Two New Reviews

Posted: March 14th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

I reviewed Thomas Rayfiel’s excellent new novel Genius for the Chicago Review of Books.

Thomas Rayfiel’s <em>Genius</em> Tackles Sexuality, Philosophy, and Cancer

And at Mexico City Lit I wrote a review / appreciation of Carlos Velazquez’s first book in English, The Cowboy Bible.

Publishers Weekly

Posted: February 25th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

This week I wrote a piece of MEL magazine about job insecurity.



Also, I had a brief quote in this New Yorker piece about Infinite Jest.


Over at Publishers Weekly, I interviewed author Laura Tillman about her new book The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts.


Recent updates

Posted: February 19th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

For issue 3 of molossus, I reviewed Luis Felipe Fabre’s poems about Sor Juana.

I was intrigued by this book because I had seen Fabre’s name mentioned in a lot of prominent places but had not read his work. In fact, I saw somewhere on Twitter that Valeria Luiselli called Fabre the best contemporary poet in Mexico (or something along those lines).




This week I wrote a piece of MEL magazine about job insecurity.



I had a brief quote in this New Yorker piece about Infinite Jest.



Fabre in Molossus

Posted: February 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

For issue 3 of molossus, I reviewed Luis Felipe Fabre’s poems about Sor Juana.

I was intrigued by this book because I had seen Fabre’s name mentioned in a lot of prominent places but had not read his work. In fact, saw somewhere on Twitter that Valeria Luiselli called Fabre the best contemporary poet in Mexico (or something along those lines).





Great Concavity Podcast

Posted: January 15th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: DFW, personal | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

I have yet to mention it here, but back in October of 2015, Dave Laird and I created a podcast centered around discussions of David Foster Wallace and his work. It’s called The Great Concavity and you can see our website here:

You can also find us on iTunes with this link:

We’ve posted six episodes so far and have a lot more in store for 2016. If you have a question about Wallace you’d like for us to answer, you can tweet at us @ConcavityShow.

Our logo comes from Robyn O’Neil’s incredible pencil drawing titled These final hours embrace at last; this is our ending, this is our past (2007).


The drowned horses of R.T. and Leo S. Bucher

Posted: November 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

I’ve written about my great-grandfather in the past but I continue to research the stories about his life and try to see if there is any existing evidence to support some of the details of his life. There are still many questions I have but today would have been his 125th birthday and I wanted to document one of those stories.

On June 12, 1910, in Powersville, Missouri, Leo Steven Bucher was helping his soon-to-be adopted father R.T. Bucher wash their horses and buggy. They led the horses into the pond, wherein one of the horses laid down and got tangled up in the harness and eventually both horses drowned.


From his 1910 diary:

Drowned tow horses [two horses?] (Black) (One Horse & one mare). Drove in pond to wash wheels, horse laid down and pulled mare over him, got tangled in harness.

The next day, they buried the team of horses:


Amazingly, this story was picked up by the local newspaper, the Unionville Republican, and even ran as 10-years-ago item in 1920.


R.T. Bucher had the misfortune to have his team drowned Sunday. He had driven them into the pond to wash off his buggy when one of them laid down and became tangled in the harness, throwing the other one, and before they could be loosened, both were drowned.

In 1910, this was a very serious problem as a horse was the main mode of transportation and work. It was equivalent to losing both your cars and your tractor on the same day. In a time before insurance, it could be very expensive to replace two horses.

For some time, this story was told as an origin story – that R.T. and Alice Bucher had another son who drowned in a pond with some horses. The reality is much different. Leo Bucher was already living with the family by that point and might have even contributed to the drowning of the horses (since he states in his diary “Drowned two horses)). In fact, I can find no evidence that RT and Alice Bucher ever had any other children besides Leo, whom they adopted when he was 21 years old. It’s likely that they took him in because they were unable to have children of their own.

Some books I am anticipating (or hoping for) in 2016

Posted: November 12th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »
  1. Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle, volume 4 paperback and volume 5 hardcover
    I know the UK has Volume 4 in paperback but we don’t get the beautiful FSG edition until April 2016. Volume 5 comes out in hardcover around the same time. Keep working hard, Don Bartlett!


  2. The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner (June, 2016) - In this inventive and lucid essay, Lerner takes the hatred of poetry as the starting point of his defense of the art.
  3. Anything by Eliza Minot
    She hasn’t published a book in eight years. Hopefully she is working on something wonderful.
  4. David Hering’s book on Infinite Jest, forthcoming from Bloomsbury.
  5. Anything by Beth Nugent
    She hasn’t published a book in almost 20 years, but a boy can dream.
  6. Understanding Roberto Bolaño by Ricardo Gutiérrez-Mouat due out next summer.
  7. A comprehensive, critical biography of either Roberto Bolaño or David Markson.
  8. My brother’s book! Master of The Cinematic Universe: The Secret Code to Writing In The New World of Media by John Bucher and Jeremy Casper, due out in 2016.

