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Category: Book Reviews

The Bones of What You Believe—Chvrches Review

by Treehouse Editors

by M.G. Hammond

Scottish synthpop trio Chvrches’ debut album, The Bones of What You Believe, is a cosmically theatric and dynamic example of what electronic music is doing right these days. In only about the span of a year, the band has risen to popularity by gaining immense encouragement, quite fittingly, via the internet. Chvrches has elevated itself out of the over-saturated indie pop scene through a public forum where the demands of the listeners come first, producing a highly anticipated LP that we can all be proud of. The Bones of What You Believe more than delivers, and is sure to be a staple of this generation’s most highly regarded electropop music.

The songs, often rhythmically controlled and vocally paramount, harness typical sentiments and convert them to high-stakes, battle-like narratives. Lyrics that on the surface could be illustrative of banal relationship conflicts or personal epiphany, are transported into a prophetic dreamscape of sci-fi imagined struggles, war, and triumph. True to synth-heavy music tradition, the album is suggestive of a futuristic vision, fraught with toil and threat, and wrapped up in technological effect.

Lauren Mayberry’s voice, which is wonderfully spotlighted throughout the album, is ultra-feminine and dewy, possessing a sometimes overly juvenile delivery in stark contrast to the often dark and threatening lyrics. This contradiction provides a bruising tension that becomes a motif throughout the tracks. For example, in the song “Gun,” Mayberry chimes, “I am gonna break you down/ to tiny, tiny parts,” and “I will be a gun/And it’s you I’ll come for,” in a saccharin, charming melody, with a buttery timbre that’s a little difficult to take seriously in context, but melts on the eardrum at first listen.

As with many electronic albums, the influences from the 80s are hard to ignore. With synthesizers comes an inescapable reminiscence of the decade that revolutionized and popularized their use in contemporary music. The song “Tether” possesses elements of the classic pop ballad, hearkened to the more languid, sentimental verses of Cyndi Lauper or Madonna. And while the album may seem devoid of instantly memorable melodies or phrases, it finds its branding gem in the track “Recover,” which provides an identifying and catchy electronic arc that nods to the genre’s forebears while ensuring a prominent place in the current scene.

The LP is not without its weaknesses. It begins to lose stamina and is briefly drudged down towards the second half. The song “Night Sky” is possibly the least imaginative on the album, burdened with too-familiar melodies and even more expected rhymes (“I’m the night sky,/I’m the fire in your eyes,”). The subsequent track, “Science/Visions,” feels oddly over-ambitious; listening to it is not unlike watching a low-budget Sci-Fi film that just doesn’t have the sophisticated special effects necessary to pull off its grandiose ideas. The song implements discordant vocal calls and overdone percussive elements that ultimately feel melodramatic.

However, redemption comes in the form of “Lungs,” one of the stronger pieces of the album, with a high-energy and playful staccato that picks the listener back up in preparation for the nearing finale. “You Caught the Light” ends the album beautifully, carrying us through a dreamy, prophetic transcendence that the record seems to inevitably build towards. This final song has a vast quality to it, accented with rich bass sounds and drowsy, meandering instrumentals; it’s as if the song attempts to take hold of us from our earthly stargazing postures and gently lift us up, cast us off, and send us spinning out into space among its reverberating melodies.

The Eldritch Creation: A monthly article on cult films and great literature

by Treehouse Editors

Volume 2: The Science of Sleep and Some Things That Meant the World to Me

by Caleb Andrew Ward

In Michel Gondry’s 2006 film The Science of Sleep, Stéphane’s (Gael Garcia Bernal) transition is seamless from his father’s apartment to the dream world he has created using cardboard and imagination. Stéphane’s line between reality and the dream world becomes increasingly blurred as his innocent obsession with his new neighbor Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) reaches a climax. He sleepwalks, creates new worlds, and ignores common social boundaries.

02 Some Things That Meant the World to MeJoshua Mohr’s debut novel Some Things That Meant the World to Me (2009) was met with much praise. Mohr’s background in the seedy underbelly of San Francisco’s Mission District gave him great insight into the world where his whimsical novel is set. Mohr’s work has proved to be a pace where filth and grime are celebrated as characteristics that make people more realistic rather than shining them up and putting them on a pedestal. They are met with trepidation and a chance to be who they really are. Teaching creative writing at a halfway house in San Fran, Mohr is able to see how the gritty world the city tries to hide its seething with beauty and pulchritude. Much of his fiction takes place in the Mission District.

