“Mad House”

July 18, 2009

Matheson uses a great focus technique to bring the reader into this story.  The first four sections of “Mad House” are told in present tense, after which the story switches to the usual past tense.  These first four sections, which cover only a few pages, are very special.  They are tightly focused on the main character and his anger problem.  They are very action oriented, walking the reader through several incidents of conflict between the main character and his surroundings.  We get no narration on who this guy is or why he’s so angry.  We get pure action and emotion.  By the time the reader reaches the last section, there’s a mountain of questions that have developed and drive the reader on through the rest of the piece.

The transition between the fourth section and the rest of the story give almost the sense of a camera pulling back from tight focus to reveal a broader context.

So though the days and nights.  His anger falling like frenzied axe blows in his house, on everything he owns.  Sprays of teeth-grinding hysteria clouding his windows and falling to his floors.  Oceans of wild, uncontrolled hate flooding through every room of the house; filling each iota of space with a shifting, throbbing life.

Matheson fills in the context, builds the story out around the tight focus on anger and this mans interaction with his house.  Matheson also has a great sense of pacing in these first four sections.  The language is quick and short, fast beats matching the agressive behaviour.

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