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Cataclysm Baby (The Mud Luscious Press Novel(La)) Paperback – April 15, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"In extraordinary language, with deep feeling, Matt Bell has crafted a baby name book for the apocalypse, a gorgeous, brilliant, often darkly hilarious and always moving novella. Written with an ingenuity and joy that call to mind Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, each chapter is a treasure: Here are beast of burden children, larval girls, subterranean daughters and choirs of sirens, combustible baby boys. I loved this book and want to recommend it to every human parent and child I know; if trees, rocks, and stars were literate, I would recommend it to them, too. "Where do babies come from?" children ask their parents, and Cataclysm Baby has an alphabet of answers as beautiful and mysterious as that ancient question, while always posing its haunting corollary: 'Where do they go?' --Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!


"You can read Matt Bell's apocalyptic abecedarium as a grotesque allegory of the devastations of parenthood, or as a grim realist extrapolation evoked by our crumbling world order. But these lovely, harrowing pieces do not float off into the Ideasphere; they remain tethered to the dusty, arid earth by their palpable nouns:  baby, hair, teeth, womb, seed, porridge, hut, crib, bone, mouth, hatchet, shovel, flesh. Like The Red Cavalry Stories or The Age of Wire and String, Cataclysm Baby is both surreal and vividly concrete, as much a Feeling Experiment as a Thought Experiment. The trope of end time is always about revelation, and what is revealed here, among other things, is Bell's brutal compassion." --Chris Bachelder, author of Abbott Awaits


"The baby born as fur ball, the one who chews up its sibling in the womb, the amputated limbs, the child sacrifices, the girl untethered into the sky, the skewed biblical cadences and the mythic tropes, the continuous horror begot by parenthood and authority--Matt Bell's collection of condensed narraticules, Cataclysm Baby, is Avant-Gothic at its most remarkable, unsettling, potent." --Lance Olsen, author of Calendar of Regrets


"Here is the alphabet of the pulsing apocalypse that is fatherhood, a book in love with what words, like parents, create: beauty, terror, awe." --Lucy Corin, author of The Entire Predicament

About the Author

Matt Bell is the author of How They Were Found (Keyhole Press, 2010), a collection of fiction, and Cataclysm Baby (Mud Luscious Press, 2012), a novella. His work has appeared in Conjunctions, Hayden's Ferry Review, Gulf Coast, and Willow Springs, and has been anthologized in Best American Mystery Stories and Best American Fantasy. He is the Senior Editor at Dzanc Books.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Mud Luscious Press Novel(La)
  • Paperback: 118 pages
  • Publisher: Mud Luscious Press (April 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0983026378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0983026372
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,578,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Matt Bell is the author of the novel In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods, a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award, a Michigan Notable Book, and an Indies Choice Adult Debut Book of the Year Honor Recipient, and the winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award. He is also the author of two previous books, How They Were Found and Cataclysm Baby, and his next novel, Scrapper, will be published in September 2015. His stories have appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, Best American Fantasy, Conjunctions, Gulf Coast, The American Reader, and many other publications. He teaches creative writing at Arizona State University.

Customer Reviews

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By AmpersandBooks on May 21, 2012
Format: Paperback
Babies born wrong, a world in flames, drowning, drying up, and drifting away - these are the ways the world ends, with terminally hopeful fathers clutching the roles of the past as the future crumbles away. Cataclysm Baby spins these elements around, each chapter presenting a new vision of men trying to hold families together or blow them apart while exhausted wives die or go insane and children are born as insects, as ghosts, as part of a murderous, hostile new world.
Matt Bell's novel is an abecedarium of apocalypse; the title of every chapter is a trio of names, starting with the same letter - the names of the children who should carry humanity into the future and persevere in the face of a host of environmental disasters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Peter Goutis on June 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
In Cataclysm Baby, Matt Bell shows you what it means to hurt. He shows what loss is. He teaches us desperation, sorrow, and hunger. He makes us accept these fates with no fight. We learn to fight, but only to survive.

