March Sale: Interview with the Sphinx Audio Play and Ebook

Interview with the Sphinx (Audio Play Only – downloadable mp3s)
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Interview with the Sphinx  (Audio play downloadable mp3s + play ebook)
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 BIG AUDIO/EBOOK BUNDLE (Sphinx audio play + play ebook +  Hanger Stout, Awake!  + A Worker’s Writebook)
Add to Cart $6.99

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Audio Play Description

sphinx-cover-web In this provocative & immensely irritating comic play, the Sphinx from ancient Greece is interviewed in modern times as though she were a celebrity pop star. The problem is she never answers any questions — never directly anyway. Instead she prefers just dishing the dirt on everybody. ON HOMER: “I never was exactly sure which one Homer was. I’m positive he wasn’t the blind one, though; that was just a silly story they started telling a few centuries later”. ON OEDIPUS: “Eddie was terribly conceited, you know … of course he was smart and handsome and, oh, just had a way of carrying himself that impressed everybody. In spite of his foot.” Bit by bit the Interview learns that what happens in Greek legend didn’t happen exactly the way Sophocles described it. Fortunately, the Sphinx offers the Interviewer another riddle … if only he could figure out what exactly it is! This witty 67 minute audio play stars Jill Brumer as the Sphinx and Neal Gage as the Interviewer. Part Tom Stoppard, part Monty Python, part Oscar Wilde, this play by Jack Matthews combines philosophical paradoxes with fast-paced verbal pyrotechnics. It offers the perfect antidote to people who remembered ancient literature as nothing but stuffy and melodramatic characters with hard-to-pronounce names.   Other Places to Buy the Audio Playcdbaby $3.99 | itunes $3.99  |  Amazon USA $8.99 | emusic $5.99  

jill334small Jill Brumer (the “Sphinx”) is a Houston actress originally from South Carolina with an MFA  in Media & Performing Arts at Savannah College of Art and Design. She is an avid reader, college professor, actor, all-around artsy/crafty person and fan of Sherlock Holmes.  She  has actually taught the play Oedipus Rex to her college students.
Neal Gage 69small Neal Gage (the “Interviewer”)  is a Houston actor/writer/director/teacher whose comic sketch  videos have appeared on Funny or Die and Youtube. He finds comic inspiration from middle school students and  loves to edit himself into major motion pictures.
Jack-matthews-author-profile-small Playwright Jack Matthews is the author of 10+ plays and 20+ books (including short stories, novels and essays). Winner of the Guggenheim, a play competition and several arts grants, Matthews has been anthologized widely, translated into several languages and nominated for a National Book Award.

Music for the play comes from the album “Listen” by Tryad (Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0).

About the Ebook

This ebook contains the complete script used for the 2013 audio production plus another expanded two act version of the same play. This expanded two act version is titled “Dr. Freud and the Sphinx,” and includes Florence Nightingale and Sigmund Freud characters (who serve as the Greek chorus).

Other Places to Buy the Ebook: Amazon: USA | UK |DE |FR | IT | ES | BR |JP | Barnes and Noble || Lulu || Apple || Smashwords || Kobo

Preface to the Ebook

This edition provides two versions of the same play: a two act version with four characters, and a one act version with two characters. The recent audio production uses the one act version in this ebook.

To explain why this edition has two versions of the same play, it is necessary to explain   this  play’s history.

In 1992 Michigan Quarterly Review published an excerpt of the play  Interview with the Sphinx, and in 1993 the full version of the script was published by the Dramatic Publishing company. At about the same time, Logan Elm Press and Papermill at Ohio State University published a special limited version of the play with original illustrations by Eric May. Aside from minor typographical discrepancies, the Logan Elm Press edition contains the exact same text as the Dramatic Publishing edition.

Since that time, Matthews made a large number of minor revisions to the original play and expanded it to a two act play by adding two more characters (Sigmund Freud and Florence Nightingale) who serve as a kind of Greek chorus for the action. The two act version alternates between Freud-Nightingale scenes and Sphinx-Interviewer scenes; even though the  two act version begins and ends with Freud and Nightingale, the play’s primary focus is still with the Interviewer and the Sphinx. Freud and Nightingale – like a typical Greek chorus – are there mainly for commentary and interpretation.

