Symptoms of a Teratoma

Symptoms of a Teratoma

Symptoms of a Teratoma

Matthew O’Leary

$12, NEW from Muddy Ford Press.


In this petite and exquisite collection, author Matthew O’Leary creates a literary pathway in and out of the pain of loss and the maddening frustration and lack of control human disease can visit upon us, both as patients and as witnesses to its destruction. Wry and vulnerable, O’Leary’s prose seem to empower the reader with the upper hand by offering the illusion of detached cynicism in what he calls, “the biopsy of my mutation.” O’Leary’s prose will both intensify and lighten you.

Excerpt from Symptoms of a Teratoma, Prologue

“One of the most basic biological instincts is that of self-preservation. If you hear a noise, you react. If you feel pain, you pull back from it. This is how nature keeps us alive. The more cynical among us suggest that even an act that seems selfless, like protecting your children before yourself, is still ultimately an act of self-preservation. Instinctively, you protect your genetics.

But the world is full of chaos, and even genetics fall prey to mutations. Sometimes, the mutation is physical, a mass of cells growing in the wrong place, killing its host. Other times, the mutation involves neurological pathways and affects the brain. The brain begins to have the wrong thoughts. These thoughts can kill the host just as easily as any tumor.

This is a biopsy of my mutation. It’s a mutation passed down from generation to generation. My grandfather carried it with him into the Battle of Okinawa, where it gained strength and made him into a person he didn’t deserve to be. My mother inherited it, and it followed her into adulthood, never fully known to me until a different mutation took her away.

The past few years have been good for my mutation. It’s gained strength and confidence, while sapping mine away. The pieces that follow are my attempt to fight back. Maybe if I show it to the world, ugly and deformed, perhaps it will become the one afraid to show its face. Maybe I’ll take my confidence back. Maybe I’ll remember what it is to want to preserve myself. I want to tell it, “you may still kill me, but you’ve got a lot more work to do.”

Praise for Symptoms of Teratoma

“Matthew O'Leary's Symptoms of Teratoma is a terrifying vision of unrest. In deceptively calm and lucid prose, its speaker lays bare the fragility of body and mind, and confronts the endless dilemma of what ‘will make you normal.’ As the book's scope of concerns widens, O'Leary brings urgency and beauty to its unpredictable spiral of narrative. The effects take hold subtly, lulling you into thinking it’s your own imagination at work.”​

John Colasacco, author of
Antigolf, The Information Crusher,
Two Teenagers, and The Wagners


Read “Matthew O’Leary’s New Essay Collection Dissects Loss and Depression” from the Free Times

Author Bio

Matthew O'Leary grew up and lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He has had work featured in Gravel magazine, Birds Piled Loosely, and Fall Lines. If you enjoy this book, buy him a cup of coffee. If you don't, buy him a cup of tea. He hates tea. Find more of his work at