The Great Bitch, La Belle Dame sans merci, that unattainable Helen of Troy that gets you just about there, but not all the way, and leaves you howling at the moon, sometimes for years. You go to pursue. You scheme. You plan. To no avail. You will never be with her.
Now Mailer is an experienced enough artist to tell the novice writer that it's not getting laid that is the point, it's producing the book. At least that's what I got ouf of "An American Dream," for all its gaucheries and crudities Not to say, ever, that Mailer is gauche or crude, it's just that the embittered PI in the piece seemed gauche and crude.
And violent. Treated women like the Russian whoremasters of all the 'Stans today.
Cut to 2006. James Blunt, in his rather arresting falsetto:
I saw your face in a crowded place, and I don't know what to do.
You're beautiful! You're beautiful to me.
But it's time to face the truth.
I will never be with you.
Old Ivan, straddling three generations, and yet, still, somehow in love. With the Great Bitch, the Great Unattainable. Again and again.
The quest started in the late Sixties, A comic book collaboration between geniuses Michael O'Donoghue and Robert Springer, The Adventures of Phoebe-Zeitgeist, a gorgeous drop-dead Moonbeam McSwine, out of All Capp, perhaps, but nothing McSwinish about Phoebe- Zeitgeist. She is a Serbian debutante, an aristocrat, really--I don't want to mention Mila Mulroney in the same breath, but as gorgeous as Mila Mulroney anyway, but younger, and very, very sexy, in no matter what scene, what level of chains and degradation.
Phoebe-Zeitgeist, the belle of any ambassadorial ball, is suddenly kidnapped and captured by a series of bizarre characters, such as former Eskimos, Nazis, Communist Russians, Chinese foot fetishists and lesbian assassins. She does have a hard time of all this. She is variously rescued, recaptured and rescued again How I would have loved to have rescued Phoebe from the clutches of those evil Red Chinese and assorted rejects of Katmandu.
I was fresh out of liberal arts school, still high on old Eagle's notions on the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, that old German shepherd seeming more abreast of the times even today, than he was during Bismarck's reign, where a united Germany seemed to have it all. And Hegel had all the brains. Of course, right now America seems to have it all. But brains?
But cut to the chase: I was just out of the liberal Arts school, a former army guy, like James Blunt, guitar once strapped to the side of a radar console to look for Russians, a real Norman Mailer hero, and, inspired by the best art of my time, like all the Beat works, Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac and, especially Michael O'Donoghue.
I was in love and On the Road to write a beautiful novel about Toronto, and if not that, at least meet my personal Phoebe-Zeitgeist. A naked woman in chains, political correctness be damned, is a huge turn- on for a young horny fool who wanted to write.
Three novels later, I found myself in the unenviable position of an old balding guy in love with a woman out of a porn movie, the very caricature of a dweeb out of Michael O'Donoghue's perfervid imagination, a Diogenes not with a candle in his hand, but with a guttering candle on the top of his head, the picture of his chained porn queen firmly embedded in his brain, and he "had to get!"
I had somehow stumbled, after my three novels upon an untenured professorship in English and the porn queen had been one of my students in a night class.
Professor and the Blue Angel. I was not aware, in those days that women who went to night school risked the House of the Rising sun, if not serious marital difficulties.
But my Phoebe was more a graduate student, graduate habitué of the House of the Rising Sun. Lately, all the whores are taking Creative Writing. And why not?
She told me she was an actress--and what an actress, I later found out as I checked out her VCR's. I was in love with the blow job queen of Holland Landing.
Ah the professor and the Blue Angel. Boris and Phoebe-Zeitgeist. There was a dungeon in her basement. We would visit it on her off days, when the pimp was away dealing drugs in Edmonton out of little red Toyota trucks.
She dumped me for a new pimp. I hardly had the resources. She stopped, of course, having what passed for sex between us. I still had her in the hippocampus of my groin. I had her smell. Better easy conquests, said old Herodotus. Better that, or your body will drive you mad as you seek the unattainable.
Yet there I was, in late middle age, the candle on top my head, a character, suddenly out of Michael O'Donoghue(himself dying of cancer, quitting his Saturday Night Live position). Why him? He was, after all, the genius of my quest, the explainer, the interpreter of our time. I was just a follower. With the candle on my head.
Yeah, yeah, it's fun to be a genius, of course, but keep that old candle before the cart.
Where'd they go
Twenty years, I don't know.
I sit there wonder some times
Where they'd gone.
I beat up the pimp and have disbanded the foot-fetishists and lesbian assassins. The PI side of me. Had to break it up. Hero in my own novel. But to me she would still not come. Still the candle on my head.
I sit here on a rock, along with my old Bob Seeger and Julian Lennon tapes, my old walkman
In the park
Doing the Ivan-man.