Thursday, July 27, 2006

Nick Carroway and his Seed

How subtly the alcohol gets you, its diabolic process. You have made a new resolve to use your drinking as a reward for good work. You have to do some good work, put in some time writing, writing just for the sake of writing, writing anything at all, just as long as you will have prove to yourself that you weren't just sitting there gathering lint off your navel. Oh how you had loved Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, especially the narrator, Nick Carroway.

You are going to try to be Nick Carroway, but in more of a Henry Miller vein.

So you put in the time writing, writing, writing anything at all, though you have Nick Carroway in mind.

The demon knows, of course, that after a long spell of writing, you will be thirsty as hell. Maybe down a dozen.

"Being thirsty is a sign of health," whispers the Devil in your ear.

So you do something like automatic writing, putting in the time, half-remembered chapters from your own novels, half-remembered bar scenes of debauchery and sin--the good stuff. Nick Carroway might not have approved, but Henry Miller might.

Ratscrabble, ratscrabble, ratscrabble on the keyboard, but a sudden parallel universe comes up. It is partially out of your novel, THE FIRE IN BRADFORD, but the names are somehow changed.

I was lighting my cigarettes backwards. I had no idea how this present-day Julie Christie of the Twenties had even walked into my life and wondered why she seemed interested in me. I also wondered, as a veteran of not a few affairs, how many others had been pole-axed in the same way. She'd obviously been charming men for a long, long time, the blue eye shadow, the absolute blondiness, pint-size and everything about her fashioned, turned, just so. Sheer elegant femininity and you could bet the granny boots and paisley skirt that she wore that there were at least three other guys playing here beside old hubbber. Unnatural elfin beauty. A setup for loners and stoners.

The husband's name was Lief. Lief of the Wayne Gretzky look. Leif the Lucky. Or was he?

I balked at first when they poured me into their red pickup-truck, to be carted home with them. Drunk, I was babbling, "Thou shalt not covet they neighbour's wife, nor his goods, nor his ass." Leif seemed rather intrigued by this last reference to Immanuel Kant, a tricky montage of a name to the man who invented the philosophical term "a posteriori." I suspected Leif was something of a Dick Assman, though that famous person from Saskatchewan was guilty by nomenclature only. I know something of the ways of Riverdrive Park, near Bradford, some druggies and swinger there; likely my ass bobbing up and down while he watched from an attic peephole.

"Not his goods, nor his ass."

I did notice that Leif seemed to be attracted to both sexes, certainly the wife now comprising our threesome at the bar, Celia, but he seemed especially interested in me.. I had a vision of the immediate future. His beautiful wife mounted and Ivan's ass bobbing up and down. And Lief upstairs masturbating. Deja vu all over again.

Holland Landing suburbanites. Bullet Park. Bored. Jaded. They will do anything...

"Leif and I tried coke once, Celia buzzing in my ear.

And she kept talking of William Burrough's Naked Lunch, and i don't think she was discussing literature.

I was showing some signs of nervousness. I nervously swigged my beer.

"I've got something at home that will mellow you right out," from Celia.

Well, eventually we were in Leif's truck.

And all the while, Leif driving, my hand accidentally touching his right leg and Leif moving right into it.

"Kinda moved into that fast, Lief," I joked.

"Fast reflexes!" smiled Lief. Some bisexuals never confuse which days are for men and which for women.

To the right, I felt Celia's warm, soft thigh. But I felt bone too. Earlier in the evening, I had tried to physically pick her up, in the middle of a tango. I did all right, but for a five-foot two girl, she was heavy, unnaturally heavy, the kind of heaviness that is to be associated with people possessed.

I am still ratscrabbling away on this machine. I am actually avoiding real writing. I have really been contracted, given the green light anyway, to write a personal essay for the Globe and Mail. The deadline is about now. The mighty presses are poised. I am supposed to be writing something for FACTS AND ARGUMENTS.

I am poised.

And nothing. Much easiear to spin yarn for Rumpelstiltskin, my Devil of Alcohol.

So back to the story:

Enough that we somehow got to a neat white cottage in Holland Landing, that the husband unexpectedly retired rather suddenly, passed out in the bedroom (actually, they seemed to have a HIS and HERS) and Celia and I were left to ourselves in a shag-rugged Danish-style woody living room with its U-shaped chesterfield facing an immense picture window with the drapes not yet drawn.

