Jack Matthews (author)

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Jack Matthews (John Harold Matthews)
Jack-matthews-author-profile.jpg
Born July 22, 1925
Columbus, Ohio, Ohio, United States
Died 28 November 2013(2013-11-28) (aged 88)
Occupation Short-story writer, novelist, essayist,
Nationality American
Period 1965–present
Genre philosophical fiction, historical fiction
Notable works Hanger Stout Awake (novel), Sassafras (novel), Gambler's Nephew (Novel), Crazy Women (Short Stories)
Website
www.ghostlypopulations.com

Jack Matthews (22 July 1925 – 28 November 2013) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright and former professor. He published 7 novels, 7 collections of short stories, a novella, and 8 volumes of essays. He was an avid book collector, and many of his book finds served as a basis for his essays and the historical topics he explored in his fiction. His 1972 novel The Charisma Campaigns was nominated by Walker Percy for the National Book Award.[1] He has often made 19th century America and the Civil War period the setting for his fiction, starting with his 1981 novel Sassafras and most recently with the 2011 novel Gambler's Nephew (which tells the story of how an abolitionist accidentally kills an escaped slave). His plays have been performed at multiple theaters around the country.

Life[edit]

Jack Matthews (born John Harold Matthews) was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1925. According to a 2009 interview,[2] Matthews "had a wonderful childhood and didn’t know there was a Depression. My father was an attorney, born on a farm in Gallia County, Ohio, who studied law under a country judge, passed the bar and eventually had his own law firm in Columbus." He served with the Coast Guard between 1943-5, working as "a radioman on the Coast Guard Cutter Maclaine in the North Pacific, on anti-submarine patrol out of Sitka & Juneau. It was wonderful, for this was the very sea that Wolf Larsen (a character from the [Sea-Wolf]) sailed in." According to a biographical profile written by critic Stanley Lindberg,[3] Matthews studied at Ohio State University in Columbus between 1945-9 and 1952-4 where he received a B.A. in classics and English in 1949; in 1954 he received his M.A. in English from the same university. After college,[4] Matthews worked at various jobs that “gave me an excuse to knock on doors.” That included selling things door to door as a Fuller Brush Man and selling encyclopedias. For a short time he worked as a private detective and later as a produce warehouseman. While he and wife were raising two daughters, he worked 9 years with the Post Office on afternoons and nights; that gave him time to write and attend graduate classes in the morning. During the 1950s he worked as a post office clerk, and from 1959, he started teaching at various colleges. He was associate professor, 1959–62, and professor of English, 1962–64, Urbana College, Ohio; associate professor, 1964–70, Distinguished Writer-in-Residence, Wichita State University, Kansas, 1970-71. From 1971-77 he was professor of English and since 1978 Distinguished Professor, Ohio University, Athens.

Matthews was married for over 60 years to his wife Barbara. With Barbara, he had three children - John Harold III, Barbara Ellen (Barbiel), and Cynthia Ann.[5] His daughter Barbiel Matthews-Saunders has done cover artwork for many of his fiction titles—including most of his recent ebooks.

Recent Work[edit]

After teaching creative writing and critical approaches to fiction and drama over a period of 4 decades at Ohio University, he retired in the last decade, but has taught writing classes part-time and devoted his energies to writing novels and stories. In 2011 he published A Worker's Writebook (a 75,000 word fiction writing guide which he used to hand out to his students) and Gambler's Nephew (a historically accurate story about how an accidental killing of a slave in 19th century United States affects various families and communities). Claire Blechman, reviewing it for Ploughshares[6] said, "For a story focused on morality and rife with violence, The Gambler’s Nephew is surprisingly light-hearted. Many contemporary authors try to make you writhe under the weight of heavy philosophical issues, but Matthews would rather you shake your head and give a small smile."

Also, in March 2012, an early work Hanger Stout, Awake! was republished as an ebook. According to the ebook publisher's information,[7] "Time Magazine described it as a 'gentle first novel told with a fine ear for adolescent patois,' and National Book Award winning poet William Stafford called it one of the most neglected works of the 20th century. Southern novelist Eudora Welty said about the book: 'I like it, and warmly admire his sturdy subject and delicately restrained treatment. It seemed to me blessed with honesty, clarity, directness, proportion and a lovely humor. . . .' The novella tells the story of Clyde Stout, a high school graduate in a small Ohio town who discovers he has a new talent: the ability to hang from a metal bar longer than anybody.

In Spring, 2013, Personville Press published an audio performance of Interview with the Sphinx and an ebook version of the script. The ebook of the script contains a slightly revised version of the original 1992 script (which is 1 act) and an expanded 2012 version (which is 2 act). According to the play's introduction (reprinted on the author's site),[8] the original script calls for two characters (the Interviewer and the Sphinx), while the expanded version calls for 2 additional characters (Sigmund Freud and Florence Nightingale) who serve as a kind of Greek chorus. In a video interview,[9] Matthews says he got the original idea for the play after writing an article in the 1960s for the CEA Critic arguing that Oedipus did not actually solve the riddle of the Sphinx. He said in the video, "The play itself isn't exactly about that; it's about the Sphinx herself as a kind of force of nature, as a demonic character and as an utterly fascinating woman."

The author's website [10] announced in early 2013 that Personville Press would be publishing 4 new short story collections by Mr. Matthews. (The last short story collection published was in 1993). The first collection (titled Soldier Boys and scheduled for publication in early Spring 2014) "depicts how ordinary Civil War soldiers deal with the rigors of war and have to confront life-and-death questions". The second collection (titled Abruptions: 5 Minute Tales to Awaken the Mind and scheduled to be published in late 2014) is a collection of flash fiction or prose poems (under the pseudonym Matt Hughes) which Matthews has been writing over the last decade. The third collection,[11] Second Death of Edgar Allen Poe and other Stories is a "Borgesian collection of stories, full of twists, plots and narrative tricks". The fourth collection, Boxes of Time is a "collection of stories written over the decades which have appeared in various literary magazines".

According to the author's website,[12] Nine Point Publishing announced plans to publish in late 2014 a print version of Schopenhauer's Will, a work which for a long time could not find a publisher in the US, but was first translated into Czech and published in Europe by H & H Press. In a 2009 interview,[12] Matthews said "the book is somewhat freakish — not exactly fiction, biography or philosophy, but a mélange of all of these (with a one-act play thrown in)."

Awards[edit]

  • Florence Roberts Head award, 1967
  • Quill award (Massachusetts Review, Amherst), 1967;
  • Guggenheim Fellowship, 1974
  • Ohio Arts Council Grants (including a $50,000 Major Artist Award for 1989-90)
  • Ohio University Research Foundation Grants
  • Stories in The Best American Short Stories [various years], Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards [various years], and other anthologies
  • The Sherwood Anderson Award
  • Nomination for the NBA Fiction Award in 1972 for The Charisma Campaigns
  • Honorary Paul Harris Fellowship Award in 2013 awarded for service to Athens Rotary Club

Interviews, Audio Interviews and Multimedia[edit]

Works[edit]

References[edit]