Words: Jeff Jetton
Photos: Kevin Hulse
Matt Luckhurst, a descendant of Canadian loggers, is originally from Nanaimo, British Columbia. He currently works as a senior designer for a design firm in New York City. His work has been recognized by The Art Directors Club, Type Directors Club, Graphis, Design Quarterly, Print Magazine and others. Luckhurst’s new book is “Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure”
Here’s the craziest thing about Luckhurst… he and his book were chosen to appear at the National Book Festival before the book was even released. And it’s his first god damn book. This motherfucker is that talented.
Jeff: You just wrote a book about loggers?
Matt: About Paul Bunyan, and Babe the blue ox, who were lumberjacks, yeah. But with a twist. They’re eating pancakes now, instead of logging.
Jeff: Is it fiction, or is it…
Matt: It is based on all the stories about Paul Bunyan. I spent a week in the New York Public Library, kind of going through every Paul Bunyan book. In the rare book room where they bring the book out and you wear the gloves…I think the oldest book was 1899, that I got.
Jeff: About Paul Bunyan?
Matt: Yeah. It’s actually sourced from all the old Paul Bunyan stories that were told. So Bunyan was the first oral history, oral sort of fairytale.
Jeff: Tall tale.
Matt: Tall tale, exactly. That happened in America.
Jeff: Minnesota, right?
Matt: It’s sort of debatable. They say Montreal, Minnesota, that whole area down by the St. Paul…
Jeff: Did you go to Brainerd?
Matt: I did not go to Brainerd.
Jeff: And you know about the big ox there, though?
Matt: Well I was out in California; they have another one that moves. In the redwoods.
Jeff: In the redwoods! I’ve seen that one too.
Matt: It’s crazy. We were on a road trip.
Jeff: Right by the big tree with the…bridge through it?
Matt: It’s ridiculous. And Paul Bunyan moves his head and waves to you. So I was like midway through the book when I ran into that.
Jeff: So this is for adults?
Matt: This is not for adults. This is for children.
Jeff: Who illustrated it?
Matt: I illustrated it, and I wrote it.
Jeff: Sweet. Okay, so you live in Brooklyn?
Matt: I moved to Brooklyn, like five years ago, from Vancouver.
Matt: Williamsburg. Look at this mustache, c’mon!
Jeff: I knew it, Williamsburg. So best pancakes in Williamsburg?
Matt: Best pancakes in Williamsburg? Oh man, you got me on the spot. What’s the place called? Never go to a too-nice of a place for pancakes. It’s always a trick. You want to sort of aim low.
Jeff: You want shitty pancakes.
Matt: You want a place that’s like, the pancakes can’t cost more than ten dollars, or you’re in trouble. Then they’re not real pancakes
Jeff: Do you realize how ridiculous that saying is anyways? Pancakes can’t cost more than ten dollars?
Matt: Have you been? Have you been to Williamsburg?
Jeff: Yes, I live in Crown Heights.
Matt: Yeah, there you go.
Third person: That’s why they called Minnesota the land of 10,000 lakes. Because paul bunyan created the lakes with his footprints.
Jeff: Did you put that in there? What page is that on?
Matt: Well I sort of amalgamated that into a couple things. But when they filled in the holes, they filled it in with pancake batter. When the sun came up, they turned into the Rocky Mountains. That’s a fun fact for kids to know! The Rocky Mountains are actually pancakes, so you can snack on them.
Jeff: How does the book end?
Matt: The book ends with you can’t just eat pancakes all the time, or you’ll turn into a pancake. So eat some vegetables, and then sneak some pancakes behind Mom’s back when you have time.
Jeff: This is not a book for—what are they called? People with glucose—who can’t eat…What’s that called? Celiac? It’s not for celiacs.
Matt: Well no, because it ends with them eating vegetables, so actually those people would really agree with that sentiment, here.
Random Dude who interrupts conversation to take pictures of Matt…: Jesus Loves Slayer? (referring to Jeff’s t-shirt)
Third person: What’s that about? Jesus loves Slayer? Who’s Slayer?
Jeff: You don’t know Slayer?
Matt: He was a guy.
Jeff: Just a guy. He was in a metal band.
Third guy: I figured. I’m too old.
Jeff: Never too old for Slayer, sir.
Matt: This is the first time I’ve done anything with the book.
Jeff: All right. That’s a pretty good “first time I’ve done anything with the book, I’m at the fucking national book festival.”
Matt: Yes, I got pretty lucky. I got a good publicist, I think.
Jeff: Yeah, who the hell is your publicist?
Matt: It’s an Abrams book, so Laura.
Jeff: Laura Abrams? Why do I know that name? Who’s Laura Abrams?
Matt: That does sound like a person.
Jeff: I swear to god, she’s like an author.
Matt: I’m with you, that sounds like a person.
Jeff: She wrote like, Little House on the Prairie or something. Let’s go…you’ve got an all-access pass or something? Let’s go find another author and get him to do something silly. Are you having fun?
Matt: Yeah. Well it’s all a little ridiculous, still. It’s good.
Jeff: Did you already sign?
Matt: I did.
Jeff: Do you know any of these authors?
Matt: Generally I’m not going to know many authors, no.
Jeff: So you live in Williamsburg, are you from there?
Matt: No, I’m from Vancouver Island, Canada.
Jeff: You’re Canadian. A Canadian in Williamsburg.
Matt: A Canadian in Williamsburg writing about American folk tales.
Jeff: Do you ride a fixed gear?
Matt: No, I don’t. Motorcycle.
Jeff: Do you? I ride in Brooklyn, too. I live in Crown Heights.
Matt: I got a Suzuki DRZ-400 SM, if you know what that is.
Jeff: I do.
Matt: Sort of the funnest bike in the world.
Jeff: I have two BMWs. 70s R60, and an R75. Crown Heights is where it’s at. I ride my bicycle in Williamsburg for one day, and somebody stole it! Fuck that place. Where do you take your bike to get it fixed in Brooklyn?
Matt: Brooklyn Moto, usually. They’re right across the street from me. There’s also a Brooklyn kids book festival going on right now.
Jeff: And you’re missing it?
Matt: I’m here. Well if you get invited to this thing, gotta go to it.
Jeff: You sort of –you peaked. You can’t come back to this. You only get to come once. Unless you’re Salman Rushdie or something.
Matt: Who knows? I got a lot of hopes.
Jeff: They don’t let people at the book festival twice. You can come back for an award. You can come back with an invite from James Billington. Did you meet James Billington?
Matt: I did. I got a picture with him.
Jeff: He’s old.
Matt: He’s amazing. (He was like) “I like your energy.” I got a picture with him. It’s a hilarious picture too.
Jeff: He’s so cool, though. Like I want Jeff Billington to be my grandfather. So the book is on sale…
Matt: The book just started shipping like yesterday. Politics and Prose in D.C., they’re awesome, had a big event there yesterday, has a ton of signed books, so you can get one there. So if you like independent shops, of course…
Jeff: I do. And in Brooklyn?
Matt: In Brooklyn, McNally Jackson has them in SoHo, they got a bunch of signed ones. And really any local bookstore should be getting them any minute now.
Jeff: Cool. Well we will look forward to reading it.