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Author Picks

Five Deeply Strange Reads

Photo of Matt Bell

Matt Bell


My new collection, A Tree or a Person or a Wall, collects ten years of my short stories, including work I wrote before, during, and after the years I wrote my two novels, In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods and Scrapper. I started arranging the collection in the months immediately after delivering Scrapper to my editor, and one of the thrilling elements of that work was reading my own stories again and seeing all the odd or strange or weird thoughts and urges I'd allowed into the work. Scrapper was a much more realist work than either my first novel or most of these stories, and I found out then that I'd truly missed the wilder abandon of creating fictional worlds in which anything might be possible, as it sometimes does in my stories: for instance, the title story of the new book features a screeching albino ape guarding a kidnapped boy, while another concerns a company of undead horsemen riding across an apocalyptic desert, swapping stolen plasticized organs in and out of their bodies in order to experience different emotions. There are fractured retellings of fairy tales, there are instructions for building mechanical messiahs, as well as untold numbers of strange children and perhaps stranger parents, amnesiac military commanders and ill-suited detectives, and so on. It's a deeply weird book of stories, and finishing it reminded me of how I've always thrilled at the weirdness of others, at the strangely beautiful or strangely terrifying things they've allowed themselves to write down upon the page and then to expose to their readers. Here are some of my favorite recent strange reads—all published by independent presses, with one still forthcoming next year—all of which constantly surprised me, offering up unfamiliar voices and forms and worlds, marvels I wished I'd written, that I was stunned anyone at all had possessed the audacity to write.

About the Author

Matt Bell

Matt Bell is the author of Scrapper and In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods, a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award, a Michigan Notable Book, and an Indies Choice Adult Debut Book of the Year Honor Recipient, as well as the winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award. His stories have appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, Conjunctions, Gulf Coast, The American Reader, and many other publications. Born in Michigan, he now teaches creative writing at Arizona State University. His new book is A Tree or a Person or a Wall.