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Matthew J. C. Clark with Nate Brown for Bjarki, Not Bjarki!

March 28 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


“You know, I actually think about that an awful lot, like, what is our purpose in life? Why am I here? I always think about some little kid being like, ‘What’d you do with your life?’ And me being like, ‘Well, I sold a bunch of floors.’”

These are the words of Bjarki Thor Gunnarsson, the young man who manufactures the widest, purest, most metaphorical pine floorboards on the planet.

As Matthew Clark—a carpenter by trade—begins researching a magazine-style essay about Bjarki and his American Dream Boards, he comes to discover that nothing is quite as it seems. Santa Claus arrives by helicopter. A wedding diamond disappears. A dead coyote jumps to its feet. And then, at a Thai restaurant in central Maine, Bjarki is transformed into an eggplant.

In Bjarki, Not Bjarki, Clark wants nothing less than to understand everything, to make the world a better place, for you and him to love each other, and to be okay. He desires all of this sincerely, desperately even, and at the same time he proceeds with a light heart, playfully, with humor and awe. As Clark reports on the people and processes that transform the forest into your floor, he also ruminates on gift cards, crab rangoon, and Jean Claude Van Damme. He considers North American colonization, masculinity, the definition of disgusting, his own uncertain certainty. When the boards beneath our feet are so unstable, always expanding and cupping and contracting, how can we make sense of the world? What does it mean to know another person and to connect with them, especially in an increasingly polarized America?

Matthew J. C. Clark lives and works as a carpenter in Bath, Maine. His essays have appeared in True Story, the Antioch Review, the Seneca Review, Ecotone, the Indiana Review, Fourth Genre, Wag’s Revue, and CutBank. Bjarki, Not Bjarki: On Floorboards, Love, and Irreconcilable Differences (University of Iowa Press) is his debut.

Nate Brown’s writing has appeared in the Iowa Review, Mississippi Review, Five Chapters, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Electric Literature, Publisher’s Weekly, LitHub, and elsewhere. He is the senior editor of the award-winning literary journal American Short Fiction in Austin, TX, and has received fellowships from the Maryland State Arts Council, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the Ucross Foundation, and multiple work-study scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He is a senior lecturer in the University Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University where is a 2023-24 Engaged Faculty Scholar at JHU’s Center for Social Concern.


March 28
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


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7014-A Westmoreland Ave.
Takoma Park, MD 20912 United States
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