On “I’m Like a Story Someone Told” By Peter Grandbois

Illustration by Matteo Gallo
April 20, 2017
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On “I’m Like a Story Someone Told” By Peter Grandbois

I came to writing late, starting at age thirty-four. My artistic life was born a month after my first child was born. I’m not fully conscious of the reasons for this. I only know that my writing often rises out of the dissonance between artistic and family life and that the poem included in the North American Review is no exception. Time is always the enemy. The need to spend time with my wife and children. The need to spend time with my work. And because time is limited, these two are often at odds. Over the years, I’ve learned to reconcile myself to the fact that there will never be enough time. But I’ve never fully reconciled myself to the fact that as a result of that shortage I will never really feel as if I’ve been good at either. I will always fall short of the ideal in my head. Telling stories to my children at night and the fact that those stories never quite come out the way I’d like them to, never quite match that movie reel in my head, embodies that failure, that disconnect between the ideal and the reality. The poem, “I’m like a story someone told,” tries to capture that feeling, but it also tries to capture the slippery nature of identity, the fictional quality of the character of any artist or writer who spends their lives trying to navigate between two worlds—the artistic and the familial. Anyone who has done this knows we spend so much time stepping back and forth between these disparate worlds, and at some point we simply can’t keep up appearances, we lose track of which world we are in, maybe we end up with a foot in each—the consequence being we don’t feel “real” in either.

 

I’m like a story someone told

I’m like a story someone told

It’s like the desperate whine of wheels stuck in snow, like trying to come up with an ending for the tales I tell my ten-year-old son in bed at night, tales of brigands and pirates, men who are proud of their plunder. No matter what I say, the ending falls short, and he wants another.

So I unravel again, neither of us any closer to listening.

 

 

Peter Grandbois is the author of seven books, including The Gravedigger, selected by Barnes & Noble for its “Discover Great New Writers” program; The Arsenic Lobster: A Hybrid Memoir, chosen as one of the top five memoirs of 2009 by the Sacramento News and Review; Nahoonkara, winner of the gold medal in literary fiction in Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year Awards for 2011; a collection of surreal flash fictions, Domestic Disturbances, a finalist for Book of the Year in Foreword magazine’s 2013 awards, and the novella collections or “monster double features,” Wait Your Turn, The Glob Who Girdled Granville (honorable mention, IndieFab award for fantasy book of the year in 2014); and The Girl on the Swin (Silver Medalist in the category of Best Fantasy of 2015 in the IndieFab awards)His essays and short stories have appeared in over sixty journals and been shortlisted for both the Pushcart Prize and Best American Essays. His plays have been performed in St. Louis, Columbus, Los Angeles, and New York. He is a senior editor at Boulevard, fiction coeditor at Phantom Drift, and teaches at Denison University in Ohio.

Matteo Gallo is curious, ambitious, stubborn, distracted, picky, clumsy, thoughtful, moody.

He’s always been passionate about science and science fiction, so he tries to keep his mind open and learn something from every experience. For many years he has been dedicating himself to drawing, graphic design, photography and music, mainly self-taught: he attended courses for every one of these subjects, but, luckily or unluckily, the way his brain works is an obstacle to learning by traditional methods. He decided to deepen them in his own way. He loves solitude, nature, with the wind caressing his face while he rides his bicycle, sneaking out of his home in the dead of night, and every form of creative expression.

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