Kind Words

“It’s terribly hard to write funny and Cashion accomplishes that with rare aplomb. Sweet and sad and full of pluck, the lives unfold before our very eyes. One does not read so much as they listen. One does not read so much as they while away the time in a wonderful place with generous people.”–judge’s remarks on OUR 13th DIVORCE, winner of the Edna Ferber Fiction Prize, judged by Robert Olmstead, author of Savage Country and Elements of the Writing Craft.

“Only in the wild and witty world of Matt Cashion could multiple divorces, various addictions, and general Loser-dom seem both hilarious and heartbreaking. These stories are compassionate, wacky, and utterly absorbing. Cashion should be recognized for what he is, a new master of dark humor and a major new Southern talent.“–Robin Hemley, author of Do-Over!

Our 13th Divorce is a vibrant exploration of what it means to be in a lasting (key word there) and committed relationship. Matt Cashion’s gift for realistic, witty dialogue is excellent as is his ability to locate fragility and tenderness where you least expect it.–Jill McCorkle, author of Heiroglyphics, a novel.

“I loved Our 13th Divorce. Living with these characters for a couple of days was infinitely rewarding, and I am happy to report that this is one of those rare novels that delivers on all the promises it offers in its first fifty pages. Cashion is a subtle writer whose heart is worthy of his art. I’ll be reading every word he writes.”–Steve Yarbrough, author of Realm of Last Chances.

“Voices–rising, falling, whispering, singing–animate these vivid stories of changelessness and change, as the members of these deeply American communities negotiate the demands of social traditions and the needs of their bodies and souls.  Confession–acknowledgments of failures and dreams of redemption–have rarely sounded so moving, so illuminating of our national predicaments as in Matt Cashion’s bracing and splendid collection of stories.”—Tracy Daugherty, author of Hiding Man and The Last Love Song.

“Last Words of the Holy Ghost is both an affectionate homage to and a sly burlesque of the tropes and traditions of Gothic Southern fiction. At the same time, in its precise prose and spooky intelligence and sharp-eyed examination of the condemned kind we are, it is an original, as meet as it is contrary. Listen: if you can find a collection of stories more cohesive, more ambitious in reach, more generous in its passion, and fancier in its footwork, I will buy it for you and deliver it in person. In the meantime, put some Matt Cashion between your ears and then try to resist the temptation to dash into the street and shout “hallelujah” at your neighbors.”–Lee K. Abbott, author of All Things, All at Once; judge of the 2015 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction.

“I LOVED Last Words of the Holy Ghost. Loved it. Matt Cashion’s stories took me in, took me home. Took me hostage. The stories are about real humans doing real (and really ridiculous) things, and you can’t help but love them for it. In his characters Matt hones the edge of want so fine, so sharp, that you won’t even realize you’re bleeding until it’s too late. Then you’ll ask for more.”—Steven Sherrill, author of Joy, PA and The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break.

“Cashion’s stories are heartrending and, at the same time, hardened by humor that is brilliantly and painfully hilarious….When you look at how various great writers are bringing their home people to literary consciousness — Ron Rash’s noble survivors and victims; Lee Smith’s chaos-managing laughing folk; Dorothy Allison’s assertive fighters; George Singleton’s cracked villagers — you can further appreciate Cashion’s mouthing wounded.”–Asheville Citizen-Times. Read the entire review here.

“Sometimes these stories are laugh-out-loud funny in a way that doesn’t feel cheap or forced, but rather, completely fitting for Cashion’s characters…. Fortunately, Cashion doesn’t overplay his hand with the comedic flourishes. The emotional core of these stories pumps blood until the collection’s heartbeat is an almost audible pulse….At times, it’s as if these stories are asking us: What’s more embarrassing than being a human?–from The Colorado Review’s review of Last Words of the Holy Ghost. Full review here.

“A literary novel explores more than a dozen mostly failed relationships, a family’s quest for happiness, and the hope of salvation….The story’s clever banter serves as comic relief for its otherwise heavy tone…This seemingly cynical family tale offers redemption in unexpected places.” Kirkus Reviews on Our 13th Divorce. Read the entire review here.

