Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Matt Hill


Q - In your stylistics at least, you have been compared with various writers such as Beckett and
Pynchon. Would this possibly represent an opinionated distortion of your work?

A – The assumption here is one of tenuous identification, one that I assume also involves
the particulars of some author’s life mixed in with those of the characters depicted upon the
created pages. This would be folly. Sheer folly.

Q – But aren’t the technical maneuvers you use, for instance in your book Pellucid Inferno, such
as the shifting points of view in the same paragraph, intended to come across as meaningfully
effective? I’m thinking here somewhat like the function of a heat sink in the process of thermal

A – Well, that analogy would probably be a real stretch. Yet, one is sometimes forced to make
concessions towards what we call progress. Far be it from me to know the quiddity of these

Q – Your style is complicated, convoluted, some would say even opaque. Would this be a
residue of the surrealist influences you have alluded to in previous interviews?

A – Yes. It is all about working with fragments, the very increments of consciousness. To
juxtapose the quotidian alongside the ineluctable – yes, this would be the means to my end.

Q – In the New Yorker interview several years back, you indicated you thought writing is a
process which cannot necessarily be taught through classes and workshops. And yet here you
are today, teaching a graduate workshop. Is this mixed message a deliberate obfuscation, or is
it just off-the-shelf cognitive dissonance?

A – Both of these, and more. In the everyday sphere, one’s personal beliefs don’t necessarily
dovetail with the grim work of earning the daily bread and butter; one certainly must make
concessions in the garnering of food and shelter. And of course, the current feelings are ones
of ambivalence. So this topic might have to be left to the biographers. That is, if there will be

Q – Some of your detractors, if we might indirectly refer to them, have judged that your stories
are merely mélange. In other words, more bling than bite.

A – We’re all born clueless. It’s a darn shame that some insist on remaining that way.

Q – What would be some of the triggers that initiate your writing process?

A – Oh, I suppose dumpster diving through the debris of porous memory. And the multitude
of surprises that surface when researching the implausible. Random snippets of overheard
conversations also factor in. The subculture obliquities encountered while I desultorily roam
the forsaken streets. The unexpected whatnot one needs to continuously sidestep daily. Etc.

Q – Do you share in this notion that artists and writers should convey feasible truths in their

A – Excuse me, did you say feasible?

Q – In the sense of social responsibility.

A – [a long pause, followed by a gesture of shrugged helplessness involving the palms]

Q – Alright, what would it be that drives your use of the imagination in fiction? What gives you
the impetus to create these texts?

A – You mean, aside from some unbounded stupidity? Oh I reckon it has something to do with
catharsis. You know, like a mental bowel movement. Frankly, I don’t see much in the way of
impetus or having a “point” to this writing business. I mean, is the world really any better off
as it fills up with this stuff? I actually garner more satisfaction with helping out the neighbors
doing their monthly run to the dump. Or perhaps slapping a little paint on a wall.

Q – Your usage of hyperbole has been called ridiculous and juvenile. What’s really going on
here with this technique?

A – Well, aside from walking around nude in public, I can’t think of a more effective way of
turing people’s limited attentions. Which is no small task these days, what with the ubiquity
of all these digital devices and their attached distractions.

Q – Is there any pleasure in the writing process for you? Any satisfaction in what is created?

A – You know, I would rather clean the latrines of hell before I ever deliberately decided “to
become” a writer. For myself, and I speak in the singular only, it seems to be my fate to do
this, as opposed to other pursuits, many of which I have tried and spectacularly failed at. Any
personal say-so in the matter seems to have been overruled by unknown agencies. Most days,
this sitting in front of the blank pages, well, it just feels torturous, this making of texts and such.
But I suppose that’s why I’m condemned to this process, being the lifelong masochist that the
Catholic indoctrination so deeply ingrained in me.

Q – How do you know when a book is finished?

A – You don’t. Even with using all your instincts you don’t. When you have become completely
sick of working the damn thing over and over, it mysteriously just gets launched one day, and
there you are, crossing your fingers that it was all not in vain. Valery’s comment that a poem is
never finished, only abandoned, would also apply here.

Q – Literary influences – who and why?

A - Oh, all the big guys, with many unknowns and forgotten souls thrown in. Once I devoured
tons of literary stuff, but that was years ago. Now I’m down to reading almanacs and
dictionaries, which keeps me out of the bars at night.

Q – Your particular style, which features a cynical black humor, has been characterized as
rambunctious, vulnerable, volatile, vehement, and anything but subtle.

A – Sure, sure. Just throw it all into the blender and hit the Frappe button.

Q – And yet, there seems to be a vague evolution to your stylistics. Yes?

A – Maybe. Perhaps in the schizophrenic sense that underlies any effective satire. Perhaps also
in the sense that style can become a defensive mechanism against the ubiquitous stupidities of
the literal. I really don’t know … I’m just throwing stuff out here.

Q – Well, what about the God question. You allude in several of your stories, such as An
Impossible Life and The Patina of Neglect, to our existential status, our place in the cosmos, that
this is no accident. That there is some purpose-driven design behind all this quotidian mess.

A – I think it was Santayana who said something to the effect about our existence, that you
can either live in despair, or you can live drunk. Those are the only two choices. Having tried
both, I think the third option would be to proceed intrepidly, in stoic fashion, and keep smiling.
Of course, that presupposes having faith in the event horizon of an apriori consciousness.
More bluntly, yes, this mess is not just a random piece of cosmic excrement on the part of a
constipated deity. For my part, I do see the act of making books as a resolute praxis of defying

Q – These improbable situations you depict certainly are philosophically prone scenarios; ones
regarding the meaning of values, and the unusually fresh usage of language. But then the
dark humor kicks in, and is used to balance the weightiness of dilemmas faced by the various

A – Ultimately, after everything gets expressed, it finally comes down to just mustering a cogent
silence [shrugs again helplessly]. I think Beckett was mostly right on this one.


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