Within this ebook, the two act version is called Dr. Freud and the Sphinx while the one act version keeps the original Interview with the Sphinx title. The one act version lasts about 65 minutes, while the two act version runs about 105-100 minutes. The one act version is identical to the two act version except that all scenes with Freud and Nightingale have been removed. To make things easier, the entire ebook is called Interview with the Sphinx; this should not be construed as implying that the one act version is more canonical or preferred.

So which version is better (or best)? I faced that question when producing an audio play. I had read the 1993 edition first and the two act version later, so that might have predisposed me slightly to the one act version. I think the ending of the two act version is easier to digest; on the other hand, I like how the shorter version focuses unrelentingly on the riddle question. The two act version reads more like a novella, which might be good or bad. A resourceful director could probably stage either version, but producing it as an audio play has the advantage of calling attention to the wordplay and rhetorical paradoxes.

In addition to serving as a kind of “Greek chorus,” Freud and Nightingale add dramatic variety and give the play a more concrete grounding in human history. Although Freud and Nightingale exist in an unspecified time and place, they represent actual people who are shaped by the era they came from. Unlike the Sphinx and the Interviewer (who are basically literary abstractions), Freud and  Nightingale speak with the knowledge of life’s mundane aspects – going to school, eating, falling in love. Both are healers and problem solvers; at the same time, they approach society’s problems in an objective, dispassionate way. The ending of the one act play is abrupt and possibly disturbing, while the ending of the two act play (Freud’s final soliloquy) is more conversational, even-tempered and even light-hearted. So each play has a different tone.

Some miscellaneous notes. First, the Interviewer refers to an article about the Sphinx riddle. In fact, Mr. Matthews had himself published such an article more than 20 years before he wrote the play (“The Riddle and the Staff,” THE CEA CRITIC, Vol. XXX #9, 6-1968, pp. 3-5). The Thomas DeQuincy essay is real – it’s called “The Sphinx’s Riddle” and is found in Memorials and Other Papers Volume 2 at Project Gutenberg.

Starting in the 1990s, Matthews started using a number of European figures as literary subjects – most notably Arthur Schopenhauer (Matthews has already written a play, a poetry collection and a novel about him). By this time, Matthews had already written a number of plays. Although Sphinx is one of the few formally published plays by Matthews, quite a number have been published in the last decade especially. About half use Mr. Matthews’ real name, while the remaining plays use his pseudonym, “Matt Hughes.”

See also: Jack Matthews’ thoughts about actors and the theatre.

Posted in By Robert Nagle, publication news | Leave a comment

Coming Soon: Soldier Boys: A Short Story Collection by Jack Matthews

bugle boy cover3-cropped-smaller87 year old Author Jack Matthews has published seven short story collections which have been reviewed favorably by New York Times Book Review, London Review of BooksLA Times, Washington Book World and USA Today. In addition, Matthews has published hundreds of stories in smaller literary magazines around the U.S.  Despite the prodigious output, it’s been a while since the last Matthews short story collection has been published…..actually, it’s been 20 years!

To rectify that, Personville Press  will publish four new short story collections by Jack Matthews.   The first collection, Soldier Boys,  will be published in August 2013. It depicts  how ordinary Civil War soldiers deal with the rigors of war and have to confront life-and-death questions. Ironically, war itself is not so much the main subject of the book as how individuals deal with the insanity while trying to live a normal life…and ultimately how  they make their peace with it.   Like other short stories by Matthews, they are suspenseful, tricky, humorous, contemplative and even spiritual.  Reading about the Civil War doesn’t sound like “fun reading, ” but it is certainly relevant in an age where US soldiers are being sent to fight in faraway places for controversial reasons.  The stories are less about the subject of war but than  the challenges of growing up in dangerous circumstances and learning enough resilience to survive.

This collection  reflects  Matthew’s interest and fascination with 19th Century America. His most recent novel, the Gambler’s Nephew depicts how the accidental death of an escaped slave has repercussions on an entire town. His novel Sassafras (published in the 1980s) depicted a traveling phrenologist who has all sorts of comic misadventures during his travels. Matthews has also collected lots of soldier memoirs and written essays about some of them for his nonfiction books.

