One to the Gut. One to the Head. One to the Heart.
“Matt Mullins’s debut book of short stories, Three Ways of The Saw, left me feeling vulnerable, hurt, shocked, appalled, exposed, enlightened, moved, even inspired; just feeling a strange range of emotions, deeply, in a way I haven’t felt from a book in a while.”
“This represents a stellar debut for a brave, experimental writer unafraid to fail, to try everything to rip apart the veils of the world to see more clearly and feel more fully, regardless of what he finds.” (Read the rest of the review here.)
–Volume 1 Brooklyn
“Prodigals on a grand scale who don’t want to go home. Matt Mullins packs 25 stories into his high-velocity debut Three Ways of the Saw. Don’t be misled by the Zen-like title, these characters come at you like a karate chop to the windpipe. Read on to find out exactly why you’ll be thanking him for that bruised trachea.” (Read the rest of the review here.)
–Lee Thomas, Fiction Writers Review
“In this debut collection Matt Mullins shows he’s adept at everything from flash fiction to the old-fashioned, well-made story. These short stories have great range and often surprise with their quieter moments, but what I admire most is that they tell tell tell, turning artful narration into compelling, dramatic fiction. Three Ways of the Saw is a collection that delivers. One to the Gut. One to the Head. One to the Heart. This book knocked me out.”
–Cathy Day, author of The Circus in Winter
“The sentences of Matt Mullins are hormonally-charged, jacked-up on the adrenalized rush of his characters, boys and men, mostly, who burn the candle bright on both ends of the stick. This book is lit from within, the pages dunked in the holy water of booze and kerosene, the kind of electrified prose that could only be written by a writer who spent the better part of his own life playing live music in the dive bars of the American Rustbelt. Mullins has plugged his pen, his surrogate guitar, into a twin Marshall stack and has cranked the amplitude of his heart and song up to ten. Like a young Barry Hannah, Mullins captures a world governed by the notion that “all things eventually come apart,” though not before he makes music and meaning out of what happens in the events leading up to what ultimately is lost.”
–Peter Markus, author of We Make Mud
“Though this is not a book of place, per se, there’s a brooding, raw, rustbelt, jazzy, Motown energy that informs the sensibility and sound of this writer, fuels his prose, and gathers this collection into a compelling whole.”
–Stu Dybek, author of I sailed with Magellan
Matt Mullins’s Three Ways of the Saw (new in February from Atticus): Spent a few afternoons sifting through this volume, intrigued by its outstanding cover (I use the word “outstanding” literally; over a dozen titles came into Bblklpt Wrld Hdqrtrs this fine week). Mullins’s volume, stocked with short and short-short (and micro-) stories, bristles with boozy energy, grit, ugly druggy nervy episodes, shenanigans, dirty hi-jinks, breaking families, bad sons, bad people, broken people, desperate people . . . There’s a strong Bukoswkiish vibe to the business, with less ego, more concrete imagery, more Denis Johnson. I like this book.
Mullins experiments—and succeeds—with style, length, and points-of-view throughout. He’s sprinkled flash fiction and brief sketches and vignettes between traditional short stories, often in such a way that, from one narrator to the next, there’s a tinge of ‘sameness’ to the voice, thereby linking otherwise unconnected pieces. The language itself is vibrant; the pacing, often breathtaking; and the meanderings and meditations of the people throughout both comforting and discomfiting. Good reason for all of that: Mullins, in a fresh and unforgettable voice and writing style, has reached across the human condition, exposing the sinew that holds us together, even while it hopelessly, inevitably shreds.
Among the book’s three sections: “Black Sheep Missives,” “Dischords,” and “Ghost Limbs,” is the collection’s title piece, “Three Ways of the Saw.” Interestingly, the author himself has some experience working for a tree trimming and removal service. At this story’s end, J.W. watches Mr. Ashland kneeling at what remains of his honey locust. “That’s what he’s doing as I . . . drive away . . . his fingers still circling and working their way toward the center of that tree’s severed life where he will end by touching the beginning.”
Some characters are literally on the road, their mode of transportation only a vehicle for what else they carry: a dying relationship, betrayal, practiced deceptions, fear. Mullins’ stories bump against one another much as one stitch leads to another. Then there’s the unraveling and the entanglement—messes frequently of these characters’ own making. As the narrator of “No Prints, No Negatives” says on a cross-country trip in his parents’ Winnebago, “Obviously something tremendous and irrevocable had gone wrong with all our lives.”
Despite what’s gone wrong with the peoples’ lives in this collection, it flares with an uncommon energy and wit. Midwesterners—and, especially, Michiganders—will recognize the physical landscape. Gutsy and gritty, these raw-boned stories introduce readers to a brave and excellent writer in Matt Mullins.
–Chris Henning/ForeWord Reviews
“I was delighted to be sent an advance readers copy of this book of short stories. Some are very short indeed too! Most of the stories revolve around young men, whose attitudes and characters wouldn’t necessarily normally appeal to me. But it’s a sign of the quality of both the writing and storytelling that I was drawn right into every story. The voices in the stories are very convincing, I was particularly impressed with the way a male writer could inhabit the world of a girl on the cusp of womanhood – Rachel, who spends most of “No Retreat” waiting for her first period to start while on a Catholc girls’ retreat.The reader can’t help but grasp some sense of what life and relationships are really about in almost every one of these stories. “I Am and Always Will Be” for example is a small but perfectly formed tale of how a young man reconsiders his judgement of the ‘morbidly obese middle-aged lady’ who lives near him.The writing is consistently tight and infused with humour. To take an example from The Dog in Me, in which the narrator adopts a dog from the rescue to help him win over his attractive neighbour:
‘The plan was simple enough. Next time I saw my neighbor out watering her flowers in her short shorts and bikin top, I’d put Otto into action. Parade him casulally by. Let him work the cute. Nudge him to flutter those big brown eyes and give that floppy tongued smile. To make sure he truly understood what was at stake, I even showed him my view of things inching my bedroom curtain aside to reveal her sunbathing in her back yard. Otto licked his nose, gave a toothy yawn and went right on panting in appreciation. He was on board. All we needed now was an opportunity.'”