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Rerun: Coby on Griffin & Gutierrez

Saturday Review: “A Little Mercy Left In The World After All” a review by Jim Coby in NCLR Online 2017

Matthew Griffin. Hide. (2016)
Michael Keenan Gutierrez. The Trench Angel. (2015)

Over the summer, we’re sharing some reruns of older book reviews.

Gutierrez’s newest novel, The Swill, will be reviewed in our next online issue. His first novel, The Trench Angel, was reviewed in 2017, along with Griffin’s Hide. Reviewer Coby writers, “Comes now a pair of eloquent and engaging books from first time North Carolinian novelists Matthew Griffin and
Michael Keenan Gutierrez, each tackling the subject of love in his own unique voice.”

“As Cormac McCarthy did with his Border Trilogy and Blood Meridian, Gutierrez is remapping the
American West as a realm where easy dichotomies are nowhere to be found,” Coby said. The Trench Angel takes place in Colorado, post WWI. Even Coby has a hard time distilling the plot for the review: main character Neal Stephens perhaps taking a cue from the convoluted plots of science fiction author Neal Stephenson. Coby is taken with Gutierrez’ characters, writing “Rarely do we see so vital and fascinating a secondary character that he stands to overshadow our protagonist, but that is precisely who Gutierrez created in Jesse Stephens.” This is not such a surprise coming from the Associate Director of the Writing Program at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Coby takes up a couple of themes from his interview with Griffin from the print issue. He says, “I would wager that anyone who grew up in the South will easily identify their own grandparents when reading Wendell and Frank’s playfully bickering conversations in the contemporary scenes.” Witnessing an older couple–gay or straight–who have been together forever bears many resemblances. Coby explains this by saying, “I think that this emotional capacity is rooted in the novel’s use of language. Griffin possesses an adroit ear for dialogue.”

We are excited to read what comes forth next from these two young writers.

Read the rest of the review in the ’17 Online issue.