And suddenly I became aware of how lonely I was, me the divorcee and frequent near-desperado from my subsequent live-ins, the man of many wives and master of none. It seemed I was suddenly curved up in a ball of loneliness, vulnerability, want. I just wanted her, anybody, anybody like her to hold me. "Just hold me," I was starting to keen.

Very deliberately, she put an open palm and extended her red nail-polished fingers right at the seat of where the trouble seemed to be. Maybe just a lonesome woman not sure of herself, or someone used to certain kinds of men--Johns?--or maybe this had to be a wham-bam-thank-you- ma'am, and that would be my fifteen minutes.

Hey, this is getting to be kind of fun. So much easier to replay the tapes of your novel. Journalism is chores. Journalism is detail, detail, detail. I liked it so much better in the way that I attempted fiction, Detail, Detail, Detail, climax. And then again, detail, detail, detail, mini-climax, and finally the real climax, certainly a realization in the reader.

What of the well-crafted story that they demand of you, over at the Globe, with not a word wasted, without a nuance out of place?

Ah, but that would be work. That would be professionalism.

So much easier to be the "creative writer."

Earlier, she had gone to the hi-fi to put on an LP and I noted she kept bending over to reveal a beautiful pear-shaped derriere she seemed rather anxious to display. What she a virgin, the wife of some Ruskin who was found year later to still possess her hymen after a lifetime of marriage? A lesbian? A lady of the night? Or maybe just a lonesome woman. A lonesome woman suddenly not sure of herself because of a husband's embroglios, or homosexuality, or extramarital affairs, or all of the above?

What attracted me to these strange manikins with the rouged cheeks, these mature women so often seen doing zany things in kids' shows, these vaguely English girl-women doing stupid things and talking funny?

It's a bit like watching the Tim Horton mascot in a parade. It's Timmy the Tidbit, of course, but those thin, black leotarded legs are sort of cute as they ran as in a Roadrunner and Coyote cartoon. You just wanted to grab this caricature, hug it.

Like I wanted to grab Celia.

Well. Just as I become intrigued with my own story, I somehow knock over my optical mouse on this computer. It is falling right atop my hard-cornered hard drive. Crash. My mouse has split into two, just as I was writing this.

Something left of the old mechanical ability though. I had certainly watched enough of that boring old fart, Red Green. I say some duct tape just behind my monitor. I pluck it forth.

What a thirsty god. He is directing all this.

What a horny bastard, the writer.


Anonymous said...

What's with this 'agin' nonsense???
> ... still, like a mountain lake, still, like moon shine in the making, still, like a like a lyric from a 60's nonsense do wop she bop wham she bang, still ...
> The wise old wonks ihfesting the Senate Chamber spent a few years investigating marijuana. In their final Report on the matter they cited relatively recent neuroscience research which has shown that the natural human brain (at birth) has more neuro-receptors specifically and exclusively suited to the Cannibinol molecule than all other types of neuro-receptor sites combined ...
> Little wonder that so many other studies have repeatedly shown that humans are only capable of using about 10% of our brains ... the other 90% only works when Cannibinoids are flowing through the brain juices ...
> ... might also explain the kind of 'thinking' (not) going on in teetotaler mormon/born again brains ... no cannibinol, no receptor site activity for most of the brain ...
> HONEST; If you insist I'll rummage through the files for the research citation and forward it to you ... (eventually)
> ... and then there's the research work which has shown cannibis to be effective treatment against cancers of various types ... actually causing the tumours to shrink and 'disappear' !!!!
> Earliest work on this subject was conducted at the Bethesda Naval Hospital where presidential illnesses go for treatment; recent studies from Spain; work underway elsewhere in Europe (where the noble 'weed' is legal)
> So ... agin?
> Usually 'agin' doesn't apply; 'still' would be more appropriate terminology, however, not this morning ...
> I had a doctor appointment after noon so 'be good' eh. (more tests, showing, yet again, that my body is in very good shape for the condition I''m in.
> Remember the ABC's of life, eh
> Always
> Be
> Cool

Anonymous said...

At least you were in a menage 'a trois. Nothing happening with me at all for the past twenty years.
Like the song, "Desperado."

ivan said...

