Jerry D. Mathes’ Fever and Guts is hard-hitting literary nonfiction. Reminiscent of the exacting sharpness found in Hemingway’s bullfighting stories and as deeply reflective as Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Mathes takes his readers to the fringes of American society, a subculture where war stories are handed down from fathers to sons and then are lived by those sons; where fathers brace against the weather of daughters’ illnesses; where language and speech is music, poetry, and violence. Mathes journeys us to the mountains of Idaho, the deserts of the Southwest and of Desert Storm, the icy plains of Antarctica, and into the dark, gloomy backrooms of bars and hotels. Amidst storms and forests ablaze, he makes us feel the thunder’s rumble, the smoke settled in our lungs.
Although Mathes puts us into proximity of things most of us have been lucky to escape, he makes such existences seem amazingly and beautifully normal, makes it seem as if we have missed out.
In this manner, Mathes turns his personal histories into works of mad, provocative art, so skillfully and innovatively turned that the reader will not let the stories go and, in the aftermath of reading, not turn them loose from memory. This is nonfiction of the best sort, real and ballsy as a life lived real and with bravado.
Front Cover – Fever and Guts: A Symphony