Matt Clark (writer)
Matt Clark (1967–1998) was a prolific short story writer and also the author of the novel, Hook Man Speaks. He held an MFA from Louisiana State University, and while a graduate student there, he was a fiction editor of the New Delta Review. He became the director of the graduate writing program at LSU at the age of 29, and he died of liver and colon cancer in 1998 at the age of 31.
His friends and fellow authors, Michael Griffith and Josh Russell, are responsible for continued efforts to bring his work to print. His fiction has appeared in The Alaska Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast, One Story, and Flyway.
Style and themes
Fascinated by tall tales and urban legends, Matt was in the process of inventing a very new kind of Southwest magical realism, part Mark Twain, part Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His most successful story was "The West Texas Sprouting of Loman Happenstance," which was optioned for film and is still in development. Celebrity Brent Spiner owns the rights and is thought to have written the screenplay.
Some notable characteristics in style: Matt's writing exemplifies a playful and absurd brand of wit. Words are often compounded for aesthetic value (squid-inky, chigger-bit, broom-spun, packmule-slapped). There is an exuberant and joyful quality to most of his work which manages even to linger during his explorations of darker themes. The Hook Man novel is steeped in nostalgia while also delivering smiles. A profound lover of art, Clark utilizes a kind of color palette in his stories; his imagery relies largely on hues which are described exquisitely. Art references abound.
His writings include several experiments with perspective. In "What I Know About Ham Ratchetslaw" the narrator and hero is actually a goat. In "Baton Rouge: A Doctor Story" the lens focuses in and out between the lives of several doctors and those of mere garden snails. "The Secret Heart of Christ" is simultaneously a story and not a story.
His magical-realist notions are seen most clearly in "The West Texas Sprouting of Loman Happenstance" which features a tribe of chameleons piling on top of one another and changing colors in order to recreate famous works of art and also in "What I Know About Ham Ratchetslaw, Trombonist" where a small town is literally besieged and encircled by thousands of hypnotized armadillos. Against this fantastic backdrop, characters are forced to examine their lives in very real and complex ways. Suppressed yearnings and spiritual deficiancies are revealed.
Geography is usually limited to the southwest region of the United States. Clark's fiction is set primarily in Texas, although he does stray to Louisiana and New Mexico on occasion.
- 2001 Hook Man Speaks
- 2006 "The Secret Heart of Christ" in American Short Fiction, vol. 9, issue 35, fall 2006. (UPDATE: 2008 - This story is newly published in a collection titled New Stories From The Southwest Edited by D. Seth Horton, page 10)
- 2006 "The Crowned Heads of Pecos" in the Southwest Review, vol. 91, no. 3, 2006
- 2006 "Ant Opera" in The Yalobusha Review, vol. XI, 2006.
- 2006 "Baton Rouge: A Doctor Story" in One Story issue number 70.
- 1999 "What I Know About Ham Ratchetslaw, Trombonist-by Clay Henry, World-Famous Beer Drinking Goat (Buy Me a Cold One Today at Inez's Trading Post, Lajitas, TX)" in Starting Rumors: America's Next Generation of Writers, page 97.
- 1998 "The West Texas Sprouting of Loman Happenstance" in Texas Bound Book II, page 49.
- - New Delta Review, Matt Clark Bio
- - New Delta Review, The Matt Clark Prize
- - One Story interview with Michael Griffith and Josh Russell