narrative you grew from, in which you return to the hub from which so many directions were open to you, and are closed now, but still offer something. i just don't know what that something is. 

Bury me at a crossroads. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Yeesh, the blogging interfacey thing's all different now. My inspiration can't keep up with technology, apparently. This is a burgeoning problem for three-sentences-per-year-of-my-own-accord type guys like me. And it's been even longer since my last horror story thing. Oh well. Society's loss.

Here are the haps now: two semesters after this summer left of undergrad, so a year left in SGF (that's what folks down in el centro call Springfield), which I've taken a new appreciation of since losing my wheels and taking to the streets hobo-style. I walk six miles a day, to and fro my Spanish summer class. There really is a niceness to walking through the residential parts of the city, especially early in the morning and especially if you don't mind the inexplicable "Fuck you!"'s some people feel inclined to shout at you with a really unreasonable-seeming anger. I've seen a bunch of gorgeous flowers thick with biology dangling from a large kind of tree I've never seen before. I've appreciated as never before the miracle-affirmingness of a breeze on a blistering afternoon. I've established--weirdly--a stronger sense of my personal identity than I've ever had before, and it all has to do with some sort of dynamic in being a slow-moving human being in a realm of faceless, ridiculously fast machines. This new-refound identity I think has a lot to do with rekindling my fantasies of vagabonding: in the next couple years, barring dramatic and unfortunate life changes, I'm gonna hit the road on a motorcycle into South America, and I'm not going to stop til I hit Cape Horn. (That's Cape Horn, not gay porn. Not phonetically emphasizing this distinction is a fun conversation starter.) Ireland, too, in the near future. Simplification is going to be the key to making this all happen: the realization that experience, and not material is the fundamental driving force of happiness, and a generator of psychic (meaning w/r/t/ the psyche) awareness established within me this idea, and it feels good to know that its almost certainly true. And I kind of have my car breaking down to thank for allowing me to realize all this. All of which being said, I can't wait to get the bitch back up and running.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


First post of the New Year, less than a couple weeks out from starting the new semester (my third-to-last as an undergrad) and actually doing some writing. Revising my story written in class last semester, then submitting it to a few hopefuls, then I'm planning on trying out a couple ideas that've been fermenting in my head for the last few months. For the first time in a long time, I'm looking forward to the future.

Part of it has to do with acclimating more or less to Springfield; a personal (not New Year's) resolution to try and be a tad more social (read: go outside a couple times a week, and not just for work); waking up on January 1st in an amazing mood (it's gotta mean something, right? I all but hopped out of bed, made a huge breakfast, opened the blinds, listened to joyful music, and I even had to work that day. Weird.); and discovering that my ex is happy with someone else. Maybe I can begin to move on a little more smoothly now.

This Summer I'm planning on hitting the road for a week. Either heading to L.A. to see a dear friend or up to Duluth to spend a few days by myself in somewhere I've never been. I'm going to attempt some songs.

This Fall I'm submitting apps to as many grad schools, in as many places, as possible. Iowa, Florida, Oregon, New York, New York again, North Carolina, Montana, California. So many possibilities. I feel like I'm actually getting somewhere in my life. Maybe it's an illusion, but I'll take the placebo.

I've been reading more and more in depth than I've been able to in a while. Bee tee dubs, I strongly recommend Francine Prose's Reading Like A Writer, John Jeremiah Sullivan's Pulphead, and Bolano's The Savage Detectives. 

This year, I'm also hoping to start an online (and maybe eventually print) literary/arts journal with Jerika.

Off to lunch, then to continue writing. Better, more in-depth blog soon.

Here's hoping this isn't one of those phases:

Much love, Matthew

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Start something that means something

Yes, I've not posted on here in some time. Reasons are myriad, but mostly have to do with too much college, too much work, too much pressure to talk about things I knew I'd feel compelled to address, after so long.

I'm at the end of my first semester at MSU; three more, at least, to go before moving on to grad school at god-knows-where. Iowa, hopefully, Wash U. a strong runner up in hopefulness. Syracuse, Cornell; I aim high.

