Friday, December 08, 2006

Alexandr and Alexandre

There are people who don't like Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, as, I suppose, there are people who don't like Alexandre Trudeau, though I do like his photography, copyrighted, above, right.

The Russian Nobel prize winner seems to carry on too long with the unbearable pain and suffering of the Gulag inmates, as our correspondents Sela Carsen points out, and Alexandre Trudeau gives us stories of the Middle East almost equally depressing in these dark times.

Who's going to save this cotton pickin' world?

Change the story, change the world, says increasingly famous Douglas Rushkoff, out of New York City, with whom I occasionally correspond. Prof. Rushkoff is really talking of his recent foray into comic books after succesfully publishing a series of books on the Jewish diaspora. The comic book is an amazing vehicle. There have been coming book classics produced that echo Dostoevsky, Kafka, Orwell. Not just superheroes now, but something like the Bible, at least in parts of what Dr. Rushkoff presents. Comics have been the bible of kids for generations.

Send George Bush a serious comic book?
Through a medium he can understand, he might just see the world for the first time.

I have not produced a comic book
I have produced a mini-book.
I am amazed that forty years after I wrote my Black Icon, a million, yea, a billion people are repeating the godawful story of losing home, life, limb in the course of some stupid war or preventable famine. And things are not getting better for three-fourth of the word. They are getting worse, far worse.

The characters in my Black Icon survive by sheer peasant bullheadedness and blind luck
Also the undivorceability of the basic Slavic family unit. My Ukies stay together, come hell or high water.

"Ivan does not spare the suffering," said Barney McKinley in the Toronto Mirror

I don't.

I am not Solzhenitsyn, neither am I Alexandre Trudeau.

But my work does contain instances of almost unbearable suffering, cruelty yea, even scatology. My Sophia is Neolithic.

So my Black Icon is not for the squeamish.

Ah, we fat North Americans. Transfat, you say. Scallions. Attacks on Taco Bell. Call them fugitive fries?
Josie's poor flatulent lady on the plain.

Could it be somehow construed that she had gone to the Taco Bell near the airport.

Tom Ridge is apt to do almost anything.


Forget it.

There are people who are not allowed to eat at all.


Chapter Six

The winter of 1941-42 raged around Gallicia like a hungry white animal. Food became scarce. Though Sophia was getting plenty of mail from Germany, Michael was sending little money, asking, in fact if she would sprinkle a little tobacco along the corners of her letters. "Things must be really good!" Sophia had written. Just stamps and subsistence food for Michael over at the German factory.
He had tried to offer four potatoes to a runaway starving Jew, for which he was severely beaten and sent to a correction camp. Hardly possible to send Sophia money from there.

In the midst of it all, Sophia had to bury her grandmother.


The family would sit by the glow of the combination clay stove and fire-heated sleeping perch, eating potato soup.
Very Van Gogh.

"Where is Daddy?" young Genyk wold ask while he fingerpainted on the cold, hoary windowpanes. There would be no answer from Sophia, but at least there was soup. Katerina and Genyk, filled up onthe floury gruel, watching the billowing snow through the clear spots in the feather-patterned windows.

Soon, not only food, but wood became scarce. Fuel could always be stolen from the old crown forest, but foraging for food was more dangerous. Sophia would join forces with one Ann Podolan, whose husband was also in Germany and the two women became accomplished thieves. The large German warehouse nearby had a section where potatoes were kept. Guards were posted around the more important sheds, those containing soap and gasoline. But the whole fenced-in area was patrolled by dogs. One woman would stand near a hole in the fence, watching for dogs and hundfuhrers while the other woud make for the raised wooden doors where the potatoes were. Here, the lock, an old blacksmith-made thing, was easy to open. Such locks were standard in Galicia and the key to one would open them all. But the dogs.

One night, Sophia crept under the fence and made for the root cellar door. Halfway, she paused, looking back at Ann. It was clear. Now she was at the cellar entrance, skeleton key out, ready to be inserted into the smiling hole in the black face. A click and the hasp flew open. She was about to raise the door and go in, but something stopped her. She looked up to see two yellow eyes peering back.
The dog, young and large-chested, stared at her, more curious than menacing. She froze. The two of them crouched on their respective fours, eyeing each other for a full minute. From behind, Sophia heard Ann hissing at her. Too late. Now the animal moved towards Sophia, quietly, as if stalking a bird. She clutched at the heavy loose lock. her left hand, meanwhile, was winding a heavy linen handkerchief around itself. The dog sensed something. A low growl rose in its throat, as its training took over. It was the last noise the dog ever made.

