canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

TDR Interview: Andrew Hood

Part of the Montreal Fall Books Spectacular

Andrew Hood’s debut collection heralds a young talent with an irresistible style and merciless eye. These unapologetic stories deal with an assortment of foolish self-destructive small town anti-heroes. They are unlikely odes and elegies for human shabbiness. 

Pardon Our Monsters (Esplanade Books, 2007) is Hood’s first book. He won the Irving Layton Award for Undergraduate Fiction at Concordia University, and his stories have appeared in Concordia’s Soliloquies and Headlight Anthology

He lives in Montreal. Says Montreal playwright and novelist Trevor Ferguson: "Andrew Hood is a young (really young), driven (really driven), perceptive, under-the-skin writer. He’s the real deal, and coming on strong; this is a writer you’ll want to hitch a ride with from the outset, as the journey promises to be monumental."

Interview by Nathaniel G. Moore, photograph by Crystal Porcher

(November 2007)


TDR: When did you start working on these stories?

ANDREW HOOD: Well, working in the loosest sense. The oldest one goes back probably three years, and is now, well, the title track or namesake of the collection. Which seems really weird to me, for some reason. I'd been doing mostly forced, cold, undergraduate-minded writing up to that point, and this first story really helped me shake that. It came out quick and angry and easy, and all the stories that followed became – for me – responses to that first one. Around this time last year I realized that I had a cache of stories that worked really well with each other, all taking place, for one, in the same geographical, but they also occur in a shared emotional landscape, I think. After the book was taken, I was lucky to be able to write three more stories, which cap off that period of my writing quite nicely, shut the door on that specific energy.

TDR: Who are some of your inspirations? Literary or otherwise?

For about two years now I've been reading nothing but short stories. Not that I've eschewed novels, but more and more, there is something so essential about stories that I'm constantly compelled to ferret out, but still can't quite put my finger on. 

The collections that I've been really into are the "album" books, you know, a real cohesive grouping of stories as opposed to those "greatest hits" collections that get put out, a hodgepodge of stories that might come out in between novels. Michael Chabon's Werewolves in Their Youth was important, as well as Salinger's Glass stories. And I don't know why it's taken me this long, but just last month I read my first Alice Munro story and now can't stop. Every one kicks my ass. 

It's funny and frustrating that so much is made of how she changed the way we think about the short story, when that's not really true. Such a staunch notion of what the short story should be still persists, defined so often by length, which is such an arbitrary stricture. Munro strikes me as that one wily inmate who got over the fence and it was such a feat that even the guards and warden couldn't help but respect her, but also they had to make sure it never happened again. "Now, don't the rest of you get any ideas."

TDR: What issues do you stories deal with?

ANDREW HOOD: To be vague, I guess the stories deal with issues of monstrosity, from the extreme and more subtle. This may overlap with the fifth question. In writing the first draft of Pardon Our Monsters, I was very sure about who was right and who was wrong in that story, but after I'd swished it around in my mouth for a while, I understood that all the characters act monstrously, especially the narrator, who, because of his being in charge of the telling, is able to excuse his perfidy, justify it. That was the extreme example that I kept returning to in thinking about the stories that deal with the more minor transgressions. There are those minor character flaws and ticks like selfness, or carelessness, or callousness that, when introduced into the right situation, will grow to such terrible, large extremes. And, ultimately, when I started to group all these scattered stories together, I realized that they all had one thing in common. They all lack apology, lack contrition, catharsis. Seeing what I'd done, I felt a little monstrous myself. With my characters, I'd been unforgiving as the author, which works for the book, but is ultimately something I'd like to exorcise.

TDR: What promotional plans for the book are you looking forward to?

ANDREW HOOD: This is all very new to me. I don't really have a clear idea of what the consequences of publishing a book will be, but I'm up for anything. Answering your questions is the first booky thing I've done yet and that's exciting. Presumably, I'll do a tour and readings, which I'm jazzed about; talking to people I don't know, people that I would otherwise never meet. I think that's reason enough to do something like this.

TDR: What is your idea of "monsterdom" or let us say, evil?

ANDREW HOOD: When I think about monsterdom or evil, I think about it in terms of our manners and personalities. We like to think that we are cultured and polite, functional in society, but I think that everyone harbors these aberrations within themselves, prejudices and pettiness. Though they may be slight, under the right duress, like I said before, I think those flaws can become surprisingly massive. The fallacy of our society is that we have these things under control, but most of these monstrosities haven't been purged from us, only muffled. To say that our generation is any less racist or sexist or classist than the generation before us is silly. It's better, sure, but we like to flatter ourselves in saying we're above it, when, really, we've just learned to stifle our prejudices. And repression certainly isn't any good. We've become very good and treating the symptoms, but the malady ultimately gets overlooked.

TDR: What is your impression of the Montreal literary scene?

ANDREW HOOD: Well, Montreal's a port town, right? So there's this feeling of everyone here being on some weird, extended shore leave; everyone seems to be just passing through. I've been here about five years now and don't necessarily feel either settled or tied to the place. I feel more connected still to my hometown, Guelph, and ultimately tend to write about that. Maybe this transient attitude precludes any tangible scene, though at the same time, if there is a scene, it would somehow have to be defined by it's not being a scene.

There are groups and niches, for sure. The Concordia/Matrix scene is the one that sticks out, to me, having come out of that. But at the end of the day, any literary scene will or at least should be halfhearted and willy-nilly. The nature of literature doesn't really support regionalism, or shouldn't. Which is what I like about Montreal. It allows everyone to maintain and mingle their cloths and creeds.






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