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Titles 1998-2018

Allegheny Front, Matthew Neill Null


One of Electric Literature’s 25 Best Short Story Collections of 2016

Most Anticipated Books of 2016, The Millions

Top Summer Books 2016, Publishers Weekly

History is a living and inescapable presence in the panoramic stories of Allegheny Front, where Matthew Neill Null brings his homeland of rural West Virginia vividly to life. In Null’s telescopic narration, human and animal populations exist in precarious balance with a landscape ravaged by resource exploitation and failed enterprise. Bears propagate in abandoned strip mines and forage in town dumpsters to the delight of camera-toting locals; a bald eagle torments a hunter after he kills her mate; an ambitious young scientist is forced to reckon with her past and present loyalties when a local man and his daughter interrupt her field research. With haunting lyricism, lush detail, and a keen ear for dialogue, Null creates a world simultaneously intimate and epic in scope.

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Additional Info

Matthew Neill Null is the author of the novel Honey from the Lion (Lookout Books). A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a winner of the PEN/O. Henry Award, his short fiction has appeared in The Oxford American, Ploughshares, The Mississippi Review, American Short Fiction, Best American Mystery Stories, Ecotone, and elsewhere. He divides his time between West Virginia and Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he coordinates the writing fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center.  


“Sometimes lyrical, sometimes scarifying stories. . . . Within that setting of crags, foreboding forests, and onrushing creeks, Null finds poetry and moments that can sometimes bear something like grace.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Violence is inevitable in these stories . . . but there is plenty of beauty, too. The scope of the collection contains voices from multiple generations, and the result is a kaleidoscopic portrait of a distinctive region of North America, as well as an exercise in finding the universal in the particular.”
Publishers Weekly

“Memorable. . . . Null’s nine detailed tales explore the value of landscapes, both topographical and emotional, as well as the connections one clings to despite imminent wreckage.”
Booklist Reviews

“This remarkable story collection . . . is a clear-eyed look at an area that has been torn apart for more than a century. . . . Together these stories show the human and natural calamity that follows when an entire region is seen merely as a resource to be carved up, mined and sold. Null never yields to nihilism, but captures the rich and complex, if imperfect, lives of the dispossessed.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Like the beads and baubles in a child’s kaleidoscope, turned and reflected in bright sunlight, various aspects of Appalachia—history, geography, politics, and personalities—are expertly examined and illuminated in Matthew Neill Null’s new story collection Allegheny Front. . . . In this beautiful and finely crafted collection we come to see how, in the Appalachia of both past and present, the inevitability of change may be the only constant.” 
Oxford American

“Matthew Neill Null’s new story collection, Allegheny Front . . . hews to geologic time. Some of the stories read like historical fiction in the Faulknerian mode, surrounded by a universal nostalgia without sentimentality. Allegheny Front is about the history of a specific place, one that adds up to more than simple Civil War stories, pioneer lore, and weekend camping tales, it’s about the cold passage of eons that might trivialize his character’s stories, were those stories in other hands—these brief flashes of struggle and disappointment are the reasons we consider time at all.”
The Paris Review Daily, Staff Pick

“Prodigious in vision, and lushly evocative, Allegheny Front will undoubtedly solidify Matthew Neill Null’s reputation as one of the most ecologically and morally conscious writers working in fiction today.” 
—The Masters Review

"The nine stories in the collection are masterpieces of brutality and beauty, as Null casts a naturalistic eye on the raw reality of life in the hills, mines and backwoods of the “Wild, Wonderful” state, as its license plates insist. Each story is so carefully plotted, you simply cannot predict what will happen next, and only by the end will you be able to see the thematic complexity in Null’s mind. It will wash over you like an epiphany. . . . Null applies a poet’s voice and vision to the depiction of life and death in a world that is neither cruel or merciful, but, rather, spinning through time exhibiting only indifference to the hopes and sorrows of its passengers. This is the work of a master storyteller."
The San Francisco Chronicle 

“The language of Allegheny Front is elegant, image-rich and lyrical without calling special attention to itself. The book is wonderfully free of the usual Appalachian cornpone, and yet [has] an unerring, loving, respectful ear for the way natives of West Virginia of all backgrounds speak and think.”
—Jaimy Gordon, American Short Fiction

