Barry Gifford, in conversation with Jim Ruland, discusses and signs The Cuban Club: Stories
A masterpiece of mood and setting, character and remembrance, The Cuban Club is Barry Gifford's ultimate coming-of-age story told as sixty-seven linked tales, a creation myth of the Fall as seen through the eyes of an innocent boy on the cusp of becoming an innocent man. Set in Chicago in the 1950s and early 1960s against the backdrop of small-time hoodlums in the Chicago mob and the girls and women attached to them, there is the nearness of heinous crimes, and the price to be paid for them. To Roy and his friends, these twists and tragedies drift by like curious flotsam. The tales themselves are koan-like, often ending in questions, with rarely a conclusion. The story that closes the book is in the form of a letter from Roy to his father four years after his father's death, but written as if he were still alive. Indeed, throughout The Cuban Club Roy is in some doubt whether divorce or even death really exists in a world where everything seems so alive and connected.
Barry Gifford has been writing his Roy stories on and off for over thirty years, and earlier Roy stories have been published in Wyoming, Memories from a Sinking Ship, and The Roy Stories. But it is in The Cuban Club that he brings the form he has created in these stories to its crystallization. Indeed, to find precedents for The Cuban Club, we must look not to other story collections, but to other creation myths--to Gilgamesh, or the Old Testament, or Eduardo Galeano's Memory of Fire trilogy. Roy's age here wends back and forth between six and nineteen and back to twelve. He sees with the eyes of a seer who doesn't seem to age, and knows not to judge the good or the bad in circumstances or people, or even to question why things are as they are, instead filled with the romance of the world teetering on catastrophe always, but abounding in saving graces. (Seven Stories Press)
Barry Gifford has been the recipient of the Maxwell Perkins Award and a Syndicated Fiction Award from PEN; the Ingmar Bergman Chair on Cinema and Theater from the National University of Mexico; the Premio Brancati in Italy; and a Christopher Isherwood Foundation Award for Fiction, among other awards. The film based on his novel Wild at Heartwon the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and his other film credits include Lost Highway, Perdita Durango, City of Ghostsand The Phantom Father. His books have been translated into thirty languages and his work has appeared in many magazines, periodicals and newspapers throughout the world, including The New Yorker, the New York Times, Rolling Stone,La Nouvelle Revue Française(Paris), The Guardian(London),El País(Madrid),and La Repubblica(Milan). His most recent books include The Roy Stories,Sailor & Lula: The Complete Novels,Writers, The Up-Down, and The Cuban Club. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more information visit http://www.BarryGifford.net.
Jim Ruland is the author of the novel Forest of Fortune and the short story collection Big Lonesome. He is the co-author of My Damage with Keith Morris, founding member of Black Flag, Circle Jerks and OFF! He is currently working on a book with Bad Religion. Jim writes about books for San Diego CityBeat and punk rock for Razorcake — America’s only non-profit independent music zine. He also writes book reviews for the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Review of Books. He runs the Southern California-based reading series Vermin on the Mount, now in its fifteenth year.