Audiophiles may recognize Daniel Grandbois as the bassist of some of Denver's most interesting bands, such as Tarantella and Slim Cessna's Auto Club, groups that run the gamut from gypsy to gospel to Gothic Americana. It's no surprise, then, that when he trades his four-string for a pen and paper, Grandbois takes a musical approach to fiction - with an equally sharp grasp of the absurd. The result is a melodic brand of flash fiction - two- to three-paragraph stories that could be called prose poems - that blends the rhythm and meter of music with the narrative thrust of fiction. The quirkiness of his music carries onto the page as well, for in Grandbois' surreal world a chair or a termite is as likely a protagonist as a person... Unlucky Lucky Days
is like a peyote trip in the desert - things seem familiar, but different. If you really immerse yourself in these stories, you might find yourself questioning whether Grandbois' cracked perception just might be right. --Vince Darcangelo
-- Rocky Mountain News, July 4, 2008
Brief, animist epiphanies--most shorter than a page--comprise Grandbois's folkloric debut. The frog of "Greener Pastures" dreams of becoming an architect like his father, and shapes his dung hills into replicas of churches. The blind cat in "The Teacher" decides on a career change, aided by an equally blind mouse. The growth on Aunt Mary's neck ("The Growth") appeared "as random as the decay of an isotope in an old growth forest when no one is there to hear." Absurdist and surreal, witty and ironical, Grandbois's observations make for pleasant grotesques: impressionistic idées fixes "like the heads of soldiers... large enough to block passages against intruders." -- Publishers Weekly, April 7, 2008
Daniel Grandbois's stories in Unlucky Lucky Days
are tiny and explosive, like a violent series of sneezes. Two techniques are key to Grandbois's style. First, he is unabashedly a comic writer. This is avant-garde stand-up, right down to the punch lines flashing and fritzing like short-circuited bulbs at the end of his paragraphs. `Did you know that cranberries got their name from cranes? A crane without an ear named them so. It cut the letter e off the word because e stands for ear. That one could fly quite well. Unfortunately, it could only hear in circles.' Respect is due to a writer who plays the buffoon in a field like flash fiction, which is so often icicle-cold and-sharp, with the occasional brittle, bleak frost laid on for texture. And as the humor in these pieces gets hokier, the possible parallels with the American folktale tradition become more suggestive and sophisticated. The second marked tendency in Grandbois's work is that his love-hate affair with abstraction drives him to anthropomorphize everything from animals to inanimate objects to body parts to actions to cerebral immaterialities. A typical character in one of these stories is the urge. `Forty days and nights later, the urge left the clouds. It landed on a stone, which was grateful, as it had never had much of an urge to do anything.' Or the sound. `There was once a sound that made a nest of the hairs in some woman's ear.' Or the finger. `Skidding beneath the bed, the lost appendage withered and curled. It lay dormant forty years before the now old woman looked down there. The finger beckoned her under and struck like a snake.' Or the Chinese finger trap. `The scattered straw had had enough of the elephant foot's pranks. It wove itself into a large-scale Chinese finger trap and waited, crouching.' Other protagonists: the mirror, the drapery, the nose, the left hand, the sea squirt, the hair, the chair, the singing.
--Micaela Morrissette -- Jacket Magazine, March 08
The stories of Unlucky Lucky Days are the kind grown-up readers have probably forgotten how to enjoy. Part fable, part creation myth, these seventy-three whimsical tales by Daniel Grandbois are bedtime stories at their best.
Grandbois has the difficult task of jogging his audience's memory, re-teaching them what was once second nature: wonder (otherwise known as a suspension of disbelief). The first story, "The Yarn," sets readers up for rethinking their adult expectations of fiction. The protagonist, a ball of yarn, is detained by a violin spider. "The yarn stopped itself in its tracks and laid itself out, as that is how yarns tell their tales." Many of these pieces are similarly aware of how mischievous they are, of what fun they are having.
Yarn is not the only inanimate object to play a leading role. Other characters include a stain, a snowman, body parts, and even wads of gum. Animals are also common, including a giraffe named Happy Birthday Grandma. This world is nearly devoid of men and women. As the speaker cautions in "Sunny Side Up," "Cages don't always mean humans, especially in stories in which there are none." Of course, the creatures caging themselves seem to be warnings for people too comfortable in their houses.
Elsewhere in this collection, the moral is not so evident. Unlike traditional parables in which the meaning is obvious--be kind to your neighbors or never trust a crocodile--these stories conclude with riddles rather than platitudes. The moral, or just as likely, the punch line, is out of reach. The result is stories that never condescend and always delight, as if making sense is overrated, a bad adult habit.
Unlucky Lucky Days is not the only recent demonstration of Grandbois' imagination. His book The Hermaphrodite (An Hallucinated Memoir), to be released by Green Integer this fall, includes forty original woodcuts by Argentine printmaker Alfredo Benavidez Bedoya. This collaboration shares both the whimsy and the precision evident in Unlucky Lucky Days. Despite the tangential quality of these stories, they are never intentionally tricksy, but rather true to a world in which mustachioed spiders are made king and spin hammocks instead of webs. (June)
--Erica Wright -- ForeWord Magazine, March/April 08