November through January

I'm really bad at saving money.
I think that falls into one of the "life skills" categories.
Those are universally important usually.
I wonder how much money I spent on drugs when I was a kid.
I decided to try to make saving money more like an RPG by opening a savings account and then trying to fill it like an EXP bar.
I watch it rise on a month to month basis, but sometimes it goes down.
I probably did over thirty thousand dollars worth of drugs when I was a kid.
I wonder what kind of car I could have bought with that.

A few years ago, when I was 18.
I made a lot of money.
I spent most of it at strip clubs and on coke.
I remember not caring at all about it.
I would get more the next week and then do it again.
I hate myself.
A lot sometimes.

One of the strippers.
Well she was a waitress.
But she had to work with her top off.
I slept with her and her name was Shannon.
I called out her name in bed once and she looked over her shoulder and said 'stop that.'
Then she didn't call me back.
I heard later she got promoted to a stripper.

I got a check for Christmas this year from my grandparents.
Even though I'm twenty five.
I cashed it immediately.
I asked for my balance and watched her write it on the little square of paper.
Filling up my EXP bar.
I wanted to write a letter to my grandparents and tell them thank you.
I spend about a month before Christmas worrying about what to get for people.
I spend about a month after Christmas worrying about writing letters.
I suck at shopping.
Also I never write the letters.
The end of November through the end of January pretty much annually suck.

I had this fat friend at the time.
When I was striking out with the stripper.
We were hanging out and I went to the bathroom.
Shannon told me he asked for her number while I was gone.
It was weird.
The night I called her name out in bed he had been on the floor playing with my xbox.
It took like an hour to get him to acknowledge the hints to make him leave.
She was really tired by then and I was pretty mad at him.
I think I might still be mad at him.
I was trying to have sex with her.
He could have gone to his own house and played with his own xbox.
I don't think he had one though.

I wake up sometimes and think maybe my brain is worthless maybe.
I'm so going to level up when my tax return comes.
That part of January isn't so bad when you get your W2.



Look at your faces.

Your first or second or third faces.



We are looking for people to donate money to receive the E-Book on Christmas Day.

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Please help us to support someone that needs support.

Email editor.metazen@gmail.com if you have any questions.

Thank you. Thank you.

- Metazen Editors




THE PERSONAL-POLITICAL: Thoughts on "The Wall," 30 Years Later

This past weekend, I saw Roger Waters, the Pink Floyd bassist-composer and principal architect of "The Wall," at a 20,000-seat arena in Oakland. The experience was powerful. Not only was this gig the most articulate, multimedia, anti-war protest I'd ever seen, but it resonated as a reminder that the personal is political.

My complete review is here. A clip from the show below.

The craziest part? Video on the wall of a scrolling list of names: civilians and soldiers cut down in War Without End. Why crazy? This exact image appears in a concert scene in "badbadbad," my debut novel (to be published in May 2011 but first-drafted more than three years ago).

Seeing that image projected onto a 40-foot wall in a massive concert hall gave me chills. When did Waters first come up with this idea for his show? Is this evidence of the collective unconscious or One Mind? Will we ever live in a world without senseless violence? Should I perhaps ask Waters for a fraction of a percent of the tour's profits as a royalty cut?


Ocean's Burnings

I stumbled upon the poetry of Ocean Vuong within the pages of PANK’s June 2010 issue and I fell in love. They had the most beautiful depictions of sex, love and the desperate yearning for the love of a brutal parent. Such a voice! So, the moment I saw Ocean Vuong had a book of poetry I bought it, literally. Clicked link, bought book.

The book is called, “Burnings” and it’s comprised of two parts. Part one which has poems dealing with family history, survival and struggles in another country and part two which covers what drew me to Ocean in the first place, love, sex and yearning.

From a poem in the first part of the book, “ Song of My Mothers” which is a poem dedicated to the Vietnamese women who perished during the U.S. war in Vietnam:

Of the jaws bursting
under boot soles,
the eyes streaked with ash,
eyes that refuse to close
beneath the earth.

Of the wives who charged
into burning fields,
who knelt and scraped
someone else’s husband
into cracked jars of glass...”

“Sing of the sisters who held hands
while soldiers took turns,
who fled by closing their eyes,
only to find their bodies
too cold to return to…”

There is something about the poems in the first part of this book that Ocean does to make so many brutal things have a sense of beauty about them, thick with reverence.

The second part of the book lifts you up a bit from the first. There is less sadness and more hope in poems that carry words of love, of sex, of beauty and longing.

In, “Ode to Masturbation,” Ocean cleanses me of every shameful feeling I’ve ever had about this vice I’ve carried since childhood. I’ve never read such a beautiful thing about what I’ve come to think of as the most selfish of acts:

“Reach down, there is music
in the body, play yourself
like a lyre, insert the finger
into sanctum, feel
the quivering of crevices, skin
palpitating ripples as if stretched
over drumbeats.”

I can’t wait to see what more this young poet will bring us...bring me.

“Burnings” can be purchased at Sibling Rivalry Press.



