Last Wednesday night City Lights celebrated the release of rising fiction star Matt Bell’s new SoHo press novel, In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods. Matt read an especially prepared premutation of bits of his novel as Red Boat Opera (fronted by City Lights’ own Peter Maravelis) performed with shadow puppet accompaniment. Matt and Peter had a discussion afterwards followed by a lively q&a from the audience. A delightful time was had by all.
In this epic, mythical debut novel, a newly-wed couple escapes the busy confusion of their homeland for a distant and almost-uninhabited lakeshore. They plan to live there simply, to fish the lake, to trap the nearby woods, and build a house upon the dirt between where they can raise a family. But as their every pregnancy fails, the child-obsessed husband begins to rage at this new world: the song-spun objects somehow created by his wife’s beautiful singing voice, the giant and sentient bear that rules the beasts of the woods, the second moon weighing down the fabric of their starless sky, and the labyrinth of memory dug into the earth beneath their house.
This novel, from one of our most exciting young writers, is a powerful exploration of the limits of parenthood and marriage—and of what happens when a marriage’s success is measured solely by the children it produces, or else the sorrow that marks their absence.