This story collection will be published as ebook in late Spring. After this ebook, another volume of short stories (called Abruptions: 5 Minute Tales to Awaken the Mind) will be published in Summer, 2013.

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Interview with the Sphinx–Update

sphinx-cover-webHere is the outstanding cover art for the Jack Matthews play Interview with the Sphinx.  It is the image of the female Sphinx wearing dark glasses – as viewed in the sunglasses of the onlooker. This art by Barbiel Matthews-Saunders (Jack Matthews’ daughter) does a good job of capturing the paradoxical nature of this comic philosophical play.

In August, we recorded an audio version of this play starring two distinguished Houston actors. Jill Brumer played the role of Sphinx, while Neal Gage played the role of the Interviewer. Both were great.  The audio is still in post-production, but the audio play should be available at a moderate price in a few weeks. The ebook of the play should be available at about the same time in the usual places.  Here’s a photo I took during the production.  Sorry for the poor photo quality,  but the resemblance between the cover and Jill with her sunglasses was uncanny (er, except for the lion paws!) reduced-2-actors

In other news, I (Robert Nagle) will be going to Ohio to visit Mr. Matthews in two weeks.

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Hanger Stout Awake — a Study & Discussion Guide

Here’s a list of questions and discussion topics for the novella Hanger Stout, Awake!   This study guide is saved and being maintained in Google Docs and is available as a free download.  (In Google Docs, you also save it as a PDF and DOC file).  If you have additional suggestions about this study guide, feel free to comment here or send me  an email (idiotprogrammer at gmail.com). Continue reading

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Three Times Time mini-ebook released (Free Short Story Collection)

cropped-best-three-final-miniature[2015 Update: For some reason, Amazon.com is now pricing the free ebook at 99 cents.  Please note that you can still download the Kindle format for free from Smashwords and then manually add it to your Kindle]One of America’s foremost short story writers has made available 3 of his most intriguing stories for a new promotional ebook. These 3 stories (first published in the 1980s) were chosen because they are accessible, intricately written and provocative on many levels. Also included is a long interview with the author about the craft of storytelling. Total: 23,000 words.

87 year old Jack Matthews has published hundreds of short stories, 7 novels and 8 volumes of literary essays. This ebook republishes three of Jack Matthews’ best stories. “Amos Smith, the Gunsmith” reaches into the folk tale tradition to produce a nice allegory about human labor. “A Woman of Properties” is a satirical suburban tale (reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor or Cheever) about a real estate agent with a grudge. “The Girl at the Window” is an unsettling and mysterious tale about our relationship to the past.

Right now, you can download the ebook in any format from Smashwords. In about a week or two, you should also be able to download this free ebook  directly from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony and Kobo.

Here is a list of other titles by Jack Matthews you can purchase as ebooks — either from the major ebook distributors or directly through this site. Note: Several new titles will be coming out in the next few months, so sign up for the mailing list if you wish to be notified.

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Plans for new ebooks (plus one free ebook!)

Now after a delay, here’s some honest-to-god news. cropped-best-three-final-miniature

First, at the beginning of July,  Personville Press will release  a free ebook sampler, Three Times Time containing three of Jack Matthews’ best short stories previously published in other volumes.  It’s being released as a promotional sampler for readers who haven’t heard  of  Jack Matthews. I’ll keep you in suspense about which stories they are, but they should be released very soon.

Second, Personville Press will be republishing the play Interview with the  Sphinx which Mr. Matthews first published in 1992.  It’s a philosophical comedy based on the legend of the Sphinx character in Greek mythology. In this modern  version, the Sphinx is being interviewed by a interviewer, as though she were just another Lady Gaga celebrity.  She is a talkative, flirtatious and mysterious person who likes to talk about anything except the question being asked. The Sphinx speaks of ancient Greek times as though it were yesterday. She and the interviewer discuss all kinds of linguistic and philosophical questions, weaving contemporary and classical allusions together. As an added bonus, Sigmund Freud and Florence Nightingale make cameo appearances as a kind of “Greek chorus.”

Now here’s the fun part.  Although Interview with the Sphinx  makes for fun and cerebral reading, Personville Press will be producing an audio version of the play which will be released at approximately the same time as the ebook.   The audio version should capture the lively wordplay and pyrotechnics from the script.  (More). Both the ebook and audio play will be for sale separately and as part of a bundle. Both will be available in November.

