Stunt by Claudia DeyStunt by Claudia Dey


byClaudia Dey

Paperback | April 15, 2008

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Nominated for the First Novel Award

Eugenia Ledoux, nine years old, wakes to a note from her father: 'gone to save the world. sorry. yours, sheb wooly ledoux. asshole.' Eugenia is left behind with her mother, the sharp-edged B-movie actress Mink, and her sister, the death-obsessed and hauntingly beautiful Immaculata. When Mink climbs into the family car and vanishes, Eugenia doubles in age overnight, butremains the dark and diminutive creature who earned the nickname 'Stunt.'

Eugenia devotes herself to finding Sheb. She writes to the man she believes to be Sheb's father: I.I. Finbar Me The Three, a retired tightrope walker. Waiting for Finbar's response, she retreats to Toronto Island, where she meets Samuel Station, a barefoot voluptuary, world traveller and ring-maker.

When Finbar does write back, Eugenia wonders if she will find what she is looking for - or something else entirely. Studded with postcards from outer space, twins, levitation, the explosion of a shoulder-pad factory, and some accomplished taxidermy, Stunt is part dirge, part cowboy poetry and part love letter to the wilder corners of Toronto and of ourselves.

'Claudia Dey's debut novel is like a snowflake, utterly unique, compellingly intricate and sparkle-riven, sharp as broken crystal and just as dazzling. Stunt is daring, poignant, full of abandon and abandonment, wistful and funny. Brilliant.' - Lisa Moore

'Dey's . prose [is] a wondrous compression of poetry, her carnival of characters drawn in gripping detail, and the riot of fantastical yet gritty imagery all shot through with a keen and relentless sadness. The sheer density of the imagery and vivid characterizations makes you slow down to enjoy every sentence. You want to read this novel carefully; you want to read itagain.'

- The Globe and Mail

'Stunt is mesmerizing, rewarding, and breathtaking. Dey never lets up'

- Quill & Quire

Claudia Dey's plays have been translated into French and German, and produced internationally. They include Beaver, Trout Stanley and the Governor General's Award- and Trillium Award-nominated The Gwendolyn Poems. Claudia is a graduate of McGill University and the National Theatre School.
Title:StuntFormat:PaperbackDimensions:248 pages, 7.18 × 5.14 × 0.83 inPublished:April 15, 2008Publisher:Coach House BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:155245195X

ISBN - 13:9781552451953

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From the Author

Q&A with Claudia DeyThis is your first foray into fiction. How did you come up with the idea for this work?Stunt began with an image of a girl tightrope-walking above Kensington Market. I lived near the market and for a few years, walked through it every morning on my way to the Factory Theatre where I had a small office for writing. The image of the girl on the rope persisted and became the point of departure for the book.What was the creative process like for you?It took five years.I often felt like the only waitress in a very busy restaurant where every customer had a different need - dessert, menu, bill, water, high chair. It was an enormous amount of information to balance in the brain. A constant chatter, every surface of the world became one for scribbling stray notes. I imagine that this is what it is to be haunted - or a lunatic.From draft to draft, the process alternated between rapture and drudgery; you are the pioneer discovering land for the first time, and then you are the meticulous draftsperson mapping this discovery. I am still astonished by the amount of time the book required and the focus. I worked with a monk-like devotion and forgot the rules of civility; I had to check that I was dressed whenever I left the house.Who did you read as a kid, and how did these first forays into reading fiction affect your sensibilities as a writer?My father read the Narnia series aloud to my sister and I at bedtime. It purported other possible universes; this lateral thinking was very appealing to me. It told me that the world had a false bottom - that behind one door might be another door, and behind it, unnamed treasures and threats. The Brothers Grimm's classic fairy tales had a macabre quality that I loved. Dr. Seuss and Dennis Lee taught me that language can be so playful as to be re-invented; there are no rules to story telling other than the ones you declare.What are you reading right now?The New Yorker, Carl Wilson's Let's Talk About Love, and a collection of short stories by Aimee Bender. I just finished Michael Winter's The Architects are Here; it was boisterous and incandescent, the prose lightning-fast and assured. I would be remiss if I did not mention Anna Karenina. Though I read it two summers ago, I am still reading it - or being read by it - in that it continues to be present in my mind. Tolstoy wrote our interiors with such deftness and specificity that I came to believe we could understand each other profoundly if we wished. Through this form, we could uncover our essential humanity.How and where do you write?In the morning, uninterrupted, in a third floor office in my home.Do you write with a certain audience in mind? Who is your "ideal reader"?A leftover of my theatre training, I still imagine bodies in red velvet chairs filling a darkened hall. I am not entirely sure who they are, but they are willing to be still and to pay attention.Name one person in your life who profoundly influenced your work, and why did you choose this person?Gwendolyn MacEwen. Her work could never be confused for another's; her voice was so distinct. She excavated ancient cultures and chose extraordinary twins for her verse - T.E. Lawrence, the Loch Ness monster, escape artists, Grey Owl. Her curiosity was untameable. She was a sensualist, a scholar, and as far as creatures of the mind investigating what it is to be human, an unmatched daredevil.Who is your favourite protagonist in a work of fiction or poetry, and why?This is a musical, albeit poetic choice: any construction of David Bowie's. His blue eye shadow, his high heels, his bad teeth, his excellent suits. He is androgynous and otherworldly; his capacity for transformation is limitless.In your own work, which character are you most attached to, and why?Eugenia Stunt Ledoux of Stunt because she is able to alchemize her grief into a form of daring.Tell us a little about the overarching theme of your work, and why you felt compelled to explore it.I am fascinated by questions of belonging. How do we define ourselves when the obvious markers of identity are gone? Are we alone in this world or are we twins, who upon finding each other, complete puzzles?

