IF MY BOOK: Odsburg, Matt Tompkins

Welcome to another installment of If My Book, the Monkeybicycle feature in which authors shed light on their recently released books by comparing them to weird things. This week Matt Tompkins writes about Odsburg, his debut novel published by Ooligan Press.

If Odsburg were a small, fictional town—and it is a small, fictional town, now that you mention it—it would have somewhere between 5,000 and 15,000 residents. It would be deep in the Pacific Northwest, in Washington State, some distance south of Tacoma, maybe just brushing the Oregon border. It would be an easy drive to the mountains or the ocean, and there would be hot springs and hiking trails nearby.

The town would have a coffee shop with an eccentric owner, and they would roast their own beans, spilling the toasty aromas out into the street early each morning. There would be two pubs, of modestly different characters and degrees of dilapidation, so you’d have a choice between two different levels of dive when you wanted a drink.

The town would house a little-known liberal arts college with a bedraggled roster of tenuously tenured, generally depressed professors. The professors and the students alike would probably spend a good portion of their time shuffling between the coffee shop and the pubs.

Most of the people in town would work in education or healthcare or service jobs or corrections, like most people do in most places now, right? There would be a hospital and a prison, not in town, but somewhere within a not-too-terribly-long commute.

The town would be subject, as all towns are, to invisible forces.

Hovering just out of view, or maybe even in plain sight, would be a shadowy corporation pulling strings and peddling influence. Its insignia would be all over town, if you knew where to look—on small orange bottles and shredded paper wrappers, little pink pills and yellow lozenges. This company would seem innocuous enough, and it would plaster itself with placards touting the good it had done for the town. But if you went looking for the company, if you went asking any questions, its spokespeople would be conspicuously mum, and its headquarters would never be quite where you thought.

The town’s residents would report, anecdotally, a surprisingly high number of inexplicable occurrences per capita. There would be no shortage of possible precipitants to point to—chemical incursions willful or accidental, climate effects, collective self-delusion—but the locals would chalk it up to something else, something not-entirely-defined, but something they mostly seem to agree is called a “psycho-spiritual energy vortex.”

You might find that the town itself was a subtle sort of vortex, pulling you in from afar, drawing you into its orbit in such a gentle way that you thought you were going there all of your own accord. And then, after a time, its gravity would relent, you would emerge as if from a daydream or a meditative trance, and you’d be left to drift back to wherever you came from, forever altered by your visit, if only in some small, almost imperceptible way.

Matt Tompkins is the author of Odsburg, a novel-in-stories set in the small, strange, Pacific Northwest town of the same name. You can follow the Odsburg tourism bureau on Twitter at @odsburg_WA and you can find the internet home of all Matt’s writing at needsrevision.com.
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