In this debut collection, Matt Bell draws from a wide range of genres to create stories that are both formally innovative and imaginatively rich In one, a th century minister follows ghostly instructions to build a mechanical messiah In another, a tyrannical army commander watches his apocalyptic command slip away as the memories of his men begin to fade and fail Elsewhere, murders are indexed, new worlds are mapped, fairy tales are fractured and retold and then fractured againThroughout these thirteen stories, Bell s careful prose burrows at the foundations of his characters lives until they topple over, then painstakingly pores over the wreckage for what rubbled humanity might yet remain to be found


10 thoughts on “How They Were Found

  1. Richard Richard says:

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers To view it, click here Matt Bell s collection of short stories defies classification Bell experiments with structure For example, Her Ennead, in which a woman comes to terms with a mysterious phenomenon, is like a prose poem in nine stanzas The title is an important clue to both the theme and the structure, but I m not going to tell you everything, or I will spoil the author s elaborately constructed little joke Stop grinning like that, Matt And Ten Scenes from a Movie Called Mercy, explores the connection Matt Bell s collection of short stories defies classification Bell experiments with structure For example, Her Ennead, in which a woman comes to terms with a mysterious phenomenon, is like a prose poem in nine stanzas The title is an important clue to both the theme and the structure, but I m not going to tell you everything, or I will spoil the author s elaborately constructed little joke Stop grinning like that, Matt And Ten Scenes from a Movie Called Mercy, explores the connection between written narrative and film and does it about as successfully as one can do without resorting to a multimedia presentation But perhaps the most daring feat is the last story An Index of How Our Family was Killed is presented in a series of entries reminiscent of Flaubert s Dictionary of Received Ideas.Bell also tries various genres The Cartographer s Girl is a nostalgic love story that tears at the heartstrings His other tales about male female relations can get much darker however In The Leftover, Allison contemplates how her life might have turned out had circumstances in her life been different but this isn t a feel good Jimmy Stewart film Dredge is evenextreme, as Punter s obsession with a girl becomes absolutely chilling And guys, once you read Mantodea, you ll think twice about picking up chicks in bars Wolf Parts is a re interpretation of a well known children s story, but to call it a fractured fairy tail tale would be doing it an injustice Bell explores alternative scenarios and endings that were unexpected even for me And I m saying this as someone who has seen an entire book devoted to the analysis and various versions of the Red Riding Hood story.And there are some rather bleak but fascinating post apocalyptic stories The Receiving Tower is the story of a man pitted against a grim environment, a tyrannical superior and a mysterious phenomenon which obstructs his search for truth His Last Great Gift tells the tragic tale of a prophet guided by mysterious forces and misunderstood by nearly everyone around him.Finally, Bell experiments with narrative voice In The Receiving Tower, there is a good attempt to reflect the narrator s growing confusion The first person narrative voice may be a little too articulate in fact, but the story succeeds nonetheless Another confused protagonist shows us how he tries his best to figure out the rules of a cruel game in Hold on to your Vacuum In Ten Scenes and The Collectors, parts of the stories are told in the second person to excellent effect And in some of the other stories, especially Dredge, the detached third person narrative voice adds to the impact.This collection of short stories, though not without some minor technical faults, is brilliantly executed in vigorous and often poetic prose It is an ambitious undertaking and it is experimental in the best sense of the word


  2. Kris Kris says:

    This is a fantastic collection of short stories Matt Bell shows a great deal of range in styles and settings from the OuLiPo influenced An Index of How Our Family Was Killed, to the extended and subdued horror of The Receiving Tower, from the fantastically rearranged story of Red Riding Hood in Wolf Parts, to the nightmarish story of the Collyer brothers, historical hoarders extraordinaire, in The Collectors As a writer of short fiction, Matt Bell contains multitudes The range of t This is a fantastic collection of short stories Matt Bell shows a great deal of range in styles and settings from the OuLiPo influenced An Index of How Our Family Was Killed, to the extended and subdued horror of The Receiving Tower, from the fantastically rearranged story of Red Riding Hood in Wolf Parts, to the nightmarish story of the Collyer brothers, historical hoarders extraordinaire, in The Collectors As a writer of short fiction, Matt Bell contains multitudes The range of the worlds he creates in this collection, and the consistently high level at which he is writing throughout, are impressive I raced through the collection, and am planning to re read it soon Recommended to adventurous readers willing to go wherever Bell takes them


