More About the Author
TWO-HEADED DOG is published by Xavier Vargas E-ditions,founded by Xavier Vargas in 2012. See more about Xavier Vargas E-ditions below.
MITCH GRABOIS, BIOGRAPHY
Mitch Grabois was born in the Bronx to a family of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. His grandmother, Anna, came from the town of Barr, Russia, the site of the first recorded pogrom. His grandfather, Eli, came from Kishinev, Moldova, where, in 1903, he hid in a cellar with his nine siblings as the city suffered the largest, most violent pogrom in history. Anna taught Mitch how to whistle and to brush his teeth with seawater. Eli drank tea through a sugar cube and worried about the possibility of anti-Jewish riots taking place in America.
Mitch has lived in suburban New Jersey, Los Angeles, the coastal redwoods of Humboldt County, California, the Florida panhandle, Key West, and on an eighty acre farm in western Michigan. He now makes his home in Edgewater, Colorado, just west of Denver, with his wife of thirty-six years, Concetta, near his two adult sons.
In each successive place he lived he grew roots, only to tear them out. Mitch feels nostalgic for home when he steps on a subway, when his sunroof is open and the day is hot, dry and smoggy, when he smells the sweet chemical scent of a pulp mill or walks a tree-shaded trail crowded by giant ferns, when he drives past a roadside stand selling boiled peanuts or enters a restaurant whose air is redolent with collard greens, when from a bridge he sees the sparkle of sun on water, and when he walks through a field of corn or soybeans or sees deer crossing a road.
Mitch has worked as a Green Chain Puller in a redwood sawmill (pulling green lumber off a conveyer belt and stacking it), a psychotherapist in a rural mental health clinic, a psychologist in a state mental hospital, and a psychology professor. Much of the material in his novel, Two-Headed Dog, comes from his experience at the state hospital.
Mitch developed an interest in literature and writing in the fourth grade, when he co-edited his elementary school creative writing magazine. He devoted himself to poetry from eighth grade through college. He wrote his first novel, Iron Prayers, in the mid-1980's. It was represented by a highly regarded New York literary agency, but never achieved publication, condemned by editors as "too quirky," "too literary" or "too feminist." Since the late eighties, his short fiction has appeared in over sixty literary magazines (see below). Oxalis nominated him for a Pushcart Prize.
For the past ten years Mitch has been a full-time writer, focusing on novels and short stories. His most recent story acceptances have been "Zane's Splinter" by MEMOIR Journal and "Purple Heart" by The Examined Life, a Journal of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. Publication date for both is late Spring 2012.
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR TWO-HEADED DOG
Two-Headed Dog is compelling. The further I got in, the faster I found myself reading. And believe me, that doesn't happen to me so often any more. I have trouble finishing most novels these days, published or not, because they all feel so... predictable. This book, to say the least, is not. This book is a ticking clock. A search. A mystery.
The novel begins in Part I as a fairly sedate, carefully observed story of a lonely doctor in a somewhat eccentric mental facility. The book just takes off in Part II, when Hank finds the renegade half-way house in the woods. There the book begins to transform, to become mystical and revelatory. It was at this point that I knew I was hooked, turning the pages as quickly as I could. After that, the story doesn't let up. It explodes. Once Hank finds Tiffany at her father's mansion, in Part III, the novel again metamorphoses, from the intriguing and mystical to flat-out bizarre and surreal. Wow. These scenes are riveting. Each section works on its own terms. I'm fascinated and refreshed by this book.
--Craig Holden, author of The River Sorrow, Four Corners of Night, The Jazz Bird, and other novels, winner of the Great Lakes Book Award in Fiction
Two-Headed Dog is an interesting novel; with so many different twists and turns. I see it as a very original take on the nature of the beast--the Beast being humankind--with all of its capacities for love, lust and bloodlust, sanity and madness; a novel that seems based in reality as it begins and becomes increasingly surrealistic but always raising all these questions of "What's at the core of us humans?," and it's done with humor and folly and great poetic touches. It deserves to be a huge hit.
--Martin Shepard, Publisher, Permanent Press
Mitch Grabois is a wonderfully talented, funny, and appealing writer. His work is deft and engaging, and his characters and plot are richly imagined."
--Curtis Sittenfeld, bestselling author of Prep, The Man of My Dreams and American Wife
Warning: No leash. No muzzle. Two-Headed Dog will bite you with more force than a pit bull, and won't let go until it's done with you.