On him like a flash, Sophia wasted no energy. Her right hand grasped the dog behind the forepaws, the left rammed itself into the opening jaws, past the horrible teeth--and stayed there in the Alsatian's throat while the animal writhed. After the spasms settled into weak jerks, two skull-bruising whacks with the lock finished the dog off.

In the cellar now, cutting a large burlap bag with a jacknife, letting the potatoes tumble into her uplifted skirt; raising the door with with her head, cautiously at first, then up higher, enough to ler her out; dashing to where Ann was waiting. Then keeping guard while tthe other woman took her turn, past the door, past the dog, into the potatoes.
While running for home, they decided they'd better try another warehouse next, perhaps a boxcar where the Hungarians kept rations.
The following night, a woman was ripped apart by four Alsatians.

..............end BLACK ICON, Chapter Six.

----- Original Message -----
From: Ivan Prokopchuk


Josie said...

Hi, Ivan, I just popped over to say I won't be blogging for a while. Just have a bunch of things to do and I'll be busy.

You guys have fun...:-)


EA Monroe said...

Good morning, Ivan. Hope you are well. Blogger's acting up -- again. Josie's jumping ship! I am enjoying The Black Icon. Comics seem to be hot with writers, especially Neil Gaiman and Laurell K. Hamilton. I doubt GWB would get a comic book though. I watch the nightly news and think, the world's falling apart. I just hope some of us have Sophie's stamina for survival! Have a good day.

Josie said...

No, no, no I'm not jumping ship, I'm just going to be super busy day and night for the next several days or so, so I won't have time to blog. Besides, I can't keep up with you uber intellectuals anyway... :-)


ivan said...

I think I should have left The Black Icon alone, just text, instead of throwing my world view around. The text of the Black Icon is entirely non-political,neither is it a thinker's monograph.
I keep trying to improve the book and all I do is throw in some political and classical slants here and there, all of which I don't think, do the book any good.

The book has been enjoyed by people of all creeds and religions ,as it describes trouble in any couttry or family.
My dentist paid big money for an autographed copy and reports:
"A really fine novel, though it is about another ethnic group."
I guess we are all together in this war and pestilence thing.
Stragely, I have not had great support from my own tribe with The Black Icon.
A conservative people, they found parts of it "plain pornographic", though my own family was quite taken with it, my mother emblazoning her naive baroque living room with Black Icon covers.
She loves icons of any sort, of course.
I had some reservations about putting in the chapter we have up right now.
I think, Josie, that we have reached the same sort of impasse.
In the first place we are tired.
The holiday season is upon us and there are people to see, gifts to buy and places to go. New York?
In the second place I think I know you're realized serious blogging is hard work.
My pen pal Antonia, at the Toronto Star had two years of it and one day just seemed to plain run out of gas. She gave up her blog, at least until she gets more wind up.
So yeah. We do run out of gas.
I myself ran out of gas two months ago, but have been keeping up the blog through sheer discipline.
I guess it's starting to show.
Curious that something with no real reward at the end should demand such scrupulousness.
I don't know how Bernita blogs, pretty well 24-7 and keeps it up, day after day, week after week, year after year.
The competition must be so high because the stakes are so low.
No stakes, actually.
So I get a little twitchy when it seems to me you want to give up your blog. Sort of gasping for air a bit.
We are all gasping for air.
No question, from all your correspondents' comments, that a whole lot of people are enoying your blog.
Do your chores, take your trips, but don't abandon your blog.
You are natural, you have a natural style and we all love you.
Don't push the river. Stay the course if you can.


Josie said...

Ivan, yes, blogging does take a lot of energy, but I enjoy it. I'm an extrovert so I enjoy interacting with all you folks. Some of you I really feel as if I have become friends with. (That sounds like bad English).

Anyway, I have so much going on right now, piano recitals, dinners, luncheons, parties, shopping, concerts, arrgghhh.... I don't want my blog to get sort of ...well... crappier than it is (hah).

My post yesterday was sort of interesting, I thought, but maybe it wasn't to anyone else.

I'll pop in and say hello when I have a moment.


ivan said...

E.M Forster, in the course of the Last European Misunderstanding, said once that in spite of things looking so bad, there is a crabwise motion toward the better in mankind.
We are seein it now in America, and Canada is starting to smarten up.
Things just can's stay bad, bad, bad. I am not a churchgoer, but we might be experiencing something like divine intervention.
I think it began with the mid-term election in the U.S. and our own leadership fight here in the Liberal party. The neocons can't rule forever.
I have heard of Laurell K. Hamilton.
I believe there was a documentary on our own TVO. I will be checking out Neil Gaiman as well.
I'll bet you can draw.
Would be nice to see a sample here and there.
Thanks so much for supporting us here.


ivan said...

