Matt Geiger’s Astonishing Tales made the Conversations blog Top 50 Non-Fiction Books of 2018.
Matt Geiger, our second guest, says “Anytime I’m able to talk about Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov in a single interview, I’m happy!” So Vicki makes him happy and asks why. We’ll chat about his latest book Astonishing Tales: Your Astonishment May Vary – a collection of stories and essays.
Matt is a humorist, essayist, and award-winning journalist and author, who lives in Wisconsin with his wife, daughter, ten animals, and several metaphysical questions. Listen to the interview.
In his new collection of stories and essays, acclaimed author and humorist Matt Geiger seeks to de-familiarize us from the world, from the smallest detail to the most cosmic mythology, in order to see it all as if for the first time. Turning his philosopher’s vision to his own abundant Neanderthal DNA, parenting, competitive axe throwing, old age, and much more, he sets out in search of comic profundity. With a nod to the limits of human knowledge and understanding, particularly his own, he draws from the wisdom of an 83-year-old pin-up legend, Peter the Great, Santa Claus, modern boxers, Medieval monks, and of course small children. Blending whimsy and gravitas, he unveils beauty, joy, and happiness in a seemingly broken world. Hear the full interview.
His latest book of essays and stories, Astonishing Tales, will have you scratching your head, in between belly laughs.
That’s what you might expect from a writer who has won both literary awards and a one-hand axe throwing competition.
Listen in while Matt Geiger tells selected tales from his book. Hear the interview.
On this edition of Conversations, Matt Geiger joins us to talk about the collection of humorous yet emotionally powerful stories and essays you’ll find in his latest book, Astonishing Tales! (Your Astonishment May Vary).Geiger is an award winning essayist and journalist, who is frequently heard on public radio.
Listen to the interview here.
Being a comedian or a humor writer is a difficult job. We all have different concepts of what is funny. Isn’t responding to a comic writer or actor based on at least a similar sense of humor, and perhaps on a similar view of the absurdities of life?
My two favorite comedy writers are/were David Sedaris and (sigh) Robin Williams. Both have a somewhat slanted point of view; while Sedaris may write about dysfunctional families and oddities of behavior, Williams could be downright raunchy, as he was in his hilarious, fast-paced, off-color performance DVDs. Suggestive, witty, incredibly fast-paced. Often ad lib, seldom about his life.
This comedy writer, Matt Geiger, the author of Raised by Wolves, is not like Sedaris or Williams. Not in the least. (By the way, no one was raised by wild canines here, to my disappointment! But a large dog lives with the author and family, so that almost qualifies as an accepted topic for canine-lovers.) Geiger favors a kind of sweet comedy; not that what he writes isn’t funny–it’s not rude. It’s not off-center. It’s not making fun of people except possibly himself. His stories won’t make you blush or guffaw for five minutes. They’ll make you chuckle or think, “Where has this guy been? Did this truly happen?” He lives at a slower pace in Wisconsin. Think American cheese and white bread. Mind you, I love cheese, and Matt Geiger is not white bread; he just likes a quieter life than might take place in larger, more cosmopolitan places. He wants his wife, daughter and animals to lead a more rural, less stressful life.
The Billboard had promised gasoline, sandwiches, and the opportunity to see a two-headed calf named “Heady”.
Standing in The Pit Stop in Mineral Point, I gazed up and scanned for signs it was a hoax. Maybe the deformity was the result of a clever taxidermist’s touch rather than the handiwork of a hilarious, but also cruel and uncaring god?
I regularly scold myself for being disengaged from the majestic world around me. For slipping away, mentally, and not taking note of the beauty when a dollop of fresh rain collides with an old, soft, green-hued plank on a porch. For not being stunned by the mythic, atavistic form of a vast cloud of steam rising from the sagging jowls of a big dog on a sunny, midwinter afternoon… Hear the entire story on WPR.
Matt Geiger is a journalist and the author of Raised by Wolves and Other Stories.
