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Ofelia Hunt

Ofelia Hunt is the author of My Eventual Bloodless Coup (Bear Parade). She lives in Portland, Oregon. This is her first novel.

Blurbs

"This book would like to give you an ice cream, but you will have to get in the van."

– Amelia Gray, author of Museum of the Weird

"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."

– Stacey Levine, author of The Girl With Brown Fur

"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."

– Matthew Simmons, author of A Jello Horse

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Today & Tomorrow

The Grandfather Is the One Who Said the Thing About the Water Buffalo on the Back of the Book

06/16/11

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?

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41 Comments

  1. Ofelia Hunt said on 06/16/11 at 12:44 am Reply

    http://celq.com/billmurray/billmurray003.jpg

    Reply

    Molly Gaudry said on 06/16/11 at 12:47 am

    So awesome. Ha ha. OMG. Love.

    Mike Young said on 06/16/11 at 12:16 pm

    Classic!

  2. Molly Gaudry said on 06/16/11 at 1:09 am Reply

    There are SO many good ones. I pick this one tonight, though.

    Reply

    em said on 06/16/11 at 9:15 am

    Oh, the hat!! I love that one.

    Mike Young said on 06/16/11 at 12:16 pm

    Ha, I think this is definitely a new candidate for closest Bill Murray to Grandfather connection.

  3. Matt Margo said on 06/16/11 at 1:21 am Reply

    http://www.nextmovie.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/bill-murray-gif.gif

    Reply

    Molly Gaudry said on 06/16/11 at 1:24 am

    The gif of Bill Murray is the best gif of all.

    Mike Young said on 06/16/11 at 12:16 pm

    That’s amazing!

  4. Molly Gaudry said on 06/16/11 at 2:03 am Reply

    My Grandma P. was so cute. If she couldn’t think of a word while she was talking or telling a story she would knock on her head three times and say, “Think, Grandma!”

    My Grandma G. has awesome phrases you just don’t hear people say now. Like, she had to get a cast on her wrist recently and the nurse asked what color and Grandma G. said something bright and the nurse said, “Hot pink?” and Grandma G. said, “You’re on!”

    She also says, “Good enough!”

    And best for last: Grandma G. and her 90-year-old girlfriends like to go to Hooters. They like the wings and the view.

    (Grandma G.’s local Hooters is on the ocean.)

    Of all the personal things I’ve shared on this website, these are the most personal of all. I almost can’t share them. I almost deleted this comment.

    But grandmas belong to everyone.

    So.

    I love you, Grandmas.

    Reply

    Mike Young said on 06/16/11 at 12:15 pm

    Haha, your grandma sounds great. My grandmother on my dad’s side died when I was twelve, but my other grandmother is still alive and has a British accent. I can’t think of any funny things she says, but my dad’s side of the family has a lot of crazy Okie expressions. For ex, when something is going well, one might say: “Now we’re really shitting in cotton.”

    Molly Gaudry said on 06/16/11 at 8:27 pm

    “Now we’re really shitting in cotton.” I have honestly never heard that before. I love grandmas.

    ydde said on 06/17/11 at 3:16 pm

    That’s too funny, especially because I can’t even begin to imagine what it refers to.

  5. em said on 06/16/11 at 9:27 am Reply

    I have to greatly agree with #2. My mom grew up on a farm and when we would go back I’d watch her slaughter chickens. Once I even saw a goat axed. Even during my 15+ years of veggie/veganism I still dreamed of having a farm with chickens. Using the eggs to feed family + friends, killing the chickens. The closer one is to death, the closer you are to life. The more appreciative and understanding of both gifts (death being a gift as well).

    And this is off topic but thinking about this article + the interview that came a bit earlier & was also on TLP:

    http://thelitpub.com/100-real-ice-arena-who-is-ofelia-hunt/

    And then I thought of Bokonism – because I’m a nerd. Especially the primary tenet: “Live by the foma that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.”