To the last "anonymous":

You sound like my old publisher.
--At least you are no longer with Miss P.
I imaging Miss P. would be a pill to live with.

ivan said...

To the first "anonymous":

You talkin' about weed.
I'm a juicer.
Get your point anyway, though I am not sure of your research.

ivan said...

Worth thinking about

ivan said...


Tai said...

"Tim Horton mascot"

Canadian through and through, eh?

I'm glad you stopped by my blog, I enjoy your writing so I'm bookmarking you...Why don't you come over and see me (again) some time?

ivan said...

Good site. I'll be back.

Josie said...

I read on Tai's blog that you're a Somerset Maugham fan. I devoured all his books. He really had a handle on human nature that would hold up today.

What is it with boozy writers?

Red Green? Hey, duct tape rules...!

ivan said...

Hi Josie.
I especially like "Willie's" essay style. Holds up today as well. Not a word out of place, yet something of present-day usage in it. I do believe he had a final proof editor whose name escapes me.

The booze, I fear is an occupational hazard, though I think I really learned the practice while in the Air Force.
Nineteen and thirsty in a co-ed environment. There were worse ways to go for a young fool. Kinda like a ski camp for drunks who operated radar sets...I fear I may have set down at least one fighter in the trees instead of a runway...thank god there were people over me.

And then the journalism...well there was an unholy trinity of coffee, cigarettes and booze, so much like the Air Force...a newsroom was so much like an operations centre!
Nowadays a newsroom has no paper, no ashtrays and boozy reporters don't last long.
As for boozy writers? A great many of them were drunks, as you know, but then old Ovid says no water drinker ever wrote anything worthwhiile.
Well. At least I share one thing with Ovid. I don't drink water.

Sela Carsen said...

Water is only good for pouring through freshly ground coffee beans. I've cut back to four cups a day.

God, you're interesting.

ivan said...

Well, to borrow a phrase from your novel,just now in galleys, "Not Quite Dead", I'd like to report that I am not quite dead in this heat.

My successful father used to tell me that as long as you have a fifth of Canadian Club in your liquor cabinet, you are "not quite dead.
"But just three fingers."

You are now successful. My father was successful.

And I am uh, not quite dead.

Thanks for being interested.

I am certainly looking forward to reading your novel if you and your cover artist agree on the cover illustration.


Sela Carsen said...

I'm a Jack Daniels drinker, myself. Tried my first mojitos at conference. I may learn to channel Papa Hemingway yet.

I'm unsure of the measure of my success. Was I successful the day I typed "The End?" Or did it take a publisher saying yes to make me successful? Or is it a number of sales that will finally ring the bell?

I just try to keep my face above the waterline.

ivan said...

I have found through experience that when I typed -30- or THE END at the bottom of a script, I was only half finished; there were revisions,entire chapter rewrites, brutal cutting in places.
I am thinking of the Sixties and Seventies.
Nowadays a publisher expects pretty well a perfect script that he can trust to be almost set up, photo-proofed, as is.
You are wise to have that face-above-the-water feeling.
I myself didn't believe it was quite going to happen until it did.
But it all seemed to take skills sometimes miles removed from writing...I mean the faxing and all
that. Also a need for a good companion to see you through to the end, bcause you are so excited over the outcome that you can hardly tie your shoelaces and can't do somple things very well.
Sales? I don't know.
I have been an award-winning journalist whose audience numbered in the hundreds of thousands.
Book sales?
Don't know. My serialized novel, the Black Icon, reached 70,000 people, but they sort of had to read it because the magazine was controlled to reach so many households, whether they wanted the publication or not.
None of my novels, between covers, surpassed l,000 books sold.
But there was the bang of actually getting a book finished and getting it out.
And it quickly led to so many other things, like an immediate teaching post at a college.
I like to think that an accepted novel is like your own personal PhD. You can just sort of put it up on the wall and stare at it, like my students, framing their first published pieces.

Jaye Wells said...

Your title cracked me up.

We didn't discuss the use of second pov on my blog. But I like what you've done with it.

I'm with Sela on the use for water.

ivan said...

Thanks Jaye.
Hic nobis!

ivan said...

note to tai:

I have trouble commenting on your blog. No letters showing up for word verification.
I am nevertheless taken with your new Pirate monicker, Mary Read.

I was going to say, "Well, shiver me timbers and blow me down!
"Proud Mary!"

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