It's December 13. Spencer Gordon, author of Cosmo, delivers some sweet chin music.
How would you describe your story?
SPENCER GORDON: “Jobbers” is a conventional, first-person domestic narrative with shades of poverty porn. It is maybe the most straight-ahead story in my ill-fated 2012 collection Cosmo. I would say the story is charged with a kind of early-'90s, southern-Ontario-centric nostalgia. To be more specific, it’s the story of a brother and sister caught in the grips of a horrible summer in the worst and best bracket of their lives, with the sticky streets and sweltering backyards of Hamilton filtered through the lens of the World Wrestling Federation—its emotional storytelling, its pleasure and pain. You don’t need to know much more than that!
When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?
SG: The seeds began in 2009 or so, but didn’t come together in any serious way until 2011, the year before it was published. Compared to some smoother writing projects, it came together with many stops-and-starts and jerky brakes. I just didn’t know what I was doing, where I wanted the story to go. Then it clicked. I do recall one particularly enjoyable stretch of writing: I wrote a scene in a mall food court with a Bic pen. I didn’t know I could do this after years of writing on a word processor, but look at that!
What, for you, are the essential elements of a good short story?
SG: Well that’s a big slobbery question, Michael, and I’m not sure if there’s an answer. I would say ‘words’ but you'd probably call me a dope. We’ve seen so many different forms of ‘the short story’ that I don’t believe there’s something irreducibly essential, 100 percent of the time; everything that works out is just one way, one path through the forest, and why one story works depends on what that one story is trying to do.
Did this story require any research?
SG: Yes and no. I double-checked the WWF timeline to make sure my memory wasn’t screwing around. I am indeed a wrestling fan, and I do know the city of Hamilton, so the autobiographical nature of the story meant I didn’t have to ‘hit the books.’ Not much other research was necessary—this is in stark contrast to most of my other writing, which is packed with factual data. For example, the novel I’m grinding through right now requires frequent stops to compile data. I don’t want to get some glaring detail about Celine Dion wrong, after all.
Where can people go to learn more about you and your work?
SG: They should go to my page on the Coach House Books website, because for now, my personal website is years out of date and pretty junky. One day I plan to be a Real Boy and get a better online platform. People can also follow me on Twitter but I often make up swear words and try to make myself LOL so I’m unfollowed pretty quick.
What's on your Christmas list this year?
SG: World peace. Failing that, I would love some sweet ear muffs.