Allegheny Front runs its fingers virtuosically across the keyboard of West Virginia’s history, lighting on two centuries’ worth of farmers and drovers, hunters and fishermen, scientists, poachers, preachers, and criminals. . . . Equal to Null’s love of his native land and its inhabitants is his clear delight in the short story form and its traditions, the rigors it demands and the delirious possibilities it offers. . . . Astonishingly vivid. . . . Stories of symphonic complexity and power.”
The Rumpus

“This winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, chosen by Lydia Millet, stunningly depicts the gratuitous destruction of all living things, and the often retaliatory need we humans have in carrying out these horrendous misdeeds. Though it is about so much more, its account of the death of nature is as heartbreaking as it is unforgettable.”
Literary Hub

Allegheny Front is as notable for the strength of its prose as it is for the ways in which it eludes expectations . . . finding compelling drama in the spaces normally left blank in histories and stories, and it’s to Null’s credit that these stories never feel academic or dry. Instead, they’re as visceral and tense and the landscapes and relationships that they describe.”
Electric Literature

 "Allegheny Front is a thing of wild beauty. . . . Null’s work is both literary and documentary in nature, revealing place and character while outlining issues of the environment, wildlife, the way our lives rub raw against the land we live on. A wild, raw journey and a must read book of stories."

“Null’s descriptive writing is strong throughout, expertly depicting nature and character interactions with it. . . . Null tells his stories from different perspectives and sets them in different time periods, but the West Virginia setting provides reliable connective tissue. . . . [Null] is an author with a strong sense of place and character.” 
Foreword Reviews

“Erudite, unsentimental, and alert to the natural world, Null turns the history of West Virginia into stories that feel both authentic and mythological.”
Ploughshares, “Origin Stories: Matthew Neill Null’s Allegheny Front

“The American West may be our biggest national mythmaker, but for my money, the dark hollows and craggy mountainsides of old Appalachia are equally fascinating—and much eerier. West Virginia native Null’s debut collection of short fiction sticks to the Allegheny region, chronicling more than 200 years of history and the comings and goings of humans and wildlife in a wilderness soon to be lost to mining, fracking, and the choke of burning coal.”
— John Maher, “Best Summer Books” Publishers Weekly

“History marks its territory. The past scars the land, erodes rocky soil and streams. It lives in the shape of boulders and peaks. In Null’s stories, people shudder against the seismic pressure of time that shapes their lives in the ancient Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia. This collection is hard, deep, and true as the mountains’ darkest hollows, as Null sweeps through moments in the last century, making each feel as urgent as your foot caught in the rocks and your body pulled under swirling white water rapids.”
—Chris Lee, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

“He captures those characters and that setting with unsettling clarity and complexity. The contemporary stories are terrific juxtaposition for the historic stories, though. I think they actually provide opportunity to catch your breath.”
—Adah Fitzgerald, Main Street Books, Davidson, NC

“Matthew Neill Null’s stories are exquisite and haunting. They bring to crackling life a place we may think we know, but that under his gaze blossoms into something unexpected.”
—Stephen Sparks, Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA

“Matthew Neill Null is one of the most powerful writers to come along in some time. He’s got vision and music and a keen sense of the dire. He’s making things fresh again.”
—Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask and Venus Drive

Allegheny Front strikes like a cold snap in the high desert, disrupting our civilized somnambulism. . . . In meditations profound and profane, Matthew Neill Null reintroduces us to life’s lost language, the world in half shadow, and the harmonic wilderness within, never hitting a false note. Engaging, satisfying, bursting with language that will leave you tongue drunk, and your mind split to the quick, Allegheny Front . . . will not leave you unchanged. Read Null and recall the fundamental awe of being alive. Beautiful. Haunting. True.”
—T. Geronimo Johnson, author of Welcome to Braggsville and Hold It ‘Til It Hurts

“Rich in history, speech, incident, flora, fauna, vernacular, geology, politics—Matthew Neill Null’s work is dazzling. It’s hard to believe this is fiction and not the first-hand account of the spirit of a place and time long past. He seems to know every shrub and burrow, how it formed, who owned it from the first European settlement and before. If anything ever happened in the state of West Virginia, Null knows the long and short of it, and will make its story sing.”
—Salvatore Scibona, author of The End