Lots of things learned this semester. Did some of the best work of my literary career, short and punctuated by unproductive, awkward silences though it may be. Met some amazing people in the move to Springfield. Lost some amazing people in the move to Springfield. Lost the girl I thought was going to be my future and first it was all right because I thought I understood, but then I didn't and it was a monstrous hurt. Suffered through black periods that drained the very color and sound from the world, it seemed. Halloween and my birthday passed in a curious, almost guilty silence. I just remember early, gray darkness. Did things that make me question my essential decency as a person (Amanda, I'm sorry: things should've been different from the beginning) and discovered things, thoughts, books, and people that lit the world back up, reignited the countless noise-machines that joyously keep me up at night. I knew and know still what it's like to have, literally, no money. I'm both okay and not okay with it. I'm the 99%, bitches.

My future is entirely realigned, and it looks beautiful. I'm no longer chagrined, as long as I get it right, this time. I think I will.

I still miss the ocean. I still feel empty on certain levels. Am I still confused? Fuck yes, I am. But things are looking better. Two more years and perhaps I can leave the sorrowful Midwest. See that ocean again, and let it wash my bones anew.

Love, love, love,


Saturday, August 6, 2011


Werewolf novels, good ones anyway, are pretty few and far between. I can think of, let's see. . . Cycle of the Werewolf, by Stephen King. David Wellington's adequate but wanting Frostbite trilogy. (I really shouldn't leave out Toby Barlow's epic poem Sharp Teeth, incredibly beautiful as it is.) Ben Percy's werewolf novel Red Moon is slated for release next fall, and looks promising, based the strength of his past work. But as a whole, people typically have trouble writing about werewolves, or they're written about but tragically misrepresented; I can think of those dubious books about the female werewolf mechanic w/ tattoos. (I've never read them, but they look awful; if I'm wrong, by all means, set me straight,) and werewolves-lite of Twilight. Maybe, as a genre, the werewolf story works best in a visual medium; werewolf movies outnumber novels by surely an impressive ratio, and even SK's Cycle would lose about 50% of its charm/power if one were to toss out Bernie Wrightson's chill-inducing illustrations. Maybe the werewolf concept works best as a metaphor; King as pointed out pretty efficiently that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is more or less a werewolf story. So is the history of Nazi Germany, the Salem Witch trials, etc. (the werewolf being the symbol of the unleashed, uninhibited beast-within.) Perhaps with such potent examples of vile transformations in human history, most writers feel it is unnecessary to rewrite the tale, so to speak.

For whatever reason, werewolves are somewhat neglected fodder for horror writers. Which is a shame really, as they can be terrifying and tragic all at once, and if that isn't a recipe for drama, I don't know what is. People are perhaps drawn to them for this reason. Lon Chaney was a victim more than a villain, etc. My own fascination with werewolves probably stems from the hand that Fate plays in their appearance on the scene. They seem to simply occur. Out on a foggy moor, or across a shadow-strewn lawn, etc., without apparent design. They're waiting out there, a metaphorical catastrophe when we least expect or are prepared for them. This is sort of the spirit of my own werewolf story (see A horror story, the blog I posted last February, a few posts down.)

Anyway, a new book that creates some interesting new perspectives on werewolves was published a few weeks ago. It's called The Last Werewolf, and it's written by a gent named Glen Duncan. It's basically a thriller, a hardcover thing meant to be peddled from the best-seller racks from major retailers. But it's also incredibly well-written; it's literate yet thrilling in a way that only certain British books can be. The protagonist is a 200-year-old werewolf by the name of Jacob Marlowe, a well-read, cool in a Ricky Gervais sort of way, philosophizing, tired guy who's killed hundreds of people over his, er. . . career. He's the last of his kind, etc. after an international paranormal police organization has killed of every other werewolf. So now he's in the cross-hairs. There are the usual conflicts; firstly, he's tired of life and would more-or-less turn himself in as a soon as not. Then later, after goings-on, he decides he'd like to live. Even later, that he'd really like to live. There are vampires, who of course are the werewolves arch-nemesis. Yet, the vampires want him alive for their own purposes (werewolves apparently hold the secret to allowing vampires to strut around in daylight.) The plot is as tightly-wound and as expertly constructed as any you'll come across. The differentiating thing is the writing and the moral issues raised. The writing, as I said, is as intelligent and irony-tinged as it comes. It's entertainment literature of the highest caliber. Jake is also a terrible hedonist; some of the most carefully detailed scenes involve anal sex with prostitutes. (Also, the most irritating error on the part of Duncan is an ill-advised description of werewolf vagina. I just didn't want to hear about it.) But Jake makes things interesting with his too-cool sense of humor and by waxing poetic about the meaning, or lack thereof, of it all. As in life, moral implications of killing and devouring people, etc. I wish I had some passages to illustrate here, but I'm too lazy to dig them up (also, I didn't use a highlighter on the book as per usual; the book is just too pretty, and I couldn't bring myself to besmirch the pages. You'll just have to buy it, gentle reader. [Oh wait, I do remember something: Jake is captured at one point, and is left in a cage, in wolf-form, with a "snack" provided by his captors. The snack, of course, is a bound man who's shitting himself in diarrhea-inducing terror. Jake, in an effort to appear nonchalant to his captors, tries his darndest to abstain from slaughtering the poor man. The chapter ends. The next begins, simply, with, "Reader, I ate him." Dry, cool wit, etc.]) All in all, it's a cheap, predictable book that's super smart and as fun as anything you'll ever read.

