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How They Were Found

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  320 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
In this debut collection, Matt Bell draws from a wide range of genres to create stories that are both formally innovative and imaginatively rich. In one, a 19th-century minister follows ghostly instructions to build a mechanical messiah. In another, a tyrannical army commander watches his apocalyptic command slip away as the memories of his men begin to fade and fail. Else ...more
Paperback, 243 pages
Published November 2nd 2010 by Keyhole Press (first published October 1st 2010)
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Jul 26, 2013 Kris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic collection of short stories. Matt Bell shows a great deal of range in styles and settings -- from the OuLiPo influenced "An Index of How Our Family Was Killed," to the extended and subdued horror of "The Receiving Tower," from the fantastically rearranged story of Red Riding Hood in "Wolf Parts," to the nightmarish story of the Collyer brothers, historical hoarders extraordinaire, in "The Collectors." As a writer of short fiction, Matt Bell contains multitudes. The range of t ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Greg rated it really liked it

(insert my usual preamble about my eh-ness about short story collections)

That said, again, this book has some of the problems I normally have with short story collections, but there is a difference. Where too many authors have story collections that end up blending into what is basically the same story just told a bunch of different ways with some different characters and things happening and they might all seem different on the surface they are just treading on the same ground. See for example
Paul Bryant
Oct 12, 2013 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
The burly man finishes his can of beer and wonders aloud why there’s a dead girl in the fridge. The wolf tells him what do you expect at this time of the year, sirloin? They continue to leaf through the latest catalogue of lawn furniture which arrived that morning.

No! – let’s for once resist the ventriloquial delights of cheap parody. Instead let’s say this collection has four great stories in it, which is four more than a lot of other books you could mention, and a sprinkling of ones which fra
Tanuj Solanki
Jul 31, 2016 Tanuj Solanki rated it liked it
Problems with Notes about 'How They Were Found'

1. 'How They Were Found' has been touted for its originality. It is not as original as it is in fact a search for originality. One can call it experimental, but its experiments are not the experiments of an wizened scientist. This is a young lad mixing chemicals in his basement lab.

2. The stories that deal with love, loss, and the responses to loss, connected the most with this reader. In the opening story, 'Cartographer's Girl,' written with a bala
Ticklish Owl
If you liked this book, you might also enjoy:

Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls
Pretty Monsters: Stories
Somewhere Beneath Those Waves

The Cartographer’s Girl
The Receiving Tower
His Last Great Gift
Her Ennead
Hold On To Your Vacuum
Ten Scenes From A Movie Called Mercy
Wolf Parts
The Leftover
A Certain Number of Bedrooms, A Certain Number of Baths
The Collectors
An Index of How Our Family Was Killed
Feb 19, 2011 Kelly rated it it was amazing
When I read the last page of this book, I had to take a deep breath and say damn. This is the kind of book that is so perfectly executed it makes a writer want to put down her pen forever, and makes her want to start from page one again to see just how the author pulled it off. It's truly a spectacular collection.
Dec 04, 2013 Emily rated it really liked it
Matt Bell's short story collection, How They Were Found, is dark, disturbing, creative, experimental and imaginative. Some of them will make a reader feel highly uncomfortable, which only stands as a testament to the power of the writing.

Despite being slightly unimpressed with the first story in this collection, The Cartographer's Girl,* I found the rest of the stories far more enjoyable. The stories that stand out for me as being worth re-reading are The Receiving Tower, His Last Great Gift, Ho
Mar 16, 2012 Lori rated it really liked it
downloaded audio by Iambik for review

Listened 3/8/12 - 3/15/12
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to fans of wicked sharp short fiction
Audio Download (approx 6 hrs)
Publisher: Iambik / Keyhole Press
Narrator: Mark F Smith

Matt Bell's How They Were Found was one of those books that sat on my to-buy list near forever but never really jumped out at me from the shelves as I was roaming the aisles of bookstores looking for something to buy.

Yet when I recently saw that Iambik had recorded it, I knew this was
Edward Rathke
Jul 01, 2011 Edward Rathke rated it really liked it
How They Were Found is a powerful collection crossing genres and styles, but always with a distinctness to it. It's not a writer trying to fit into different modes, but a writer applying himself to stories, bending genres and conventions to his will with extraordinary ease.

The title is rather apt in that each story, at some level, is about people searching for something or someone, whether it be themselves, their mother, their lost lover, their daughter, or just a reason to keep going, to keep
Robert Wechsler
Apr 05, 2014 Robert Wechsler rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-lit, stories
This story collection is the unflinching work of a young master with an incredible imagination and an excellent, often rhythmical prose style. Reading most of his stories is painful, but it is a pain that is earned, that is experienced in the form and language of each piece. The violence in these stories is both kept at arm’s length through the stories’ formal structures and heightened and experienced in a fresh way.

