Arthur Bradford ’93 strummed his guitar as he read “Mollusks,” a story from his book, “Dogwalker.” The story is about two men who find a 10-pound slug, “about the size of a loaf of bread,” and bring it home to one of their wives.
Bradford’s words flowed smoothly to the simple beat and tune of his guitar playing. His audience in the Yale Bookstore was captivated.
Bradford was in town last Thursday as a guest of the Yale Bookstore Author Series. He signed copies of “Dogwalker” for city residents and students. The book, Bradford’s first, is a collection of short fiction stories that was originally published by Knopf in 2001. “Dogwalker” was released in paperback this month.
Critics in publications including Entertainment Weekly and The Washington Post Book World have commented on the absurdity and surprising nature of the stories. One story is about a man who has a love affair with his girlfriend’s dog. Another tells the story of a marijuana dealer with a creature living in his wall.
David and Tricia Mangold Heiser called Bradford’s work eccentric and intriguing. They met Bradford about five years ago and came to hear him Thursday night.
Tricia Heiser said when she first read a story of Bradford’s she found it “strange, but captivating.”
“That kind of storytelling becomes hypnotic,” said Bill Burns, an executive film producer who lives in Hamden, after the reading.
Burns liked Bradford’s writing style, which he said has not been done for a long time.
Andrea Panchok-Berry ’03 likened Bradford’s voice to Roald Dahl, author of “Boy.”
“It sounded very — much as though you were just looking into a room, and hearing this conversation,” she said.
Bradford offered his own experience as encouragement for prospective writers. He said that every story in “Dogwalker” was rejected at some point by a magazine, “without exception.”
Bradford grew up in Maine and now lives in New York City with Coby, his Chesapeake retriever. He was an American studies major at Yale and he took many writing courses. As an undergraduate, Bradford directed a television show called “Street TV,” which was aired on a weekly basis.
When he graduated in 1993, Bradford moved to Austin, Texas, and worked in a sandwich shop. He said he would strongly advise Yale students to step outside of academia before moving on to graduate school, especially those students who want to be writers.
Bradford earned a master’s degree in creative writing and film at the University of Texas in 1998 and became a Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford University. His fiction has appeared in McSweeney’s, Esquire, and The O. Henry Awards. He has also made a film, “How’s your News?” Bradford said he hopes to have another book published and film produced in the future.
When asked about his writing habits, Bradford said he sometimes plays music while he writes. Other times he said he needs quiet. No matter what, he always uses a manual typewriter to write his first drafts. That way he can just get it all down, he said.”Otherwise,” said Bradford, “I can’t move forward.”