Review: Matt Bell’s CATACLYSM BABY

Here is a novel(la) (as it’s described) which operates in a variety of interesting, mesmerizing, and all-around beautiful ways. A novel(la) consisting of 26 “short stories” (a term I’ll use here, but I could just as soon use the word “chapters”), all describing the end of days for our sad planet, and all of them doing so by way of fatherly position. 26 “stories” about strange, animalistic children — or sometimes adults — struggling in a new and near-dead world. Among them exists a child composed almost entirely of skin-flaps, a father who carves his old family out of tree stumps, and a number  of children nearly animal.

I can’t say enough about the language. First, almost every “story” pulls itself forward in a sort of list form. Paragraphs start with phrases like “Know how” or “And then,” which creates a fascinating rhythm without tiring itself out. The descriptions are both grotesque and astoundingly beautiful at the same time, much like Bell’s collection How They Were Found (think peeling oranges, think parts of wolves). As the “stories” progress (and they are organized by way of alphabetically listing names, so 26), the language changes slightly, sounding more and more like they were written in the 19th century, and the fathers, none of them the same, become more and more desperate. This is what pulls the book forward.

  • Before I ramble on too long in what’s supposed to be a micro-review, just check out this sample from JMWW. I think it does justice to what I’ve been trying to get at.
  • To summarize: I highly recommend this book.

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