Soldier Boys: Tales of the Civil War
Philosophical author Jack Matthews takes snapshots of Civil War soldiers as they cheat death and mess around between battles. Without dwelling on the war's tragic dimension, these old-fashioned (and historically accurate) yarns are infused with irony and a youthful sense of adventure. They also ask you to ponder the human condition as people of that time might have done. More
"Mr. Matthews is a master of prose conversation and deadpan charm. He is ironic, cool, and shrewd, and he writes a lucid prose."
Tom O'Brien, New York Times Book Review
"Jack Matthews proves once again that he is in the top one percent of American fiction writers. Witty, polished, wise, ironic, with deep insight into the dark recesses of the human heart, Matthews' stories are often intense and humorous at the same time."
W.P. Kinsella (Author of Shoeless Joe)
"Few contemporary writers can – or want to – compose stories in the narrow tunnel of the interior, the rutted trail of memory between mind and heart, sometimes shutting out other people as well as time and place and usual props. Matthews takes us there, carrying a bright light."
Art Seidenbaum, Los Angeles Times
Jack Matthews (1925-2013) 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.
Matthews published 7 story collections over his lifetime, but this is the first one to be published in 23 years. Over the next few years Personville Press will publish 4 story collections of previously uncollected and unpublished stories. SOLDIER BOYS (the first of these four) includes a critical introduction and an extensive annotated guide to U.S. Civil War fiction published over the centuries. The publisher's website contains a study guide for teachers who want to incorporate themes from the "Soldier Boys" stories into lessons.
Earlier Jack Matthews fiction titles like Sassafras (1983) and Tales of the Ohio Land (1978) reveal a passionate interest for life in 19th century America. His last published novel, Gambler's Nephew (2011), turns its focus to the state of society before the Civil War (and specifically it is about the accidental shooting of a runaway slave by an ardent abolitionist). Matthews collected Civil War memoirs over his life and has published several essays about that.
Jack Matthews was a longtime admirer of Ambrose Bierce's fiction, and the "Soldier Boys" collection inevitably invites comparison with Bierce's masterpiece "Tales of Civilians and Soldiers." Both works capture the horror and metaphysical tragicomedy of war; "Soldier Boys" is chattier, more accessible, more determined to locate the humanity in everyone.
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