“The way these stories–sentence by sentence–vacillate between being laugh-out-loud funny and tender and touching, calls to mind the work of George Saunders, but the voice here is all Matt Cashion’s. LAST WORDS OF THE HOLY GHOST is populated by characters who are troubled and sometimes troubling, and oh so human in the way they persevere, however damaged or broken they may seem. Intricately designed and powerfully observed, this is a brilliant, masterful, and moving collection.”–Chad Simpson, author of Tell Everyone I Said I Hi.

“A dozen colorful short stories set in the heart of darkness that is rural America…The real gift of these stories is that they center on some absurdity but never really make fun of the people they’re portraying…A sublime collection that uses compassion and subtle humor to capture heavy moments in lives lived on the margins.” Kirkus Reviews on Last Words. See the entire review here.  

“I imagine Flannery O’Connor, from her perch among the Communion of Saints, perusing in happy astonishment Matt Cashion’s story collection, LAST WORDS OF THE HOLY GHOST. Cashion’s spin on the mysteries of human behavior is nothing short of stunning, and the characters who star in these dozen wholly outrageous parables will travel with you for all your days. Their pedestrian, yet epic, falls from grace are hilarious and heartbreaking at once. Often bandied about – among readers, critics, and writers alike – is the writer’s voice. Whatever that means, you will come away from these stories knowing you’ve been evangelized by one. Cashion has reckoned the human core at its most volatile and truthful, and had the wit, courage and boundless talent to somehow cast it into words.” Joseph Bathanti, author of The Life of the World to Come.

“‘Any Idiot Can Feel Pain’ is a story so daring and unusual and darkly funny that I found myself shaking my head, again and again, laughing and wincing, wondering just how this writer was doing whatever it was he was doing. This story is a magic trick, a trip down dark avenues, a journey full of twists and turns. It’s got energy out the wazoo and a voice that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page. It’s not often that I’m surprised. This time, I was more than surprised. I was astonished. Matt Cashion is not a writer I’ve met or of whom I’d heard before, but it’s safe to say that he has a new fan for life. I would follow his stories anywhere.”–David James Poissant, judge’s remarks for “Any Idiot Can Feel Pain,” selected for the 2015 Zona Gale Short Fiction Award, sponsored by the Wisconsin Writers Council.

From Ross McMeekin, in Ploughsares, on “The Best Short Story I read in a Lit Mag This Week,” re: “What to do When Your Spouse is Burning.”

“Funny, heartbreaking, and filled with little surprises along the way, immediately engaging, tightly written, unsentimental and full of feeling. The characters are delightfully eccentric yet real and the vividness of the scenes feels like you’re watching a movie in your mind.”—Tatyana Mishel, judge’s remarks for, “Last Words of the Holy Ghost,” which she selected winner of the 2010 Sternig Fiction Prize, sponsored by the Wisconsin Writers Council.

“[Last Words of the Holy Ghost is] A first-rate story collection… Although its southern grotesques and parabolical mysticism remind one immediately of Flannery O’Conner and Carson McCullers, something about these stories also reminded me of John Cheever (think “The Swimmer”) and Nathanael West (think “Miss Lonelyhearts”) with a very subtle pinch of David Foster Wallace (think of all those comically disturbing characters and situations in Infinite Jest). Somewhere between form and content though, what Matt Cashion achieves in almost every story here is a kind of transubstantiation via the written word, the suffering human body transformed into the spirit of redemption through narrative miracles of rare device. Each story seems to leave us aching and yet somehow salvaged, or at least fortified to endure more of the aching that being human surely entails for all of us sooner or later. Part of this is done through Cashion’s particular brand of humor…. Feeling for Cashion’s characters as we do, we can’t seem to laugh at them without laughing at ourselves, and as Freud argued, there’s something therapeutic about laughing at ourselves because it helps attenuate the otherwise severe and often sadistic machinations of the superego. There can be no self-forgiveness without self-directed laughter, and the same goes for the forgiveness of our species, something we’ve been sorely in need of since the first storyteller attempted it through the art of compassionate, comical narrative. The best narratives have always been both compassionate and comical, so it’s easy to see why Last Words of the Holy Ghost won the Katherine Anne Porter prize. Highly recommended.” Dr. Bradley Butterfield, author of Idiot Boys..

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