Short fiction master Andrew Hood woke up at 5am before a long shift at his former day job at a brewery to start writing stories about a man’s penis turtling inside his body. Quit with your side-eye, he just loves gross stuff, don’t play like you don’t too. In fact, many descriptions of his latest collection of short stories, The Cloaca (on Invisible Publishing, launching in Halifax Thursday, April 26, 6:30pm, Eyelevel Gallery) lean hard on this fact.
Hood, whose previous collection of short stories, Pardon Our Monsters, won the Danuta Gleed award, defends, “The grossness isn't egregious, Pink Flamingos-calibre grossness. There are instances of suicide, cannibalism, miscarriage, baby shit, a grown man dressed head to toe in denim. Maybe it's more attitudinal, emotional, or moral grossness. The stories are mostly about feeling like shit, or everything going to shit.”
It’s a peek into personal lives that draws us so ardently into a story, and what could be more personal than the messy parts of being human? “As far as my being drawn to gross subjects, I'll wager it has something to do with that accusation of someone acting like their shit doesn't stink,” says Hood. “Basically, people are disgusting across the board—it's the way we're built—and I suppose it's something that we all have in common but strive fairly ardently to hide. I find how disgusting we all are pretty endearing, for whatever reason. My heart jumps when I see some slick guy mindlessly picking his nose.”
This month, in between preparing for his book tour, Hood is blogging on Joyland about creative writing. His first post, an ode to abandoned stories, packs in the LOLs, while conspicuously lacking in cats. “I don't read blogs. It's all just cats, isn't it?” says Hood. “They asked me about doing whatever a blog is, so I sent them all the pictures of cats I could find where the cats look stupid or are doing stupid things, and they were like ‘What's this?’ And I was like, ‘These are blogs. Duh.’ And they were like, ‘No.’ And so I was like, ‘Okay.’ And then I wrote three or four things about things that were under 900 words, which is apparently what a blog is.”
One can’t blame Hood for his blog naivete, he’s been kind of busy. As a reader for the 2011 CBC Short Story Prize, he read 500 short stories in the span of a month and a half. When asked if the experience influenced his view of short stories, he’s pragmatic.
“I so wanted it to, but I don't know if I can claim that it did. The only thing I can ever claim to do is not waste a person's time. That's fine if a person doesn't like something I've written, but I'd hate to ever find out that I'd wasted twenty minutes of someone's day.”