Friday, March 18, 2011

Matt Bell | How They Were Found

Matt Bell's How They Were Found dives into dark worlds, and the pages, themselves, become mirrors, revealing these strands of beauty found in the most unusual circumstances. These stories are full of bruises, and machines, and blood, and they drip from one line to the next, creating these macabre scenes and magnifying the aesthetics of broken realities. Not only do these stories hold mirrors up to the readers, but they also hold mirrors up to the characters themselves, creating these opposites that pull and push each other until the end has arrived.

In "Dredge," Bell gives life to the dead and at the same time, he makes the living seem dead, or near death:

The drowned girl drips everywhere, soaking the cheap
cloth of the Ford's back seat. (108)

It seems as though the dead girl is still alive as she is in the car, perhaps being a nuisance, in a sense, by messing up the seat with her dripping and "soaking." Additionally, that first line, itself, is amazingly tricky: "the drowned girl drips everywhere." It's not just any girl dripping in the car, but a "drowned girl," and in a subtle way, Bell makes the dead girl lifelike as any soaked human would be dripping, and drenching the seat of a car. It's the casualness of the content that makes the dead girl seem alive. Then, later on, Punter, the main character of the story, sits in the car with her and then drives off as if all is normal:

Looking in the rearview, Punter smiles at the
drowned girl, waits for her to smile back. (109)

So here, the dead girl is described and being treated like she is alive. Then, throughout the story, Bell portrays Punter, who is alive and dealing with the dead girl, as though he is the one who is dead…or should be dead:

Punter wakes up choking in the dark, his throat closed
off with something, phlegm or pus or he doesn't know
what. (125)

And then later on, "Punter coughs, not caring where the blood goes" (131).

Punter is described as if he doesn't have much time left, while the dead girl is described as the opposite. The relationship between the dead girl and Punter goes even deeper--there is this mirroring of "the drowned girl" and the "choking" Punter who incessantly "coughs." Perhaps, the dead girl infects Punter or lives through him, or perhaps, Punter feels the warmth of death through the girl. And throughout these stories, Bell makes the gloom and the horrid fascinating, he makes the darkness breathe, and he makes the living suffer--both, in a graceful manner. What does being alive really mean? What does being dead really mean? Read How They Were Found to seek the answers and to play with these mirrors.

How They Were Found
by Matt Bell
256 pages
ISBN 978-0982151259
Keyhole Press, 2010

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