"All the beauty and sublimity we have bestowed upon real and imaginary things I will reclaim as the property and product of man: as his fairest apology. Man as poet, as thinker, as God, as love, as power: with what regal liberality he has lavished gifts upon things so as to impoverish himself and make himself feel wretched! His most unselfish act hitherto has been to admire and worship and to know how to conceal from himself that it was he who created what he admired."



Robert Lopez has been asking writers to guest post on his blog for a "No News Today" series of ruminations on news/not-news, mostly flash fictions, sometimes personal rambles.

Today, you can read a curious piece on self-immolation, dead-dad reflection and neighborly theft by Third Face maven Barry Graham.

This past weekend, my exploration of freedom and hunger (or something like that) came out. It's my first attempt at writing in a different style from my typical badbadbadness.

There are a lot of shorts here worth peeping, including recent posts by Roy Kesey, Elizabeth Ellen, Christopher Higgs and Lindsay Hunter.

Dzanc just released Mr. Lopez's third book, a collection called "Asunder." There's a nasty-beautiful book trailer on the Dzanc site.

Yep, just another day in StoryLand. News? No news? Either/or, as long as we're reading and writing, it's all good.



There are great story makers and there are great storytellers.

Scott McClanahan is both.


When I write, I rarely sit down and think, "Today I'm going to write that story about the bird." Instead I think, "Today I'm going to write out this feeling of regret I have in my stomach that's making me miserable and twitchy."

But then, when I read, I'm wondering if I pick up those thoughts of the author. The twitchy regretty thoughts. I'm wondering if readers, myself included, just read something and say, "That bird is crazy!" instead of understanding what the bird represents.

And then I think, what if no one gets what I'm saying with my stories? They've always been a way of communication for me. A way for me to be honest without having to be honest. And, recently, I've been thinking I'm shouting in a language no one speaks.

And everyone else is shouting at me and I'm sitting with my palm around my ear saying, "Come again?"

Am I alone in this paranoia?



Check out SAM LIPSYTE's story THE DUNGEON MASTER. In THE NEW YORKER. Here's the link. Thank me later.





Gregory Sherl, Peter Schwartz, Brad Green, Pacze Moj, Samantha Ducas, Howard C. Mueller IV, Ali Abdolrezaei, b.l. pawelek, Shaindel Beers, Neila Mezynski, Amanda Deo, Andrew Roe, Nathan Graziano, Jessica Anya Blau, Ethel Rohan, Josh Goller, Janey Smith, Meg Tuite, Timmy Waldron, Michael Pollock, Claire Foster, Nate House, Scott McClanahan, Ken Sparling, Robert Lopez, Christian TeBordo, Roxane Gay, and Barry Graham.


Kate Axelrod

Michael Czyzniejewski
The Divorcee Entertains

Kat Gray
Though Poppies Grow

Brad Green

Sara Lippmann

Robert Miltner

Donna D. Vitucci


How They Were Found

October 5, 2010
Keyhole Press
Trade Paperback · 244 pages
5" x 8" · $13.95
ISBN 978-0982151259

Includes the story "Dredge," a Best American Mystery Stories selection, and the story "His Last Great Gift," a Best American Short Stories Distinguished Story of 2009.


In his debut collection How They Were Found, Matt Bell draws from a wide range of genres to create stories that are both formally innovative and imaginatively rich. In one, a 19th-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 again. Throughout 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.

"Reminscent of Friedrich Dürrenmatt's The Winter War in Tibet in its calm examination and unsettling embodiment of mental and physical extremes, How They Were Found is a dreamer's chronicle of the loss and partial recovery of a world given over to the wrecking ball. Fierce, unflinching, funny, How They Were Found is just the book we need right now, Matt Bell just the writer." —Laird Hunt, author of Ray of the Star

"How They Were Found offers a world with shifting rules, described with a lovely and deceptive simplicity. This guide shows you thirteen different types of wilderness, and you can spend all day exploring before you realize you are lost." —Amelia Gray, author of Museum of the Weird and AM/PM

"You're a robot if the stories in Matt Bell's debut collection don't exhilarate, frighten, and unalterably change you. His wild manipulation of form and genre makes the bulk of contemporary fiction feel bloodless and inert in comparison, but it is Bell's recurring arrival at something sturdy and true about human behavior that makes the stories in How They Were Found so rewarding and resonant." —Matthew Derby, author of Super Flat Times: Stories


"As the stories in this debut collection add up, so do the bodies, people done in by diverse, often fantastical methods and accidents: drowning, freezing, crushing, knifing, shooting, suffocation, disease, traps, saws, dismemberment, exposure, and more. Then there are the disappearances: a cartographer’s sick girlfriend vanishes, a homunculus starts shrinking. The comparatively few characters who remain alive and present are preoccupied with others’ annihilations... Body toll notwithstanding, How They Were Found is anything but bleak. For one thing, there’s the prose: generous, urgent, rhythmic.... As the collection continues and the deaths and disappearances pile up, it becomes increasingly clear that, in the various microcosms of How They Were Found, only the tales the characters leave behind can survive their fleeting lives." —Reese Okyong Kwon, The Believer

"Bell attempts and succeeds at a crucial, yet risky, concept that’s essential to great writing: the concept of fusion and hybrid. First and foremost is the magical formula that most young writers have a hard time grasping, the fusion of style and substance. The style in this case being the fantastical elements of each story and the substance being the human connections and emotions that Bell endows his characters with. While most all of the stories in HTWF could easily be filed under the fantasy section, don’t let the nerdish connotation of the genre fool you. Bell’s characters are undoubtedly human, dealing with everyday feelings of loss, change, heartbreak, hope, ambition and discovery.

