Book Review : Matthew Revert - Human Trees (2017)
Everyone involved with indie publishing know who Matthew Revert is. His book covers are works of art that capture the essence and identity of novels like nothing else possibly could. They prove the don't-judge-a-book-by-its-cover wrong whenever he gets involved with a project. Too little people know that Revert is also great behind a computer keyboard. He is perhaps and even better author than designer, if you can wrap your head around that. I had the privilege of reading Matthew Revert's upcoming book Human Trees before its August 15 release and I believe it may be THE book that will change your perception of him. Reading it made me ask myself if he's one of my favorite writers working today, period. Human Trees is a surreal cipher, an odyssey at the heart of contemporary consciousness and one of my favorite things I've read this year.
So, Human Trees is the story of Robert and Michael (who I imagined as the exact some person with different hair color), two brothers going to the hospital after being told their parents had been admitted there. They meet different people in the waiting room, each trying to communicate them something: children heralds in charge of communicating bad new to people (because studies say people take bad news better if they're communicated by children) a man with a knife in his heart, a woman wearing a spider on her, an elderly person singing hymns and several others. What happened to Robert and Michael's parents? Why are they really in the hospital's waiting room? Is there something greater than the mystery of their parents' health condition at play here?
Human Trees draws inspiration from several iconic surreal narratives: Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, Franz Kafka's The Trial and more or less everything American movie director David Lynch's ever worked on. It makes fun of contemporary institutions, their self-importance and the pointlessness of their rules, which condemns Robert and Michael to an existential confrontation they would've otherwise avoided. And the beautiful thing about Human Trees is that it does it without necessarily casting a moral judgement. Matthew Revert, much like he did in the spiritual predecessor to this novel Basal Ganglia, prefers to cast doubt on reality itself. Are Robert and Michael choosing to see only a waiting room because they're afraid of the possible significance of what they're going through? Of course, Revert doesn't answers that question and lets his readership form their own answer, hence the potency of his books.
The laughter has no interest in departing Michael and he welcomes its invasive nature. It continues to fall from him as he leads his brother towards his chair.
Read that quote above. Read it twice. Out loud if you're up for it. This is one of the many reasons why Matthew Revert's writing is special. He's a stylist. It's a rare thing in this day and age. Not only he writes well, but he self-consciously contorts language in order to make his point better. In the passage above, he uses passive voice in order to depict Michael as mere conduit for laughter. The laughter is going through him whether he likes it or not. He's powerless over the absurdity of the situation and, more important, over his reaction to it. The protagonists of Human Trees Robert and Michael are powerless over their situation because they're terrified to act upon it and see behind the veil of reality and it's so powerfully depicted through Revert's use of language that it doesn't need to be explicit in the novel itself. Stylists are few and far between in 2017 and Matthew Revert is one of the best we have.
Human Trees is probably my favorite read of 2017, so far. It's beautiful, smart, spiritual and, most important, it treats its readership like intelligent people. It never force feeds answers or any sort of moral alignment. Matthew Revert might also be my favorite voice in literary fiction alongside Blake Butler. In Basal Ganglia and Human Trees, he created a paradigm that is entirely his own which offers a malleable reality that offers his readership a different experience with every reading. Human Trees is coming out next week from the well-respected Broken River Books and I'm strongly encouraging you to pick it up. Better yet, I believe you should order Basal Ganglia right now and read it before August 15 and read it to prepare for Human Trees. This is the book that will consecrate Matthew Revert as the Bo Jackson of indie literature *. There is nothing this guy can't do.
* For those of you who don't understand the reference, Bo Jackson is one of the few athletes who became an all-star in multiple sports, like Revert is both in creative writing and design.