Lost in the Supermarket: by Chaz Matthews, 100 pgs. By Keith

Mar 05, 2007

Matthews was the principal songwriter in the Dimestore Haloes, a Boston punk band that put out some seven inches and full lengths and then eventually crashed and burned. The guy never made any money from it and did it not as a stepping stone to rock stardom but for the sheer joy and love of music. He also had a day job, working as a clerk/stocker/meat cutter in various supermarkets. Lost in the Supermarket is a collection of short stories and zine columns all centered around his work experience.

            Matthews is at his best when he’s just telling things straight. His anecdotes about his coworkers were the bright spot throughout the book: they came across as crazed, nonsensical, obscene, and vile, and shit like that always makes for good reading. At times, these stories are hilarious. He’s got a pretty solid writing voice: one that’s friendly and inviting that does a decent job at bringing the reader into his life. The book vaguely follows a chronology: he gets a job, some wacky tales ensue, he gets relocated to another store, he actually meets his future girlfriend at that store, more wacky tales ensue, the book ends with Matthews reflecting on his age and the fact that the work is numbing and tedious but is, at its core, simply a means to an end that really isn’t all that bad. His relationships and his music are decent tradeoffs.

            The weaker moments in the book are when he becomes too self-conscious as a writer and when he delves into nonsense. There are more than a few sections of the book where he writes that the store has been flooded or overtaken by zombies, and they lack that sense—obviously—of reality. They’re not real and as a result aren’t nearly as interesting. And his self-consciousness comes to a peak when he closes out stories with, “Hmmmm. Hmmmm. No, seriously: Hmmmm.” Maybe I’m being too critical, but it’s things like that that take us out of his world and remind us that we are, yeah, just reading a book, which is the last thing literature should try to do.

            Anyway, it was a fun, quick read. Lost in the Supermarket has some weaknesses, but also has some definite bright spots. And Matthews generally seems like a good guy to hang out with, someone who’s a decent person really trying his best to make it through the world. –Keith Rosson (chazmatthews.official.ws)