Bell’s stories (these are my first encounter with Bell’s writing) bear a resembl
Sep 09, 2014 Tom rated it really liked it
A solid of first collection of stories, ranging in influences from science fiction to true crime to historical fiction. The last two stories were among the best: "The Collectors"--a re-telling of the end days of the Collyer brothers, hoarders extrordinaire, crushed by their self-made nightmare; and "An Index of How Our Family Was Killed," which tells about just that, in the form of an index--a constraint nicely tackled. While the voices vary from story to story, the overarching theme is inescapa ...more
Apr 02, 2015 Alan rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
3.5 stars really, but inclined to add rather than subtract from this book because I recognise that there is some terrific writing here, and some good examples of the kind of story I don’t really care for, eg the re-telling of fairy tales in a postmodern way (here, Red Riding Hood: The girl was surprised when she slid her hand between the wolf’s muscular, furred legs, to find that he was a she..), or the too-weird (a woman finds her just left boyfriend replaced by a miniature version of him). I l ...more
Mar 15, 2016 Tiffany rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebooks, 2012
First off, I want to say I was familiar with Matt's work coming in, having hooked up on the social sites (we writers be pimpin' yo!) and downloading a free sample of his short story The Collectors which was probably the best short story I've read in aa while- then came these stories.

Not every story in the collection caught my emotion. The apocalyptic story about the dimmed older soldiers at the receiving tower was written with pin point precision and I could feel how cold it was by the descripti
Jennifer Spiegel
Jan 30, 2011 Jennifer Spiegel rated it really liked it
How Who Was Found?
A book review of Matt Bell’s How They Were Found

Do I dare write about Matt Bell’s book? I mean, he’s not just a colleague—he works for my publishers! Shouldn’t I avoid it? Isn’t that kinda dangerous?

Alas, that’s what I do. I write. I share. I say stuff. So, here I go.

Remember this: I’m living on the edge.

I’m not much of an experimentalist. I’m not much of a postmodernist. I read some Experimental Fiction and roll my eyes in disdain. Some of the prose I’ve literally thrown ac
Ethel Rohan
Feb 03, 2011 Ethel Rohan rated it it was amazing
Read "Cartographer's Girl," the first story in Matt Bell's powerful debut collection, HOW THEY WERE FOUND, and I challenge you to stop reading. This modern day fairy tale moved me deeply, and sets the extraordinary tone for these fresh, inventive and deeply affecting stories.

From "Cartographer's Girl":

"The compasses are disappointingly true, pointing north over and over, when all he wants is for one to dissent, to demur, to show him the new direction he cannot find on his own."

"... and then she'
Charlie L
May 24, 2012 Charlie L rated it it was amazing
It took me a while to get into this book, but when I did, it was completely rewarding. There are two reasons for this. First, the book presents alternative realities that are perfectly believable. "The Leftover" is the best example of this, as the science fiction in the story is secondary to the character changes that are going on. The characters are real; the only thing that is unreal is what happens to the characters. Thus, this book is a perfect example for me, as that describes exactly the k ...more
Adam Rodenberger
I've been on a kick recently, trying to find short story collections by little-known authors or those better known on the far outskirts of the literary canon, people pushing beyond just pure narrative and reconfiguring text to suit their own needs. Matt Bell's "How They Were Found" sounded like something I would enjoy immensely, if only for the imagination and possibly not for the writing. As far as I'm concerned, he delivered on all counts.

