Matt Geiger writes weekly columns for papers in Mount Horeb and Middleton.
Matt Geiger is terrified most of the time. And he’s fine with that.
That’s just life, says the weekly newspaper editor and columnist, and all you can do is sit back and be amused.
Geiger’s wry observations form the bulk of the essays in The Geiger Counter: Raised by Wolves & Other Stories (Henschelhaus Publishing), a collection of 44 columns.
“The book is about being okay with not fully comprehending what is going on around you,” Geiger says. “I always have that suspicion when people are dead certain about something, they are trying to sell me snake oil. If everyone could be so certain, wouldn’t the world be fixed by now?”
Musings of a one-time philosophy major aside, Geiger’s essays are accessible to anyone looking for greater meaning or just a goofy story. His sister performed with a circus, and he eventually went to work in a zoo. He wanted to become a monk for a variety of reasons, including wanting to wear the same clothes every day. As a child he tried to order a monkey in the mail, and his daughter once ate dog food.
“I get two responses to the book,” Geiger says. “I hear, ‘I love how you wrote stories about nothing’ or ‘You’ve had such an exciting life.’ And I think, ‘They read the exact same book.’”
Geiger, 37, lives in Mount Horeb and is editor of the Mount Horeb Mail, Middleton Times-Tribune and the News-Sickle-Arrow, which cover Black Earth, Cross Plains, Arena and Mazomanie.
Some stories take place in other areas he’s lived — he grew up in New England and also lived in Florida and Alabama.
The Geiger Counter bookends his life in all those places. In the first essay, he’s a boy feeling protected by his dad despite a murderer being on the loose. In the last, he is sitting in an emergency room with a sick daughter witnessing the horrible things that life can throw at anyone, including little Hadley (who recovered from her infection and fever just fine).
“That’s part of growing up,” he says. “It’s not irrational to be afraid of everything after being alive for several decades.”
Geiger’s boss suggested he try his hand at column writing. Readers responded when he wrote personally instead of ranting about things like four-way stops on Parmenter Street.
That helped him find his path to becoming the writer he had always wanted to be, complete with “the worst manuscript ever” living on a floppy disc that Geiger vows will never see the light of day. It does, he says, serve as a reminder that his writing has improved.
“I would probably be an insufferable writer if I weren’t a newspaper columnist, especially in a small community because you get that feedback,” he says. “When I go to Miller’s [grocery store] I hear things like, ‘Hey, my daughter’s name was spelled wrong in the volleyball story.’ That keeps you honest.”
Matt Geiger will discuss The Geiger Counter: Raised by Wolves & Other Stories at 7 p.m. Feb. 9 at Mystery to Me, 1863 Monroe St., and 2 p.m. Feb. 26 at Arcadia Books, 102 E. Jefferson St., Spring Green.