Friday, September 4, 2015

"Little Beasts"

Matthew McGevna was born and raised in Mastic Beach, Long Island. Born of Irish descent, he attended fiction and poetry workshops in Galway, Ireland, through the University of Arkansas Writing Program. He received his MFA in creative writing from Long Island University’s Southampton College in 2002. An award-winning poet, McGevna has also published numerous short stories in various publications, including Long Island Noir, Epiphany, and Confrontation. He currently lives in Center Moriches, New York, with his wife and two sons, Jackson and Dempsey.

McGevna applied the Page 69 Test to Little Beasts, his first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The thought made his lines bolder. The charcoal sticks in his hand would break and roll to the floor. David felt a kind of sadness that had no beginning and no end. He felt a pain in the back of his eyes. His chest was heavy, and he didn’t know exactly why. All the world was in order, as far as he knew…

…Despite these reassurances to himself that all was in order, there was still something deep down that scratched at his mind like a cat begging to be let in. The focus he had longed for was lost in this nagging mist of fear and sadness. He had taken his dinner out of the oven and brought it into his studio to eat. He had closed the door to keep the dog out. He had taken out the garbage, handed his mother her glasses, and told her to leave him alone for the rest of the night. All he wanted was to be left alone, and now he was. He could hear his ears ringing. He stood up, put the charcoal stick down, opened the garage door, and disappeared into the warm, wet Turnbull night.
Page 69 comes remarkably close to encapsulating the spirit and theme of Little Beasts. In this scene, 15-year-old David Westwood is stewing at his home over the fact that his girlfriend (his term for what they have together) has not called him. An aspiring artist, David plans to work on a painting, but is driven to madness wondering what Julia might be up to. David reflects on his fears and insecurities, brought on by slights both real and imagined from his classmates. Finally, he puts down his brush and heads out in the pouring rain to walk to Julia’s house.

The novel is about poverty, and how financial deprivation leads to deprivation of self worth, deprivation of opportunities, deprivation of any sense of safety and security. When David doesn’t get the reception he expects on this night (on pg. 69), it adds another level of rage and insecurity that eventually manifests itself in an awful, violent way.

When he heads out to Julia’s house, he views it as a sweeping, cinematic gesture. The reality falls much shorter than that, and what you’ll notice in Little Beasts is how often reality is misinterpreted by the characters. There’s a lot of misunderstanding in Little Beasts, and this scene really underscores that motif
Visit Matthew McGevna's website.

Writers Read: Matthew McGevna.

--Marshal Zeringue