On my daughter’s third Christmas, we marched her down to the Mt. Horeb public library to see Santa, a man famous for judging kids. Child after child plopped down on his lap to ask for an assortment of plastic things. Little did they know Santa wasn’t the only one judging them on that particular morning.
“Ho, ho, ho,” he said, really chewing on the limited dialogue. “What do you want for Christmas this year?”
I’ve done it! I’ve lured my first interesting individual into the trap of answering my Q&A that I developed through extensive scientific research with the intent of bringing out very interesting tidbits from very interesting individuals. (I used google… have you guys heard of this???) I also scraped the deepest wells of my own creativity to come up with these hard hitting questions that the PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW. So you’re welcome. And thank you. Read more…
Geiger’s debut “The Geiger Counter: Raised by Wolves & Other Stories” was selected as a finalist in the Humor category.
Hear “The Geiger Counter: Raised by Wolves & Other Stories” author Matt Geiger read “Boring Death: A Theory Of Midwestern Cemeteries” on Wisconsin Public Radio.
Graveyards in the American Midwest feel like missed opportunities. The neatly mowed rows of economical, hardy, unpretentious headstones.
To walk through a graveyard in Wisconsin is to see 300 dead people trying desperately not to outdo one another. The markers are neat, tidy, and all nearly identical. You can just see the dearly departed, while still alive, clutching a loved one’s hand as the light inside starts to flicker, wheezing: “Please, when you select my headstone, make sure it’s… unremarkable.”
These are the types of people who, when asked to “pick a number,” will invariably go with “6,” because that’s surely enough. Anything more, to a practical Midwesterner, seems greedy, presumptuous, or just plain wasteful.
I’ve been to other parts of the country. I’ve even lived in some of them, including, somewhat regrettably, Florida, where the swampy ground makes traditional burials a mucky, challenging endeavor. When you try to give people there a decent burial, the earth tends to spit them back out, essentially saying: “No thanks.”
But at least in the swampy southern hinterlands, graveyards are beautiful, mossy, and pleasantly ostentatious. Like little jungle gardens where stone mausoleums and statues of angels and saints grow crookedly out of soggy soil and slowly disintegrating human lives.
In Wisconsin, humility is just in people’s DNA. Asking them to suddenly be grand once they die is like asking them to come back as zombies and open up a profitable unicorn farm.
There is a place called the Dickyville Grotto. It looks like any old Catholic shrine, dedicated to God and country, with the notable exception that every square inch is festooned with things like petrified sea urchins and fool’s gold. It’s wonderful, in large part because visitors leave knowing exactly what it would look like if Saint Francis and the sea god Poseidon were involved in a violent head-on collision. It’s not actually a graveyard, though.
Personally, I’ve always wanted to be shot out of a cannon, or tied to the mast of a ship that’s then set on fire with burning arrows, when I die. “That way people will remember me!” I think, briefly forgetting that I will surely feel little, or no, vindication when that day actually comes.
I worry my life will not be worthy of note, so I’m just skipping ahead and planning a death that I think people can get excited about. So, maybe these practical Midwesterners have boring graveyards because they’re generally happy with their body of work while alive. Maybe they aren’t worried they will be forgotten, because, along with frugality, an inability to get a haircut not from the 1930s, and the almost pathological compulsion to fry cheese, they know they’ve made a mark, in the people they were kind to, or the ones they nourished and nurtured.
Maybe I won’t need to be shot out of a cannon when I die. Maybe my life will be enough.
Or, and I’m fairly certain this is correct, the best option is to live the way Midwesterners do. To be kind, and measured. When life does end, the time to start acting like an ancient, egomaniacal Babylonian king will finally be at hand.
In death I can have an enormous, colorful monument built to celebrate my plainspoken, practical approach to life, and my incredible, towering modesty. Then I can have that monument slathered in luminescent pink, covered in seashells, and shot out of a cannon, high into the heavens. It will be a bold, italicized, underlined exclamation point on the end of a solid, sensible story.