Rhonda, a 30-year-old man suffering from depersonalization, wanders San Francisco’s mission district (a common theme in Joshua Mohr’s books) with a broken arm and at night joins his younger self inside a dumpster behind a Mexican food place to travel to his past. The deeper Rhonda goes into his past the more he wants others to believe he has actually found a link between the present and his past. As Stéphane and Rhonda journey deeper into their dormant imaginations they lose their grasp on reality. Stéphane’s relationship with Stéphanie is more real in his dreams than in physical existence and Rhonda at times disregards his relationship with his neighbor Old Lady Rhonda in order to pursue his reconciliation with his mother’s old boyfriend Letch.

02 The Science of Sleep

Rhonda and Stéphane couldn’t be more different in their personalities. Rhonda is a 30-year-old smoker who gets into fights to save hookers and drinks more than he does speak while Stéphane is a quiet man-child, who builds models, imagines he has his own TV show called “Stéphane TV,” and rarely gets drunk. But while the two are different they are also similar. Where these two reach their catharsis is during the interactions with their female auxiliaries. Old Lady Rhonda is in an abusive domestic situation. She is in a constant daily struggle to fight off her husband and keep him from knowing of the mother-son relationship between herself and Rhonda. Stéphanie could see herself falling in love with Stéphane, but his disconnection between reality and the dream world he has created causes for a negative discourse in their relationship. Rhonda and Stéphane have become too intrinsic and have shut themselves off from the others around them who deeply care for them.

So, who gives a shit? We are the watchers and observers, but also the participants. In films and books like these we immerse ourselves in them eventually walking away feeling jilted or disoriented. The dream-like consciousness achieved in both The Science of Sleep and Some Things That Meant the World to Me creates an experience rather than an entertainment. Gaspar Noé says of film, “Very frequently what a life boils down to is a single, very traumatizing experience.” The experiences both characters luxuriate in are comparative and hellish.

Though The Science of Sleep is a more ambiguous ending than Some Things That Meant the World to Me (we end with a close up of sleeping Stéphane dreaming of a better ending with Stéphanie as his love) the two are close in tone. Stéphane and Rhonda are confused wanderers attempting to navigate the parts of their mind yet untilled. The mind is a dangerous place to plunge too deep and these two protagonists show that. They are vessels for audiences and readers to use for character study. If they can thrust themselves so far into their minds and achieve a sense of purpose then can the same go for us?

The Eldritch Creation: A monthly column on cult films and great literature

by Treehouse Editors

 Volume 1: Barton Fink and The Trial

by Caleb Andrew Ward

Eldritch: adjective \ˈel-drich\: weird, sinister, ghostly.

The Toxic Avenger (1984), This Island Earth (1955), and Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977) are all films devoid of cinematic merit in eyes of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Cahiers du Cinéma, and, really, most people who watch movies. But they are not at all devoid of entertainment or pure gory joy. These are the films of B-lists, Razzies, bottom shelves, dark rooms, and secret screenings across America. On the other side of the spectrum are cult films—what J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum call “midnight movies”—which have been whispered about in coffeehouses and lauded in Variety. Films like The Holy Mountain (1973), Eraserhead (1977), and Night of the Living Dead (1968) are more popular and acceptable among the upper crusty cult film lists. Relevant as they are, there is a much bigger world of B-movie culture to dive into.

Barton Fink

Like Barton Fink (1991), directed by The Coen Brothers. In Barton Fink (the title character being played by John Turturro) our protagonist’s initial integration into the world of Hollywood is a strange one. He enters the Hotel Earle to be greeted by Chet (Steve Buscemi) who rises from a mysteriously fire red basement. The hotel is completely empty and Barton looks like the only tenant in the Hotel Earle, where their motto is “A day or a lifetime.” Fink’s isolation is quite reminiscent of Josef K’s entry and initial visit to the courts in Kafka’s The Trial. Josef K walks down a peculiar part of town in which he has never been. Kafka writes: “when he stood at the street’s entrance it consisted on each side of almost nothing but monotonous, grey constructions, tall blocks of flats oc­cupied by poor people.” The stark contrast of greys and blacks compared to the vastness and repetitive patterns of the Hotel Earle poses the question: Are Barton Fink and Josef K. already dead? Are they in purgatory?