We all love you and we love your blogs.
And others too.
Look at the respones you're getting.
Like from all over the world.

Your post was definitely interesting.
Great minds think alike, or why else would Jay Lenno take up your poor travelling lady's flatulence
and make half of an entire monologue out of it. True.



ivan said...

P.s. to Josie,
Your English is flawless, as always.
I do detect a hint of Welsh though.
Any Welsh in your family?
I'll just bet.

Yeah, I know.
Like most one-time over-achievers in my English class, I have become over-sensitive to regional English ways of putting things.
And you put things so well.


Josie said...

Leno did a monologue? What a hoot...! I guess great minds think alike. Did you see my Twilight Zone story about the Titanic? I found that woman really bizarre.


ivan said...

Yeah, Josie,
I saw your well-reearched blog on
the lady with the black cloud hanging over her head, but the lightning always hitting some Cunard and Star passengers, but totally avoiding her.
Violet Constance Jessup, huh?
...I added my two cents on Ms. Jessup in a comment on your blog.


goatman said...

Are you an officianado of Margaret Atwood by any chance (a canadian contemporary)?
Your prose is attractive.
Thanks for visiting my blog. I believe that Shanxi provence is in northern China. But I could be wrong.

EA Monroe said...

Hi Ivan. I popped in and out a couple of times, but everytime someone at work interrupted and I had to skeedaddle. I'm glad Josie plans to stick around. This blogging business does take a lot of energy! I maarvel at Bernita's ability!

I started out because I am a curious creature and I was always surprised when a few folks dropped in -- I didn't think anyone was out there. Then you offered a few kind words of encouragement (Well, a lot!) ;-) and I've been going down hill since! Just kidding. Sometimes it's stressful thinking of something, but I figure it's good practice -- making me write something when I'd rather goof off. I've been a slacker on getting Book 4 edited and polished though. Ah well.

And I get to pester you and Erik.

ivan said...

I think you're right.
I got Sinkiang on the brain, as twenty years ago, they found some Caucasian-looking dudes in full GAP outfits, mummified in the Sinkiang soil. They went back three thousand years.
Everybody wore bonk pants, Doc Martens boots and all the ladies wore witch-style hats.
Very strange.
What were those ofays doing there in l,000 BC? And dressed for like like for Halloween.

Margaret Atwood and her husband
Graeme Gibson are acquaintances of mine.
They do not knock my work.
So I guess I won't knock theirs.

ivan said...

I have had strange luck with some of my proteges.
That is not to say you are a "student" of mine or anything.

Couple of girls got their short stories published through me in the days when I still had clout with local magazines.
I acted as an agent for one lady who was depressed and broke.
I don't know if her short piece got into the Globe and Mail, where I was trying to place it, but all of a sudden she has money and a super job.
I dasn't check with the Globe's Facts & Arguments section,the personal essay section, as lately the prof too has been out of contract, and he is too embarrassed
to ask wha' hoppen.

Girl with the curl.

I am either right-on, or completely out of it.
I think I'm out of it these days, especially when I write wicked (and probably stupid) romans a' clefs about the horrors of Canadian publishing.
I think it is safe to say that of late, my alumni all seem to end up working for McDonalds, and even me, the validectorian.

No longer in on the scene.

But I like to think I know good wriing when I see it. You write good.

EA Monroe said...

You are too kind as always Ivan, but I thank you. It's a crazy world out there in publishing, or at least it seems that way from what I read. One of these days I might venture out, but I'm probably safer staying home and cooking up mischief -- when I'm not working overtime for The Pyramid Company.

ivan said...

Something to be said for staying safe and out of the turmoil of large publishing.
A girl here in Canada got a book acceptance and a contract, but while she waited for the paperwork, she could not pay her phone bill nor her rent and her successful contract turned out, for a while at least, in homelessness and the bottle.

I have been there, but here and there I break through large and it's all worth it.
But it takes so much energy, sometimes so much blind luck.
Unfortunately the luck happens about every seven years and it's the lean years that make you quizzical about everything.
I no sooner get in with a theatrical company that likes my work than I get slammed in big publishing.
Ah well. You gotta be you.
All else might just follow.
Sometimes it works that way.