    And it seems that Ofelia Hunt ascribes in some small way to this. Maybe the grandfather in T&T. Maybe we all should?

    Ok. Off to drink my coffee.

    Reply

    Mike Young said on 06/16/11 at 12:13 pm

    Hey Em! Thanks for commenting! It’s interesting how it all works. My father grew up in pretty rugged circumstances, and he saw his father killing a lamb one time, and it caused him to never eat lamb again for the rest of his life.

    I think Ofelia has talked before about the influence of Vonnegut, and I definitely think there’s some connection in the sort of bedrock bewilderment in both their work.

    Mark C said on 06/16/11 at 4:26 pm

    That’s awesome, because it’s sort of the opposite of what Proust sain in “Remembrance,” isn’t it–that once he saw what it took to make that chicken stew (or whatever), he felt guilty and didn’t want to think about how his food was made.

  6. Ethel Rohan said on 06/16/11 at 12:53 pm Reply

    I enjoyed your post, Mike, and reading the comments here. Thank you, EM, for sharing the tenet, “Live by the foma that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.” It’s a keeper.

    I write a lot of older characters, I honestly don’t know why. Both my grandfathers died before I was born and my grandmothers died when I was a girl. Maybe I write older and elderly characters to somehow reclaim my lack of grandparents? I also find I have great compassion for the elderly and mourn their invisibility. I love to write older, empowered characters and put them center-stage–where they’ve every right to be.

    Reply

    Mike Young said on 06/16/11 at 4:12 pm

    Thanks, Ethel! And thanks for commenting. In my writing, too, I think it’s fun to write older characters and play with the expectations there: the “wisdom of age,” etc. It’s true that we tend to revere the elderly more in literature than we do as a culture.

    ydde said on 06/17/11 at 3:22 pm

    Interesting, because I write older characters but I think for the opposite reason. I tend to write what I don’t understand or can’t make sense of, so I shove all that confusion into a story and let the words sort themselves out for me, so the world outside my head will maybe get clearer.

    My paternal grandfather died when my dad was eight and my maternal grandfather died when I was about five, I think. My grandmothers are in their late eighties and still kicking around almost sprightly. My mother’s mother, though, we’ve had little to do with since my grandfather’s death and my dad’s mother lives rather far away, so I’ve had very little grandparenting in my life.

    My dad’s mother’s funny for a lot of reasons. One of them being her shockingly perfect memory and reckless usage of that. She can remember every minute of her life, but tends to recount to you, in minute detail, the most banal moments of a day fifty years ago, like how the grocery store had a sale on eggs on the same day she brought coupons.

  7. Jordan Blum said on 06/16/11 at 2:21 pm Reply

    Classic – http://thecia.com.au/reviews/l/images/life-aquatic-with-steve-zissou-3.jpg

    There’s only one kooky old person in my life (that’s because there’s only one old person period). My girlfriend’s grandmother, Marie. She’s kooky because she discusses things and uses language you wouldn’t expect. She has unintentionally funny reactions to things too.

    As for the grandfather in the book, I sense the familiar notion that because the elderly have apparently seen it all, and because they no longer care what people think of them (well, some don’t), they are free to voice whatever thoughts they have. The passage about how everyone should murder once in their life, not to mention others, says to me, “hey, I’m old and I don’t have to answer to anyone anymore. These are my thoughts. If you don’t like them, kiss my tuckas.”

    Reply

    Mike Young said on 06/16/11 at 4:12 pm

    What are some funny things she says, Jordan?

    Jordan Blum said on 06/16/11 at 8:04 pm

    Well, she says sexual stuff sometimes and embarrasses us haha. She also once asked me if I celebrate the 4th of July (you know, being Jewish and all). Part of me was offended, part of me thinks it was sad, and part of me though it was hilarious.