Both characters struggle to get answers throughout their respective journeys, and when they find some normalcy, it is only a moment before either they discover a dead body or are told a parable about a man standing before a giant door. Their inability to move forward is reflective of the artist’s struggle. Whether it’s Fink’s “writer’s block” or K’s inability to fight the judicial system of Prague in the 1920s, both characters are stuck in a nightmarish purgatory.

The Trial

Waiting is a theme in both works. Barton and Josef always seem to be waiting for something to happen to them rather than making something happen themselves. It takes a brutal murder to force Barton to write his script, and Josef needs an ambiguous parable from a priest to push his drive to understand what his crime is and why the courts are throwing him around. Both protagonists teach a valuable lesson on waiting. It’s bullshit. Action allows for the possibility of growth rather than just “Sitting and wishing and hoping and praying,” as Dusty Springfield once sang.

Barton constantly tells the studio executives, “Well, to tell you the truth, I’m having some trouble getting started.” Josef is constantly told, “That is not allowed.” Both are unable to move forward. Josef and Barton have been put into a bubble where the god that controls them decides where they can go, what they can do, and if they’re allowed to live on at all.

In both Barton Fink and The Trial the protagonist is a bit of a pushover who must first be taken completely out of his element and then forced to make a decision how their end will be determined. This quote from The Trial applies to both: “Logic may indeed be unshakeable, but it cannot withstand a man who is determined to live.”

An Environmentalist Book for Non-Environmentalists

by Treehouse Editors

Megan Fowler

Review of My Green Manifesto by David Gessner
Milkweed Editions
July 2011

In My Green Manifesto: Down the Charles River in Pursuit of a New Environmentalism, David Gessner raises a modest proposal for a “new” environmentalism. He spends the majority of the book describing the nature of this environmentalism by comparing and contrasting his own ideas with the views of others with whom he agrees and borrows ideas from, like Henry Thoreau, Rachel Carson, and Darwin. He also speaks of those with whom he strongly disagrees, like Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, academics who wrote an essay called “The Death of Environmentalism.” Gessner expresses his disgust for this essay, characterizing it as an emotionless drone of theoretical terms and a dogmatic finger-pointing. After dismissing this brand of environmentalism, he suggests that in order to be truly “environmental” one must experience the wilderness, or come into “contact” as Thoreau would say. The difference between Thoreau’s foundation and Gessner’s is that Thoreau’s backyard held Walden pond and Gessner’s holds the Charles River of Boston: an unlikely setting for a writer’s retreat due to the soda cans, trash, and presence of what David Gessner assumes to be “a hooker boot.”

It doesn’t seem to bother Gessner that his wilderness is quite the opposite of those before him. In fact he has a good sense of humor about it and embraces that it isn’t as “pure” as it seemed in the past. He says, “it makes me long for a new sort of music, a music with energy, irreverence and drive, a punk osprey tribute sung by, say, The Sex Pistols.” The Manifesto expresses that the beauty of our own backyards, even unconventional beauty, should not be condemned to models and theories. What really seems to bother Gessner about the type of environmentalism that his nemeses pursue is guilt that is a direct side effect from the nagging of the “end of times,” the “Mayan doomsday” or the apocalypse as we know it. Gessner tackles the conundrum of political polarization between the environmentalists and the apathetic (or those who feel as if the end of times is completely out of their control):

Though we don’t actually do it, we know that we should eat and drive less. And, on a deeper level, we know that we should conserve. We the people need to move away from our obsession with growth at all costs and toward a dependence on local economies, and obviously away from slurping down oil and gobbling resources like a bunch of drunken gluttons. Yes, we know, we understand. But all these shoulds and needs. What about wants and what about fun? We are Americans for God’s sake!

In an attempt to shift away from the finger pointing, Gessner becomes the meandering protagonist of the book along with his activist friend, Dan Driscoll. Much of the book is a portrait of Dan and his efforts to clean up his beloved Charles River. Gessner proceeds to explain that Dan has not only fought in legal battles but also knocked on the doors of countless citizens to reclaim land that could be maintained and enjoyed by the city. Throughout the men’s travels, Dan is portrayed as a conscientious and fun-loving guy who at one point stops in his tracks to pull weeds in order to improve the aesthetic of Boston’s tiny wilderness. This is the mindset that Gessner endorses: doing something truly environmental and being an example rather than simply condemning others. Gessner describes this brand of environmentalism in three easy steps: Have a small love affair with something in the world, get in a fight, and then launch in a larger project of self and world.

