Matthew Revert is an author of disturbing nonsense. His writing explores the absurdity of everyday life and the hopelessness of being human. Themes of sexual failure, body horror, destructive relationships and gender identity often play a roll in his work. This is intermingled with a thread of dark tragicomedy. He’s basically a filth-monger with heart.
His first book, A Million Versions of Right, was released in 2009 by LegumeMan and earned a Wonderland Book award nomination. It has garnered a strong following amongst the mustard set and has received praise for its width. In 2010, stories from A Million Versions of Right (as well as new work) appeared in the Bizarro Starter Kit (purple).
His second book, The Tumours Made Me Interesting, was released in 2011 by Legumeman Books.
Matthew resides in Melbourne, Australia, which makes him Australian. Outside of writing, he works as a graphic designer. He is also in charge of the Spontaneous Vox Pop Society, having just completed a successful season of trouser-related questions.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently finishing up my third book, �?How To Avoid Sex’, which is a short story collection compiling some previously published work as well a new material. It should be out very soon via Copeland Valley Press.
When and why did you begin writing?
Writing started out as a means of venting frustration in the face of my lack of music ability. I was quite serious about my desire to pursue music, but I could never shake the fact I wasn’t very good at it. There was no innate ability and the best I could come up with was passable music. Occasionally the reality of my musical lack would lead to bouts of depression, but due to being programmed to �?create’, I had to do something. So I would write little stories and circulate them among a small group of friends. Eventually I had to concede that writing was something in which I possessed ability, and now it’s hard to believe that I haven’t always been writing.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
This is a difficult question because the minute you consider yourself something, you risk falling victim to certain identity traps. In an empirical sense, I became a writer upon writing my first word, but in a grandiloquent sense, I may never consider myself a �?writer’ because I don’t want to base my sense of identity upon something that I do.
What inspired you to write your first book?
The realisation that I had something to say that, as far as I could ascertain, wasn’t already being said. Most of the stories in my first book, �?A Million Versions of Right’, were written before I had any desire to have anything published. Ultimately these stories were written because they were something I wanted to read. I’m still not sure that I �?deserve’ to have anything published, but as long as I’m lucky enough to have people interested in reading my work, I shall continue.
Who or what has influenced your writing?
In terms of writing, my influences stem largely from classic absurdist fiction, typically of the Russian tradition. Authors like Daniil Kharms, Alexander Vvedensky, Nikolay Zabolotsky and Konstantin Vaginov embody the classical style of Russian absurdism that I have found most interesting. Nikolai Gogol’s short story �?The Nose’ changed my life, opening me up to a whole world of possibilities. It would be remiss of me not to mention authors such as Franz Kafka, Flann O’Brien, Jorge Luis Borges, Jane Auer Bowles among many, many others too numerous to list. Beyond this, I am also heavily influenced by the absurdist television and radio that has come out of the UK, exemplified by the likes of Chris Morris, Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci, Peter Serafinowicz, Robert Popper, Peter Cook and many others. There is something very unique about the UK, which somehow allows them to truly understand the absurd – no other country comes close.
How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
I grew up very poor in a country town. It’s hard to know exactly how this has coloured my writing – perhaps it has allowed me to grasp a better understanding of the absurdity that exists in everything.
Do you have a specific writing style?
As has become apparent, absurdism informs much of my work. In a sense, my writing exists in an effort to ask what comes after postmodernism. Postmodernism was an understandable response to the modernist hangover that hit in the 50s and gained momentum in the 60s. I think it’s safe to say that postmodernism has served its purpose and can now retire. It’s time to ask, �?what’s next?’ So if I have a style, it exists in the confrontation of this question via absurdist means.
Is there a message in your work that you want readers to grasp?
Well… yes and no. I populate my books with messages, but I have no interest in forcing others to grasp them. I hope that my work operates on a level wherein, if you chose, you can read into it, but if that’s not what moves you, you can enjoy the work anyway. I think the humour that encases my writing helps the reader swallow a little easier.
What book are you reading now?
At the moment, the bulk of my current reading is of a philosophical and/or psychoanalytic nature. I’m also re-reading a lot of Kafka. In a fiction sense, I just started reading Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s �?Running Away’, which I’m finding very exciting.
What is the most misunderstood aspect of your work?
That my work is purely toilet humour. I am complicit in this misunderstanding in that I have been guilty of obfuscating what my work was saying behind a certain lowbrow sheen. I have no issue with people reading my work for the lowbrow elements, but I’m not necessarily the body function-obsessed person many believe me to be.
Any memories of particular works: the writing of, feedback, the thought behind…etc.
I have vivid, horrifying memories of the editing process of my story, �?Meeting Max’ in �?A Million Versions of Right’. I really punished my poor editor, Brooke Walters during that process, but (at the time) I believed I was also being punished and acted like an emo about the whole thing. The re-writes were significant, but the deadlines were tight, and it was a harrowing experience. Now I’m enormously happy that I had to endure this, because it taught me a lot about writing. A recent conversation with Brooke revealed that, although equally painful for her at the time, it was a valuable experience for her also. Now I look back upon that story with equal part pride and terror.