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


See also: The Cars in Hanger Stout Awake (vintage car photo gallery)Hanger at 50 Years: A Rumination, by Robert Nagle (the preface in the 2nd edition).  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

Publication Date: March 20, 2012, expanded 2nd edition in May 2018  (Version History)

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, Tom 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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Jack Matthews Mailing List is now working

If you wish to stay posted about what’s going on with the books and life of Jack Matthews, you can sign up for the mailing list . Here’s what it will be used for:

  • updates 4-6 times a year.
  • Book promotions & discounts
  • New titles, plus new published articles.
  • Probably not too chatty; just the summary highlights.

Keep in mind that a lot of the same information will go on the Facebook group page. But news tends to be drowned out in Facebook; hence this mailing list.

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Profile & Review of Jack Matthews’ new novel “Gambler’s Nephew”

Literary reporter imageand reviewer Jim Phillips does a nice writeup about Gambler’s Nephew for the Athens News.

Half the pleasure in the book comes from its resemblance to a huge, shuffling, shaggy-dog story. Every time a new character comes on stage, the narrator – whose identity we don’t learn until the end – wanders off to talk at length about the new person’s history, quirks and kin. He later circles back to the main plot – now a little askew from where we thought it was heading originally. Later on, we learn that the silly, apparently offhand information imparted earlier is important.

Matthews looks at his people with a clear and merciless eye, laying out all the pettiness, greed and self-absorption that humans are prone to, but he does it without a hint of rancor, and more than a little affection – jaundiced and cynical affection, but real nonetheless.

He tries to let his characters have it out among themselves, without coming down on anyone’s side, or imposing some ultimate author’s truth. He cites the notion of men-de from classic Greek rhetoric (he has degrees in English Literature and Classical Greek) – which seems to mean something like, "one the one hand – but on the other hand" The idea, he suggests, is that nobody in the human world has the whole truth, and those who think they do – even if, like Nehemiah Dawes, they’re generally on the right side – end up crazy and mean.

Here is publisher information about the book  and purchase page on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Price is currently $12.

I read this book last month and enjoyed it very much. I’ll be posting a review and analysis at a later date. For now suffice to say that it’s a fascinating story, a well told tale, a relatively fast read, lots of twists and surprises and confronts a time period in America’s past where people operated under different kinds of moral codes than from how we do today.

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A Worker’s Writebook: How Language Creates Stories by Jack Matthews

Jack Matthews’ new ebook about the craft of fiction writing is now for sale.  amazon-mainThe normal price for this ebook is $2.99, You can find the ebook for sale at  Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Lulu and iBookstore.

Description of Book

Since the early 1990s, Jack Matthews has distributed a photocopied version  of this 75,000 word writing guide to students in his fiction writing classes at Ohio University.  This guide offers insight about how successful writers mold raw  experiences into a story and how language helps you to do that.  It offers lots of  good examples and practical advice for getting a story idea off the ground; it analyzes several stories (including one of  Matthews’ own) and offers several paradigms for understanding how stories work. Erudite, witty, idiosyncratic, serendipitous, mischievous, sesquipedalian, entertaining, introspective and colorful: these are  adjectives  which come to mind when reading this book.

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. NBA-Award poet William Stafford listed Matthews’s novel, HANGER STOUT, AWAKE! as his only title in an ANTAEUS series on “Neglected Books Of The 20th Century.” In July 2011, Estruscan Press published his novel, The Gambler’s Nephew, a dark 19th century tale about slavery, guilt, memory. In Fall 2011 Personville Press will be republishing his 1967 novel Hanger Stout, Awake.

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New Jack Matthews bookstore

The daughter of Jack Matthews has opened an online bookstore. If you remember, Jack Matthews once owned a literary saloon to keep his latest literary finds. In the 2009 interview Matthews mentioned selling several thousand of his books to a friend. Lots of out-of-print and rare editions, with lots of notes and idiosyncratic titles.

