Favourite device of the journeyman novelist.
Potted biographies. You have your list of characters. They all have histories. You place their histories in little pots you can uncork when you need to refer to why a character actually does something and how he/she does it.
W. Somerset Maughan says, however, that the writer actually ends up painting his own face, potted biographies or no.
I have seen your face, Billy-boy.
I fear that you may have been blown ashore.
Now is that any way to treat a mildly mediocre dead writer? Ecce Homo?
I am given to understand that Maugham disowned his daughter. His vast millions? The inheritance? I don't know.
He was certainly one successful Mofo of a playwright and novelist. And his poor, ignored wife.
As if we ourselves were not guilty, oh how guilty, along with St. Augustine. Some of the things we have done in this dark age, would blanch a saint. Fry him. Her?
Really the auras of past lovers, some auras powerful, almost incandescent, the nearly-unrequited lovers strangely with the most nascent power.
It is in the shower that we sort out parallel universes, actually the universes of our past lovers.
Yes, yes, the hip savant would say, "You forgot to masturbate", but I think it's deeper than that.
Just like Augustine, we suffer (enjoy?) the auras of our past lovers.
I am a hell of a lot older than the revered Bishop of Hippo at his death, so my auras are all but overwhelming.
Somebody's face is nuzzling against my thigh. It is Celia, the most powerful of the auras, and I hardly had all that much to do with her sexually. Why the strong, almost magnetic pull? Because like tends to attract like, and though a writer's worst enemy may be another writer, this was a female writer and they are best in the relationship game known as fiction, and she could really get it on. Unpublished, though, but really banging against the wall of my lifeboat as I floated away from my marriage. She was, in fact, fond of U-boat captain outfits, a gorgeous young Faye Dunaway in uniform; we were a little like Bonnie and Clyde. She wanted to fellate me one day, but I was struck by her beauty and went another way.
You had no compunctions with all your cycle sluts and even the one who loved you most.
Yet, for some strange reason, missionary position or nothing.
And even there, the haunting presence of another halo, King Mark, and I was the Tristan in the piece.
Would King Mark have slain me if he'd seen us in the act vulgarly known as sixty-nine?
Would he have just said, Hello then, let's have a cup of tea, shall we?
Or would he have wanted to join in?
My own potted biography. The older I get, the more I think of the past, but it is a pastiche of parallel universes.
I am in Denmark. I am in Spain. I am in my ancestral home in checkered Ukraine. Rarely I am in Canada, that Chernobyl of the spirit, where there has been a meltdown and hardly anyone was noticing. With the death of McLuhan, everything died spiritually. "Leave the poor man alone," said McLuhan's wife to the jealous academics. "You are killing him."
They did. And with that, cutting-edge Toronto had to give it all up for Calgary, Alberta. We were all doing it, killing McLuhan. I went to school with Mary McLuhan, Marshall's daughter, and we all ragged on her too. Jealousy.
I look at the fine prose of a web-mate like R. J. Baker and know for sure that a lot of people might be jealous, unpublished author or no. Yeah, yeah, it needs editing, but it is still fine. My rug-cleaner can write better than I can.
One of the paradoxes.
Forget plot. Use character. Character is everything. Character is plot.
You write your first draft on the fly, just let one word follow another, forget the sophistication you want to convey, just do it, do it to that last page 300 where you finally write THE END. It is shit, yes, but out of shit grows the flower. Then you go into the second draft, another five hundred pages, two hundred of which you will have to throw away. Still want to be a novelist?
It is a technique (some Satanists would say a Technology ) ninety-nine percent talent, ninety-nine percent hard work and ninety-nine percent imagination. And potted biograhies. Especially your potted biography.
"I was born..."
John Fowles: "I was born the son of middleclass parents, themselves under the shadow of that monstrous dwarf, Victoria...It soon became apparent that I was not equipped by heredity to be the person I wanted to be..."
Now don't that turn your brown eyes blue?
How did he arrive at his book? He has no idea and says so. "I just wrote and wrote, hardly knowing what I was doing."
Potted biographies. His own potted biography?
The potted biographies really go into your second draft; that's where you flesh out the characters, that is where things click into place. That is where they do what they do because they have no choice. That is where you do what you do because you had no choice. Your biography, your destiny.
I am still in the shower.
Use your vices, your alcoholism, your lechery, your addiction to tobacco--as rewards. Do not just surrender to your vices, your piggishness. Use your vices as a reward when you finally succumb.
I will not masturbate this morning, surrounded by the aurase of my past lovers..
Jacques Barzun: More people fuck than philosophize.
But then, Jerzy Kosinski: If you must masturbate, do so, but you could try writing about it as a Gongorist trick.
And Philip Roth took the advice, hook, line and stinker.
Produced a book called Whacking Off.
How uncomplicated the male writer.