Synopses & Reviews
The summer Aldous Bohm turns nine, his parents move to the woods near Snoqualmie, Washington, "to reinvent the American family." The Bohm's are working class hippies in post-Vietnam America. Their makeshift paradise takes shape in a haze of pot smoke and good intentions and ultimately births a vortex of personal insecurity and idealism that takes the family deeper into the woods and destroys them. Aldous oversees these tragedies, recalled a decade later, after he has left Snoqualmie to join the military in the build up to the Gulf War. Sweeping in scope yet unerringly precise in its detail, Shoot the Buffalo
conjoins the dead end narrative of American masculinity with its stubborn twin the Romantic ideal of nature to suggest an ambivalent way forward, a path out of these woods.
Not since Ken Kesey has a long-form literary work subjected the utopian outsider traditions of the North American west coast to such an intimate and clear-eyed scrutiny.
"Nine-year-old Aldous Bohm is relegated the task of watching out for his two younger siblings in the woods of Snoqualmie, Wash., where his family lives an edenic existence in the experimental '70s, his parents and Uncle Oliver, a Vietnam vet who inhabits their attic, doing drugs. That the youngest child, Adrian, dies of hypothermia when the three siblings set out desperately in the cold rain to look for their neglectful parents, leaves Aldous, who later enlists in the army, wracked by guilt. Aldous's parents' lack of ambition (and his uncle's antiestablishment rhetoric) results in his becoming a painfully judgmental adult. This first novel from short story writer Briggs feels cleanly bifurcated, as Aldous's coming-of-age alternates with his strenuous life in boot camp, where he is mocked for his conformity and meets his first love, sympathetic fellow soldier Janet. His visits on leave to his now divorced parents, living separately in Seattle in a kind of fuzzy lobe of amnesia, feel like a cheap shot, but on the whole Briggs offers an earnest, muscular indictment of the dropout counterculture." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Briggs has captured the America that neither progressives nor family-value advocates want to think about, where bohemianism has degenerated into dangerous dropping out." The New York Times Book Review
"Every once in a while a novel comes along that is truly remarkable....Not since the emergence of Sherman Alexie has the Northwest produced such a unique narrative voice." Portland Oregonian
"[A] small, perfect book about large, messy things....Laying out his larger themes without trickiness or pretension, Briggs pins them in place using vivid particularities." Seattle Times
"An auspicious debut volume for 29-year-old Matt Briggs, whose sharp-eyed yet sympathetic vision of life in the overgrown, semi-rural backwaters of the Pacific Northwest puts him somewhere on the spectrum that leads from Raymond Carver to Kurt Cobain." Salon
About the Author
Matt Briggs is the author of three story collections, The Remains of River Names, Misplaced Alice, and The Moss Gatherers. He lives in Seattle, Washington.