Friday, December 10, 2010

Matt Burgess

Matt Burgess, a graduate of Dartmouth and the University of Minnesota’s MFA program, grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens. 

Dogfight, A Love Story is his debut novel.

From his Q & A at Bookslut:

Often I find it more revealing when an author describes the plot of their book rather than when a publicist or copywriter summarizes it. So what would you say your novel is about?

I’m going to adapt the synopsis from my agent query letter if that’s okay with you. The book tells the story of Alfredo Batista, a street-corner weed peddler living in a cramped Queens apartment with his parents and his seven-months-pregnant girlfriend. When the book opens, he is looking for a package of drugs, a welcome-back present for his brother, who’s returning home from prison after an absence of over two years. But the more moves Alfredo makes -- he also needs to find a pit bull somehow -- the more trouble he gets himself into. The book covers roughly 48 hours in the lives of its characters. It’s sort of structured like a plot-driven suspense novel -- there are armed robberies and dead bodies and double crossings -- but the book is equally interested in rendering the interior lives of its characters, the kind of working class people consistently underrepresented in American fiction. How’s that?

Perfecto. The best fiction writers, one could argue, are able to inhabit the mindset of their protagonists, thereby believably portraying imaginary emotions and thoughts. In Dogfight, you, a reasonably clean-cut white boy and Ivy League graduate who I think has never been to jail, inhabit the personas and voices -- very successfully and very beautifully -- of a small-time drug dealer, his girlfriend, and a recently released convict. That said, what are some of the wildest costumes you’ve worn for Halloween?

For whatever reason, I went through a phase where I felt compelled to dress up like people with awesome mustaches: Freddie Mercury, Burt Reynolds, Keith Hernandez, my undergrad creative writing teacher Ernest Hebert, Luigi from Mario Bros. Who did you dress up as? I don’t remember a single costume you ever wore, except for the Jack “Pork Chop Express” Burton outfit.

Due to an unhealthy obsession with the homicidal haunter of dreams, I dressed up as Freddy Krueger in ’86, ’87, ’88, and ’03. But moving on. What methods did you use to get into the mindsets of characters so disparate not only from each other but also from yourself?

That is...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Dogfight, A Love Story, and learn more about the book and author at Matt Burgess' website.

The Page 69 Test: Dogfight, A Love Story.

--Marshal Zeringue