Finally, there’s a backlog of ebooks that will probably be published before the year is over. That includes 4 new story collections of stories published in book form for the first time. Personville hasn’t finalized any deals yet, but I can say that I’ve read most of the completed manuscripts. They are all delightful. This includes:

  • Soldier Boys,  a series of stories about ordinary Civil War soldiers and how they confront life-and-death questions. Ironically, war itself is not so much the main subject of the book as how individuals deal with the insanity while trying to live a normal life…and ultimately how  they make their peace with it.   These are contemplative  and even spiritual stories. They also reflect  Matthew’s interest and fascination with the Civil War era (which we also see in Gambler’s Nephew).
  •  Abruptions is a collection of flash fiction or prose poems (under the pseudonym Matt Hughes). which Matthews has been writing over the last decade. These pieces fuse the  lyrical/metaphysical/humorous/  with the mundane, yet these pieces remain accessible and are not simply “precious.”
  • The Second Death of Edgar Allen Poe and other Stories is a Borgesian collection of stories, full of twists,  plots and narrative tricks. The title story was one of the most fun pieces I’d read in a long time.
  • Boxes of Time is a collection of stories written over the decades which have appeared in various literary magazines. They have  a variety of different styles and themes and many different approaches to storytelling.

As I said, the 4 story collections haven’t been finalized, but they’re ready to go.  At the moment, it’s hard to say which story collection will come out first. They are all important in their own way.  If I were a betting man, I would say, Sphinx comes out by Thanksgiving, and at least two additional collections will be out by the beginning of 2013.

Finally, one final note about formatting. You may know that ebook formatting are changing for the better. Starting with Sphinx onward, people reading on the Kindle should see substantial improvements in layout and design (pretty much because the old Kindle format was atrocious).  People reading the epub file should see some improvements too.

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The Cars of Hanger Stout Awake

 

Himageere are photos of the cars  (listed by chapter) which appear in Jack Matthews’  1967 novel Hanger Stout, Awake!  The novel is now for sale as an ebook . This page is a reference for readers; it contains  a LOT of photos underneath relevant quotations in the novel, so click the Continue Reading  link to see all the cars. I found these photos from the Internet (Wikipedia, etc), and so I do not own the rights to any of these images; the copyright belongs to the owner. (If you are the copyright owner and don’t want the image to appear here or wish to receive attribution or credit, just email me idiotprogrammer at gmail.)

The 1967 novel Hanger Stout Awake! is  a story about how a teenager grows up and widens his perspective. But on a literal level at least, the story is simply about cars. The teenager Clyde “Hanger” Stout works in a filling station, hangs out at junkyards, can identify cars from 20 years ago  and is always working  on his 1956 Chevy,  which he paints solid black.  Hanger has this knack for noticing every car that whizzes by   and even starts identifying people with whatever car they drive.  Some people (like his ex-girlfriend Penny) hardly pay attention to cars except when it’s the latest  sports car.  But for Hanger cars hint at  personality;  over time they accumulate   dents and scratches, ornaments and used parts to replace the original ones. They become the setting for everyday dramas, and at some point acquire a history closely aligned with its driver.

To an older person, this preoccupation with cars might seem materialistic or  superficial. But as I reread this novel on my ebook reader, I realized that I hadn’t the foggiest idea of what the cars mentioned in the book actually look like!  So I googled around and found an amazing assortment  of styles and colors.  As a person already  habituated to   the slick ergonomic designs of Camry’s and Porsches,  I expected the   cars of Hanger Stout Awake!  to look quaint and old-fashioned.  Instead, I found a lot more variety of styles and customizations than what appears on roads today.    Even more amazing to me was how popular these vintage cars still are. They are still being displayed at shows, bought and sold on ebay, rebuilt and restored…almost to the point where the restored cars look in better shape than   they were when they first  hit the American scene.

Perhaps  over time a character like Hanger might  outgrow his teenage  interest in cars and move onto more important matters — like computers, business, raising a family,  pondering the meaning of life  and dabbling perhaps in the arts. But thanks to the Internet, I see now that there’s  an entire army of Hangers out there still tinkering with the contraptions that once captured their imaginations. Even younger people are messing around with vintage cars, finding in it  both a technical challenge and a way to assert their individuality.  I’m not a car guy — never was, and never will be. At the same time, it’s easy to marvel at the efforts of the dedicated few to make these  machines destined for the scrapheap to  outlast the company that produced it or  even its original human owner.

