Thursday, March 8, 2012

An evening with Matt Ruff

So, last night I had the pleasure of hearing Matt Ruff read from and talk about his novel, The Mirage.  This is not the first time I've gone out to see Matt, and it's always worth the trip.  I've been reading his novels for, gosh, a very, very long time now.  I discovered him with the very bizarre Sewer, Gas, & Electric--which is still my favorite--and I've been a fan ever since.  (People who know me are nodding and saying, "Yes, Susan, we see the shark on the cover.")  He's not the most prolific writer, but that makes me value each of the novels even more.  Learning that a new book is about to be published is a real cause for celebration.

One of the most awesome thing's about Matt's work is that you never know what you're going to get.  So many writers revisit the same territory or the same themes.  In the worst cases, they rewrite the same novel over and over.  Not so here!  Each of his books is completely different.  But this book is really different from what's come before, one of several subjects I bring up with Matt in the Q & A session recorded below.

I haven't reviewed this novel yet (hopefully soon), but it's extraordinary.  There is so much going on, on so many levels!  I mean, it's a brilliantly realized alternate history, but it's also got an interesting thriller plot going on.  Plus, there's a fantastic element.  And a bit of a satirical edge.  What I'm trying to say is, there's a whole lot to think about here. 

Anyway, enough prattling from me.  In the film clip above, you'll see a few opening remarks Matt made before he began reading.  In the next three clips below, you'll hear him reading from the novel.  I'm afraid I cut off the first couple of words he spoke.  The opening sentence of the novel is, "This is the day the world changes."  I mean, it's an awesome opening line, and you should know what it is.  Also, I'm afraid there's a very brief gap between, I think, the second and third reading clip.  Sorry, quick battery change. 

These last two film clips are of the Q & A session after the reading. Given the unusualness of the story he's telling, I think this is especially interesting. You'll hear me ask a few questions on the tape, and truthfully, I could have discussed this book all night. (Actually, The Mirage would make a great book club selection, now that I think of it. In fact, it would be especially interesting read back to back with Amy Waldman's excellent post 9/11 novel, The Submission. Just a thought.) I got to ask the final question of the evening, "What are you working on next?" And Matt was unusually forthcoming about an idea he's been thinking about. I'm so glad I have this on tape, because one day I'm going to hold a book in my hands, and go back and listen to this germ of an idea.

I was sitting in the front row, so as better to hold up a Flip Cam right in this poor man's face. When I finally turned around to get in the signing line, I had some pleasant surprises. First was running into my friends Lynn & Evan, who I haven't seen in ages. And second was running into novelist S. G. (Scott) Browne. I run into Scott often enough that we chat whenever we see each other. I love that he comes out to support other authors on tour. As it happens, Scott will soon be on tour himself for the forthcoming Lucky Bastard, which is getting amazing advance reviews.  So, hopefully we'll have video of him on the blog in the not too distant future.

For now, anyone who needs a copy of this thought-provoking novel, I know where you can get a pristine signed copy... Feel free to contact my awesome friends at The Booksmith. Their customer service can not be beat, and--say it with me--we love to support our local independent booksellers!

And, if you're not familiar with Matt's work, maybe start by exploring his website, which has a lot of interesting content. Or just dive into the novel that intrigues you the most. I recommend them all.


  1. Susan, thanks so much for posting these videos. I attended the Borderlands event, and it's great to hear a different Q&A session.

    I was blown away by THE MIRAGE, and also by Waldman's THE SUBMISSION. I agree they'd make a great book club pairing.

  2. Fabulous post, Susan! I've got both BAD MONKEYS and MIRAGE in the TBR (I originally brought them home for my husband to read, but I've got plans to tackle them both sooner rather than later!).

  3. I'm so glad you both enjoyed the footage. And, yeah, Lisa, I had considered attending the Borderlands event as well, but didn't want to scare the poor man, LOL.