NEW AND ONLINE WORK BY MITCH GRABOIS
"Teacher Man" The Toucan, December 2012 (online)
"One Universe Too Many" The Toucan, October (Poem of the Week, online)
Â "Her Father Was an Alcoholic" Locust Magazine, November 2012 (online)
"The Dead" and "Bus" Turbulence Magazine (print, published in Hull, England) October 2012
"The Revelation of Her Organs" Poydras Review, October 4, 2012 (online)
"The Shittiest Neighbor You Ever Had" Ol' Chanty, early October 2012 (online)
"Exiled Twice" The Tower, Fall 2012 (online)
"Unwanted Surplus" Flutter Poetry Journal, late September 2012 (online)
"Drought" and "Protester" Out of Our, mid-September 2012 (print, available at City Lights, SF and other bookstores)
"Meticulous" Halfway Down the Stairs, September 1, 2012 (online)Â
and Haggard and Halloo, July 26, 2012 (online)
"Thoughts After Washing the Sheets," "Spiritual Appraisal" and "I Make New Friends" Jeanette Cheezum's Cavalcade of Stars, August 6, 2012 (online)
"Chief" Guerilla Pamphlets, August 25, 2012 (online)
"Tossing the I Ching," He's Hardly a Robin" and "He'd Never Met a Skinhead Hater" mudjob, Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â August 16, 2012 (online)Â
"Water for the Thirsty," "The Heaven of Borges" and "A Polluted Triad" Kalkion, July 26, 2012 (online)
FICTION PUBLICATIONS ONLINE
"Tattoo" Commonline Journal, July 13, 2012
"Ganesh" Marco Polo Arts Mag, July 7, 2012
"No Grunge Punk" The Montucky Review, June 6, 2012
"Shade Tree Mechanic" Crack the Spine, June 6,2012
Â "Shavings" Word Riot, May 2007Â
"These Notes Are Personal" SN Review, Spring 2007Â
Â "Beamer" Oxford Magazine, 2004 Â
A Partial List of Short Story Publications by Mitch Grabois
"Team Player" in Oxalis (nominated for a Pushcart Prize)
"Zane's Splinter" in Memoir
"Purple Heart" in The Examined Life
"Beamer" in Oxford Magazine
"Shavings" in Word Riot
"These Notes Are Personal" in Starry Night Review (SNR)
"Splinter" in the Bridge
"A Brief Visit to New Orleans" The Pittsburgh Review
"Reenactments" Georgetown Review
"The World Goes Black" in Onionhead
"The Depth of the Ducks" in Great River Review
"The Depth of the Ducks" Orange Coast Review
"The North Star" in Soundings East
"Expatriot" Colorado North Review
"Polaris" in Coe Review
"Every Day Adds to the List" in the Bone Island Sun
"Team Player" in Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature
"Power, Speed & Invincibility" in Bellowing Ark
"The Man" in the Old Red Kimono
"President of the Peanut Fields" in Tabula Rasa Magazine
"No Woman No Cry" in Bellowing Ark
"No Woman No Cry" first paragraph excerpted in The Mississippi Review
"Midnight in Moscow" in Mind in Motion
"Covering Jerome" in the Pinehurst Journal
"Five Pounds of Animal Fat" Midland Review
"A Marriage of Labor and History" in Organica Quarterly
"Starving the Rabbit" in Organica Quarterly
"Confession of an Accessory" in Art Times
"Ornesto in Key West" Art Times
"In the Land of the Dead, That is All One Needs" in Half-Tones to Jubilee
"The Philanthropist of Love Lane" in Cayo
"Ripley's the Russian Émigré, and Three Hundred Pounds of Michigan Nurse" in The Pikestaff Forum
"Sleeping on the White Street Pier" in Buffalo Spree Magazine
"My Life As A Man in America" in Viet Nam Generation
"My Life as a Man in America" Mushuggah
"Cupid's Arrow" in Catalyst
"Sarah Becomes the Los Angeles River" in Collages and Bricolages
"Polaris" in Radio Void
"Confession of an Accessory" in The Iconoclast
"Vita" Le FAROG Forum"
"Dead Man's Condiments" Portable Wall
"Photographs" Two-Ton Santa
"In the Field the Fallen Moon-Bladder" Meshuggah
"Edward Teller's Mother Experiences Problems With Her Plumbing" Bohemian Chronicle
"Desert Storm Front" King's Review
For several years Mitch Grabois' columns (fiction and satire) appeared in Solares Hill, Key West's alternative newspaper.
THE ORIGIN OF Xavier Vargas E-ditions
I met Xavier Vargas through Frank E. Taylor, the late editor and publisher.
It was in Key West in the nineties and I was working as a counselor at Florida Keys Community College and writing columns for Solares Hill, at the time known as "Key West's alternative newspaper." My columns were a blend of fiction and satire, often focusing on local issues. David Etheridge, rotund and garrulous, was the editor. After a few years of working with David, Frank Taylor move to Key West from New York and became Assistant Editor, and was assigned, as one of his duties, the task of editing my columns.
Frank was a tall, thin elderly man, with a dry, soft-spoken manner. It took a while for me to learn about his distinguished past. I had dubbed Key West as "the Island of How Great I Was," but Frank was truly accomplished. For over four decades, he'd been an editor and book publisher, Editor-in-Chief and General Manager of the McGraw Hill Book Company's trade-book division and publisher of Avon Books for the Hearst Corporation.
