Shoot the Buffalo

The summer Aldous Bohm turns nine, his parents move to the woods near Snoqualmie, Washington, “to reinvent the American family.” The Bohm’s are working class hippies in post-Vietnam America. Their makeshift pastoral takes shape in a haze of pot smoke and good intentions and ultimately births a vortex of personal insecurity and romanticism taking the family deeper into the woods to destroy them. Aldous oversees these tragedies, recalled a decade later, after he has left Snoqualmie to join the military in the buildup to the first Gulf War. Sweeping in scope yet unerringly precise in its detail, Shoot the Buffalo conjoins the dead end narrative of American masculinity with its stubborn twin – the Romantic ideal of nature – to suggest an ambivalent way forward, a path out of these woods.

Not since Ken Kesey has a long-form literary work subjected the utopian outsider traditions of the North American west coast to such an intimate and clear-eyed scrutiny.

Matt Briggs’ books, particularly The Remains of River Names and the novel Shoot the Buffalo, are to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest what Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and Grapes of Wrath were to the Salinas Valley and Monterey, or William Faulkner’s best work to New Orleans. Briggs has the language, cadence, and rain-shrouded soul of the Northwest honed to perfection in his candid and haunting style. He is a brilliant contemporary practitioner of an ancient art, that of summoning the essence of place in prose. His stories are as fluid as the moist environment that birthed them.

Raymond Mungo, author of Total Loss Farm and Famous Long Ago

[Briggs] newest novel, Shoot the Buffalo, is both a deliberate and impulsive reading experience. The mood of his prose reminds me of a term I’ve heard Jonathan Raymond use: The Dark Hippie.

— Kevin Sampsell, author of Beatiful Blemish, at Powells Blog


Shoot the Buffalo has a luminous quality. It is Salinger, set west of the Cascades. It is Ray Carver with longer sentences. Not since the emergence of Sherman Alexie has the Northwest produced such a unique narrative voice. Briggs can turn a cheap plastic lighter into a family heirloom, the search for Sasquatch into a child’s dream on par with Peter Pan. Briggs’ woods may be dark and deep, but there is never any doubt that Aldous will manage to hike out of them. Anyone who sees the world as Aldous does will not be lost forever.
The Oregonian

Shoot the Buffalo is a small, perfect book about large, messy things. […] Laying out his larger themes without trickiness or pretension, Briggs pins them in place using vivid particularities.
The Seattle Times

On the whole Briggs offers an earnest, muscular indictment of the dropout counterculture.
Publishers Weekly

The pages fly by as Briggs, a superb craftsman, expertly jumps back and forth in time, juxtaposing Bohm’s perceptions and experiences at 9 with events at age 18.
Seattle Magazine

Beautifully told and filled with characters of real depth and struggle, the story shouldn’t be missed.
School Library Journal

Briggs handles his complex yet involving plot with masterful aplomb; he has captured a distinctly Northwest setting with an original narrative voice.
The Seattle PI

Briggs’s hefty, dreamlike book contributes worthily to Clear Cut’s splendid list.

[In] Briggs’ debut novel a young boy whose parents lead an alternative lifestyle in the woods near Snoqualmie, where a string of tragedies leave a devastating affect on his life view.
The Bellingham Herald

Briggs’s view of nature seems approached with an eye and mind of someone who really knows it. The nature of these back woods of Washington is beautiful but wild, poetic but deadly and Briggs writes it as someone who loves nature but knows it well enough to be just a little bit afraid of it. His view of the working class in the logging town of Snoqualmie is equally mature; so often working class characters come off as either idealized heroes or doddering bumpkins. But Briggs creates real, believable characters full of flaws and strengths.
Hebdomeros Blog, Baltimore & Washington DC

There’s no doubt as to Briggs’ skillful use of point of view, descriptive detail, aesthetic distance, and myriad other techniques of fiction that make the work uniquely his. Shoot the Buffalo is an outstanding work of fiction.
Portland Mercury

The other core strength of the novel is Briggs’s ability to conjure the voice and perspective of an intelligent, watchful child, with all his limitations intact. Aldous Bohm is a brilliant portrait of youthful consciousness in its attempt to negotiate the complex emotions of early adulthood. To watch him grapple especially with a generous measure of misplaced guilt around which much of the book revolves, is nothing short of heartbreaking.
The Rumpus