Two Recent Pieces

Posted: October 13th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: DFW, personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

I recently posted this article about Wes Anderson and Bye Bye Braverman over on



One thing I didn’t mention there is that Braverman includes a scene filmed at the corner of Eastern Parkway and Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. For a while, I lived a block north of there on Bedford. That intersection has changed a lot over the years so it was very cool to see it back in 1968.


You can see the old Town Hill Restaurant in the background.




That Texaco station is long gone.



I also wrote about David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King and the character of Toni Ware over on Medium. The Pale King’s Trailer Park Queen.

The Scofield & David Markson

Posted: August 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

A new literary magazine launches today and I’m happy to have contributed a small piece to it. The magazine is called The Scofield and my essay is on David Markson and Twitter. It’s a truly stellar magazine that has assembled a who’s who of writers working on and around David Markson. Keep an eye on The Scofield.

In other news, to support the film The End of the Tour, I wrote this article on “Why David Foster Wallace Matters” for a collection on Medium called “Just Words.”

Also, last month I published this essay on Roberto Bolaño and A Little Lumpen Novelita in the Dublin Review of Books.


Posted: March 9th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »


Last night, I held our dog Riley while she died. I want to write about this experience a little bit, for myself, before I forget most of the specifics. If you’ve lost a pet recently or if this is too graphic for you, please skip this. I am just writing this down for myself so that later I have not forgotten what this day feels like.

When I first met Jordan, her parents were living in London and she was keeping their Shetland Sheepdog named Maggie in her studio apartment in the West Village, against all bylaws of the building. Eventually she got caught and she had to ship Maggie off to her uncle in Kansas. After we were married and decided to move to Austin, Jordan made it clear that one thing she was looking forward to was getting a dog – specifically a Sheltie. “Of course, honey! Whatever you want! Shelties sound great,” said newlywed Matt.

We picked up Riley from a breeder in Oklahoma in 2005 and she became our surrogate child, our furry offspring. All the love and energy we had for the world was transferred onto this animal. We fretted over her nap schedule, bought her the best organic food, took her to obedience school for weeks on end, bought her a designer collar and leash, etc. There was one night where we bought tickets to a theater performance in East Austin and hired a dog-sitter to take care of the puppy (who does this??), but I forgot to put the front-door key to the apartment under the doormat. So I left Jordan at the theater, gave up my ticket, and went back to the apartment to let Riley out and dismiss the dogsitter. One night a few weeks later I thought she had a bowel obstruction so I drove her to an emergency specialist an hour away in San Antonio, where, after thousands of dollars of tests, it was determined that she just had a virus.


When Henry was born, we worked with Riley to step around a blanket on the floor–trying to show her that it was the baby’s space and she would have to be careful. But we needn’t worry because she was so sweet and loving with the new baby that she thought it was her own child. I spent several years thereafter walking her on the trails behind our house every day, listening to podcasts, meeting the other dogs in our neighborhood, that she became my constant companion. After Arlo was born, her needs definitely fell behind and she took on the role of an elder statesman who didn’t need as much attention as she’d once demanded. But she was a constant presence in our daily lives, never demanding too much, always willing to receive our love.

Last fall, we took her in for a bladder infection that wouldn’t seem to clear up, no matter the course of antibiotics we tried. The vet advised us that she had a tumor that at first looked benign. Two months ago, she had several tumors in her urinary tract that could not be removed without irreparably damaging her urinary system. We began preparing the boys for her demise, but I don’t think we fully comprehended how much we were ignoring our own emotions in service to the children’s potential feelings.

A week ago Riley took a turn for the worse and her cancer began to spread. She was no longer able to walk up and down the stairs in our back yard. She stopped eating dog food, though she would nibble on table scraps. She had accidents in the house regularly and by Friday, she had trouble standing up. Thursday was a “snow” day here in Austin and no mobile vets would come out to visit us. I tried getting a home appointment asap but the earliest anyone would promise was Monday. She spent most of Saturday in the middle of the floor of the living room, awake and just listening to us talk. On Sunday morning I had to move her into her bed; she couldn’t stand up at all. I tried again to find a mobile vet who worked on Sundays, but held out hope that she would make it through the night until her appointment on Monday morning.

I laid down in the floor with her and held her head as her breathing began to slow. She never once cried or made a painful noise. She remained very dignified and peaceful through everything. At about 12:30 this morning, her whole body pulsed several times, like she was having an aneurysm or a stroke. After that, she slept very soundly for a half hour or so, lightly snoring. Then her breathing became very shallow and she looked up at me one last time before she took her last breath.

Even though I knew she was sick for months, even though I had worked to prepare the boys for this day, I was not prepared for the full force of grief that would hit me after she died. I called a mobile pet cremation service to come and pick her up, which they did very gracefully and professionally, but of course I could not sleep after that. I was still in shock that she was really gone.

It’s been a rough day since that moment. Jordan and I have alternated between numbness and sheer pain at her absence. She had integrated herself so thoroughly into our daily lives that it had become a reflex to check on her and take care of her and just have her around us all the time. I have never mourned an animal so thoroughly and completely as I have for Riley, and my deepest sympathies are with anyone who has lost a pet, a companion, a friend. She was truly a member of our family and we will miss her forever. The house is too quiet without her.