  3. Greg Greg says:

    insert my usual preamble about my eh ness about short story collections That said, again, this book has some of the problems I normally have with short story collections, but there is a difference Where too many authors have story collections that end up blending into what is basically the same story just told a bunch of different ways with some different characters and things happening and they might all seem different on the surface they are just treading on the same ground See for example insert my usual preamble about my eh ness about short story collections That said, again, this book has some of the problems I normally have with short story collections, but there is a difference Where too many authors have story collections that end up blending into what is basically the same story just told a bunch of different ways with some different characters and things happening and they might all seem different on the surface they are just treading on the same ground See for example the suburban familial angst authors, or the great but basically unhappy, drunk and smoking stories of say Raymond Carver, or the set something up so that there can be a ironic O Henry esque twist sort of story These are just a few types, the science fiction story can be thrown in here, the George Sauders esque surreal story, the edgy drinkin druggin fightin fuckin of the Bukowski descendants, etc It s not the authors fault that so many collections have stories that just blend into one another, it s just that they have this authorial voice and well it s the same voice in most of the stories, even if sometimes they are holding something in front of their mouth to get it to sound a little different This collection isn t like that Matt Bell takes on a variety of different types of stories, he takes from different genres and while there is a voice that runs through most of these stories, it feels like each story is an attempt at doing something formally different The tone of most of the stories is fairly bleak, the world either the whole world, or just the personal world of the characters seems quite often on the brink of total destruction, but how he gets to these points varies When an author keeps trying new things though sometimes some of the attempts are going to fail with certain readers well with me, maybe you will love all the stories Maybe you will hate them When the collection is at its low points the reading isn t unenjoyable or tedious, it s justof a why do I care about this But since they are only short stories and I have a fairly decent attention span I can keep going through twenty pages of I m not really loving this, I can t get into this, or whatever goes on in my head when I m reading something that isn t fully engaging without getting angry at the book for not delivering one hundred percent pure unadulterated Entertainment To be fair, the stories I liked least were the ones, I didn t get The ones that didn t seem to have an opening for me to squeeze understanding into I m not always the best reader, I read sometimes in less than optimal conditions, like squeezed into a subway car during rush hour, so it s quite possible I could have enjoyed the storiesif I gave themattention Sometimes, too, the stories that I wasn t enjoying too much for say the first half orcame together in a satisfying way towards the end But why dwell on the negative This collection has some really great stories in it, and they are worth reading this book to get to I just took a short break from writing this review to leaf through the book, and I realized that I likedof the stories than I thought I did Even ones that I thought were only so so when I first read them, looking back at the titles and leafing through the pages I realized that they almost all had some great moment, and with the longest and maybe most so so story clocking in at just under forty pages, it s an impressive feat that there are so many awesome moments in such a small number of pages 13 stories, 238 pages.Why can t I be one of those reviewers who do a great job with short story collections Why can t I muster up the energy to review each story Why must I just turn every review into a tedious exercise of vomiting everything insignificant thought I have onto the page to be posted unedited Fuck.Still with me My favorite story in the collection is probably the last one Which surprises me a little bit because it s not really a story in the traditional sense An index of How Our Family Was Killed is just what the title promises, it s an index about a family of five that has had three of its members murdered, separately It s an index of trying to understand what happened and how to continue surviving when you re part of a family that has a tendency to get killed violently Insurance, policies, as in, Good luck getting one, if you re me They never tell you that being from a family of murder victims is a risk factor, but it is.The whole story is just an alphabetical list of what could be the index for a personal dealing with tragedy It s a list composed with what I kept thinking of as an Oulipo sort of constraints, it s alphabetical and it manages to unfold a story through mere pointers that generally destroy the rule of show don t tell, it tells just enough to spark the imagination to make up its own narrative to support this index At moments when reading this I was amazed at the construction, maybe I was giving the formal aspects too much credit, and maybe these entries could have been jumbled up in any order and basically done the same thing, but I like to think that there is a careful unfolding here and there is a part of me that loves shit like this, just because it s tough enough to tell a good story, it s evendifficult when you have to tell the story plus keep everything within some narrow range of what you can or can t do Most of the other stories aretraditional than this one, quite often they have some post modern or meta fiction playing around going on, but they could be looked at by an average reader and be recognized as a story I m really sorry I m not the sort of reviewer who reviews each story in a collection, I think this book does deserve that kind of treatment, but I m just too lazy.I have no idea where I m going with this review Maybe one day I ll try to make it better, but probably not The collection is better than this review Resist denouement, resist the solving of mysteries and the revealing of truths, because it is only through these that you may be judged.


