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Empty The Sun

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  103 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
Here I was, doing ninety on the Santa Monica Freeway with a quart of whiskey shoved into my crotch and my dead neighbor in the trunk. It had come time to leave Los Angeles. Thus begins the pre-apocalyptic, cross-country race with death to bury the murdered past in Joseph Mattson's EMPTY THE SUN, an urgent, beautifully reckless novel of transgressive loss and hunted redempt ...more
Paperback, Limited Edition w/CD
Published November 3rd 2009 by A Barnacle Book & Record (first published November 1st 2009)
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Dec 09, 2009 karen rated it really liked it
** now with cd review

so whenever anyone gives me a book to review, my trendency is to be more forgiving with it than if it's something i actually had to pay for or pick out for myself. it's like a nice reciprocal thing to do - you give to me, i give back. but this time, i didn't have to be too gentle, i really enjoyed this book. it is occasionally a little slick and tricky with its wordplay,and it's not my usual story,to be sure, but i found a lot of it to be spot-on and nicely lyrical. "the mar
D. Pow
Aug 02, 2010 D. Pow rated it really liked it
Dead Prussians I’ve always thought that the famous Nietzsche phrase ‘God is dead’ is deceptively complex. The crazy old Prussian didn’t say ‘God Never Was’ or ‘The whole idea of God is utter shit’ but he said ‘God is dead’, implying that God was once living and maybe even vital and important. It is the phrase of a profoundly sensitive and religiously suffused man whose last sane act before he disappeared into syphilitic psychosis was to protect a horse with his own body from the callous whips of ...more
Jan 12, 2010 Greg rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I think I would have enjoyed this book more if some discussion on Goodreads hadn't happened right before I started the book. I forget which book it was for, but MFSO and I started talking about Zweig, and his indulgent novel. MFSO mentioned some things that would always make him think of Zweig, and with that thought kind of fresh in my head I went into this book.

The main character is a down and out guitar player who no longer plays guitar because he lost his left index finger, the one that most
Nov 21, 2009 brian rated it really liked it
damn you joseph mattson for seizing on a great metaphor before i had the chance. in all its pulpy overthetop excess mattson has his protagonist stand opposite god in a serge-leone-style shotgun showdown! yup. a showdown with god. preposterous and surreal and it could only work in mattson's noir-gone-wild booze-drenched nightmare of a novel. there are times, perhaps, in which mattson pushes up too close to his literary forefathers (fante, steinbeck, etc), but he plays it straight, stays focused, ...more
Oct 26, 2009 Tosh rated it really liked it
The ultimate road novel where one finds itself in the strangest places. Joseph Mattson has a way with words like a master guitarist. And this book is in a sense about a guitarist who cannot play guitar anymore due to the talents of the LAPD Dog Unit. Nevertheless life for him sort of stops, but what happens afterward with his meeting with the LAPD is an adventure that is both real and spiritual - and its that mixture that makes this novel a real go-go.

Noir like but goes off to another world. Wh
Apr 20, 2012 Leslie rated it really liked it
[Paperback. I believe JM gave this copy to me at the Formosa Café in Hollywood, around the time of the Literary Pub Crawl, because I used the flyer as my bookmark. I also discovered, tucked in the pages, a ticket stub from Angels Flight. Fitting.]

After reading this book, I felt like drying out for the next six years.

I read it on the porch of Jack Kerouac’s old house, which seemed appropriate somehow. It’s a road book, a book about salvation and redemption and holiness, about self-destruction and
Bronwyn Mauldin
Nov 06, 2010 Bronwyn Mauldin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: indie
"Raw milk and razor wire."

Read this novel not for the plot, but for the metaphors, which are intense and engaging. It's a bit overwritten - a brilliant rhetorical flourish often stands better on its own rather than sandwiched between two mediocre ones. If you like guitar solos that run to twenty minutes, this book is for you. But when Mattson's writing shines, it does so brightly.

One word of warning: Come to this book with an iron stomach. There is a great deal of drinking followed by vomiting
Feb 25, 2013 Brendan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I will fully admit that I bought this book (at a Rangda show, I believe) for the Six Organs of Admittance CD. It sat unread and ignored on the computer desk for a long while. I'm glad I finally picked it up, though, because this book is amazing from its opening line onward. Teetering between darkly funny and surreally terrifying, the writing is fresh and original, weaving past and present into one long, rambling, redemptive blues. Read this.
From publisher

Either I am getting better and better at knowing what I like, or everyone is writing really amazing books lately. (or I am getting softer and easier to please as I age, but we won't go there!)

Empty the Sun was a book I stumbled across accidently, and it looked interesting so I reached out to Tyson Cornell of for a review copy. No, I am not ashamed to put myself out there like that. Yes, he was an absolute peach to agree to ship it out. So Tyson, I'm blowin' a little
Dec 05, 2012 Willspeare rated it liked it
It took awhile to get into this. Just enough "wow" sentences to keep me reading. I suffered a lot of imagination envy, too, for the piled on bits of God imagery and metaphor. It's not necessarily like you've never read anything like it before, but it drew me out of some conventional thinking and stretched my theological reservoir and preconceptions.