Read from the Book

It's night. The dead centre of it, bull's-eye black. We're sitting in the wet sand on the shores of Lake Ontario, after riding your bicycle here: you, the pedaller, and me, the pedalled, curled on your handlebars, knees to my chin, eyes fixed on yours. We arrowed south, a perfect downhill, and with a sharp left, stomachs pulled into hard wedges, we sped east onto the straight and narrow of Lake Shore, under the bridges that jackknife it, to this spot. Crabs on pointe. Red ants. Boaters' lost rings. We are father and daughter, fishing on the shores of a radioactive lake. I'm nine. Not sure how old you are. Don't know the day you were born. Only that it was winter. And that it was during a snowstorm, a murderous one.This night, the weather is terrible. Cold and raining. Unlikely fishing weather.The city asleep behind its great wing. 'We should have brought slickers,' you say and sidle into me. Nightgown soaked and stuck to my skin, I shrug. I am Sancho Panza. 'I like it.' I do a cartwheel for you, legs quick shudders over the moon. You grin smoke.We've spent every night here for a year, tucked in amongst the boulders. We've never caught anything, not even a shoe, but this doesn't seem to be the point.Fishing hook held hard in one hand, worm and cigarette in the other, you pass the worm along knuckles until it hangs from your fifth finger. The lake inches up to your high-grade-leather cowboy boots. Size thirteen. Licked with paint. The worm fans its body in the air. Everything instantly lashes and undulations for you, everything instantly mistress. Pink and brown rings contracting, it arches back. It eyes its killer: a man tall as a weather vane. Pinstripe suit, frayed at the cuffs, split and resewed, beard in patches, and a moustache waxed to flatline. Remnants of a handsome man.Cigarette to your mouth, the stub of your smoke is pulled in, a deep draw, and then pinched between a graveyard of blackening teeth. Never an exhalation. You keep it all. Your lungs: stingrays. Winging out. Eternal.You puncture the worm.I hear the worm's death cry. And then rapture, worm rapture, rapture in the death hands of Sheb Wooly Ledoux, worm killer, unflinching man, my father.You dip your line - twelve feet of household string tied to a straight sapling, small rock for a sinker, safety pin bent for a hook - into the lake. 'It is about the bold statements, my darlin'.' You wrap your arm almost double around me. 'The bold statements.' You peer out at the water. Cross-hatching around your eyes, your face made tributaries by the rain - you are cut from rock. From that original band of granite. The collision, the fire to the air, the melting, the near settling, this is what made you.The hungry whine of a seagull.The green smell of the lake. No bites.Suddenly called to attention, you stand, a gazelle full of broken bones. You cover my ears. An explosion across the lake stacks itself up the sky in blacks and reds, bruises and sores. The earth shakes below us. The lake swells and boils in an angry moan. Fish fly out of the water and onto the sand, flipping on their bellies, their backs, trick fish balancing on their tails. Five of them hop neatly into your suit pockets, enough for breakfast. You uncover my ears. You look at me. Your cigarette somehow still lit.Love me. I dangle these words in front of you like beads on a fine string. Love me.You stroke my hair, cold and slicked. You stroke my face. Thumbs smudging rain. Your hand comes to rest on the back of my neck. I lean in against it.'We're the same.' I read your lips. Won't get my hearing back until morning. I close my eyes and smell you in: unwashed man skin, old smoke, cat, wet wool, apple. I reach out in the dark, knowing the path by heart, touch my finger to your mouth, your lips so soft behind the bristle, batter and silk. They open for a second. For the first time, my fingertip allowed to disappear.The next morning, sand in my sheets: kippers fanned out - a peacock on the breakfast table, the taste of metal in my mouth, you are gone.You leave behind a note. This one, this last one: a drawing of a flying monk with an enormous penis and below, in your exaggerated scrawl, always lower case,gone to save the worldsorry mink,immaculata,sorryyourssheb wooly ledouxassholeNo Eugenia. No Eugenia. None.