Matthew Battles does not write stories that move, develop or unfold. He creates worlds that hiss, snap, and rattle, and decorates them with objects that brood in black, glassine silence, or crumble into dusty revelation. Characters are left to grab at scraps of reality sent whipping about them at hurricane force. Ideas "run faster than memory can sieve them from the flow," leaving vaporous reverie to fill the vacuum - dogs populate trees, demolition men bear holy forgeries, and a slick dark box siphons off synaptic vibrations.
In "The Dogs in the Trees," man's best friends deliver an enigmatic rebuke. The protagonist of "The Sovereignties of Invention" is enthralled by a gadget that plumbs the depths of the stream of consciousness. In "The Manuscript of Belz," a librarian ponders the glamor of the book and the bloody limits of cultural experience. And "The Gnomon" seeks in Internet culture the same dark energies limned by Poe. Each story within waits, still, dark and deep, to yield its unique shock of uncanny truth.
Matthew Battles writes about culture, science, and technology for the Atlantic Monthly, the Boston Globe, the London Review of Books and a host of other publications, and is a founder of HiLobrow, an online magazine of critical culture named one of the best blogs of 2010 by Time Magazine. His first book, Library: an Unquiet History, was translated into six languages. He lives in Boston.
Matthew Battles brings such an unlikely collision of influences together in these stories that it is amazing they survive the impact, but again and again they do, emerging whole and strong. I will return to The Sovereignties of Invention for the multifold pleasures of its sentences, each one a bold painting in its own little frame of words, and for the quality of exploration in its pages, as adventurous as they are cerebral, as nimble as they are exact.—Kevin Brockmeier
As one might expect from the author of Library: An Unquiet History, Battles owes a debt to Borges#8212but it’s the right kind of debt. His fables unfold against a hi-res real world, with close attention to everyday detail, in a prose that is precise, concise, musical, and alive.—Lorin Stein, The Paris Review