Timothy Willis Sanders, 178 pgs, Civil Coping Mechanisms, copingmechanisms.net, $13.95
For more reasons than one, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass would never work as a romantic comedy, just as Katy Perry’s “Fireworks” might not fit well into the mould of a Greek tragedy. Similarly, Timothy Willis Sanders’s new release Matt Meets Vik may have all the marking of a great poem that’s been stuffed into the perhaps ill-fitting novella format.
Its narrative follows protagonist Matt through the handful of months in which he meets and courts Vik, a seemingly blasé Czech match to his neurotic American self. Matt’s interactions and non-interactions with Vik wrangle out some interesting moments: their relationship very gradually lays the foundation for the politics of addiction, and sets the stage for a climax in which the novella’s author confronts the spectrum of emotional knots one ties when trapped by a loved one.
But even with a shorter-than-average length, Matt Meets Vik takes its time setting the stage for anything interesting to occur. Timothy Sanders signs on to an obsession with the third person at the opening: “Matt stared at a redheaded woman. He looked at her wool pants and turtleneck sweater. He thought, ‘Look away.’ He leaned over and aimed his pool cue.” This artistic choice does a good job of alienating Matt from his own thoughts and actions, but it quickly grows more distracting than beneficial, and might have functioned better in a shorter work. Similarly, the narrator’s unfaltering attention to detail fleshes out the text quite a bit, but leaves its reader wondering about their relevance. This question is rarely, if ever, satisfied at a chapter’s conclusion.
Altogether, Matt Meets Vik has its moments — it stops at a few very interesting locations, but risks being remembered more for the long stretches between them. (Joel W. Vaughan)