Authors he'd worked with had included Vladimir Nabokov, Marshall McLuhan, Leo Rosten, Desmond Morris, Malcolm Lowry, Grace Metalious, Alfred Kazin, Richard Wilbur, George Orwell, V. S. Pritchett and, incongruously, Eldridge Cleaver.
Frank had also worked in the movie industry, and was the producer of the 1961 film ''The Misfits,'' starring Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Eli Wallach and Montgomery Clift. The film was directed by John Huston and written by Arthur Miller.
After all that, he was editing my columns. Given his distinguished background, he could have been haughty and imperious. Instead he was a total gentleman, respectful of my work and hesitant to make editorial suggestions. I had to reassure him that my short fiction had received so many rejections (some of them accompanied by rude comments), that I was thick-skinned, and would appreciate any input he was generous enough to give me.
On a balcony at a party in Key West's Old Town one warm evening, Frank introduced me to another older man, Xavier Vargas. He appeared to have recently deplaned from somewhere in South America. His complexion was coffee and his features suggested that he was a mulatto or quadroon. His kinky hair was slicked back with sweet smelling pomade and he had a pencil-thin moustache, a style I had always found rather comical. (Vargas rather resembles the actor who played Gustavo in the AMC TV series, "Breaking Bad," -minus the moustache--but when I pointed this out to him, he scoffed, and seemed offended.) Vargas wore a white, tropical suit, with a paisley handkerchief in his front pocket. However, he had not come from South America, though he had been born there, but had stepped off a flight from Newark, New Jersey, and then driven a yellow convertible from Miami.
I learned that he was a long-time friend and colleague of Frank's, and that in the early days Frank had often depended on him for literary judgments, until he developed more confidence in his own. Throughout Frank's career, they continued to compare notes, and their judgments rarely diverged, except that Xavier didn't care for the work of Malcolm Lowry and reviled the man (reportedly the result of some slight or insult whose substance was never divulged to me) and he ridiculed Frank for working with Eldridge Cleaver. Frank laughed about that.
After that night, Xavier Vargas often visited Frank in Key West, and the three of us sometimes went out for coffee or a drink. I was extremely gratified that they included me and was in awe of both of them, as they were both extremely intelligent and cultured, though you could not say that Vargas was accomplished, as he had come from a wealthy family and was proud to tell me that he had not worked a day in his life. He kept a very low profile in Manhattan, where he lived in a lavish penthouse overlooking Central Park, and spent most of his time frequenting museums and jazz clubs, and reading international literature. He was particularly enamored of the work of Roberto Bolano and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, both of whose body of work he had reread at least eight times.
There came a time when he and Frank Taylor began encouraging me to write a novel. Vargas thought that my "unique blend of cynicism, humor and speculative bent" would be "a perfect foundation" for a novel. However, I was daunted by the idea of writing a novel, particularly as I was still raising kids, had a full-time job, and also was renovating and managing some run-down apartments my wife and I had purchased as an investment.
It wasn't until after I left Key West and Frank Taylor died that I began writing novels. Then, in a decade, I wrote six of them. Early on, I secured a New York literary agent, Gary Heidt, who worked for the Imprint Agency, then Fineprint, and finally the Signature Agency. Heidt was committed to representing quality literature, even if it might not be commercially viable. "Too quirky," "too literary,' "too feminist,' and "not easily categorized" were charges leveled against me over the years by editors who admired my work, but questioned whether it would sell. Heidt finally formed his own publishing company, Dirt e-books, and published my novel, "Two-Headed Dog," as an e-book.
About six months later, Xavier Vargas contacted me. We had lost touch some years back, but one of his friends had been raving about a novel he had read on his Kindle, and Vargas was surprised and delighted to find it was by me.
Vargas was also beginning a publishing company, the eponymous Xavier Vargas E-ditions, starting like Heidt, with e-books. With his wealth, he could have capitalized a traditional print publishing company, but Vargas is a staunch environmentalist and, despite being elderly, very much plugged into the new technologies and the opportunities they present. Vargas, as enamored of my novels as he had been of my columns, made me an offer I couldn't refuse, and thus became my publisher and patron.
Thus far, I am Xavier Vargas E-ditions' only author. I keep encouraging him to publish others, and he has been assailed by submissions, brought to him personally on paper by the highest-ranked agents in the business (he only accepts e-mails from a small group of friends), but he complains that no one else has the blend of cynicism, spirituality, and humor that I bring to the page and which "delights him so." What can I say? Xavier's been around a long time, and has had decades to hone his own brand of eccentricity. I can make suggestions, but if I repeat them more than twice he becomes annoyed, and one does not want to irritate one's patron.