Undercover: 'The Novelty Essays'

With this work, Matcho proves himself to be as much tragedian as humorist, which is to say he is a true artist.



It should come as no surprise that in our current economic climate, the literature of work once again finds itself in ascendance. That Philip Levine, whose poetry dwells in the blue-collar folds of car manufacturing, should be one of our most recent poet laureates is as symptomatic of the situation some of the country finds itself in as it is the natural talents of our nation’s authors.

Add to the ranks essayist Adam Matcho, whose publisher, WPA Press, aptly takes its name from the last great experiment in putting writers and artists to work on an array of national civic projects. Matcho’s essays concern his days and nights working the counter of a mall novelty store — the kind of shop where you can find lava lamps and fake dog poo — while trying to complete his college degree and provide for his wife and newly born son.

Matcho has a light touch, always finding the humor in what is a dire, stressful state. The revolving door of weirdo customers, from the middle-aged swingers in “A Farewell to Hands” to the hitchhiking Steelers fan of “Roadside Bonding,” all serve to illustrate the absurdity of Matcho’s job. Yet he is ever aware of how much he and his family depend upon the sale of gag gifts to put food on the plate and pay for school costs. It’s a situation that’s rife for comedy.

In the nakedly honest “Left,” though, Matcho dispenses with humor altogether and instead stares down his own demons while recounting the time he briefly abandoned his wife and child. It’s here more than anywhere else in the collection that Matcho distinguishes himself as a serious writer. All of the jokes and grotesques from the previous essays congeal into the heartbreaking morass of this story of a young man finding himself totally out of his depth and unprepared for the rigors and responsibilities of adulthood. It is here that the novelty store’s surface sheen of goofiness is ripped away like a Band-Aid from a fresh wound, confronting the reader with the true stakes of life and work. With “The Novelty Essays,” Matcho proves himself to be as much tragedian as humorist, which is to say he is a true artist.

The Novelty Essays by Adam Matcho; WPA Press; $14.95



 

Rand Wyndham, the misanthropic hero of John Grochalski’s first novel, has a problem: He doesn’t want a job. He would much rather while away his time at Rooney’s Pub, his favorite Bay Ridge dive bar. But there are bills and rent to pay, so Rand begins a Homeric quest through the offices of New York City for gainful employment that won’t crush his soul and drive him crazy. Easier said than done.

Think of “The Librarian” as “A Confederacy of Dunces” if Charles Bukowski had written it. Rand, who put the kibosh on his career as a librarian (hence the title) when he head-butted a colleague, suffers through a series of workplace misadventures and indignities before returning every evening to the dirty oasis of Rooney’s, where a well-drawn cast of regulars brawl and bawl the night away.

The humor is raw and the drinks stiff; Grochalski serves as a knowing tour guide to the world of bad jobs and diminished expectations.

The Librarian by John Grochalski; Six Gallery Press; $12


Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Downtown Pittsburgh is booming. The Golden Triangle has grown in ways that previous generations may never have envisioned, and the perception of the neighborhood at the heart of Pittsburgh is changing rapidly –– for the better.
And The Winner Is....

And The Winner Is....

Meet the top vote getter in our 2016 Cutest Pet Contest.
Top Dentists 2016

Top Dentists 2016

The Pittsburgh region's 368 premier dentists across 8 specialties.
The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

Plus - we poll dentists included in our 2016 list of topDentists for their opinions and tips gleaned from years of experience in their profession.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Remembering “Chilly Billy” Cardille

Remembering “Chilly Billy” Cardille

The longtime Pittsburgh television personality had been suffering from liver cancer.
Ladies Night: W Bowl Championship Football Game Comes to Pittsburgh

Ladies Night: W Bowl Championship Football Game Comes to Pittsburgh

Co-owned by Franco Harris, the W Bowl brings together players from across the Women’s Football Alliance in a fierce competition.
Pittsburgh Health & Fitness Start-Up Expands Nationwide

Pittsburgh Health & Fitness Start-Up Expands Nationwide

For more than a year, Fitt has helped Pittsburghers discover new, local ways to exercise and eat healthy. Now, the ‘Burgh-based start-up is expanding its reach to a dozen new cities.
Young Pirate Fan Star of the Show in Pirates' Marathon Win

Young Pirate Fan Star of the Show in Pirates' Marathon Win

Starling Marte's homer in the 18th inning beat the Washington Nationals Sunday but we wonder if the game's real MVP was actually in the stands.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Downtown Pittsburgh is booming. The Golden Triangle has grown in ways that previous generations may never have envisioned, and the perception of the neighborhood at the heart of Pittsburgh is changing rapidly –– for the better.
And The Winner Is....

And The Winner Is....

Meet the top vote getter in our 2016 Cutest Pet Contest.
Top Dentists 2016

Top Dentists 2016

The Pittsburgh region's 368 premier dentists across 8 specialties.
The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

Plus - we poll dentists included in our 2016 list of topDentists for their opinions and tips gleaned from years of experience in their profession.
Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

The first crop of chefs in the Strip District restaurant incubator are four real.
A Clear Head, A Cannon for an Arm

A Clear Head, A Cannon for an Arm

After his first taste of big-league ball, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Tyler Glasnow is ready for his close-up.
Edit Module

 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Remembering “Chilly Billy” Cardille

Remembering “Chilly Billy” Cardille

The longtime Pittsburgh television personality had been suffering from liver cancer.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
A Thyme and Place

A Thyme and Place

Old friends Tricia Cohen and Lisa Graves reconnect via Facebook and collaborate on a historical cookbook.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

Grab your kits, scarfs and get ready to watch the Euro 2016 Pittsburgh-style. We'll show you where to go to get your fan on.

Comments


After Dark Hall of Fame: Sharp Edge

After Dark Hall of Fame: Sharp Edge

The local pubs that fly the Sharp Edge banner remain a favorite for top-notch beer and tantalizing grub.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Up-and-Down Bucs Survive First Half With Hope Intact

Up-and-Down Bucs Survive First Half With Hope Intact

The Pirates did just enough in the days before the All-Star break to embrace the second half of the season with anticipation if not expectation.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Namaste! Sandals Made from Yoga Mats

Namaste! Sandals Made from Yoga Mats

Sanuk’s Yoga Sling Sandal are super comfy yet chic.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The New Ghostbusters Is a Worthy Addition to the Franchise

The New Ghostbusters Is a Worthy Addition to the Franchise

Reviews of "Ghostbusters" and "The Infiltrator," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
The Perfect Shot: Wedding Photographers’ Favorite Moments

The Perfect Shot: Wedding Photographers’ Favorite Moments

We asked these Pittsburgh wedding photographers to share some of their most-memorable photos — and the stories behind them.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Ten Thousand Villages Celebrates Grand Reopening

Ten Thousand Villages Celebrates Grand Reopening

The new, larger location in Squirrel Hill features an expanded selection of handcrafted merchandise.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Online Education at Edinboro University Nationally Ranked

Online Education at Edinboro University Nationally Ranked

The university landed in the top 10 schools for disabled students seeking an online education.

Comments