  4. Paul Bryant Paul Bryant says:

    The burly man finishes his can of beer and wonders aloud why there s a dead girl in the fridge The wolf tells him what do you expect at this time of the year, sirloin They continue to leaf through the latest catalogue of lawn furniture which arrived that morning No let s for once resist the ventriloquial delights of cheap parody Instead let s say this collection has four great stories in it, which is fourthan a lot of other books you could mention, and a sprinkling of ones which fra The burly man finishes his can of beer and wonders aloud why there s a dead girl in the fridge The wolf tells him what do you expect at this time of the year, sirloin They continue to leaf through the latest catalogue of lawn furniture which arrived that morning No let s for once resist the ventriloquial delights of cheap parody Instead let s say this collection has four great stories in it, which is fourthan a lot of other books you could mention, and a sprinkling of ones which frankly left me slightly irritated as they appear to have been delivered by those jokers at Dial a Weird Express Literary Deliveries Like a woman who split up with Jeff, her boyfriend, but kind of misses him, finds that a non speaking four foot version of him has moved into her apartment Really Little Jeff appears to be composed of all the bad habits she got normal sized Jeff to quit, like smoking and dropping underwear all over the place But hey, she loves little Jeff and she s so glad he s there He s great in bed too, except when he keeps on shrinking Okay, this must be some kind of extended metaphor all about people persisting in changing their partners behaviour to the point where they become so bland and boring they don t like them any , but I dunno, it was just silly And philosophical feminist rewritings of Little Red Riding Hood just make me pull out tufts of hair and grind my molars There are about five of that sort but the four great ones are some of the best things I read all year This has been such a good year for discovering new American short story writers, from the red meat of meth death hick lit to the further edge of goggling trippy fancypants I can t tell you how throbbingly jealous I am of the bounding vitality of current American writing My favourites Hold on to your VacuumDredge I guess many writers like to do a necrophilia story, from Poe to H P Lovecraft to Barbara Gowdy to Cormac McCarthy etc, but this one was creepy to the max The Collectors this was about real life Homer Langley Collyer, exactly the same as in Homer and Langley by E L Doctorow don t know which came first A bit like when Antz and A Bug s Life came out at the same time Anyway, a really beautifully written story about rotting, decay and putrescence Mmmmm An Index of How Our Family Was Killed the old index as short story idea already done very well by Borges Ballard Perec but yes, done crackingly well here So get this from the library read the above four Or maybe e readers let you download individual stories like on iTunes you can buy specific tracks and not the whole album I don t know but it seems logical