In turn, contact can lead to a passionate struggle for a piece of land or an animal species. The writer himself vividly describes his admiration for the Osprey of the North Carolina coast, his “totem animal.” These ideas all reiterate the Eastern philosophies of Gandhi, or being for something rather than against everything. In his book, Gessner shows that he is only human, as he chugs Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and beer on a camping trip, and also admits to his small feeling of panic at the thought of turning off his cell phone. For people consumed by anxiety at the “end of times,” Gessner displays his survival technique as consciousness of his environment balanced with a sense of humor. He proves that there is more to environmentalism than the trend of purchasing “twisty lightbulbs” and recyclable bags:

Even in a time when environmentalism is all the rage, to do something truly environmental—even something as simple as asking someone to pick up litter or a cigarette—is to invite some degree of scorn and ridicule. So what? Scorn and ridicule are not so bad in the face of love. When you’re energized by joy for something rather than just being against something, asking someone to clean something up or think twice doesn’t feel superior or moralistic, it just feels logical.

This environmentalism may not actually be new, but it is about retreating and recycling the fundamental observations from Thoreau, Darwin, and Rachel Carson and the thing that they all had in common: they were writers with a humble but intense curiosity that eventually led to social change.

Apocalypse Now

by Treehouse Editors

Laura Casteel

Review of Cataclysm Baby by Matt Bell
Mud Luscious Press
April 2012

With the date of the Mayan prophecy fast approaching, apocalyptic literature is all the rage, but Matt Bell defies the typical with bared teeth in his novella Cataclysm Baby, a fresh, soul-splitting addition to the discussions of parenting and the last days of the human race.

Cataclysm Baby is tightly written, consisting of twenty-six 2-4 page chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet. Each chapter is titled with the names of three children, emphasizing the focus on parent-child relationships. Instead of creating a single, linear story, the chapters function as individual flash fiction pieces told from the perspectives of twenty-six different fathers, all struggling to fulfill their duties in the same post-apocalyptic world. Bell never wastes an opportunity to add disturbing details to this world, a “waste of weather and wild” where “fists of black hail” fall from the sky, homes are buried in ashes or swept away by floods, and massive jungles grow “where our concrete once strangled the earth,” an earth whose renewed savagery gradually swallows the way of life these parents cling to.

Their children, however, are the ultimate examples of the changing planet. They adapt to their ruined environment by evolving in eerily beautiful, darkly humorous, and often gut-wrenching ways. One father awaits the day his cocoon-wrapped daughter will spread her “fresh wings… her span of translucent amber,” and join other flying children in “a sky clouded shut,” while another discovers the tunnels in his floor left by his burrowing offspring. Together, their stories ingeniously tackle the classic theme of children growing up and abandoning the ways of their parents, who struggle to hang on or let go. Except, these girls and boys are leaving behind a world that no longer welcomes human beings, or their traditional family roles. In the particularly poignant chapter “Walker, Wallace, Warren,” a father who surrounds himself with woodcarvings of his lost wife and children laments, “how I wish I could be the father and she the mother and all these our children, so that none of us would be lonely again.”

The fathers of Cataclysm Baby have a complex assortment of feelings toward their families, ranging from anger and guilt to hope and defeat, and each is explored through their unique circumstances and the traits of their children. But even among these broken men in a broken world, there are still sparks of love and redemption. In “Virgil, Virotte, Vitalis,” a chapter that brings to mind Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and the film Children of Men, a man travels a thousand miles and becomes a killer to give his daughter a chance at a better future, away from the men “who would only want what she is, never who.

For all of its depth and detail, perhaps the most striking aspect of this novella is the simplicity of its language. Bell’s accessible sentences, built on strong, tangible verbs and nouns, ground the reader in a reality they can see, hear, and feel, rather than a lofty philosophical discourse. If you crave raw, honest writing that begs to be questioned, Cataclysm Baby won’t disappoint.

