Matt Bell (author); CATACLYSM BABY; Mud Luscious Press (Fiction: Literary) 12.00 ISBN: 9780983026372
Byline: S. Hope Mills
The twenty-six fathers narrating the alphabetized "chapters" of Matt Bell's Cataclysm Baby rope themselves to the reader, pulling him toward worlds where "fists of black hail fall from the cloudless sky and spatter the house, streak the skin of our walls, break windows above broken beds" or where parents "press our faces to the screen, put our ears to speakers making only soothing static This is where they promised we'd see our daughter again, where they said she'd return beautiful and whole, not womb-thrashed and gene-short, not malnourished and depressed. Not like her parents, they promised."
Each of these worlds is splintering and never in quite the same way. The sons in "Greyson, Griffin, Guillermo" are a redheaded trio who impregnate all the women in their town with boys. "'This is how you start a dynasty,' one says over a family dinner 'A kingdom,' says the next, then corrects himself. 'A franchise.' 'In a world that's dying,' says the third, 'isn't this all sort of beautiful?"
Bell has created a series of wombs inhabited by strange kinds of families that are also vaguely familiar. Here, babies are born with "hair on cheeks, on forehead, on lips and tongue" and children "put their hoofed hands upon the rungs of our fences." Here, parents teach their children to climb trees, explaining...