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Free Mp3: Miette reads a Jack Matthews story

Miette’s Bedtime Podcast is a distinguished podcast known for featuring classic and contemporary short stories by great & overlooked writers. Recently she did a reading of the great story A Woman of Properties which comes from the Crazy Woman short story collection.  (Download the mp3 here). This was a story that despite the mundane situation has a lot of psychological depth and characterization.  A haughty middle-aged woman in real estate inspects a house she intends to buy… but alas, she has an ulterior motive for buying it…

Here’s a random quote:

Mr. Cobb stamped his foot on the porch. “Solid as a rock,” he said. “Solid oak. Double flooring, even out here on the porch. They don’t build them like this anymore. Solid as a rock.”

At that moment, for no apparent reason, Mrs. Groestli was filled with a sudden, wrathful intolerance, and she fastened upon Mr. Cobb’s locution. Why did they always say solid as a rock? a needlessly anguished voice cried out in her head. Why didn’t they say as solid as a noodle? Or as solid as a party hat? Or as solid as a week of Sundays?

Oh, that Mrs. Groestli character is something else.

As usual, Miette brought the story to life; let me recommend some other amazing stories she has read on her site: Lydia Millet’s Sir Henry, Benito Lynch’s The Sorrel Colt, Dino Buzzati’s The Falling Girl, Monica Wood’s DisappearingJean Stafford’s Interior Castle, Jack London’s Adventure in the Upper Sea. (Most of the other titles  are also excellent, but these are the ones whose titles stood out to me). Miette is also reading stories for Iambic Audiobooks, a great source of low-cost audiobooks.

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Remembering Jack Matthews as a Writing Teacher: Share Your Memories

It’s confirmed. Personville Press will be publishing  A Worker’s Writebook” as an ebook in February 2011. This book is Jack Matthews idiosyncratic thoughts about the art of creating stories. He wrote it in the 1990s and distributed photocopies of it to his writing students. Here’s an excerpt from the soon-to-be-published ebook on the art of giving names to characters.

All writing teachers have mixed feelings about trying to teach writing. Some creative writing teachers are better writers than teachers. Some are genuinely inspiring teachers. Some are just entertaining (even though not much teaching or learning is taking place). Some are exotic (or psychotic); take your pick.

I know that over the years former  students of Mr. Matthews will stumble upon this page. Therefore, I ask you to share any  favorite memories from your classes with him. My preference is that your use your real name. However, if you wish to leave a comment anonymously or pseudonymously, please do so.  Don’t be shy. I realize that while  this thread starts out, comments will come very slowly. But over the next few years,  this thread will increase in size.

Finally, if you would prefer not to share your memory in public, I would still appreciate hearing from you. Feel free to drop me a line (idiotprogrammer at gmail.com). I’m writing a book about Jack Matthews as a writer and would welcome hearing any  insights into his life as a writer and teacher.  (Anything you write to me  will be held in confidence unless you specify otherwise).

Posted in By Robert Nagle | 7 Comments

Jack Matthews on the memoir of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Son

Jack Matthews has a new essay appearing in August 15 Chronicle Review:

It is no surprise to literary scholars that Henry David Thoreau was soaked in Emerson’s thinking, but Julian tells us that even the younger man’s handwriting was like Emerson’s. And yet, Julian pointed out, unlike Emerson, Thoreau’s "surest happiness was in discontent," and furthermore, "his brain was poisoned by philosophy." Thoreau feared and despised the growing passion for land development, considering it "treason to the Great Mother"; and he found that birds, squirrels, and hedgehogs had not lost "their primeval courtesy." While those sentiments were oddities in his time, they verge upon being clichés today.

This small sampling demonstrates how rewarding a book Julian’s Memoirs is, with its wealth of warm chatter and curious anecdotes about the giants of the New England Renaissance. But the reason for my focus on the book here is an anecdote in it so astonishing that if I were vulnerable to mystic vapors, reading it would have left me adrift in unworldly speculation. And I am even more astonished that I have never encountered a reference to it elsewhere.

(You will have to read the essay to see what he was talking about.  But the anecdote about the son of Nat Hawthorne  is astonishing).

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Visiting Jack Matthews (Photo Essay)

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Jack Matthews in Athens, Ohio. Thrilling!

Details of the visit will appear occasionally on this blog. For now here are some photos which I took during my visit.


This is Jack Matthews in front of his writing desk Click to see more.