These stories are short, most of them being 1-2 pages long. But they convey so much. And, as cliche as it is to say nowadays, Matt Bell really packs a lot into so few words.

The stories themselves take place in a dystopian future. I don't think they all take place in the same future or same setting, some of them seem to though. But, in each of these futures he gives us, something terribly wrong has happened. Every future that he comes up with is a horror. It's as if we are being punished for something, because living has become torture.

While the setting is this dystopian future, the theme is family. What are we doing to hold our family together? What is love driving us to do? Which member in the family is the most important? The most expendable? We need to make choices and none of them are good. But hopefully we can make the least bad choice.

A lot of these stories deal with babies - babies being born with too much fat, brittle bones, or totally covered with fur inside and out. This alone conveys so many ingrained emotions. As soon as a baby is mentioned you start feeling a certain way. And then you realize the baby isn't "right" and more emotions spring up. But it doesn't come off as a trick to play with your emotions. It's done just right. It's simply good writing.

Some of the stories are very strange. I would say he is toeing the line of bizarro. Maybe think of David Lynch? There is a story about a ceremony, not unlike a bar mitzvah, where when a child reaches a certain age they have a party.
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Format: Paperback
THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT THE NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.

The apocalypse comes in many forms. Oh sure, there is acid rain and there is drought, the crops dry up and the world moves on, but what happens when you're alone with your wife or husband? Nature takes over, as it always does, and always will. And what becomes of the children? In Matt Bell's haunting portrayal of twenty-six moments in the afterbirth of a world gone wrong, Cataclysm Baby (Mudluscious Press), we get to see how those days and nights roll on, when the waters are poisoned and furtive slick flesh seeks out a moment of passionate respite in many a dark and restless night.

These stories are short, only a handful of pages each, but they are not slight or thin. They are filled with fantasy and mythology that seems familiar and personal both in depth and scope. But what has happened, exactly? Bell gives us some clues, in "Rohan, Rohit, Roho":

"There are some who say it's the earth that's gone wrong, and some that say the seed, and it is this my wife and I debate after she pushes my wheelchair up to the dining table, after she sets the brakes my fumbling 'ngers are too weak to work."

There are glimpses of this world outside the broken shacks, the houses turned to islands surrounded by murky moats and poisonous skies. But it is the eventual births of the deformed and altered children that reveal how much the world has changed in the shadow of destruction, and certainly, our lives of sin and depravity. This, from "Kidd, Kier, Kimball":

"At dawn, we extinguish the 'ames so the candles will be there to relight tomorrow, and then again we pray: Oh lord, just once. Just once, deliver us a child not wrecked from the beginning.
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By TheTurk on December 21, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read about Cataclysm Baby on some year-end list and I must say I'm glad I did. This book definitely flew under the mainstream radar as it comes from a smaller publishing house, and this is reflected in the physical book itself: it's a small book with a light stock used for the front/back covers, but the paper and printing quality is just as good as you'd expect in any book, so this really makes little to no difference in your actual reading experience.

The text itself is definitely unlike any other novel or novella I've read before. Bell breaks Cataclysm Baby into 26 different parts (one for each letter of the alphabet, each piece maybe 3-6 pages long generally) which are somewhere between the worlds of prose and poetry, maybe best described as lyrical. What's astonishing is not only how much emotion and story Bell manages to express in each short piece but also how beautifully and with what masterfully-crafted language he manages to do it. This excellent form accompanies descriptions of disturbing futuristic visions that focus on the relationship between parent and child (and society at large). I won't spoil anything here, but each chapter on its own approaches the theme in a different way, while they all manage to cohere to an exemplification of the complexity of parent-child relationships (and perhaps their inherent difficulty or even impossibility at times).

All in all, Bell's novella is a good (and short) read that's definitely for anyone interested in themes of dystopia, family, or lyrical poetic storytelling.
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