  5. Tanuj Solanki Tanuj Solanki says:

    Problems with Notes about How They Were Found 1 How They Were Found has been touted for its originality It is not as original as it is in fact a search for originality One can call it experimental, but its experiments are not the experiments of an wizened scientist This is a young lad mixing chemicals in his basement lab.2 The stories that deal with love, loss, and the responses to loss, connected the most with this reader In the opening story, Cartographer s Girl, written with a bala Problems with Notes about How They Were Found 1 How They Were Found has been touted for its originality It is not as original as it is in fact a search for originality One can call it experimental, but its experiments are not the experiments of an wizened scientist This is a young lad mixing chemicals in his basement lab.2 The stories that deal with love, loss, and the responses to loss, connected the most with this reader In the opening story, Cartographer s Girl, written with a balance and restraint that is commendable, a guy commences to make a mental actual map of the landmarks of his relationship with a girl who has left him for her own difficult reasons The imposition of the cartographer s lexicon and the extension of the metaphor works, but it does not hide the fact that there is not much of a story to tell in the first place One wonders if Bell just started with the idea of a cartographer, and focused only on executing the idea, rather than ever writing a decent enough story In the other story on a similar theme, The Leftovers, two young post break up lovers learn how they have devastated each other through a magical real trope, in which they renew their affections with a smaller, silent,original version of each other Once again, while accepting the strength of Bell s talent, the reader is forced to ask the question Why the insertion Why not the story itself 3 Experiments, innovations, contraints anything that shifts form away from the linear narrative makes it easier for the young writer to create because it is difficult in most cases for this writer to write great stuff in the organic Alice Munro manner.4 Consider the Oulipo inspired story in this collection, An Index of How Our Family Was Killed, where a family s death history is presented in a masterly executed index form, a la Georges Perec I loved it for its near perfection, but then again I asked Am I just congratulating the form Would I be able to read this story if it were not for the presentation Is there really a story beneath it all Hasn t such innovation already been overdone Hasn t its purpose already been achieved What desire is the writer trying to express here, by writing like this Where does he want to belong Does he want to be considered an imitator par excellence Just that 5 Dredge, the story having to do with preserving dead bodies, was the stand out story of the collection Bell manages to mix the emotional and the macabre in a totally heady mix, while not letting go of the narrative The force of the story is stronger than its aura of style, which works wonders This one deserves to be anthologized.6 Two chapbook length productions also published as chapbooks earlier Wolf Parts and The Collectors are experiments in fairy tale subversion and myth making respectively, and deserve to be treated as experiments The merit here is in what these stories must have taught the writer about his writing, rather than what they convey to the reader I was unimpressed by either the first one, which is about reinventing the Red Riding Hood story The other is an imagination of early 20th century hoarders Homer and Langley, who are shown to have such inability to relinquish things that they end up buried in the rubble created in their brownstone house in Harlem This story is coeval with E L Doctorow s novel on the same subject Homer and Langley, which I found to be less intensely written, butapproachable The only problem with Matt Bell s The Collectors is that it presupposes some knowledge of the urban legend for fruitful immersion in the story In both these stories, the macabre and the grotesque about Both stay deliberately senseless Wolf Parts is, frankly, a pain to read through The Collectors has some beautiful moments.7 The short short Mantodea is an absolute joke A much ravaged man has a pseudo erotic adventure with the mouth of a lady at a bar Total mindfuck Don t know why it even exists 8 I found the two stories The Receiving Tower and His Last Great Gift difficult to evaluate It is not possible to enjoy these pieces in the usual sense of enjoyment In the first one, a weak Tundra landscape is bleakened even further by post apocalyptic timing, and the characters suffer with loss of memory and a longing for that which is no longer remembered The craft is good, the content meh The other story, His Last Great Gift seems to be about a prophet trying to construct a miracle, only to meet an ignominious end I challenge anyone to make any sense of the symbolisms present in this story it deliberately keeps all its balls in the air, irritating the reader with the semblance of meanings, even Biblical connections Maybe that is the intended effect For this reader, it seemed like prose practice


  6. ⋟Kimari⋞ ⋟Kimari⋞ says:

    If you liked this book, you might also enjoy Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls Pretty Monsters Stories Somewhere Beneath Those Waves The Cartographer s Girl The Receiving Tower His Last Great Gift Her Ennead Hold On To Your Vacuum Dredge Ten Scenes From A Movie Called Mercy Wolf Parts Mantodea The Leftover A Certain Number of Bedrooms, A Certain Number of Baths The Collectors An Index of How Our Family Was Killed If you liked this book, you might also enjoy Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls Pretty Monsters Stories Somewhere Beneath Those Waves The Cartographer s Girl The Receiving Tower His Last Great Gift Her Ennead Hold On To Your Vacuum Dredge Ten Scenes From A Movie Called Mercy Wolf Parts Mantodea The Leftover A Certain Number of Bedrooms, A Certain Number of Baths The Collectors An Index of How Our Family Was Killed


  7. Kelly Kelly says:

    When I read the last page of this book, I had to take a deep breath and say damn. This is the kind of book that is so perfectly executed it makes a writer want to put down her pen forever, and makes her want to start from page one again to see just how the author pulled it off It s truly a spectacular collection.


  8. Lori Lori says:

    downloaded audio by Iambik for reviewListened 3 8 12 3 15 124 Stars Strongly Recommended to fans of wicked sharp short fictionAudio Download approx 6 hrs Publisher Iambik Keyhole PressNarrator Mark F SmithMatt Bell s How They Were Found was one of those books that sat on my to buy list near forever but never really jumped out at me from the shelves as I was roaming the aisles of bookstores looking for something to buy.Yet when I recently saw that Iambik had recorded it, I knew this was downloaded audio by Iambik for reviewListened 3 8 12 3 15 124 Stars Strongly Recommended to fans of wicked sharp short fictionAudio Download approx 6 hrs Publisher Iambik Keyhole PressNarrator Mark F SmithMatt Bell s How They Were Found was one of those books that sat on my to buy list near forever but never really jumped out at me from the shelves as I was roaming the aisles of bookstores looking for something to buy.Yet when I recently saw that Iambik had recorded it, I knew this was my chance to finally give it a whirl and procrastinate noThank god for Iambik, man If they hadn t published this, how much longer might I have gone without reading it I shudder to think.The stories contained within this collection deservethan the typical reviewer type, cliche buzz terms that run the risk of cheapening them like powerful and deeply affecting and compelling but strike me dumb if his stories aren t exactly those things Stripped down to only the most essential words, Bell cuts to the heart of each story and paints moody, dark, twisted reflections of would be realities.The narrator, Mark F Smith, did a fantastic job with this collection As the first track got underway, I couldn t help but compare his voice to that of a muchsoft spoken version of Alan Heathcock author of Volt, of whom I had the pleasure of hearing perform a reading, and who has this incredible southern preacher voice thing going for him , mixed with a little of our local radio DJ Jumpin Jeff Walker minus the distracting lisp thing While this might not seem like a compliment, it actually is His pacing and tone matched Bell s stories to near perfection His voice became a vehicle for each storyAs with any collection, some of Bell s pieces grabbed mestrongly than others The Cartographer s Girl, a story about a sleepwalker who disappears and the man who loves her who painfully maps out every moment and every place and every memory he can recall in order to try to find her, was one of them Dredge, which revolves around an emotionally unstable man who starts his own investigation into the murder of the drowned girl he pulled from the lake and stored inside a freezer box, is another.How about The Leftover, which tells the story of a woman who discovers that she actually misses and loves the things that she made her ex give up while they were still together like smoking and leaving clothes all over the house when those bad habits appear on the couch one day, in the form of a silent mini version of him My absolute favorite story, though, is The Receiving Tower, which details the slow, mental breakdown of the men who have been searching through the static of the government s receiving tower stations for years under the orders of their heartless captain, listening for the decoded messages being sent across the airwaves, cruelly unaware of the fact that the world has ended and there is no rescue for them It reminded me of something The Twilight Zone might have put out, back in the dayOf course, there were stories that failed to blow me away like Wolf Parts, which is a dark and strange take on the whole Red Riding Hood thing, and Her Ennead, which takes us through a soon to be mother s wacky imaginings of what her baby will become though I am aware that these particular stories are held in high regard by some reviewers.No matter which of his stories you prefer, Matt consistently teases the reader something terrible by burying threads of hope within the pages of his bleak and otherwise soul crushing tales of loss and love and broken hearts If his sparse storytelling doesn t hook you, the unique, awkward, inappropriately sentimental situations his characters find themselves in most certainly will.I highly recommend listening to Iambik Audio s version of the book And, just in case that statement didn t floor you, that s actually saying a lot, coming from a previously reluctant audiobook listener, so you know, you should totally take me up on it


