M— is married with children, working a dead-end job solely for the insurance and meager income. He's in a financial and emotional trough, and asks his doctor for Paxil because he's worried he'll never stop worrying. Meanwhile, L— is a college dropout and construction worker. He self-medicates, starting with Ambien and moving, after he accidentally cuts off some fingers, to Darvocet, only to be led by his doctor to Zoloft once the cocktail of pharmaceuticals meant to wake him up puts him to sleep.
Impotent is a collection of moving stories about a time when individuals are reduced to letters on a medical chart and "it is easier to get a refill on a prescription than approval for therapy." In revealing vignettes, Matthew Roberson clinically catalogs the hopes, dreams, and failures of people identified only through form-like abbreviations (C— for co-dependent, I— for Insured). In these "case studies," Roberson captures his subjects' lives poignantly by supplementing their diagnoses with unconventional footnotes, lists, and medicinal warnings. Each vignette exposes a different facet of our medicated society, humanizing a multitude of conditions: depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, impotence, and dementia. In a world of domestic ennui, deadpan voices struggle to transcend numbness while simultaneously trying to manage the pain of living. Impotent is both important social commentary and engrossing fiction.
"As the fictions in Impotent accumulate, the book graphically decays, morphs, becomes ruined in front of your eyes. Matthew Roberson's work is, in a way, a rewriting of Frankenstein but Impotent is the monster itself--patched up, stitched, sewn together. A hybrid. A mash-up. The book reanimated. Sublime. And 'it's alive!'" — Michael Martone, author of Michael Martone and The Blue Guide to Indiana