Daniel Grandbois' Lucky Unlucky Lucky Days
Daniel Grandbois' writing has appeared in Conjunctions, Fiction, Boulevard, Sentence, Del Sol Review, and the anthologies Freak Lightning and Online Writing: The Best of the First Ten Years. An accomplished musician, he has played in several Denver-based bands. This month his first book, Unlucky Lucky Days hits bookstores. It's an intriguing, nicely-packaged fiction collection divided into a week's worth of 73 short-shorts. Some of these stories are funny, others unsettling. One of my favorite writers, Brian Evenson, has said of Unlucky Lucky Days, "Grandbois is the master of the double-edged word, of stories that both cut through the world like butter and double-back to saw themselves to bits." I recently interviewed Grandbois about fiction, music, and Buckwaldo Mudthumper. Included after the interview is an exclusive excerpt from the book.
Amazon.com: Please describe your surroundings as you answer these questions.
Grandbois: I’m in my car, parked outside the house where my son is having an extra piano lesson in preparation for a recital this weekend. The car is facing into a field at the back of the cul-de-sac, and it’s raining cottonwood seeds. The little puffs, almost deliberately it seems, come in through the windows and get in my hair. I have a thermos of green tea. I’ll need to pee before his lesson is over. The driver’s seat is scooted back, and I’m sunk down into it.
Amazon.com: Are you a writer first or a musician first?
Grandbois: Though I wanted to be a musician as far back as kindergarten and didn’t think about writing seriously until college, I’ve found myself consistently working harder at and having more success with writing. I’ve certainly spent more hours in my life listening to music than reading books, but I never really put in the time to understand an instrument more than intuitively or develop any great songwriting skill. I’ve pulled my weight in some great bands over the years, but those were, essentially, other people’s bands--Slim’s band (Slim Cessna’s Auto Club), Kal and Rumley’s band (Tarantella), and now Munly’s band (Munly and the Lupercalians). The writing is all my own and, for whatever reason, easier for me to be disciplined about.
Amazon.com: Why short-shorts? And why now?
Grandbois: When I was in my realist/traditional phase of writing, which coincided interestingly with my formal education phase, I got frustrated after a workshop with Frank Conroy in Iowa and wandered off the campus and into Prairie Lights bookstore, grumbling to myself, “Can’t I even like what I like?” I asked the clerk what he recommended that was anywhere close to the style and voice of Richard Brautigan, my first real love as a reader (Brautigan’s whimsical, poetic, voice-driven little pieces were what made me both a reader and a writer), and was handed a copy of Russell Edson’s “The Tunnel.” I still struggled through many years of trying to write more traditional narratives but discovering Edson’s somewhat obscure (then) and twisted little prose poems was probably the second major step in getting me to write whatever absurdities naturally poured out of me when I allowed myself to forgot everything I’d learned and everything I thought I was supposed to write. I had no real knowledge of the history of the short short forms. I just knew what I liked and began to write what pleased me. I guess it all comes, then, from having this peculiar lump of gray matter.
Amazon.com: In closing, let’s talk about influences. I’ll give you two writers’ names. You tell me which one wins in your literary pantheon and why...Jorges Luis Borges or Gabriel Garcia Marquez?
Grandbois: Borges for writing short fictions and prose poems before their time and for imagining he wouldn’t bring his umbrella if he could do it all over again.
Amazon.com: Thomas Pynchon or Joan Didion?
Grandbois: I’ll always remember a review of “Jitterbug Perfume” that said Tom Robbins was “funny as Vonnegut, winsome as Brautigan, and knowing as Pynchon” because it got me to read all three of those authors, and this was at the beginning of my reading career when it was such a thrill to discover new voices. So Pynchon wins for that reason alone!
Amazon.com: Jack London or Jack Kerouac?
Grandbois: Kerouac in my twenties, London in my forties. I wrote a Kerouac-inspired novel, “Pointing Nowhere,” in my mid-twenties, begun while living in a two-room cabin by a creek in an almost-ghost town at the edge of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. On moonless nights, you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. It was my second book. Unlike my first, “The Hermaphrodite: An Hallucinated Memoir,” which was recovered from a box in the garage and will be published by Green Integer this September, “Pointing Nowhere” won’t be dug up. Maybe that’s why the nod here goes to London.
Amazon.com: Buckwaldo Mudthumper or Juan Mandible Sick-Eyes?
Grandbois: The last time I heard anything remotely flattering about Buckwaldo Mudthumper I was three feet deep in viscous sewage that had found its way into my garden apartment at the behest of one Mr. Juan Mandible Sick-Eyes and his uncompromising hoses. “That ol’ Mudthumper,” said Sick-Eyes then, I his more than captive audience, “he sure knew how to plug a drain.” Tie.
STILL LIFE WITH PAINTER
Excerpted from Unlucky Lucky Days
Copyright 2008 Daniel Grandbois
The painter did not move. His assistants moved things around him. Now, he was in the kitchen. Now, in his bed. The fruit bowl was brought to his face so he could eat avocados and pomegranates by using only his jaw. The carafe was drunk from similarly, as well as the porcelain teacup and the indelicate glass of wine. Once a day, a bouquet of flowers was put beneath his nose for sniffing, which he did without a sound.
They touched canvases to his brush. This was the most demanding task, not for the obvious reasons but because his curling fingernails had never been cut.
In the master’s most revealing self-portrait, everything is moving. The golden hair wilts like a sunflower. The throat bobs like an apple. And the hands claw at the canvas to get to the man.