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Alumni Profile: Clifford Lawrence MethOne of his most powerful short stories begins with a profound line from John Lennon, “Living is easy with eyes closed.” Clifford Lawrence Meth, BA’83 (F-M), most certainly avoids the easy way out. With his flaming pen focused intently on our darker side, Meth props the eyes of his readers wide open and in the process has become one of the most courageous and provocative authors in fiction today.
From the moment his first stories began to appear, Meth has slowly but surely built a loyal following for his sometimes brutal short stories. His talent has gained him accolades from such renowned writers as Kurt Vonnegut, Stan Lee and Al Feldstein.
Feldstein, editor in chief of MAD Magazine and creator of television’s “Tales from the Crypt” series, calls Meth “a consummate virtuoso of the short story,” while Lee, creator of Spiderman and president of Marvel Films, lauds him as “fresh and absorbing — clever and replete with surprises.” Barnes & Noble On-Line selected Meth’s book Perverts, Pedophiles & Other Theologians as its horror pick of the week over Stephen King’s collection What Gives the King Nightmares and noted, “a story by Meth is like shaving: You often don’t realize you’ve been cut until you’re completely through and you see the blood.”
Meth’s stories focus on everyday horrors such as domestic abuse, child molestation, sexism, racism and just about every other dark aspect of human nature. Some can be considered supernatural or science fiction, while others are presented within the veil of realism.
Earning his reputation as someone who shoots straight from the hip, Meth selects dark subjects in order to confront and overcome tragedy. Despite the grim topics, his stories do not adopt a pessimistic point of view. On the contrary, Meth’s work is about hope and ridding society of these ills.
Born and raised in Rockaway, N.J., Meth began writing poetry at age 12 and hasn’t stopped. “I published poems and short stories at age 16. They weren’t any good but I was doing it, and that’s how you become a good writer.”
An English major at FDU, Meth was an honor’s student and an editor of the student newspaper The Metro. His provocative prose and his penchant for controversy proved a dangerous combination. He was impeached by the staff for articles that were considered derogatory and offensive to some.
Despite this small setback, he says of his college experience, “I met some fine educators and people at FDU. I developed good rapport with my professors, in particular Bill Zander, Walter Cummins, Harry Keyishian and Martin Green.
“I’m still grateful to the FDU faculty for their support. They allowed me to be an individual and thus succeed. Just like life: I got out of FDU what I put into it.”
Walter Cummins, FDU English professor and editor in chief of FDU’s The Literary Review, recalls Meth fondly. “Cliff had a lot of talent and promise as a student. He was bright, wrote extremely well and stirred things up in class. He knew what he was about and what he wanted.”
After graduating from FDU, Meth worked for a music industry trade magazine. Since then, his articles about happenings in the entertainment industry have appeared in hundreds of publications and are syndicated by the LA Times Entertainment Newswire. His fiction has been published by Barnes & Noble On-Line, among others, while his poetry appears in various international publications, including The Literary Review, which Meth praises.
“There is a lot of integrity on the editorial board of The Literary Review. I always wanted to have one of my stories or poems selected for publication in it.”
William Zander, FDU English professor and editor of The Literary Review, says in a Literary Review critique of Meth’s work, “His stories are heavily influenced by the comic-book genre, especially the old E.C. comics with their weird, twisted endings.”
Meth, who has three sons, collaborated with his seven-year-old, Benjy, on one of his stories. Benjy illustrated “Knee Jerk,” a first-person story about a middle-aged man who seriously injures his knee while practicing his jumping side-kick at a karate dojo. In this psychological probe, Meth brings the character face-to-face with his own mortality after the injury causes him to fall into a bitter depression.
But Meth is defined by more than his stories. His own activities reveal a man determined to make a difference. The proceeds from his recent book, Crawling From the Wreckage, were dedicated to preventing child abuse.
In the foreword of Crawling From the Wreckage, illustrator Gene Colan describes another example. Colan fell seriously ill while illustrating one of Meth’s stories and was unable to complete the work. Meth sprung into action. He planned a benefit auction and tribute book on Colan’s behalf to assist with his medical expenses. Colan recalls, “What looked like curtains simply meant the show was about to begin. And that’s Clifford Meth: A man who takes action, a man who is not afraid to say what he thinks … and a riveting experience to read.” — J.P.N.
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