The Moss Gatherers

I loved the understated resentment and laconic pain on display in “Inheritance”; the ways in which notions of responsibility get interrogated — and hugely charged — by the premise of “Contagion”; the class tensions uniting and fracturing the family in “Supersport” (as well as its heartbreaking last sentence.) The emotional intelligence that’s on display throughout each of the stories is one of the book’s great pleasures. And what may be most impressive is the economical deftness with which the stories generate whole worlds that are entirely persuasive and compelling: I’m thinking of those hermits migrating up from the valley floors to buy Spaghetti-O’s and instant coffee at the truck stops on the interstate; those neighborhoods where someone drunk off their ass is always yelling “woo-hoo” in their house; those countries in which the orange soda tastes more like oranges than the oranges do.
Jim Shepard, author of Love and Hydrogen and Project X.

Briggs’ work is new, robust, vital and original. It’s also clear and funny sometimes and irreverent the way all original and adventurous fiction should be; it’s all good.
Stephen Dixon, author of Frog and Interstate.

A sense of the bizarre unique to the Northwest runs through the stories in Moss Gatherers: a French cyclist is murdered by supposed “moss gatherers” in costal Oregon; a child has fungus growing on his forehead; and an old woman wearing a crown of lit candles plays a Victrola in a cornfield. The stories are infused with a sense of decay and stagnancy lit by surprising flickers of human decency, however small: a young girl plays boogie-woogie at her brother’s wedding, and her family dances; an old woman tries to comfort a grieving teenager; and a woman preoccupied with safety leaves her front door wide open one night for the sake of a lost bird.  Through these stories, we realize that the bizarre is always at the periphery of our otherwise mundane lives, and when we meet it, we are offered the chance to be forever changed.

Stories have appeared in Northwest Review, The Seattle Review, StringTown, and The North Dakota Review. “Mirror Dress,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and another story, “Red Breast” won the Nelson Bentley Prize in Fiction.

Publication of the book is possible because of support from the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs CityArtist Program.

Reviews

Dodging the picturesque, postcard version of our region, the Northwest Briggs brings to his readers is at once stark and lush. From the venomous family secrets exposed in “Dry Farming,” to the backwaters of memory slowly surging through “Snoqualmie,” Seattle author Briggs gets to the emotional core of his characters by showing us how in tune they are with the landscapes actually surrounding them, rather than those we idealize.
The Seattle Times.

It’s hard, reading these stories, not to think of Ken Kesey’s Sometimes A Great Notion, with its Stamper family driven by decades of wanderlust all the way west only to fester and rot on the Oregon coast once they’ve finally been forced to sit still. Brigg’s characters are rarely as bleak or irredeemable as Kesey’s Stampers, but there’s a similar sense of unfulfilled promise tinged with a lingering optimism that treats eventual success like something owed and assumed.
Tawny Grammer

These are stories with ideas and genuine life. Briggs sticks his neck out on every page, and the reader is more than glad to stay with him. This is bold, new fiction from a real talent.
The Statesmen Journal

As with his first two books, the stories in The Moss Gatherers are set in the Northwest, but this time the Northwest is full of secret meaning and Briggs’s descriptions of trees and rivers and rocks read like paeans to trees and rivers and rocks. In Briggs’s first two books, almost all of the scenery was bleak, which set him apart from nearly everyone else who’s written well about this region. But there’s beauty throughout The Moss Gatherers, of the phoned-in and television-ready variety: granite mountains, Douglas firs, rustling corn stalks, the Burke Museum coffee shop.
The Stranger

Seattle-based certified genius Matt Briggs’ recent collection of short stories, The Moss Gatherers (StringTown Press), relates tales of families in the Pacific Northwest gone somehow wrong. It’s charming, beguiling, and slightly disturbing—not totally unlike the genius writer himself.
Punk Planet

All of Briggs’s zigzagging stories are told with great attention to the details of lowbrow culture and the contours of the American Northwest. He gives a tremendous portrait of both in “Supersport,” in which a runaway wife takes her two kids toward a new life as they plow through the wilds of Washington state, whose natural beauties and collection of flophouse motels are equally lovingly limned. Moreover, Briggs displays a deadly accurate eye for character, as in his portrait of the Bible-toting, hypocritical narrator of “Red Breast.” She is able to avoid facing her deficiencies even when the imprisoned serial child molester she has been visiting to minister to accuses her of being insensitive, only to be taken up short and forced to see herself by the unique act of a scarlet tanager.
— Jim Feast, The American Book Review

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