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 ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Friday Night Sleep Out to Raise Money for Homeless

Friday Night Sleep Out to Raise Money for Homeless

If you’re on the hunt for Friday night plans with a purpose, consider sleeping outside to benefit those in Pittsburgh who have to spend every night on the streets.
The Fascinating History of the David McCullough Bridge

The Fascinating History of the David McCullough Bridge

More than 80 years after its demise was erroneously reported, the David McCullough Bridge still stands as an engineering and architectural highlight among the city’s many spans.
Gone Viral: Duquesne Students Score Big With Rat Slapshot

Gone Viral: Duquesne Students Score Big With Rat Slapshot

Their tic-tac-toe passing would impress Mike Sullivan.
1,000 Points Earns Crosby His Own Primanti Bros. Sandwich

1,000 Points Earns Crosby His Own Primanti Bros. Sandwich

Unlike previous Penguins-inspired sandwiches, Crosby’s “The Captain” could be on the menu for years to come.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

In a year when youth-hockey participation is expected to increase, Pittsburgh Penguins players weigh in on the role of the hockey parent.
Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

There’s a magical, snowy landscape right in your backyard.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Friday Night Sleep Out to Raise Money for Homeless

Friday Night Sleep Out to Raise Money for Homeless

If you’re on the hunt for Friday night plans with a purpose, consider sleeping outside to benefit those in Pittsburgh who have to spend every night on the streets.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
CSA Day Reminds Pittsburghers (and Beyond) To Support Local Farms

CSA Day Reminds Pittsburghers (and Beyond) To Support Local Farms

It's the third year running for the concept, which was created by Simon Huntley of Pittsburgh's Small Farm Central.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Adventure Bingo Returns at the Ace Hotel

Adventure Bingo Returns at the Ace Hotel

The one-of-a-kind night of bingo, trivia and madcap monologues returns in a new spot.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Dave Hanson and the Enduring Legacy of Slap Shot

Dave Hanson and the Enduring Legacy of Slap Shot

The Hanson Brothers and other stars of the classic hockey film will return to Johnstown this weekend for a 40th anniversary celebration.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Check out the chic decor from Pittsburgh-based artist and designer Janice Nelson.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Our Full 2017 Oscar Predictions (Wherein La La Land Wins Everything)

Our Full 2017 Oscar Predictions (Wherein La La Land Wins Everything)

Breaking down what we know and only think we know about the 2017 Academy Awards.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

This couple’s centerpiece from our Real Pittsburgh Weddings shines brighter than the traditional table bouquet.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Columbus-based store, where you can customize your own candle fragrance, is expected to open in March.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

An art director from Warner Bros. Studios will visit La Roche College to talk about the Oscar-nominated film with ties to Pittsburgh.

Comments