  8. Ashley C. Ford said on 06/16/11 at 8:39 pm Reply

    I don’t know if this is funny or just offensive or both, but I’m woman enough to admit I’ve laughed my ass off about it:

    When I turned 16 years-old my grandmother gave me her “Three Pieces of Advice that Would Get Me Through the Whole Rest of My Life”.

    Number one: Don’t date black men with lighter skin than you, because they’ll never respect you. (Keep in mind, at this point, she had been married to a white man for something like 17 years)

    Number two: Don’t look homosexual men in the eye or they’ll slit your throat. (when my boyfriend of six years turned out to be gay, she thanked the good Lord I’d walked away with my life)

    Number three: Don’t make ugly people mad, because they’re already mad that they’re ugly and they have nothing left to lose. (This was her way of telling me she didn’t think I was ugly)

    Yep. She’s a bigoted and backward, but she’s funny as hell.

    Reply

    Ofelia Hunt said on 06/16/11 at 9:48 pm

    I like that.

    My paternal grandfather used to tell people he was a ‘shit/piss’ soldier in WWII, which I always liked. He was really into Days of our Lives and WWE wrestling, and when I sometimes visited in the summer he’d make me a blueberry pie a day.

    em said on 06/17/11 at 9:23 am

    Blueberry pie a day!!! That sounds amazing.

  9. Neal Kitterlin said on 06/16/11 at 10:17 pm Reply

    My grandfather used to have all kind of crazy, and often inappropriate, sayings and songs he would share with us. When I would be going on about wishing I had this or that toy or video game, he would tell me “Wish in one hand and shit in the other, see which one fills up the quickest.”

    He would also sing these songs – one went:

    Way down yonder in the forks of the branch
    The old cow died
    The little calf cried
    The jaybirds whistled
    And the buzzards danced.

    Another was:

    Asshole, asshole,
    A soldier I will be,
    To piss, to piss,
    Two pistols on my knee.

    Reply

    Mike Young said on 06/17/11 at 11:57 am

    Hi Neal! Those songs are great. My uncle was very obsessed with telling everyone not to put anything smaller than their elbow in their ear.

    Molly Gaudry said on 06/17/11 at 11:59 am

    OMG, my grandfather used to sing this song to me, “Buckle up, Winsocki” whenever we got in a car together. He sang the whole thing with “Buckle up.” But I just Googled it now, and it turns out the song is “Buckle Down, Winsocki.” All my life, only to find out now.

  10. Ethel Rohan said on 06/17/11 at 9:15 am Reply

    This thread makes me want to write about the grandparent I never had — something I hadn’t contemplated before, at least not consciously. I’m going to play with every expectation and see what comes out.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply

  11. ydde said on 06/17/11 at 3:28 pm Reply

    All of these comments reminded me of my favorite septuagenarian, though we weren’t related.

    I used to work at Blockbuster when I was eighteen and he’d come in every day and had rented just about every movie in the store. He especially loved terrible horror movies.

    He was a big man, maybe 6’3″+ with a beard so white it was always christmas and it went all the way to his belt, and he kept his hair shoulder length. We became friends over the two years I worked there and found out that he’s a former Hell’s Angel, spent thirty years working at a steelmill, blew out both his knees, and lived on his pension. I asked him what he did with his time and he said, Smoke grass and watch shit movies.

    He was great and I’d get in trouble because when he’d come in we’d just stand around and talk. He loved Bukowski and Hunter Thompson and Henry Miller and Cheech Marin. He gave me a first edition copy of Hell’s Angels by Hunter Thompson on my last day there.

    Reply

    Mike Young said on 06/17/11 at 6:40 pm

    Sounds like an awesome dude. There were a lot of great characters around town when I lived in Mt Shasta City in California. One of them was named Irwin, and he had a lot of theories.

