A HalfMan Dreaming
“In ‘A HalfMan Dreaming,’ David Matlin activates the American unconscious, probing landscapes and memories that are tender, frightening, and unforgettable. Through a kind of literary genetic exploration, Matlin illuminates the origins, the journey and the condition of the American continent and its peoples.” -Junior Burke
“This long awaited second volume in David Matlin’s epic trilogy about the beauty and violence of the American landscape and its inhabitants continues to probe and expand the terrain we have seen in his musical and powerful first novel, How the Night is Divided.
Here, we find ourselves in the middle of a story told by Lupe, a protagonist who is taken from the world of rose farms and egg ranchers in post-World War Two America, from a town haunted by the Enola Gay and the Bomb, to prison in Detroit.
A HalfMan Dreaming is the American book like no other—the only living contemporary that comes to mind when one considers the seriousness of the study of American landscape and its painful history is Eduardo Galeano, the great Latin American author. Like him, Matlin is able to weave together many very different threads and myths—Jewish and Native American—and the story of this land and its wars. But in violence, there is also a beautiful music: “Burned will be the birds. Burned will be the sands of the sea. Burst will be the wells. Burst will be the count of days. Burst will be the count of nights.”
Unlike Galeano however, Matlin works in a prolonged narrative form; he invokes the ghost of Hawthorne and Melville in his obsessive investigation of this haunted landscape that survives past the dreamtime of its inhabitants.
The result is the “ability to render and shape an uncontrollable nightmare, give it a revered magnolia.” In this work of luminous prose, terrifying and gorgeous, David Matlin has found a new form for a narrative, and has given that form the tale of empathy, sensuality and great depth.” -Ilya Kaminsky
“Matlin’s astonishing new novel, A HalfMan Dreaming, is a book unlike any other. Moving back and forth across time and space, synthesizing vast quantities of scientific, anthropological, and cultural materials, Matlin dreams into existence an apocalyptic storyline that takes his narrator, Lupe, from a childhood encounter with the Enola Gay on the edge of the Californian desert, to the Mekong jungles of the 60s, to the streets, bars, and factories of Detroit. Unsettling in its poetic intensity and flaunting of novelistic conventions, and often frightening in the ferocity of its depiction of America’s voracious, seemingly insatiable blood lust, Matlin’s novel also movingly depicts one man’s struggle to move outside the derangements of history.”-Larry McCaffery, Editor of STORMING THE REALITY STUDIO and AFTER YESTERDAY’S CRASH: THE AVANT-POP ANTHOLOGY.
“At its simplest this is a story of a Mexican-American kid grown up under the shadow of the atomic bomb, trying to find his way out of the maze of violence and racism of the desert of post-Second World War southern California. But this is a novel that aims to be more than a novel and risks being less than a novel as Lupe embarks on a quest that takes him through history, archaeology and mythology in his search for the ground of his own and America’s violence. Anyone who has noted the dark stain spreading through our contemporary world will conclude it was worth the risk.” -David Antin, Poet, Critic
“David Matlin’s place in a sparsely-occupied zone of literary excellence and accomplishment is secured by his new novel; A HalfMan Dreaming is a Melville-ian quest to discover the Leviathan heart of America’s love affair with death and destruction. A totally absorbing, harrowing tale of growing up in a post-war 1950s that leads inexorably to a state of continuous serial conflicts, both foreign and domestic, propelled by a culture of martial-products-driven prosperity, haunted by the country’s ruthless, bloody history. A HalfMan Dreaming confronts all its hard truths with a lyrical intensity and rhetorical pyrotechnics, through its population of articulate memorable characters. Matlin’s entertaining and unnerving novel is my first pick for one of the best novels of the year.” -William O’Rourke, author of Notts, Criminal Tendencies, and Idle Hands
“Who else but David Matlin dares, nowadays, to write prose with such grandeur and capaciousness? -- much less to put it at the service of character. His protagonist Lupe is rough and real, personal and intimate, a man who's been to war and jail, and at the same time an immensity, embedded in history, prehistory and even -- in some of the novel's most gorgeous passages -- in paleogeology. His voice is hypnotic, likewise the story it tells. Matlin knows American prisons and has pondered richly their inevitable place in a terrestrial food chain where young men considered otherwise dispensable are trained to kill. A Half Man Dreaming is a brilliant book, and, for all its full diapasons, hard to put down.” -Jaimy Gordon, winner of the National Book Award in Fiction in 2010 for Lord of Misrule
“Stunning. Explosive. A HalfMan Dreaming is a journey of anguish, endurance and redemption in a brutal world where violence, racism and corruption flourish. Ghosts of war haunt veterans and survivors whose minds are imprisoned by the atrocities they witnessed or committed. With a poet-historian’s imagination, knowledge, love of words and with delicious attention to detail David Matlin delves into real and imagined landscapes and voices that passionately inhabit the land. Passages from historical texts, poetic notebooks, dreams, drawings and letters expand and illuminate the journey.”-Marilyn Stablein