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.

Telling a story from a child’s point of view is a challenge.  Telling it in a child’s language is a challenge as well.  This piece was a little difficult for me to get engaged with because of Matheson’s lack of punctuation and the poor grammar (both intentional).  This has the feel of an experimental piece.

I think that to be an effective writer at this sort of thing takes a lot of practice.  I kept thinking of Cormac McCarthy and his breaking of the rules.  I think the challenge put to the reader must be rewarded by the payoff, and in this case, I don’t think the payoff was worth it.  A good story, yes, but I think it would have been just as effective told with more conventional grammar and just using the child’s point of view.

Why didn’t someone tell me there were so many vignette’s in “I Am Legend”?

Anyhow, this little snippet is almost poetry.  It’s a great collection of images given in clear, if abrupt, language:

Sky clearing its throat with thunder, picking and dropping ling lightening from immeasurable shoulders.  Rain hushing the world, bowing the trees, pocking earth.  Square building, low, with one wall plastic.

It’s what really stands out to me here.  Matheson’s use of imagery is overpowering here, which is okay since there’s not much other than an intriguiging incident here.  Not even a main character to speak of, nor a clear conflict other than the generic conflict we find in any war.  As a writer, the poetics of this piece really appeal to me, and I think it’s a good example of how to work poetic images into narrative.

This vignette by Matheson gives an interesting parallel between a horrible little Zuni fetish doll, and the power of a parent over their child.  As a reader, I enjoyed the chase and suspense of the woman being hunted by this little hunter.  It’s a cool little encounter.

What I found most valuable as a writer, though, is the phone conversation between mother and daughter, as well as their family dynamic.  Mother is manipulative and demanding, and is preying on her daughter’s emotions.  It felt a little bizarre at first, having Matheson take us from this emotionally charged interaction into this physically charged chase.  But, I found myself hoping that this little chase would give Amelia the strength (change her character) to stand up to her mother and start taking control of her own life.

Not quite what happens, but the ending is still satisfying to me as a reader.

I’ve revived my blog.  It’s been dead for about a year.  Poor blog.

I started a Master of Arts program in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University at the end of June.  Kismet - the first day of my first writer’s residency was also my birthday.

Anyhow, part of the program involves reading (of course).  And that requires a reading journal.  Perfect use for a blog.

Welcome back, poor little neglected blog.  Welcome back.