    Jordan Blum said on 06/17/11 at 7:33 pm

    This post just reminded me about someone from Rider. There used to be a shuttle that ran from Rider to Princeton (where the other campus was). I used to go to the Princeton Record Exchange a lot. One of the drivers was this guy who looked like a frail Santa Claus. His name was Everett. I took a picture of him because he also looked like George Carlin. One day I spent like two hours talking to him about all kinds of weird stuff. He gave me his philosophy on college, chicks, and every illegal substance known to man. What was the best moment?

    When he showed me his left hand and said, “I used to be in a Christian biker gang decades ago. One day we got in a bar fight and some foreign guy shattered my hand. It’s made of metal now.” He smacked it again the steering wheel and it made a clank sound.

    Classic.

  12. Sarah Gallien said on 06/17/11 at 7:54 pm Reply

    http://30.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ldxiu6IYja1qf6o97o1_400.jpg

    Both my grandfathers helped raise their siblings at a very young age–one when his dad ran out on his mother, the other when his father (and soon after, his mother) died so young.

    I wanted to grow up to be just like them, not understanding at all what that might entail.

    One gave me a copy of A Boys’ First Book of Radio and Electronics and believed me when I was convinced I’d found a new species of bird in our suburban back yard. The other sang me “The Animal Fair” while balancing stacks of varied items on his head and never let me win at miniature golf.

    They were phenomenal. They’re both dead.

    Reply

    Ofelia Hunt said on 06/17/11 at 8:46 pm

    Hi Sarah,
    I like that photo.
    I’m sad about your grandfathers.

    Molly Gaudry said on 06/23/11 at 12:26 am

    Sarah, I think I want to say “ditto” to everything Ofelia said. And I’ll add this: I love the gifts that your grandfathers left you. And I’m thankful you shared them with us here. And I really do love that photograph of Bill Murray. When I look at it I feel so many sadnesses, and some strange kind of deep, inside laughter, too.

  13. brian warfield said on 06/22/11 at 8:44 pm Reply

    this isn’t about this, but i heard about this book recently.

    Reply

    Molly Gaudry said on 06/23/11 at 12:24 am

    Brian, that’s a pretty cool concept for a book. Now I want to check it out! Thanks for linking it here.

  14. Chloe said on 06/23/11 at 12:04 am Reply

    Wow, it’s good times over here! The one thing I will always remember about my grandfather–my mom’s father–was ice cream cones. We walked to Ben & Jerry’s in Albany and he would get a sugar cone and bit the bottom of it and suck the ice cream out like that. It made my brother and I laugh like crazy. He died of a heart attack in a painting class.

    A few mornings ago my mother and I were sitting on the deck with Lidia’s TCOW and discussing the process of writing, and art, and my mother ruminated how when someone is dead, it’s so frustrating not being able to ask them questions that you’d like to. (Which reminds me of this beautiful essay at The Salon, here.

    Anyway, then we were quiet and my mom looked hurt and sad and she said, “My father, the artist,” and I thought it was a sweet sentence.

    Reply

    Molly Gaudry said on 06/23/11 at 12:30 am

    Chloe, that is sweet. Your first paragraph sucked the air out of me. The last sentence. I did not expect that. And then your last sentence. All over again.

    It made me think: If I had to fill in the blank (“My father, the ___”), what would I put there?

    I think I would put, “My father, the healer.”

    It’s what comes to mind first. He’s spent his whole working life putting people back together again, helping them rebuild their muscles so they can go back to work, which means helping them get back to feeding their families, which means healing them in so many ways.

    I’d love for anyone else who sees this to tell us what they’d put there: My father, the ____.

  15. Chloe said on 06/23/11 at 12:20 pm Reply

    Great idea for a prompt! That’s precisely how I felt when she said that sentence. I felt like…”Hey, I wanted to write that sentence.” “I would say, “My father, the musician.” (As I type this I am working at his music store downstairs from our house.)

    Reply

    Molly Gaudry said on 06/23/11 at 12:41 pm

    Love it!

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