Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Matthew Dicks

Matthew Dicks is the author of the novels Something Missing and the forthcoming Unexpectedly, Milo. An elementary school teacher, he was named West Hartford’s Teacher of the Year in 2005 and was a finalist for Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year.

A week ago I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
My admittedly poor attention span demands that I read more than one book at a time, so right now I’m rotating through three different books.

I’m close to finishing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. When I’m working on a book, as I am now, I often find myself unable to read fiction, as the voice of the narrator threatens to blend in with my own, especially when the narrative voice is especially strong. But I’ve read Pride and Prejudice before, and this book honors the original text to such a degree that it’s been more of an amusement and a novelty than a genuine dip into a new story. The concept is ingenious, the interweaving of zombies into the original story is brilliant, and it’s simply a lot of fun to read. I’m left wondering if high school English teachers might benefit from replacing the original text with this one when faced with a class full of reluctant readers. The story exists enough in its original form to credit Austen as an author, but it may have just enough “zombie mayhem” to keep a disinterested student engaged.

I’ve just begun reading Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. It’s an interesting and oftentimes hilarious peek into the world of the dead. It’s not often that one finds a non-fiction text which handles such new and fascinating material in such an engaging and humorous way. I just started the book a couple days ago and find myself unable to put it down.

I am also in the middle of The Ex-Boyfriend Cookbook, which is odd considering I don’t actually cook. I picked this book up at a used bookstore a few years ago and have recently been taking it with me to signings and speaking engagements and recommending it to audiences, though finding a copy anywhere except online might be difficult. It’s a clever little book written by Erin Ergenbright and Thisbe Nissen, and it consists of a collection of recipes that the authors picked up from ex-boyfriends throughout their lives. Each recipe begins with a description of the man from whom the recipe was derived, as well as a summary of the relationship. I pay no attention to the actual recipes but adore the stories about the guys and the relationships that these women had with them, and the design of the pages, which all include collage (much of it actual artifacts from the women’s’ relationships with the men), is terrific.

I should also mention that I’m reading Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut, but I have been reading this book for more than ten years and hardly count it in my reading total anymore. When Vonnegut announced his retirement in 1997, I realized that Timequake was the last new Vonnegut novel that I would ever read, and as such, I never wanted it to end. Kurt Vonnegut is far and away my favorite author, and the thought that I would never encounter another one of his stories for the first time saddened me tremendously. So I vowed to extend Timequake, which I had already started reading, for as long as possible, by reading only a page or two a week but rereading as much as I wanted. It’s been more than ten years since this vow and I am now closing in on the end of the book. Since the announcement of his retirement, Vonnegut went on to publish several books of essays and short stories, including two posthumously, but Timequake remains his final novel, and one that I will continue to stretch out as long as possible.
Visit Matthew Dicks' website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue