Saturday, December 28, 2019

Thoughts on books I read in 2019

I wrote one of these year-end wrap-up posts in 2015. That was a huge reading year, volume-wise. I bet I read 40 novels. And I had an awkward conversation with James Ellroy, too.

This year, I only rated 19 books on Goodreads. And two of them - Mary Monster and Camille - were my own. (Spoiler alert, I gave them five stars.)

Point being, when I talk about the books I read in 2019, I'm talking about a pretty short list. However, two of the novels on that list are Gravity's Rainbow and Infinite Jest. So I bet I read as many words as ever. They just added up to fewer books.

I think about this all the time. Life is so finite. Is it better to use two months finishing eight clever crime thrillers or reading one literary masterpiece that (as readers of either of the two aforementioned novels will tell you) doesn't finish at all, in the conventional sense of the term?

Reading Gravity's Rainbow was a bit like going for a long run. I'm glad I did it, but I'm also glad it's over. I can now say I've read Pynchon's most difficult novel in all its disturbing glory. The highs were so high, but the lows, man... There is some sick stuff in there.

There's some sickness in Infinite Jest, too. It's a whole book about sickness, in fact. About our modern sickness: our obsessive need to be distracted. Some satisfy it through alcoholism. Others through seduction. And others through devotion to a cause, a sport or an entertainment. But all this sickness is surrounded by so much love, humor, and Wallace's empathy for all these broken people. Infinite Jest is maybe the only book I've ever read that made me want to be a better human.

I also read some Big Important American Novels like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Some genre thrillers like Head Full of Ghosts. Some European satire like Submission. And some modern stylists like Jonathan Lethem, who wrote the single most devastating sentence I've ever read, "We only feel we're floating because we're forever falling." I stared into my drink for a good 10 minutes after I read those words.

Perhaps the non-Infinite Jest book I remember best is The Elementals by Michael McDowell. In The Elementals, the heat is a character, the same way the cold was a character in Hold the Dark. In both books, the weather is an ever-present metaphor for meaninglessness and memory, for all the things you can't ever, ever escape. McDowell's Alabama coast is the loneliest, wettest, hottest place in the world. The heat weighs you down. The heat slows you down. In the end, the heat decides if you live or die.

Maybe I just have a thing for the weather.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Indie Reader reviews Mary Monster

This is one of those reviews where you get the feeling that if people'd just read it, surely they'd give your work a shot.

Writing a horror novel that plays off a seminal classic of the genre is a huge risk, but Matt Ingwalson does more than a credible job of pulling the feat off in MARY MONSTER. Rather than focus on her most famous literary work, Ingwalson instead brings Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley forward as both monster and creator... An interesting premise and a well-done presentation wrapped in a horror novel, MARY MONSTER is an engaging, fun and thoughtful critique of the creative process and relationship between artists and inspiration.

If that's enough to grab your attention, here's the link.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

We Can Build a Colorado for Kids

I am so proud of the teams at Heinrich and Bionic Giant for making this video real. And so grateful for our clients, who guided us, inspired us, and gave us the chance to be a part of this effort.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Sever, The Perfume All At Once and Mary Monster. And The Witch.

There are days when I think Sever is the best thing I've ever published. It's a novella about a tiny college town that's inexplicably set upon by four ax murderers. Sever is a long and extremely bloody metaphor for growing up. For saying goodbye to the consequence-free days of college and accepting adulthood.

The novella is narrated by one of its only survivors, a Finny-like character named Leo. His perspective is extremely limited. He's just a 21-year-old guy, mostly decent but kind of self-involved in the way college kids usually are.

A year later, I wrote an unsettling short story about three teenage witches. The powerful Rapathia, the devious Josephine, and the unreliable narrator Camille, who is possibly a homicidal lunatic. This story obviously existed in the Sever universe. (Leo actually makes a cameo.) But there was a problem. In Sever, the witches meet an inglorious and abrupt end. For the two pieces to coexist, there had to be more to the story.

Something Leo couldn't see.

So, with my short story as my first chapter, I started writing. How did the witches get to Epshire? How do they interact with the various ax murders? And what really happened the night of the final ritual?

At some point, I decided my witches existed in the same universe as Robert Eggers' brilliant film The Witch, which makes this new novella fan fiction, in a way. But instead of Black Phillip, the devil deer from Mary Monster showed up. And like that, everything became connected.

This new novella is neither a sequel or a prequel to Sever. It's the same series of events told from the reverse perspective. It'll probably take me a few months to get it edited and published. But right now, I'm just high on finishing a rough draft.

Sever will be free from April 2 to April 6. So if you haven't read it, now's the time.

Monday, March 4, 2019

One reader's lyric is another reader's labor

Kirkus's review of Mary Monster isn't always positive, but it's fair. And anytime anyone compares me to Thomas Pynchon, I'll take it.
In this ambitious novel, Ingwalson’s (The Baby Monitor, 2017, etc.) prose slips in and out of Otis’ Mancunian dialect, flecked with rich allusions to rock, literature, and various Colorado locales. Otis’ voice is noirish in a way that will strike some readers as lyric and others as a bit labored... This is an elegant mystery in the mode of Thomas Pynchon or Jonathan Lethem, invested more in the journey than the outcome.
As an example of "labored" prose, the reviewer offers this, from my novel's third chapter:
For a few seconds I stared back, my eyes gone black as cats as I surveyed the silk of her neck. This one’s world had been night for far too long. She’d never seen a beach, she’d never cared for light. A streetlamp kicked on and it made her flesh milk-flesh.
Which is fine. If you don't like that, I'd urge you not to buy this book. Because the whole thing is like that. I swung for the fences on this one. I regret nothing.

Monday, February 25, 2019

What True Detective does that most mysteries don't

There are mysteries like Burning, which suggest that all mysteries are inherently layered, ultimately unknowable and perhaps even meaningless.

Then there are mysteries like, well, most mysteries, which would have us believe that dogged humans are capable of divining and articulating correct solutions.

And then there's True Detective, which suggests that mysteries are solvable, but humans lack the imagination to define them, the courage to pursue them, and the acuity to recognize the solution if we ever even find it. And yet we're incapable of walking away from them. We chase mysteries because they give our pathetic, circular lives structure and story.

It just wrecks me. Every single season.

Monday, January 21, 2019

I am publishing my unpublishable novel

Tomorrow is the drop date for Mary Monster. You can pre-order it right now, if you're so inclined.

I blogged before that my novel might be an unmarketable mashup of noir mystery, gothic lit, rock fetishism and supernatural suspense. Sure enough, I spent six months trying to find an agent. I got a few bites. A couple even sent me personal letters complimenting my voice. But in the end, no one was willing to rep it.

I'm not willing to let Mary Monster die on my hard drive. So I'm self-publishing it.

In a way, I think that's how it should've been all along. This is a personal book. A passion project. A book I wrote for me.