How They Were Found is a triumph of a debut collection. Bell has a command over story far surpassing anyone else in his league. Don’t miss this book." —Chris Heavener, Annalemma Magazine

"Bell brings us everything: symbolism, futurism à la David Ohle, devastation, surrealism, scenic energy, fractured fairytales, consumption, struggle, claustrophobia, and family decay. But this is not to say How They Were Found spreads itself too thin or is too chaotically varied; Bell knows how to keep his world in check, his every word balanced against another, delicately, like a system of weights." —J.A. Tyler, The Rumpus

"Matt Bell’s debut collection of short fiction covers abundant ground, from the fairy-tale deconstruction of 'Wolf Parts' to the imploded tale of crime and punishment contained in 'Dredge.' Bell’s fiction is taut and surreal, and the best stories in this collection—such as 'Hold On To Your Vacuum,' with its structure somewhere between dream and video game—seem both classical in their approach and utterly modern in their sensibility." —Tobias Carroll, Flavorwire

"No matter what I write here, I cannot tell you how great this book is. In fact, I’m not even sure I know how to write a review that will do it justice. So let’s just agree on this point from the start: however great you think Matt Bell’s new collection might be after reading this review, it’s better. As I’ve read and re-read the stories in How They Were Found over the last several weeks, I’ve found myself telling everyone who will listen about it. These stories are infinitely compelling, poised exactly on the brink of explosion, the perfect balance of potency and control." —Troy Urquhart, PANK

"The characters in Matt Bell’s first full length-collection of stories, How They Were Found, often seem to be separated from the rest of the world by filmy gauze. You get the idea that a real world surrounds these folks, but they are estranged from that reality by a loose mesh that keeps them from seeing their surroundings clearly or engaging with them fully. As Bell writes of the main character in 'His Last Great Gift,' it is 'as if his ears are filled with cotton or wax, as if this is something in the way of true communication, and the real world seems just as distant, just as difficult to navigate.' Often neither the characters’ names nor their physical features are revealed. Little information is provided about their past. They are just there, searching—or, as the book’s title suggests, waiting to be found. This is not to say that the prose itself is cloudy; it allows us more than enough peeks at beauty, mystery, playfulness, and well-constructed absurdity to make this collection satisfying on many levels." —Garnett Kilberg Cohen, Triquarterly

"These stories are heavy, they are beautifully written, they are deep, they are bold, formally and thematically, yet, no matter how form busting or experimental they can be, they are always page turners in the best sense." —Robert Kloss

"The subjects who wander through the haze of How They Were Found are all horribly damaged hopeless souls who bump against travesty after tragedy. They are ugly, gnarled, deformed and maligned. And probably, this is the reason they are so affecting: they do unspeakable things both to themselves and others, and there is but a negligible delineation between them and us. Perhaps, even, they have the courage to act on their impulses, and we can only hope to be so brave." —Nik Korpon, Outsider Writers Collective

"It’s not what is grotesque about Matt Bell’s characters that transfix the reader, it’s what is so human and commonplace about them. It’s impossible not to identify with even the most psychologically disfigured of these people, and that is one of the elements that creates such urgency to read more of Bell’s stories... The span of emotional range in these stories is also astonishing. 'The Cartographer’s Girl' is one of the most affecting stories of lost love that I have ever read." —Debrah Lechner, Hayden's Ferry Review

"Bell imbues his stories with rich symbolism, and his authorial voice adds elements of calm eeriness that make his stories eminently readable." —Marie Mundaca, Hipster Book Club
"Even if Bell's universes are filled with people whose ropes are too short, time is too long, memories are too elusive, instruments too outmoded, and worlds too distant, they connect to us directly through the heart. And it's because of the heart that Bell puts into his stories that makes the intellectual exercise of them so accessible. It may not be a happy heart, but it often beats in time with our own." —Jen Michalski, JMWW

"Taken together, the entirety of this collection represents an attempt to marry several generations of literary techniques, to find common ground between the ultra-modern and the classical, the historic and the post-modern. It’s a venture at which Bell succeeds, yielding something that’s also a pleasure to read." —Tobias Carroll, Word Riot

"Matt Bell has built a national reputation on his own terms, completely outside the support system of New York publishing, on the strength of his stories and novellas, which are wholly original and singularly his own. He is that rare sort of writer whose work the reader would recognize even if were published anonymously. It is formally daring, high-stakes, languaged-up stuff, and (lucky us!), the best of it has finally been collected at book length. Here is some consumer advocacy: You will be a happier, more fulfilled, better entertained human being if you buy this book today." —Kyle Minor, HTMLGiant