The majority of the collection (13 stories total) are l
May 06, 2013 Matthew rated it it was amazing
Matt Bell, you brilliant bastard. If he's not already your favorite new writer, you might want to fix that. The genre-defying author of Cataclysm Baby has done the world a favor by combining all of his best, previously published short stories into a single collection. Not a complaint can be said about the whole bunch. Every story bleeds originality and leaves an indelible mark on the reader that borders between child-like wonder and green-eyed jealousy. For me, Bell's prose is simply inspiring. ...more
Oct 12, 2010 J.A. rated it it was amazing
Bell brings us everything: symbolism, futurism à la David Ohle, devastation, surrealism, scenic energy, fractured fairytales, consumption, struggle, claustrophobia, and family decay. But this is not to say How They Were Found spreads itself too thin or is too chaotically varied; Bell knows how to keep his world in check, his every word balanced against another, delicately, like a system of weights...[read the full review at The Rumpus: ]
Christopher Waters
Jul 14, 2014 Christopher Waters rated it really liked it
I admire Bell's fearless approach in this collection. Some of the stories worked better than others. Some were downright touching, and many were genuinely creepy. There is also humor buried within the human decay, rendering the reader's state conflicted, not unlike the stories' characters. If you like short stories that bite off big ideas, this collection is a must-read.
Claudia (CJ)
Nov 09, 2010 Claudia (CJ) rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Won this book from First Reads! There are times when I enjoy reading short stories. This is one good book. I felt like I had completed a book after each story. Even one that was an award winning story.
Feb 26, 2011 Christopher rated it really liked it
Visceral, scalpel sharp placing of words to create people on the edge. Wolf Parts, The Collectors (previously in chapbooks), Dredge, and Her Ennead were particular faves.
Bill Hsu
Jun 03, 2015 Bill Hsu rated it liked it
Not everything here works for me, but there are some really memorable pieces that show an impressive range. I have to get excited by sentences like this (from "Mantodea"):
When I got close, the nape of her neck smelled like bad habits, tasted worse.

"His Last Great Gift" reminds me of those harsh, gritty, proto-old testament epics that Brian Evenson sculpts so well. I really enjoyed the cold desperation of "Dredge". "Wolf Parts" is just fascinating, often hilarious meta-fictional invention. And
Marlin Jenkins
Jul 12, 2014 Marlin Jenkins rated it really liked it
Since meeting Matt Bell at Saginaw Valley State University at a reading a few years ago, I’ve read a lot of his work in literary journals and thoroughly enjoyed much of it. I’ve been meaning to read How They Were Found since, but never got around to it until this summer. I expected it to be very good, but how much I enjoyed it exceeded my expectations.

One of Bell’s most impressive feats in this collection is range; the stories vary greatly in length, form, and aesthetic approach. In the same col
Dec 29, 2012 Craig rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-fiction
What Bell accomplishes in just one of these stories is jealousy-inducing. As a whole, Lord! This guy is sickeningly talented.

Bell excavates the human experience without sacrificing character development or plot for the sake of fancy-pants word-naningans. Even crossing genres as deftly as he does, this never feels like a "wacky for wacky's sake" experience. In simpler terms, Bell respects his reader. There are one or two points where things tend to go too long or too short, but the emotional grav
Annette S.
Jul 03, 2013 Annette S. rated it it was amazing
It has been a long time since I have enjoyed a collection of short stories as much as I did How They Were Found. Matt Bell is a wonderful writer: his stories are varied in topic and style, but he never fails to find the voice of each of his characters, making them real, even when the world they inhabit is very different from any we might recognise.
Take the opening story, The Cartographer’s Girl. Here we are introduced to the cartographer, who is drawing detailed and annotated maps of the city in
May 31, 2011 Nancy rated it really liked it
I have added this book to my "To Read" list and am looking forward to it solely based upon the review by Jennifer.

Okay - first sitting - I have read one and a half stories which I am enjoying but I think maybe this book should have been subtitled 'Stories of Hopelessness and Despair'

Finished - Here is my review:

In deciding upon this book to read I discovered the term "Experimental Fiction".

Some of the stories take the form of a type of poetry - beginning each section with the same words (Her ba
Jared Duran
Sep 05, 2016 Jared Duran rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
While wholly original, I feel it is worth noting that How They Were Found put me in mind of Jonathan Lethem and Peter Carey for dark humor, experimentation, fearless tackling of subject matter, and flirtation with science fiction; and Steven Millhauser for fantastic attention to detail. There are also heavy cinematic elements here--very black and white, but also the neo-noir of early Coen Brothers. Absolutely outstanding, and highly recommended.
devin strauch
Apr 02, 2015 devin strauch rated it it was amazing
i really love the collection of stories Matt Bell has here. He's becoming my favorite active short story writer, I think. i wrote a few words about the first story on my blog.
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Matt Bell is the author of the novel IN THE HOUSE UPON THE DIRT BETWEEN THE LAKE AND THE WOODS, a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award, a Michigan Notable Book, and an Indies Choice Adult Debut Book of the Year Honor Recipient, and the winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award. He is also the author of two previous books, HOW THEY WERE FOUND and CATACLYSM BABY, and his next novel, SCRAPPER, wi ...more
More about Matt Bell...

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“The compasses are disappointingly true, pointing north over and over, when all he wants is for one to dissent, to demur, to show him the new direction he cannot find on his own.” 4 likes
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