The Arsonists

by Treehouse Editors

Caleb Andrew Ward

Review of Fires of Our Choosing: Stories by Eugene Cross
Dzanc Books
April 2012

Eugene Cross’ collection of twelve short stories is rightly named Fires of our Choosing for fiery images that burn into the reader’s mind with each story. In this collection Cross sets his sights on blue-collar America, with several pieces set in his hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania. “The Brother” tells the story of a young business owner whose girlfriend’s brother starts working for him in order to keep himself out of prison. “I knew what it was like to look at the people around you and mistake their fear for envy, their pity for admiration,” says the business owner in reference to his new employee and his off-putting behavior. Luke, the brother, arrives high, and spends his days smoking cigarettes and watching our protagonist do the majority of work. His lack of dialogue is made up for with his accented actions, most notably in the climactic ending, which involves a home invasion.

In “Rosaleen, If You Know What I Mean,” a young boy, Marty Hanson, deals with the loss of his father, his brother leaving home, and the repercussions of a brutal assault he commits on a fellow student. Following the beating, Marty ends up in a group therapy session for violent young people. One exercise the group undergoes is a trust fall in which Marty internally battles with the ability to trust anyone, even the cute girl in therapy with him. Soon Marty finds himself at the home of the student he viciously beat, and finds his victim to be just as confused with the world as he is.

Cross has the ability to change point of view from story to story fluidly. Each phrase of dialogue sounds so natural you begin to believe you have spoken these very words years ago. But despite the fluidity of execution, Fires of Our Choosing brings on the dark realization that much of life is chaotic.

In the title story, the college dropout narrator starts with, “When Lenny’s house burned to the ground all I kept thinking was that it was just one more piece of bad luck in a life that had been full of it.” Lenny is a fine example of Cross’ archetypal character. Besides being solitary and relatively uneducated, Lenny brings about his own ruin, but much of the story revolves around him taking revenge out on an innocent bystander. Cross’ characters tend to be established agents of their own chaos.

While the author has perfected the formula for destruction, beneath it there is a bit of hope. His characters end up in quagmires of their own making, but there is a glimmer of optimism underlying the bedrock. With this being Cross’ debut collection, I am greatly anticipating what’s to come.

All Those Weirdos, and Us

by a contributor

Matt Bell

Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son famously ends with the lines, “All those weirdos, and me getting a little better every day right in the midst of them. I had never known, never even imagined for a heartbeat, that there might be a place for people like us.” And it sounds so redemptive after all the misery and confusion that has come before, and because we are given no more access to our narrator’s future it is easy to read it in such a way—that is, after all, how we mostly expect books to end. (Certainly the makers of the film version of Jesus’ Son made this mistake, amid others, because their script rewrote Johnson’s ambiguous and disjointed masterpiece into a cheaper and more-linear junkie-love redemption story.) But what Denis Johnson seems to actually offer isn’t a kind of false (or, at best, merely narrative) redemption, but something else—and in my opinion something better than just another salvation story, the default mode of most of our popular narratives in books and movies.

“Beverly Home” is the last story in Jesus’ Son, and it begins with our nameless narrator describing a probably-married woman he meets working at a nursery, who invites him to come back and see her again. He knows he won’t go back, but not because she’s married—it’s because she “seemed much too grown-up” for him. He goes on to talk about how in those days he “was a whimpering dog inside, nothing more than that”:

I looked for work because people seemed to believe I should look for work, and when I found a job I believed I was happy about it because these same people—counselors and Narcotics Anonymous members and such—seemed to think a job was a happy thing.

The narrator—seemingly still in fairly bad shape, even if he is sober—then describes at some length this job working at the titular Beverly Home, a hospital for the old and the infirm and also those who were “fine,” except they “couldn’t be allowed out on the street with their impossible deformities” that made “God look like a senseless maniac.” Describing one patient, our narrator almost gleefully says, “No more pretending for him! He was completely and openly a mess. Meanwhile the rest of us go on trying to fool each other.” Of another, he says, “It wasn’t his physical condition that kept him here, but his sadness”—and given the number of times variants on the word “sadness” appear in this story, it is impossible for this observation to not also reflect back upon our narrator, whose problems in this time are more spiritual or psychological than physical, more of the past than of the future.