Wells. That's all I have to say about that. Let me know what you think, if you read the book. Give me suggestions for other books or just input on werewolves in general. (BTW, for another excellent genre-mashing book, I really recommend DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers, a super-unique take on the western. It's recently been nominated for the Man Booker, which is incredible.)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why I'm huddled in a fetal position 87% of the time.

Perhaps if you were to see me lately, you would ask the question that would be answered by a blog titled what this blog is titled.

Lord. Here it is, late late July. No apartment for sure. Haven't contacted other Wal-Mart yet, out of fear of jinxing our apartment-getting chances by offering cruel fate an opportunity for mischief. I'm covered in stress-related hives all the time and have about $80 to my name. If I had more money I'd be less worried, or equally worried but with the alcohol to deal with it.

I've been trying to escape from this potential killing-spree-inducing stress by voiding my emotional bowels and entering into a kind of psychic purgatory. Or lavatory. No, no, it's purgatory. I've also escaped into literature.

In the past week I've read three entire books. Not bad, considering I've been stuck on The Four Fingers of Death and The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris since their respective release dates. For those of you who don't keep up with such things, it's been a while. Anyway, I thought a decent way to further distract myself is to write about what I read:
  • This Monday, I needed to get cash out of my account, so instead of going to the bank or ATM, I figured I'd help the economy a bit and buy something and then get cash back with the purchase. So I went to Wal-Mart and bought a seven dollar paperback copy of The Hunger Games. The reason I needed cash soon dissolved, so I was stuck with nothing to do for the whole day. So I read the book. It's surprisingly quite decent; thrilling, even, in a not-put-down-able way. There's something about YA books: namely, they remind me of my young adulthood, but also, they're refreshingly well-plotted. Plot is something not marketable to adult-adults, so they throw 'em in with the YA crowd. I myself have always been a reluctant (some might say; defective) plotter of stories, so I felt The Hunger Games was a healthy read. Recommended, if you have a free day. 
  • Thrilled that I actually not only finished something I started, but all in one day, I looked for other short books to read in, similarly, one day; this is my new high. So I plucked Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone from my overburdened shelves and speed-read away. I'd read the novel years before, and it left quite an impression on me, but I ended up forgetting 90% of the action. E.i., when I saw the incredible movie version, it was more or less like a totally unfamiliar story line. I figured it had to have been highly modified, but the reread corrected me: the movie's pretty much word-for-word. I just don't remember too good sometimes. But anyway, a near-perfect book, full of whiskey-drenched poetry and winter inimical. PS: Bit o' trivia, recently discovered that Jennifer Lawrence of Winter's Bone film fame is playing the lead in the movie version of The Hunger Games. Crazy how dat shit works eh?
  • Wednesday afternoon I received Hill/Rodriguez's Locke & Key v. 4. If you've never read or heard of this comic series, hang your head in shame. Then log onto some indie-cred-bearing online bookseller and buy all four volumes. It's the best thing you'll ever have linked to your name. I'll devote an entire single blog to it soon, so I won't give to much away, except to say that the series is better-written than 97% of all literature written between 10,987 BC and now. 
Other than that, I've recently discovered Spotify, and am diligently using the bitch for all it's worth. Two words: Wye Oak!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Homeschooled Twi-tards unite!!!

