“A guided tour through an urban menagerie peopled by society’s outcasts, truants, and misfits — adrift in a sea of humanity, putting in time, but cursed from the start. Their only solace found in booze, casual sex, mysterious rituals, and the mass media. Raw and unpretentious…”
I wrote that blurb for the back cover of Firth’s first collection of short stories, Fresh Meat (Rush Hour Revisions, 1997).
In much the same way as my own, Firth’s fiction challenged Canadian stereotypes as being “typically friendly” and Canada “a comfycosy place to live and breathe.” Indeed, the Canadian novels we were both raised on largely spoon-fed us this frontier and wilderness myth of Canadian literature, depicting people struggling against elemental and economic hardships which simply had no more basis anymore in Canadian post-realist experience.
Firth’s stories and characters, drawn from his own urban experiences, and his own urban epiphanies, reveal the urban working class and below “as they really, truly are” not in some Bukowski-esque glorification as so many Canlit reviews have attempted to categorize Firth’s fiction, but “how people live, how they find comfort and release in sex, the bottle, or in some minor diversion…”
From almost the first time we met back in the mid-1990s, Firth had been a kindred writing and publishing spirit. His magazine, Front & Centre, now approaching its 25th issue, had long been the only other magazine in Canada publishing transgressive, post-realist, dangerous fiction alongside my litzine, Urban Graffiti. His Black Bile Press series of one-off chapbooks are quite reminiscent of Anne Turyn’s Top Top Stories.
Matthew Firth has been a cook in a soup kitchen, a garbage man, and an asphalt raker. He currently edits Front & Centre Magazine. He is the author of Fresh Meat (Rush Hour Revisions, 1997), Can You Take Me There, Now? (Boheme Press, 2001), and Suburban Pornography & Other Stories (Anvil Press, 2006). A new collection, entitled Shag Carpet Action, nine stories and a novella, is forthcoming in October, 2011, from Anvil Press. He was born and raised in Hamilton – which might very well have something to do with his transgressive literary tendencies. He lives in Ottawa.