Tellingly, in a story that uses four fragmentary, non-linear bits of narrative to start its movement, Johnson segues out of the first long passage describing Beverly Home and into the next part of the story without such a break: He moves uninterrupted from the “magisterial sadness” of that last patient to his narrator’s replacement addiction, a home in east Phoenix where he stands on tiptoe to watch a possibly-Mennonite woman sing in the shower, singing “with the unconsciousness, the obliviousness, of a castaway,” suggesting that this experience outside of Beverly Home also fits among the descriptions of the deformities within it. Here we also see a perfect example of the way that Johnson takes the transcendence of this already-questionable moment—the narrator feels “weightless” while peeping, hovering there with his chin about the windowsill—and undercuts it with the narrator’s criminal thoughts:

She toweled off quickly, briskly, never touching herself in any indulgent or particularly sensual way. That was disappointing. But it was virginal and exciting, too. I had thoughts of breaking through the glass and raping her. But I would have been ashamed to have her see me. I thought I might be able to do something like that if I were wearing a mask.

Later the narrator tells us about dating a woman he describes as a “dwarf,” saying that the television always played when they made love, because he “was afraid to make love to her without the conversation and laughter from that false universe playing in our ears”: “I didn’t want to get to know her very well, and didn’t want to be bridging any silences with our eyes.”

And yet, despite these many flaws and character defects, one of the great accomplishments of Jesus’ Son is the ways in which we are made to love this nameless narrator, in all his monstrous beauty: He is funny and charming and (I imagine) good-looking in a certain kind of way, and in his speech he is capable of gorgeous turns of phrase and seemingly-deep insights—even if those insights rarely better his life, in the way we sometimes hope insight might.

In the end, I believe we know too much of who he really is (or at least who he has been) to love this narrator in any way but by loving him as a junkie first: by loving him even while accepting that he is likely going to backslide, that despite his moments of overwhelming honesty he is sometimes lying to us, that he is likely to disappoint us again and again. Even if our narrator never uses drugs again that will not stop him from being a junkie in other ways. There is no fundamental change being offered here that will completely shift the balance in his personality: through most of the book he is truly cruel in his interactions with others (he holds a mother to her apartment floor at gunpoint; he does handfuls of pills while working in an emergency room; he lies about getting a vasectomy to his girlfriend on the way to getting an abortion, telling her that her unborn child belongs to someone else; he punches another girlfriend in the stomach outside a motel), and there is nothing to suggest that the worst of this sort of behavior has ended completely. Rather it seems more likely that it has merely receded, even from his perspective: While watching the Mennonite woman through her window—something he does so often that he frequently misses his bus home—he says, “How could I do it, how could a person go that low? And I understand your question, to which I reply, Are you kidding. That’s nothing. I’d been much lower than that. And I expected to see myself do worse.”

So if not redemption, then what are we offered there at the end, in those famous last lines, and what does the narrator find at Beverly Home? Shortly before the end, he tells us, “I felt about the circular hallway of Beverly Home as about the place where, between our lives on this earth, we go back to mingle with other souls waiting to be born.” This isn’t an image of redemption—it’s not heaven—but of a kind of near-reincarnation, and as such it has a different connotation: The narrator isn’t imagining that he might be saved, but that he might have a chance to try again. Beverly Home has become the place just before life, a place where he imagines he is “waiting to be born” (note, not “reborn”), a chance perhaps not even to start again—but rather at last to start from. He hasn’t actually started yet, perhaps never will, but there is a kind of hope here, and in a world as difficult as ours—and with our own actions and thoughts often revealing us to also be some variety of beautiful monster, as Johnson’s narrator’s actions and thoughts so often do—hope might be all we can reasonably expect. It is thanks to Johnson’s great restraint that Jesus’ Son ends not in the fulfillment of that hope, but merely in the presence of its promise, held there in “that place for people like us.” “I was getting my looks back,” our narrator says, “and my spirits were rising, and this was all in all a happy time for me”—and we might presume that this valuation includes his weaknesses too, his bad behaviors and backslidings. And yet in the presence of his worst qualities, still some happiness, still some hope. It’s more than some of us ever get. It’s more than enough.

Matt Bell is the author of Cataclysm Baby, a novella, and How They Were Found, a collection of fiction. His stories have been selected for Best American Mystery Stories 2010 and Best American Fantasy 2. He is the Senior Editor at Dzanc Books, where he also runs the literary magazine The Collagist, and in the fall he will join the creative writing faculty at Northern Michigan University.