I was honestly a little fascinated by the heroin and alcohol use and how these chemicals might have influenced what was going on here and I'll also a
Joel Jennings
Sep 03, 2012 Joel Jennings rated it really liked it
A kind of tough magic realism that borders extremly close to over-kill. I've known "writers" all my life who claim they're writing a book that would look very much like this one... All whisky, blood, bile, rock n roll etc... But Mattson pulls it off with the stunning beauty of his prose. By the time you're up to your neck in disillusioned young man, you're already on his side. He loves his characters. There's enough compasion between the belts of whisky to justify the whole thing. And Mattson do ...more
Jinny Chung
"No, for the first time in my life what I feared was leaving. Leaving Los Angeles. Gone would be the long bleached avenues of warm disquiet, the whispering seven-story palms towering with wise endurance above the mashed commutes of countless human insects stitching paths across each others' sordid lives, nestled below the caustic trademark layer of smog that governs the puppet show, where hope and despair collide in intersections of the same blue smoke that aspirations are made of and then burne ...more
Dec 03, 2012 matteo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every so often, a book will remind me that books are smarter than me. This is often because my friend Dave recommended the book, and he is smarter than me. This book comes in the vein of On the Road, Hunter S. Thompson, The Glass Bead Game, and other metaphysical works that I. Just. Don't. Completely. Understand. It frequently uses stream of consciousness, which is almost always somewhat hard to decipher. It's not a hard read, but it is by no means easy. Parts of the book struck me as awesome (i ...more
Mar 30, 2011 Sara rated it really liked it
4 1/2 stars rather. I bought this book for my boyfriend because I thought it was cool it came with a Six Organs of Admittance CD. I found the first few pages to be wrought with cliche--young, drunken, reckless bearded musician-type, with a Jesus complex at age 33 to boot. From there, though, I didn't look back. I'd have finished it in a single sitting if I could have. Fiery turns of phrase lift the story from the words on the page, I dare say ecstatically in some places. And the telling is both ...more
Oct 30, 2009 Joseph rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
This is the LP version that comes with a large format 12 inch X 12 inch version of the novel. Ditto on my last review about five stars. Those not familiar with Six Organs of Admittance, check out,, and

Those not familiar with god, shotguns, whiskey, elephant seals, waterfowl slaughterhouses, motor oil, unknown blues legends, lovely prairie wraiths, etc., and downtown Los Angeles by way of the jaundiced spine of the nation, then please read
Jul 14, 2013 Alex rated it it was ok
Enjoyed it for a little over half way, then felt like the foundations of story and character gave way to poetic stylizing, which is ok, but I think it occurred at the expense of addressing some of the main questions of the story: what happened to the end of the world? How did the main character feel about that? Was there any resolution to his alcohol induced psychosis, or his thoughts about maybe playing the guitar again? Can you kill an old lady and get away with it? These questions seem import ...more
Dec 31, 2009 Bert rated it it was amazing
There is Rapture for Christians... But for those of us bent on a more studied and carefully chosen life, there is Empty the Sun! A near biography for anyone passionate about what Life holds, dear and close. Lived, Loved, and Lost. If only to be found again through Joseph Mattson's writing. Something at once precious and prescient
Jul 01, 2010 Joseph rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
This edition gets 5 stars for the incredible new artwork by Becky Smith! And for all of the other reasons listed for the other editions. Thank you to everyone who's been so overwhelmingly supportive--for making the first edition sell out so fast, enough to warrant this new printing. I am tenderly honored. Cheers!
Nom Chompsky
Mar 08, 2016 Nom Chompsky rated it really liked it
The language seems to always hit the mark and it makes the music in the plot feel alive, but that said, it's pretty uninventive on that level. Sone nice absurd encounters and the play of meaning with or without the cd makes this a fun book to think on after you've finished it. An interesting self-indulgent strung-out road-novel.
Apr 08, 2010 Devora rated it really liked it
Double shot of bourbon - neat. This LA-based novel is a poetic ode to Los Angeles and California as a place to escape to and at the same time where one's inner demons fester. This novel is deep and burns down your throat. If you allow it, this novel will take you to the deep, dark crevices of your mind and soul. At the end, it is a story of regret, love, loyalty and resurrection.
Oct 30, 2009 Joseph rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I'm giving my own book five stars on behalf of the Six Organs of Admittance soundtrack included. Ben Chasny & Steve Ruecker really came through with a whiskey-soaked driving record ready for your cross-country dashboard!

And, well, yes, I do have my own faith that the novel is good, too. It's about a shotgun fight with God. And other things.

Feb 27, 2014 Gerard rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
A very interesting read, following the life of someone who feels like there's nothing left to lose. Definitely do not recommend copying what this guy does, but it's interesting enough to read about it.

I received this book for free through Goodreads Firstreads.
Hafeez Lakhani
May 13, 2011 Hafeez Lakhani rated it liked it
Wild prose, wild character
Jul 28, 2013 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-la-novel
Another contender for the title of L.A. Weekly's "Best L.A. Novel", this may be is deserving of four stars. This was a meaningful story that I enjoyed very much.
Girl on a shelf
Nov 19, 2012 Girl on a shelf rated it it was amazing
Amazing story. Poignant and raw. Highly recommend!
Joshua Goldberg
Feb 01, 2014 Joshua Goldberg rated it really liked it
The profundity of cheap whiskey. Way, way too much cheap whiskey. And I mean that in the best way possible.
Nick rated it liked it
Feb 02, 2010
Aug 24, 2010 Nathaniel rated it liked it
Short read. Very Hunter Thompson-esk.
Cristi rated it it was amazing
Mar 26, 2011
Barbara rated it really liked it
Mar 27, 2016
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EMPTY THE SUN (Novel with Soundtrack by Six Organs of Admittance)



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