Well, I'm not proud to say it, but on the last two consecutive evenings, I've--willingly, non-regrettingly, even,-- set myself down in an easy chair, popped the top on a ginger ale, and hit play on a Twilight Saga DVD. Please, let me explain.

Pop Culture Phenomena have always held a certain fascination for me. As much as I can't stomach most of them, I hold a respect for them that seems to be lacking in most of my irony-drooling peers. Surely, by their very nature, PCP's tell us something about ourselves, our culture, our standing at this point in history, etc. Many times, what they indicate about the masses is somewhat discouraging-- Kesha, say. Other times, they represent reality in a skull-numbing way that higher art would never even begin to imagine representing, because it's so disappointingly unromantic (I'm thinking of The Bachelor/ette, here. As David Shields points out in Reality Hunger, this show "tells us more about the state of unions than any romantic comedy could ever dream of.")Anyway, close attention to PCP's can give one a glimpse at various profundities in play within the current zeitgeist.

Anyway, Twilight, certainly falling into the PCP category, has always particularly held a sort of intrigue for me, an appeal that I've never been able to verbalize in any satisfying way. I've mentioned this before, always in an offhand, defensive kind of way. The other person, hitherto more or less thinking me mentally competent, struggle to keep a straight face or else tsks openly concerning my feeble failing at life, never really understands what I mean.

I found myself recently with time and an inclination to rewatch the movies. Brittany and her family are vacationing, and I'm serving as their (quasi-) house-sitter for a week-ish period of time. I spend a couple to four hours at their house daily, feeding the animals and keeping them company, taking messages, getting mail, fending off intruders, etc. The work doesn't really require my being there for more than like half an hour, but I get to where I like the quiet and the aloneness. Then I start missing Brittany terribly, her absence apparent everywhere. As I lay on her couch the other day, I suddenly started jonesing (yes, actual, factual, jonesing) for Twilight, which up until that point I'd only seen in her company. It'd be a way of connecting with her from afar, and also, I came to realize, an oppurtunity to sit in an environment without walk-in awkwardness-potential, with a notebook, and finally figure out the mysterious pull the film has for me.

Let's get some things straight firstly, though. I do not think the Twilight films are great, or even very good, movies. They're full of cheese. Aching, anus-clinching dialogue. The action scenes (especially in the first movie) are somewhere around made-for-TV-caliber, and the scenes featuring the acting of T. Lautner will give you a horrifying skin condition. Close-ups for actresses not prepared or conditioned for close-ups. First takes that needed retook. Etc. I'm indubitably not infatuated with the films.

But, how bad are the films, really? Take them away from the malls-full of shrieking 12-45-year-old women. Keep in mind that unconditionally hating the films means being sucked into the same mindless cultural blackhole as obsessing over the films. You might see that they hold their own, honestly. They're unique. The cinematography is staggeringly great the vast majority of the time. Immediately recognizable. The sets are beautiful; the scenery is occasionally jaw-dropping. The movie makes me want to live in coastal Washington, in its gloom and snaking black, lonesome highways and moody sea and beaches and people coping with, interacting with, and loving even, all the above. Little scenes with regular people can be touching and subtle. Aesthetics. Just needs better dialogue and much fewer close-ups.

What maybe appeals to me the most is the small-town high-school interactions. It's something that I, being homeschooled but raised in a surely similar-to-Forks, WA- small town, with the Regular Folk and football games and conservative values, missed out on but was basically close enough to taste. High school with all of the bullshit and drama and aches and loves that linger the rest of your life that I'll never really know and can only construct in some weird, misconstrued facsimile. The thing with Twilight is that the high school and teenager stuff seems so artificial, so lacking in something key, yet beautiful in its misunderstanding. It's something similar to the images that play in my own head. It's a representation that I need to be real, so as to feel that maybe I didn't miss out on so much and didn't need the experience. Don't say Hey, Matt, trust me buddy, feel lucky you missed that bullshit, because if you say that, you've missed the point. Because what I construct is sort of beautiful and miserable and I kind of need it. Twilight nails it to the little details, even. For example, no one in the movies texts or ever logs onto a social networking site. Not once. How beautiful is that? When someone wants something from someone else, they call them or go see them. It's just great.

So, there it is. I knew I'd understand it better when I got to writing about it. Whew.