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Posts Tagged ‘Matt Sumell’

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 »

What We’re Loving: Underwater Photography, Semicolons, Rimbaud

March 8, 2013 | by

SilverSpring_may08_6When I was a teenager, I had a series of dreams in which I would attempt to do the most banal tasks underwater: eat breakfast, cut my toenails, read a book whose waterlogged pages would always stick together. I never really thought much about the dream’s implications—Was I suffocating under life’s demands? Or was it just something I ate?—until I stumbled on Bruce Mozert’s 1950s underwater photography. Using a self-constructed underwater camera, Mozert spent his career shooting underwater portraits for numerous lifestyle magazines—entirely without digital manipulation. (One Mozert trick was “using baking powder to create the powdery ‘smoke’ coming out of the underwater barbecue.”) Why would a photographer devote his life to such a niche? Some things (like the genesis of my dreams) are better left unanswered. —Justin Alvarez

I’m impressed by a twenty-eight-page examination of “The Endangered Semicolon” in the debut issue of Apology, Jesse Pearson’s new quarterly. It’s disheartening, though, to read that the semicolon is in decline, not least because it is my favorite punctuation mark—a fact that displeased Matt Sumell, who cheerfully rejected the suggested use of semicolons in his story for issue 200 (save two) and who wrote me recently with the sole purpose of informing me that he still doesn’t use semicolons. I pity him and Alexander Theroux, who bemoans in Apology the semicolon’s typographical imbalance (neither a colon nor a period) and its existence as a tentative mark, an “illicit and uneasy compromise.” Let others have the em dash, the period, the showy exclamation point. I’ll keep the semicolon, so adept at capturing a particular cadence, a curt melody. —Nicole Rudick Read More »

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WBAI Celebrates Issue 200

April 2, 2012 | by

Yesterday a whole bunch of us got up earlyish to talk shop with Janet Coleman on “The Next Hour.” Click here to hear Maggie Paley (“Terry Southern, The Art of Screenwriting”), Rowan Ricardo Philips (“Heralds of Delicioso Coco Helado”), Leanne Shapton (“Prose Purple”), Matt Sumell (“Toast”), John Jeremiah Sullivan (“The Princes”), Robyn Creswell, and Lorin Stein.

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Announcing Issue 200!

February 27, 2012 | by

It’s The Paris Review’s 200th issue, and that’s a big deal.

As if two hundred volumes of fiction, poetry, belles-lettres, and iconic interviews weren’t reason enough to celebrate, this one is something special, including: fiction by Lorrie Moore, David Means, and Matt Sumell; poetry by Adrienne Rich, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, and Frederick Seidel; essays by David Searcy, Geoff Dyer, and John Jeremiah Sullivan; and literary paint chips by Leanne Shapton and Ben Schott.

The Spring issue also contains a blockbuster interview with Bret Easton Ellis:

American Psycho came out of a place of severe alienation and loneliness and self-loathing. I was pursuing a life—you could call it the Gentleman’s Quarterly way of living—that I knew was bullshit, and yet I couldn’t seem to help it. American Psycho is a book about becoming the man you feel you have to be, the man who is cool, slick, handsome, effortlessly moving through the world, modeling suits in Esquire, having babes on his arm … On the surface, like Patrick Bateman, I had everything a young man could possibly want to be ‘happy’ and yet I wasn’t.

Plus, Maggie Paley’s interview with Terry Southern—in the works since 1967. Southern, asked what he would do with unlimited financial resources, replied:

First I would engage a huge but clever and snakelike “Blowing Machine,” and I would have it loaded with one ton of dog hair each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It would be brought up East Seventy-second Street to the very end, where it would poise itself outside George Plimpton’s house like a great dragon. Then, exactly when Katherine the Char had finished one room, the powerful, darting snout of the machine would rise up to the third floor windows and send a terrific blast of dog hair into the room—a quarter ton per room. I would observe her reaction—I have friends opposite—with a spyglass, room by room. The entire place would be foot-deep in dog hair, most of which however has not yet settled and has the effect of an Arctic blizzard. Then I would drop in—casually, not really noticing her hysteria, or that anything at all was wrong, just sort of complaining in a vague way, occasionally brushing at my sleeve, et cetera, speaking with a kind of weary petulance: “Really, Katherine, I do think you might be more ... uh, well, I mean to say ...” voice trailing away, attention caught by something else, a picture on the wall: “I say, that is an amusing print—is it new?” fixing her with a deeply searching look, so there could be no doubt at all as to my interest in the print. If this didn’t snap her mind I would give her several hundred thousand dollars—all in pennies. “Mr. Plimpton asked me to give you this, Katherine—each coin represents the dark seed of his desire for you.”

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