Friday, June 02, 2006

Ivan's recalcitrant muse

Struggling all night with a recalcitrant muse, I somehow got Baker on the brain, Russell Baker, the famed columnist who began one of his Sunday Observer reports with "How quickly a man's reputation can go to seed."

Thirty yearss struggling with a mechanical typewriter, all the nicotine, prescription drugs, booze. Three million words in print--no wonder that this man is burned out and his reputation has gone to seed.

And only now have some of the brains come back, and they came, strangely from a meal of roast beef, where the brains are. Vegetarians are a tad anaemic, and alcoholics don't eat well enough. Got a mental block? asks Mencken, " Well just put on the old bib and tucker and have a good meal."

I had hoped to get some of the old thunder back by writing a short story about a man and his muse, but though the spirits were definitely around and something was tugging at the drapes, what seemed like beautiful words in the wee hours turned out to be hackneyed words and even the writing mood, the "muse" was just counterfeit genius.

So into the oven goes the roast beef, a kind of refined uranium to light up your life and you hope the fork witll be an isotope for the artistic explosion you hope will occur. Little H. P. Lovecraft explosions going on outside your head as you get into a Ken Kesey mood of lightning flashing all around and creativity high.

Except that it is a false high and you jump off the mechanical Remington muse and back to the computer keyboard, which is easier and faster.

Rudyard Kipling says poetry and writing is produced by the very materials of the process, the typewriter, the erasers, the pencils, the butt-filled ashtray--and he is right, but that is only for the first draft. The second draft has to be clearer, more sure.

But something was happening during that image of the man entangled with his muse. Not for nothing were the drapes going wild and the windows rattling.
It was your soul trying to catch up with your body--thirty years of running flat out, pedal to the metal without stopping for one good meal of roast beef where the soul no longer seems to hide behind a knife, but where it waits for a diner's knife and fork, to be eaten like a sacrament. Where the hell had you been for thirty years? Chasing your own tail, jumping up all the time high on your booze and drugs, like a rapidly deflating baloon, an ordinary and somewhat dull man pumped up with his stimulants and depressants, made interesrting and exciting only because of those stimulants and depressants. Whooosh!

Maybe it was not Russell Baker but good old R. J., a contributor to this space that I had on my mind and how similar out processes seem to be.


DoubtingThomas said...

But the question is...did you have the music playing? It is not accidental that music and muse are the same. I like my comfort, and I would go for a belly full of beef before a belly full of booze. But that is just me. A room that one has made cozy, no one sneaking up, a full belly...and some music that makes one think. Streaming audio is where it's at. As I read your words, Ivan, Judy Collins was singing "Who Knows Where the Time Goes."

Then reading your account of thirty years of beeflessness, I thought of Jethro Tull's "Aqualung." Read the lyrics. Kind of scary.

Ivan, you are challenging at least one mind out here in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Keep it up, and thanks for saying I can sort of write. Means a lot.

ivan said...

Thanks a lot, Thomas. Loved Judy Collins, especially her version of "Both Sides Now."
Jethro Tull-well, it's been a very long time...will have to seek again.
It hurt a bit to write this blog.
Now with your gracious comment, it may have been worth it.
Thanks again, bud.

ivan said...

Double Wow!
Just re-read Jethro Tull's lyrics.
Yep, I swear that was me somewhere off Petticoat Lane hunting for "fag-ends" and shuffling off by myself. Crazy, unlucky old man.

I have tried sleeping in parks, but the other bums are a real drag--won't leave you alone for a minute, aggressively friendly and trying to con you. Or kill you.

Thank the Lord Christ I got out of that situation.
And how did I get out?
Past reputation as a writer. It got me a house.

But there are those who have no dream, no dream at all, just the mulish wish to survive. I live among them now, those who just want to survive and manipulate others those crazy bastards whom I am now starting to not much like.

For f*ck's sake, have you ever tried doing anything with your life, I ask, beyond the mere money and booze grubbing, the King for a Day welfare cheque and the hangover that screams to God?

I tried to explain my feelings to a girlfriend about my own age.
She said something that had insight: They were that way since they were born.

So we thank our lucky stars.

DoubtingThomas said...

You, sir, were a gentlemen fallen among thieves and murderers. (Having fun yet?)

ivan said...

Was it E. M. Forster who had said,
"Among the filhy, filthy too"?
That is sometimes the fate of many an optimistic novelist.
Fallen among thieves indeed.
And almost having fun.

general jack ripper said...

When I hear the name Baker, I think of the Baker rifle... but maybe that's just me.

Hope you're well Ivan. And remember what I said about the flouride.

ivan said...

General Jack:
The Baker Rifle. Brown Bess before that?...Myself I had a hell of a tie taking an M1 Garand apart and them putting it back together while in the RCAF...Crap, I think I had a part left over. Drill sergeant said, "I think we're going to call you "Challenged Ivan" from now on.

No, It's not just you that has associations come up like that. Maybe like you, I am a WWII aeronautical buff.
There was the Rheinmetal-Borsig
cannon in the old W.W.2 Messerschmitt fighter...Not sure whether its 20mm cannon had a smooth bore or rifled, but if it ever hit a Spitfire there would be a tiny explosion, much more effective than the rifle-calibre
.303's the Spitfires had in l940.
Soon, Spitfires were equipped with 20mm cannon as well, and no longer would Heinkel bembers come home all shot up, but still flyable. Cannon could go right through armorplate and tear huge holes in a bomber.
I kind of went through WWII as a kid and later joined the Royal Canadian Air force.
Hey man, you been checking RCAF archives--I can tell.
Stay cool.

general jack ripper said...

I'm actually a pacifist - I just play a gun nut on your blog. But I do confess a weakness for Cornwall's Richard Sharpe series and the Napoleonic period in general.

But the fluoridation thing, that's totally for real.

ivan said...

General Jack:
Flouride will make you crazy and rot your guts as well as your teeth?

general jack ripper said...

No, that would be Hungarian wine.

ivan said...

Well, I am not quite Hungarian, different culture--but I whine a lot.

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