Finding Purpose in Life through “Dead Souls” by Matthew Keefer – Guest Post

Finding Purpose in Life through “Dead Souls” by Matthew Keefer – Guest Post

Today on the blog we welcome author Matthew Keefer, with his guest post ‘Finding Purpose in Life through “Dead Souls”‘. His new book “Dead Souls: An American Poem” was released on 1st November 2020. This post contains affiliate links.

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Matthew Keefer is the author of “Dead Souls: An American Poem” and two collections of short stories, “The Keeper of Dreams” vols. 1 and 2 out on Measureless Oceans Press. He has received Honorable Mentions in the 2019 and 2020 L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, and has won first place in the 35th “On the Premises” contest. His site is www.matthewkeefer.com and he runs a music blog at www.musicravings.com.

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Finding Purpose in Life through “Dead Souls”

Art imitates life, the saying goes. Well … yes. Sometimes. But often enough art does more than that: it strives to critique life, to change history, even.

I’d wanted to write a continuation of Gogol’s brilliant satire “Dead Souls” for more than ten years. Through those years, my process had changed a lot. I started off setting up a few scenes, characters who are instrumental in those scenes, and then let them play out their particular physics. To me “art imitates life” was passive and an accident; it was the happy outcome when you wrote really well. But for “Dead Souls: An American Poem,” I set out to critique life, maybe to change history, even, because that’s the change I feel my world needs. And that new process changed how I read literature.

If my undergrad degree in English literature has taught me anything, it’s that writers strive for the “happy accident”—Woolf termed this—where you hit upon the truth of life somehow, mysteriously in the process of writing. I set out to make a change in the world with “Dead Souls: An American Poem,” and in the process of writing it, I reread Olesha’s “Envy” and Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita.” I experimented with ditching our British/American “happy accident,” and reading these two other Russian works, I realized that writing can operate on a much more deliberate plane. I felt like I read them for the first time: Woland in Bulgakov’s post-Revolution Moscow was trying to tear through its hollow core; Olesha’s satirical hyper-communist Andrei Babichev was a warning against political indoctrination. Bulgakov and Olesha didn’t stumble upon their truths, but rather, they saw them in their lives, and sat down to write them to save the country they loved. My attempt to incite political change through my novel “Dead Souls: An American Poem” is, thankfully, not revolutionary.

The intentionality of writing had never occurred to me during my studies, nor for almost ten years after. Culturally, I think the US frowns upon that, too: we say later music by U2 is “too preachy”; the last episodes of MASH were, too. But in Russia there are brilliant works that entertain, and yes, have a clear purpose. Here are authors who understand their creative and even political power, that “a word aptly uttered or written cannot be cut away by an ax.” That’s a quote by Gogol. Maybe you see why I chose to walk in his shoes?

With “Dead Souls: An American Poem,” I found a kindred spirit in Nikolai Gogol, and especially his just-clever-enough conman Tchitchikov. In Gogol’s mid-19th Century Russia I saw the stratification of US society, the same aristocratic selfishness, and yes, the same dark humor lurking about the corners of the cruel world. To me, Gogol’s Tchitchikov has always been the American entrepreneur, aka pyramid schemer, and to ignore these schemers is to ignore the very real symptoms of our ailing society. My Representative Thomas I. Taber III—a man who, “like a vacant room … was also prone to echoing other’s words”—is not just a portrait of where our society is at, but also one way to understand it and attack it: with humor. “What he lacked in what one might term ‘general good looks’—though beauty be held in the eye of the beholder—he made up for in corpulence and, more importantly, political pull.” Follow a little politics? Anyone come to mind for you?

“Art imitates life.” Well, perhaps, but that’s only a half-truth. Art is not passive, but rather it is the willful attack upon life and our attempt, as human beings, to create something better. Writers who teach workshops tell participants often how we should make intentional decisions in our writing. But I have yet to meet one of them who would describe writing as the intentional decision to affect their world, and their lives.

Put imitation aside. Don’t write by “happy accident.” Write to change your life. Carpenter, musician, engineer or whomever, talent’s goal is to change things for the better. And it is always within reach.


Dead Souls by Matthew Keefer

Dead Souls: An American Poem

Author – Matthew Keefer
Release Date – 1st November 2020
Format – ebook, paperback

Interview synopsis 2020 dead souls

With the purchase of voter registration lists and local newspaper obituaries, Tchitchikov has concocted a way to harvest the perfectly good votes of rather dead voters. With his compatriot and ride, Selifan, the two travel through Florida’s Congressional Districts to sell his seemingly lively congregation to power-hungry Congresspeople. But when they offer their dead voters to James Kingston, of the legendary Kingston political dynasty, Tchitchikov’s game is turned against him.

Tchitchikov is blackmailed into digging up dirt on Kingston’s opponent, Representative Fairwell—a decent man in an indecent time. Tchitchikov must either betray the political revolution unfolding before him—and the new family he’s made with them—or lose everything.

Purchase online from:

SmashwordsMeasureless Oceans

Read free at – deadsoulsanamericanpoem.com


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