THE BOOK: Attention Please Now
PUBLISHED IN: 2010
THE AUTHOR: Matthew Pitt
THE EDITOR: Sharon Dilworth was my editor, and also selected the manuscript for the Autumn House Fiction Prize (for which I’m forever indebted to her).
THE PUBLISHER: Autumn House Press. Based out of Pittsburgh, the press publishes poetry and creative nonfiction in addition to fiction works. Some authors on their list include Ada Limón, Steven Schwartz, Sarah Gekensmeyer, Samuel Ligon, Martha Rhodes, and Chelsea Rathburn.
SUMMARY: The characters in this story collection strive to blend into the background only to wind up emerging from or being prodded past the scrims of convention. Some do it bravely; others with reckless abandon. In “The Mean,” a cancer-stricken, high school math teacher’s plan to live out his days in quiet moderation shatters, after he befriends a gang of stoner dropouts. In “Au Lieu des Fleurs,” Parisian prankster-anarchist Mouna Aguigui visits a grieving office worker in his bowl of soup, nudging him and others to commit madcap acts of agitation. In “Kokomo,” a young boy living in a rural Indiana community becomes attuned to a piercing hum a noise that may presage apocalyptic events. And in the title story, a public-address announcer entertains crowds by airing the local baseball team’s dirty laundry for the entire stadium to hear. Throughout the people inside these eleven stories are jolted awake, alert, and alive by patchwork alliances, bracing humor, and episodes of surreal grace. Matthew Pitt is a writer who understands and explores the strange balance between the serious and the comic, the quirky and the familiar. Irresistibly complex, always imaginative, these stories showcase an immensely talented writer grappling with the ironies and difficulties of life in the new century.
THE BACK STORY: Why did you decide to write it? How did you research it? How long did it take to write? Whatever you think might be of interest.
WHY THIS TITLE?: In a literal sense, the title invokes baseball games at Busch Stadium during my childhood, where the St. Louis Cardinals public-address announcer, John Ulett, would announce new hitters with the phrase: “Your attention please, now batting for…” (etc.). But what really drew me to the phrase is the blend of urgency and politeness/propriety, which I think of as a mirror for many of the main characters in these stories.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? One thing I endeavor for in my fiction is to quiver and blur the hard edges of realism, and I would be delighted if a reader, after putting down the book, noted and enjoyed that element of quirky play.
“The central characters of these remarkable stories are oddly ordinary and inordinately odd: that is to say, they are each uniquely qualified to speak for life outside of fiction. Pitt allows them to build the worlds they inhabit from their very particular understandings of what life is, thus endowing their narratives with unpredictable outcomes, and startlingly unexpected revelations along the way. Attention Please Now is a collection possessed of a genuine fictional beauty.” — Chuck Wachtel.
“For sheer intelligence and range the stories in Attention Please Now cause us to sit up and take notice. Matthew Pitt is a writer who deserves our attention, gaining it through the power of style and imagination, keeping it through strength of mind and heart.” —Janet Peery.
“A remarkable debut by a brilliant young writer.” –Brian Morton.
“The world in these taut, finely wrought stories is and is not the world we know. Pitt pushes his characters to the edge of the possible with a fabulist’s eye for the strange, potent detail and the realist’s sure grasp of human emotion. A piquant, funny, original debut.” — Rachel Pastan.
AUTHOR PROFILE: I started writing stories in the second grade—my first effort, a mix of swashbuckling sci-fi, featuring heroic, talking snacks, entitled “Tales of the Pretzel Force” (still, amazingly, unpublished).
I grew up in the great Gateway to the West, St. Louis. After college in Massachusetts, I bounced around the country Los Angeles, Austin, Washington D.C., New York, and Mississippi, getting to know the inside of U-Haul vans very well. For nearly five years I’ve been rooted in Fort Worth, where I teach creative writing to some deeply devoted students at TCU.
My stories have appeared in dozens of journals and anthologies, including The Southern Review, Oxford American, Epoch, Conjunctions, Cincinnati Review, Southern Humanities Review, Colorado Review, and Best New American Voices.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: An Excerpt of “Golden Retrievers,” from Attention Please Now:
“Even before August, summer was smothering the dogs of L.A. June’s heat wave shocked Orange County. The forecasters laughed it off. It’ll peter out, they predicted; but it didn’t. A tractor-trailer filled with Pacific fish jackknifed in July, leaving Hollywood and Vine smelling of mackerel and eel and smelt roe, a foggy, murderous scent the street cleaners couldn’t erase. A scent the dogs could neither locate nor escape from. They ran down Gower beside their owners, actors trying to shed water weight in the heat. They ran across bridges which rose above rivers; when the dogs saw the barren riverbeds they howled. Their tongues swelled as they begged licks of Evian from their masters’ palms.
Then came August 5th—and the meltdown of Susie Light’s Hollywood career. On the evening of the 4th, Susie shut out the lights at Peticular Bliss, her kennel for the dogs of stars. She’d just finished preparing sixty meals: fifteen low-cal, eleven no-fat, nine vegetarian, and twenty-five more assorted rations, all done up with capers, coated with twists of lemon, and spooned into colorful, Fiesta-style ceramic bowls. The next morning Susie knew something was wrong by the smell outside the bedding area. Food. Food? But the dogs always ate what was given them. She unlocked the door. A pulse of heat lurched at her. Her hair fizzed, her lungs felt thin: The air inside was grim and splintered with stillness.
Susie walked the aisles, pawing fur, checking for heartbeats, holding her breath in hope of hearing theirs. A minute later, a recorded, eerily perky, female voice filled the otherwise silent room. It came from Ab’s suite. Ab Doberman, a Pinscher belonging to an aerobics instructor who taped two shows for ESPN2: Lose the Fat! and Living With Fat. The instructor insisted that Ab wake up in the morning to her programs. Susie approached Ab: His rangy body lay stiff on the carpet and his face was a queer void, though his nose was still slightly moist, like a stick of butter left out to soften. She bent down and petted his fur. You liked Desert Palm Bottled Water mixed with a protein supplement that made it look like split pea soup, and you liked to hear your owner feeling the burn. Could you be dead too, baby?”
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:
Matthew Pitt — Author of Attention Please Now