Jim Gavin, "The Copy Chief"


It's December 8. Jim Gavin, author of Middle Men, needs someone to get Zemanski on the horn, pronto.

How would you describe your story?

JIM GAVIN: Out of college I lucked into a job at a paper and got to see the tail end of the classic old newsroom. I was totally lost and incompetent but I loved hanging around the crazed lifers, the men and women who were on their way out, cut loose by an industry and lifestyle transformed by the internet. Among other things I wanted to memorialize that world in some small way. Plus the five years I worked at a gas station.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

JG: I wrote it a few years ago. It conformed to my usual process—months of laziness and degeneracy, edging up to it, followed by long periods of bewilderment and self-loathing, and then it was done somehow. Always a miracle.

What kind of research went into this story?

JG: Very little. I had the texture of those worlds, having worked in them. The history of unionization among SoCal papers is brutal and fascinating, and I delved into that a little, but in the end it's a story about two guys on the edges who find each other.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing can't?

JG: The gut punch. In a short space you get an entire character, an entire world, and the fact that you have to leave it all behind and figure out on some level what came before and what comes after the moments you've witnessed—it just demands a different kind of engagement. You can get away with moments in a short story that would totally upend a novel. What I like most is that you sit down with a story, and a half hour later you feel different.

Everything I do in life is an attempt to numb myself, but a great short story won't let you do that. After reading a great short story, you take a walk outside and see new things.  

Where should people go to learn more about you and your work?

JG: I didn't pay the bill on my website so I need to sort that out... in the meantime you can enjoy my sporadic and irrelevant Twitter presence at @jimatdeltaco.

What's the best gift you've ever been given?

JG: My first pair of Air Jordans. 

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Michael Hingston