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Jack Matthews: On choosing the right name for a story character

(Here is a brief excerpt from  WORKER’s WRITEBOOK, an unpublished notebook  about the art of writing fiction  which Jack Matthews prepared for  his  Ohio U. creative writing students in the 1990s). An ebook version of this work will be available January 2011).     image

Creativity finds its natural expression in the generation and testing of hypotheses. Actually, it has more to do with the generation than the testing, but we’ll leave the testing part in, for-like the Background to the Opening Scene phases in a story, it cannot be easily distinguished from the generation. Even as we spin an idea, a cadre of analysts in the mind’s bureaucracy are busily probing it and assessing it for its worth.

The words “What if” signal the release of a question or hypothesis, and with it, the imagination. “What if a man awakens one morning to find that his wife has left him?” Is this a good idea?  Well, possibly. It’s hard to tell. Why is it hard to tell? Because it’s too vague. Already, dullness has crept in. Rather, nothing has crept in, and nothing has yet come alive. Why not? Because the idea remains too abstract, too featureless.

So what is one to do? Well, several things are possible. No two writers will bring this idea to life in the same way, and what might be perfect for one, will be deadly dull for the other. Still, there are changes and additions that will unquestionably improve it. Consider this one: “What if Burton Fife, a 78 year old retired fireman, awakes one morning to find that his wife, Phyllis, has left him?”

Is this better? It is. It’s more real, more concrete, more precise. No man is simply a man: all are individual men, with individual names, and whatever happens to them, it will happen at a particular age. And if we change Burton Fife’s name to “Kirk Wolker,” we create a new set of probabilities. Probabilities for whom? For the writer, first; and then, for those later readers who will participate in the story’s meaning.

Of course there are generational codes in the names. Today, Burton Fife will likely be 78 years old, but Kirk Wolker will probably be 32. How can I know this? Well, look around and listen. But are such generational codes always reliable? Of course not; but if you shift their ages, making Kirk 78 and Burton 32, be aware that you are working against stereotypes as they are fixed in the generational codes of proper names. Yes, but are such stereotypes important? Of course they are. Stereotypes are always true, they’re just not true enough.

Note that the information supplied to bring the man in this “what if” alive is information about his name and his age. These are two of the most important things to be known about a character. For a variety of often quite mysterious reasons, names function almost like a genetic (as well as generational) code. You and I may not agree about what the name “Nellie Powers” connotes, and in fact neither of us may be able to describe clearly what this connotation is (I certainly can’t); but the name will nevertheless have a specific rightness for an author.

People are not simply denoted by their names, but to some extent defined by them, in every name there is an onomastic code. A new-born girl named “Nellie” will have a slightly different life from one named “Charity.” Why? Because we are born into a language as we are born into a world that features gravity and the oxygen/carbon dioxide cycle. Her name will affect other people, and thereby Nellie/Charity herself. Is this fair? Whether it’s fair or not is irrelevant; but the answer is, it probably isn’t fair. And yet, what is? Is it fair that some children should be born genetically rich, while others are genetically poor?

Which name will be more helpful in sliding that little hypothetical girl without friction into today’s world? You’re right; not Nellie. But is it possible that Nellie might prove a “good” name? It all depends. You pay a price for everything, and the price you pay for giving your modern little infant girl a nice old-fashioned name may be a constant inhibition to her (“I just hate my name!” Nellie may cry when she’s fifteen), or it may be a source of strength (“You know, your name’s really different!” people may say to her, and she may accept this comment proudly).

While little Nellie’s scenario provides an interesting study in onomastics, it may not seem to concern us as writers. But of course it does. As writers, our most intimate connection with our characters is through their names. Decades ago, I wrote a story about a nurse named “Avis,” who lived in an old gothic house on the shores of Lake Erie, where she had custody over a microcephalic idiot named Wilbur Postlewaite. Shortly after I wrote this story, the slogan “Avis Tries Harder” was developed by a car rental agency and often repeated on TV ads. So I changed the name of my character to “Cleo.” Did that make a difference? Indeed it did; I could feel the force of it ripple throughout the whole story, which means I had to change other things in the story that in my imagination were more fitting for a “Cleo” than an “Avis.” The story was eventually published, whereupon it fell into some great and noble silence.

(This excerpt first appeared on Teleread in February 2010).

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