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Smoking With Grant Bailie

Interview by Meg Pokrass (Read the Story) December 21, 2009

Grant Bailie

mask of smoke by Julian Schwarze

There is so much in this tiny story about what people are are expected to be vs. who they are from the minute they are born. How did this story evolve?

To be perfectly honest, I have no recollection of how that story evolved. I know I personally was born some time ago, and I don’t imagine I was everything that was expected of me, so maybe that’s all there is to it.

This has a wonderful rhythm and feels like poetry. I know you also write poetry. Can you talk about the similarities/differences between flash and prose poetry?

I call it poetry when I don’t use punctuation and break things up into smaller lines. There is not much difference to it for me than that. I have even had what I considered a story mistaken for a poem once because I had arranged on the paper to help me in a reading, with the lines broken up to remind me where to pause and what to emphasize.

Other than that, the impetus is pretty much the same, I guess, and the results are not greatly different. Maybe my poetry relies a little less on concrete details or setting and such.

I love this line, “It’s not usual, they say, as if this is somehow the more gentle answer”. I really love how the mother, then, repeats this answer… the way a toddler would. Do your characters often mirror each other?

Yes, weirdly enough, they do. Often much more blatantly and explicitly than that. I don’t know why this is, but now that you mention it is something like a reoccurring motif. The book I am working on does this with some characters, the book I did before that did as well. I wonder what this says about me? I wonder what it means? Maybe I was beaten with a mirror as a small child.

What is your favorite song?

Currently: Hoodoo Voodoo by Woody Guthrie as sung by Wilco which may very well be the catchiest song ever invented.

Many of us are enjoying your serialized novel, “New Hope for Small Men”, which runs at Necessary Fiction every Monday and Friday. I find it to be funny, sad, and just overall, ridiculously engaging. From my understanding, you wrote the novel a few years ago when you were living in captivity in New York… er… if I have this right, that you were existing by day behind glass (a human zoo animal) for people to walk by and observe?

Well not technically behind glass. It was sort of a scrim made from rough linen brushed with clay or something like that. I don’t have the exact recipe, but all this is perhaps not your point. It was LIKE being under glass, I guess, and I am not by nature a particularly public man, but from my point of view the defining characteristic of the experience was not being on display. It was having a month where nothing at all was expected of me except that I write. On those terms, putting aside all the kind and interesting people I met through the project, it was one of my favorite months. I discovered a number of things, that month. I discovered that I truly enjoy the process of writing—to the point where I think I would still do it if I were the last person on earth. I am not sure I can explain why this is exactly, but that is what I discovered that month. That writing entertains me—that I am my own eager audience. Which is good, since there I times when I may be the only one.

About the Author

Grant Bailie is the author of the novels Cloud 8, Mortarville, New Hope for Small Men, and TomorrowLand, as well as numerous short stories and articles both in print and online.

About the Interviewer

Meg Pokrass lives in San Francisco with her husband and daughter. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in 971 Menu, The Rose and Thorn, Thieves Jargon, Eclectica, Chanterelle’s Notebook, 34th Parallel, Literary Mama, Blossombones, and Elimae. She has performed with theatre companies throughout the United States and considers writing a natural extension of sensory work developed as an actor.

About the Artist

Julian Schwarze, born on May 12, 1989 in Frankfurt / Main, studied product design at the University of Art and Design Offenbach, graduated in 2015 and is currently a research associate and PhD student in project-mo.de with a focus on mobility design. His doctoral thesis deals with system transitions in mobility spaces and their user-centered design. During his studies he completed internships in design offices in the Netherlands and Hamburg. The main focus was on  brand- and user-centered design of industrial products, everyday products and packaging.

This interview appeared in Issue Twenty-Seven of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Twenty-Seven
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