Ofelia Hunt is the author of My Eventual Bloodless Coup (Bear Parade). She lives in Portland, Oregon. This is her first novel.
"This book would like to give you an ice cream, but you will have to get in the van."
"The ironic is a mere ancient whisper in this torqued narrative: its odd violence feels true. Today & Tomorrow crashes through the windows of strip malls and paints the hypertrophic aisles with bristly-creepy hilarity."
"Ofelia Hunt is the balladeer of the doe-eyed detrivores of over-stimulation. Within Today & Tomorrow, readers find the fried and the frayed nerves in the youth of the Hyperworld. All will be well, America, as long as the rims keep spinning and Hunt keeps writing."
For me, one of the highlights of the pre-Highland Ice Arena parts of T&T, where we spend a lot of time in the narrator’s house, is meeting and getting to spend a lot of time with the Grandfather. Many readers I’ve talked to have cited the Grandfather as one of their favorite parts of the book. Whimsical, manic, and perhaps the one character who thoroughly eludes the narrator’s cloak of perception, in part because we suspect it’s the grandfather who taught that cloak. The boyfriends’ personalities are subsumed by the narrator’s perception of them in an interesting way, but the Grandfather is Grandfather. He bakes blueberry pies, he encourages anarchism, he doesn’t mess around.
In his review of Today & Tomorrow, J.A. Tyler suggests we should pair the narrator’s Bill Murray obsession with Grandfather. Which Bill Murray is Grandfather, though? I think it’s a cross between The Life Aquatic Bill Murray and a grandfatherly version of Bill Murray from the bowling movie where Bill Murray’s toupee is in his face a lot. Not Broken Flowers Bill Murray. Plus Grandfather doesn’t have that hipster eff-it-all suave one tends to associate with Bill. He’s like if Doc Brown drove his time machine into all of Bill Murray’s roles and started making a mess.
When I was thinking about what exciting pull quote to put on the back of the book, I emailed Ofelia and asked her what her favorite Grandfather monologues were. Even though the book is clearly about the trip through the narrator’s head, somehow the Grandfather is the most quotable. Maybe from the way he talks and embellishes we can see where the narrator gets “it,” but what Grandfather ends up saying is miles away from everybody else, including the narrator, and those miles seem headed for the moon. Ofelia said her favorite grandfather monologues were as follows:
1. Power windows (beginning of ch. 47)
“Use your power-windows,” Grandfather said. “Make the buzzing sound.” He was laughing. “Buzz,” he said. “Buzz buzz buzz.”
2. Death (beginning of ch. 18)
“It’s like this. Everything that’s alive dies and so it’s no big deal to kill a thing because it’s natural. People don’t kill things directly and so think killing’s evil. It’s not. Every person should kill something—start in elementary school. If I were President, I’d mandate that each kindergartner slaughter a live chicken the first day of school, then every year thereafter, first day of school, students would slaughter a larger animal. Rabbits, cats, mountain-goats, all the way up to senior year and a healthy goddamn bovine. This would take some planning and maybe you just have one fucking cow per home-room. I don’t know, but America would be a better place if there was more killing and a more comprehensive understanding of death.”
3. Pies (beginning of ch. 35)
“Pie was invented by a Roman or something, Cato the Elder. Write that down.” Grandfather was laughing. “Cato found that the best way to pacify Roman populations was to drug them with pies. His pie was more of a tart with honey and goat-cheese, probably—there are several surviving recipes, but who’s to say which is the right one—anyway, he added, I don’t know, hemlock or something, strychnine, tricked the would-be rioters, the probable evil-doers, into eating these pie-tart-things with hemlock, had to be hemlock because that was how Romans liked to poison people, and every day Cato’d send out a cart for the dead, poisoned, would-be rioters, and sometimes two carts, horse-drawn carts, or donkeys maybe, and he’d have his men gather the bodies and dump them in the river, or if the weather was inclement, pile them up and burn them, in a big pyre, ridding Rome of evil-doers and simultaneously warming nearby homes. He was very innovative.”
So yep, the Grandfather is one of my favorite parts of the book. I believe that movement through a book, what we read for, is something that each book reinvents for itself. The question isn’t always “what’s gonna happen next?” One of the biggest pleasures I take in T&T is reading to see what the Grandfather will say next. He’s hilarious and tender.
What do you guys think? Do you have a favorite kooky old person in your life? Do you want to float any theories about T&T‘s Grandfather? Do you want to post a URL of your favorite Bill Murray picture?