  9. Emily Emily says:

    Matt Bell s short story collection, How They Were Found, is dark, disturbing, creative, experimental and imaginative Some of them will make a reader feel highly uncomfortable, which only stands as a testament to the power of the writing.Despite being slightly unimpressed with the first story in this collection, The Cartographer s Girl, I found the rest of the stories farenjoyable The stories that stand out for me as being worth re reading are The Receiving Tower, His Last Great Gift, Ho Matt Bell s short story collection, How They Were Found, is dark, disturbing, creative, experimental and imaginative Some of them will make a reader feel highly uncomfortable, which only stands as a testament to the power of the writing.Despite being slightly unimpressed with the first story in this collection, The Cartographer s Girl, I found the rest of the stories farenjoyable The stories that stand out for me as being worth re reading are The Receiving Tower, His Last Great Gift, Hold On To Your Vacuum, The Leftover, and The Collectors.In The Receiving Tower, a group of men who are not quite sure where they are or what they re doing there gather once a week in the basement of the tower in which they live, desperate to share their memories before their minds grow inexplicably dim.Hold On To Your Vacuum is a terrifying mix of school and video game, in which the narrator is pursued through his own memories by a mysterious man known only as Teacher, who pushes a drill bit into his skull to reset the level each time.The Leftover is probably the most light hearted story of the collection Following an uneventful but devastating break up with Jeff, Allison wakes up to find a miniature version of him in her apartment She conducts a tentative relationship with Little Jeff as he grows smaller andchildlike, until she is left with no other option than to confront the real Jeff.The Collectors is a fictionalised account of the real life story of Homer and Langley Collyer, whose compulsive hoarding directly led to their lonely deaths Bell tells their story with a strong sense of tact and respect, while still invoking the tragedy and desperation of the situation.Bell s stories don t have morals or happy endings, and his characters are not offered a neat parcel of redemption at the end of each tale The meaning of the stories isn t always immediately apparent, and may occur to you some time later when you re dwelling on the subject matter I have since realised that in the print version of How They Were Found, The Cartographer s Girl is accompanied by symbols and annotations that do not appear when reading on the Kindle


  10. Edward Rathke Edward Rathke says:

    How They Were Found is a powerful collection crossing genres and styles, but always with a distinctness to it It s not a writer trying to fit into different modes, but a writer applying himself to stories, bending genres and conventions to his will with extraordinary ease The title is rather apt in that each story, at some level, is about people searching for something or someone, whether it be themselves, their mother, their lost lover, their daughter, or just a reason to keep going, to keep How They Were Found is a powerful collection crossing genres and styles, but always with a distinctness to it It s not a writer trying to fit into different modes, but a writer applying himself to stories, bending genres and conventions to his will with extraordinary ease The title is rather apt in that each story, at some level, is about people searching for something or someone, whether it be themselves, their mother, their lost lover, their daughter, or just a reason to keep going, to keep believing despite everything Wolf Parts, The Cartographer s Girl, and The Collectors, especially, epitomise that, I think, and were standouts to me, though it s hard to forget stories like His Last Great Gift and Dredge, with characters that feel so wrong they can t help but be absolutely real.A great collection that thoroughly impressed me