1956 Chevy black (Hanger’s Car)

I had been wanting to get a rear-vision mirror for my ’56 Chevy, which I painted all black last fall with some lacquer paint I got special from Bert Wilson’s secondhand store.

1956chevyblack2

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Posted in By Robert Nagle, Curiosities | 1 Comment

Sample Chapters from Hanger Stout Awake

Here are some sample chapters from the beginning of  Jack Matthew’s 1967 novella Hanger Stout, Awake! which is now for sale directly from this website and Amazon and BN.  See also: the Cars of Hanger Stout Awake! (a photo gallery).

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Gambler’s Nephew Book Page

Here are related links to the Jack Matthews Novel “The Gambler’s Nephew.”image

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Ebook Announcement: Hanger Stout, Awake! (Novel)

blog-hanger“gentle first novel told with a fine ear for adolescent patois.” Time Magazine

“I like it, and warmly admire his sturdy subject and delicately restrained treatment. It seemed to me blessed with honesty, clarity, directness, proportion and a lovely humor. . . .” Eudora Welty

Buy Direct via paypal for 2.99 Add to Cart

Special Offer! Purchase with A Worker’s Writebook: How Language Creates Stories as a two ebook bundle for $3.99 (and save $1.99)Add to Cart

All ebooks purchased here are via paypal and include both the Kindle and epub format. Learn the advantages of buying direct.

See also: The Cars in Hanger Stout Awake (vintage car photo gallery), sample  chapter, and The Hanger Stout Discussion & Study Guide.

Other Places to Buy: Amazon: USA | UK |DE |FR | IT | ES  Barnes and Noble, Lulu, Apple

Read Reviews:  Librarything, | Goodreads

Book Description.

Clyde Stout is a high school graduate in a small Ohio town; he loves tinkering with cars and dreaming about his girlfriend. He has interests and aspirations, but no definite goals. He is coasting….until he discovers he has a new talent: the ability to hang from a metal bar longer than anybody! Others start calling him “Hanger,” and an out-of-town stranger, trying to help the boy to profit from this talent, organizes various “hanging competitions.” At first, Hanger goes along, but after a while he becomes suspicious of the stranger’s motives; is he for real? Hanger is no longer a boy and not yet an adult – but he finds himself in a world where older adults are constantly offering advice and supervision and alleged wisdom. Until then, Hanger had always been an amiable and trusting sort; now Hanger needs to look at things through adult eyes — can he adapt to a world which seems less safe  or reliable but possibly more profound? This slender 150 page novel was first published by Harcourt in 1967 and reprinted several times. Now it is available as an ebook. Time Magazine described it as a “gentle first novel told with a fine ear for adolescent patois,” and National Book Award winning poet William Stafford called it one of the most neglected works of the 20th century. Southern novelist Eudora Welty said about the book: “I like it, and warmly admire his sturdy subject and delicately restrained treatment. It seemed to me blessed with honesty, clarity, directness, proportion and a lovely humor. . . .” The book is a fun and easy read… Not too much seems to happen in the novel, and the protagonist (we’re sorry to report) is not a werewolf or vampire or time traveler or wizard or superhero; to all appearances, he’s just an ordinary guy, but if you penetrate beneath those appearances, you’ll find that he’s defiantly and unforgettably unique. This book will help you remember how it felt to be a teenager…before you needed to start worrying about more serious matters. Like life, or what passes for life in the world of adults.

About the Author

86 year old author Jack Matthews has not only written more than 15 works of fiction, he was distinguished professor of Fiction Writing at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio for over 4 decades. Winner of Guggenheim and several arts grants, Matthews has been anthologized widely, translated into several languages and nominated for a National Book Award. His own books have been praised by Eudora Welty, Anthony Burgess, Shirley Ann Grau, Tim O’Brien, Doris Grumbach, Walker Percy and a host of other famous and highly accomplished authors.  In 2011 he published the novel Gambler’s Nephew (about the accidental killing of a slave by an abolitionist while trying to save him) and a writing guide.

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