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Intermittent Explosive Disorder: An Interview with Matt Sumell

February 17, 2015 | by

mattsumell

Matt Sumell

In Spring 2012, The Paris Review published Matt Sumell’s short story “Toast,” in which the narrator, Alby, humiliates his girlfriend so creatively, and so often, that she ends the relationship. “Over the next few years,” Alby says in a typical passage, “I changed from a mostly passive prick to a mostly aggressive one, sexing a lot of girls and I’m pretty sure contracting HPV in my throat.”

“Toast” appears in Making Nice, Sumell’s first book, a collection of linked stories all told from Alby’s perspective. He’s a thirty-year-old having a hell of a time navigating the world since his mother died from cancer. Sumell’s stories are pugnacious, figuratively and literally. In “Punching Jackie,” Alby spars with his sister; in “OK,” he pushes his one-legged father over the side of a boat. Even when he isn’t taking anyone to task, the stories are full of fighting words: bitterness at the world, anger with fate, and misunderstanding of circumstance. Alby is lost. His outlets for self-discovery and definition are few and far between. Making Nice is hilarious in its prose, but painful in its nakedness.

Sumell and I met up to talk fighting, writing, and being named Matt on a freezing January afternoon. We ended up in Chelsea, at Barcade, a bar lined with arcade games where the tater tots are shaped like Tetris pieces. When we walked through the door, Sumell took a quick survey of the room and jetted from my side, making a beeline directly to Punch Out!! Nothing could seem more apropos.

You just returned from a trip to Manila with your father, Albert, to whom your book is dedicated. Your main character is also named Alby—which doesn’t strike me as a coincidence. What’s your relationship with your dad?

Oh, we’re going straight there, are we? Well, the funny thing about my father having that name—I’m the first born, but my great-grandfather’s name is Alby, and my grandfather’s name is Alby, and my father’s name is Albert. Read More »

Being a Tough Guy, and Other News

January 21, 2014 | by

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A lobby card for The Tough Guy, 1926. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

  • What’s it like to share a name with a Tom Clancy hero and teach at the Naval Academy? “I would be lying if I didn’t say that when I walk out Gate Three of the Academy from time to time—which is the gate that Jack Ryan walks out of during Patriot Games and gets shot—that there’s a sense of surrealness to it.”
  • Speaking of which, masculinity in art is undergoing a transformation. We’re “questioning yesterday’s tough guys.” Condolences, tough guys!
  • In honor of MLK Day, The New Yorker has lifted the pay wall on Renata Adler’s 1965 classic “Letter from Selma.”
  • What New York’s editors want in a good book: “Are you writing a dinosaur erotica novel, or the book that all dinosaur erotica novels will be measured by?”
  • The poet Mamoun Eltlib on writing and reading in Sudan: “You don’t feel it’s a living language; you just feel it’s like a dead language, a bloody language.”
  • Now accepting applications for admission: the Yale Writers’ Conference, a summer program with a formidable faculty including Nathaniel Rich, Je Banach, Teddy Wayne, Trey Ellis, Marian Thurm, Colum McCann, Rick Moody, Chuck Klosterman, and others.

 

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