5 Questions with Matt Bell, Author of Scrapper

scrapperWe round out a big week of events at City Lights with the return of author Matt Bell to our bookstore. He’ll be reading from his new novel, Scrapper, published by Soho Press.

Event: Thursday, October 22, 7:00PM at City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco.

About the Book: Detroit has descended into ruin. Kelly scavenges for scrap metal from the hundred thousand abandoned buildings in a part of the city known as “the zone,” an increasingly wild landscape where one day he finds something far more valuable than the copper he’s come to steal: a kidnapped boy, crying out for rescue. Briefly celebrated as a hero, Kelly secretly avenges the boy’s unsolved kidnapping, a task that will take him deeper into the zone and into a confrontation with his own past and long-buried traumas.

The second novel from the acclaimed author of In the House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, Scrapper is a devastating re-imagining of one of America’s greatest cities, its beautiful architecture, its lost houses, shuttered factories, boxing gyms, and storefront churches. With precise, powerful prose, it asks: What do we owe for our crimes, even those we’ve committed to protect the people we love?

“A tale of hard emotions in a hard environment … Bell poses difficult, elemental questions about right and wrong and of what constitutes morality in a place where the usual rules don’t always apply. And, refreshingly, the answers his protagonist arrives at are neither easy nor expected.”–Library Journal starred review

About Matt Bell: Matt Bell’s first story collection, How They Were Found, was published in 2010 by Keyhole Press, and was reviewed in The BelieverAmerican Book Review, and Bookslut, among many other venues. In 2012, Cataclysm Baby, a novella, was published by Mud Luscious Press, with blurbs by Karen Russell, Lucy Corin, Lance Olsen, and Chris Bachelder. Bell’s fiction has been anthologized in Best American Mystery Stories 2010Best American Fantasy 2, and 30 Under 30: An Anthology of Innovative Fiction by Younger Writers, and shortlisted in Best American Short Stories 2010 and the Pushcart Prize anthology. Soho Press published his last novel In The House Upon The Dirt Between The Lake And The Woods in 2013. He serves as Senior Editor at Dzanc Books and teaches writing at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

matt bell new

City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit?

Matt Bell: I’ve been to City Lights twice, once to read from my last novel and once just to visit while I was in San Francisco. The first time was especially great, with [City Lights events coordinator] Peter Maravelis adapting part of my novel In the House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods into a shadow puppet play, which he performed while I read. It was one of the most memorable events I’ve ever been a part of, and I’m so grateful for City Lights for hosting it.

CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it be?

MB: I listened to M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming on the first day of writing Scrapper and on the last day. (And many days in-between.) Since they’re doing soundtracks now, it seems like they’d be just about perfect.

CL: What’s the first book you actually finished reading?

MB: It’s hard to remember the very first—I can’t really remember not being a reader—but the earliest book I can remember picking out and reading completely on my own was The Hobbit. I checked it out from my middle-school library, but they didn’t have The Lord of the Rings, which meant I begged my parents over and over to buy the rest of the books for me. I’ve got a very specific memory of standing in a bookstore, holding the three books and wanting to be home reading already.

CL: If you weren’t a writer, what might you do?

MB: I spent about ten years bartending and then managing restaurants, up until the month I started my MFA. I was writing then too but obviously not paying the bills that way. There’s probably a good chance I’d still be in a restaurant somewhere if grad school hadn’t intervened.

CL: Name a few things you’d require if stranded on a desert island for an undefined period of time (and, yes, no wifi). 

MB: I think I might be ready for a desert island break, no wifi and all. Sunscreen and a bottomless bucket of ice? I’d be willing to try scavenging for the rest.

Join us tonight for Matt Bell reading from his new novel Scrapper. There might be a puppet show part 2 but no promises!

For more about Matt, check out his official site and follow him on Twitter. Get his book at citylights.com, direct from Soho Press, or ask for it at your local independent bookseller. Check out our events calendar for more readings and conversations at City Lights Bookstore.

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