Posted May 30, 2017
I devoured Humorist/Philosopher Matt Geiger’s new book like a fresh batch of hot, buttered popcorn. The 232 page book, “Geiger Counter: Raised by Wolves &Other Stories,” is a clever mixture of childhood remembrances, St. Augustine college stories and vignettes of sweet fatherhood. Stories as diverse as “In the Graveyard,” “Fixing Things” and “A Christmas Story” seamlessly mix his past St. Augustine experiences with more current happenings in an enjoyable stream of consciousness prose, while— surprisingly— the hilarious “Stop and Smell the Manure” is set in Wisconsin, his current home.
The sporadic love letters to his toddler daughter are a nice respite from the cartoonish violence of his accounts of growing up on a farm, and show his growth as a person. Died-in-the-wool re-enactors may quibble with a few of his historical liberties but most of them are in a humorous vein.
Wisconsin Bookwatch: March 2017
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575
The Fiction Shelf
His little sister joins the circus. His parents buy a nerdy horse. He’s surrounded by hundreds of men dressed up as Ernest Hemingway. He tries to order a monkey through the mail. And now his baby is eating dog food. “The Geiger Counter: Raised by Wolves and Other Stories” is an anthology of short stories showcasing an author with an impressive flair for originality and deftly crafted storytelling. Matt Geiger reveal the sublime in the mundane and the comical in the banal. There is existential dread. There is festivity amid detritus. There are moments of genuine introspection on what it means to be human. And it’s all laugh-out-loud funny when told by a humorist who is determined to live an examined life, even if he’s not always entirely sure what he’s looking at. While very highly recommended, especially for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that “The Geiger Counter: Raised by Wolves and Other Stories” is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).
“The Geiger Counter” is a collection of accessible essays
January 26, 2017
Matt Geiger is terrified most of the time. And he’s fine with that.
That’s just life, says the weekly newspaper editor and columnist, and all you can do is sit back and be amused.
Geiger’s wry observations form the bulk of the essays in The Geiger Counter: Raised by Wolves & Other Stories (Henschelhaus Publishing), a collection of 44 columns.
The Mailbox Is Always Full…
…of books and manuscripts from folks requesting I read their work. I am humbled by this, because that’s exactly what I want, too. Unfortunately there are so many weekly arrivals I’d have to read full time just to acknowledge a fraction of them and meanwhile my own work (as a writer, yes, but also as a Dad and a 9-below plow-truck starter) wouldn’t get done. I’m saying this because there is a fellow named Matt Geiger currently residing in Wisconsin who has just released a collection of writing called The Geiger Counter: Raised by Wolves and Other Stories, and I’m glad he has, because we need as many thoughtful, reflective, matter-of-fact voices as we can get. Matt and I are not buddies or related or anything but I can tell you when I peeked in his book I saw the word “chickens” and the phrase “fail the Scott Fitzgerald IQ exam,” so we share that. Also, he got a blurb from Doug Moe, and Doug Moe is a solid citizen. Here’s the book right here.
Each column allows readers to dive into the funny, heartfelt world of Matt Geiger.
Local writer has humorous style
Each column allows readers to dive into the funny, heartfelt world of Matt Geiger.
Doug Moe, Madison Magazine
Dec 12 2016
What I want to know is: How has there been this delightful writer living in my area code for more than a decade and I’ve just heard about him?
It’s true that his first book was released just last week, and that he writes columns for small newspapers that I don’t often see. But still. The world needs to know about Matt Geiger.
Consider this lead from an essay titled “Philosophy.”
“Calling home from college to tell your parents you are switching your major to philosophy and theology is a rather sobering experience for everyone involved.
“For them, it is much like a call from jail, only worse because instead of a one-time bail payment, you are essentially informing them you will require financial subsidies for the rest of your life. For you, it is perhaps even more difficult, because there is a slight chance this is the final straw and they will decline to pay for your food for the next fifty years. In my case, I had already made the call from jail a few years earlier, which surely did not help my chances.”