Thursday, February 08, 2007
Travels in Time: Scouring Through Potted Biographies
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 biogriaphies or no.
Wonderful writer, at times, that Maugham. overall success in his plays. But, as people have asked me, "Are writers really human?"
I have seen your face, Billy-boy.
I fear that you may have been blown ashore.
I am given to understand that Maugham disowned his daughter
His vast millions? The inheritance? I don't know.
And his poor, ignored wife.
As if we ourselves were not guilty--oh how guilty!
Some of the things we have done in this dark age, would cause even poor old St. Augustine to blanch. Or W. Somerset Maugham.
Past lovers in bottles. Auras, really, some auras powerful, almost incandescent. The bottle shines bright, as if full of fireflies on a May night, when you and she, her eyes eyes responsive , were in your bower, yourselves like the winking fireflies.
Now it's just you and your potted biographies.
The past is gone.
Today, a scene become gauche.
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 she was a lot like me, and like tends to attract like, and though a writer's worst enemy may be another writer, this was a female writer and women are best at the plays of relationship known as fiction, and she could really get it on.
Unpublished, though, but really banging against the wall of my lifeboat at one time as I tried to madly paddle back to a sinking marriage. Celia, gorgeous young Faye Dunaway. We were a little like Bonnie and Clyde.
She wanted to fellate me one day, but I was struck by her beauty and took her 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 really a pastiche of parallel universes.
I am in Denmark. I am in Spain. I am in my ancestral home home in Chernobyl, Ukraine.
Rarely I am in Canada, that Chernobyl of the spirit, where there has been a meltdown, a dying of the country's spirit as the Northrop Fryes and McLuhans and Penfields and Bantings rise up to the sky, fingers upwardly pointed. And hardly anyone notices our spiritual malaise.
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. We are now Maryland's Baltimore, , soon slated, probably, for ugly urban renewal. One of the paradoxes.
Greatest modern urban civiliazation turned into increasingly seedy H. L. Mencken country.
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 per cent 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 John Fowles 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 autobiography in a huge pot?
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,
I am still in the shower.
Use your vices, your alchollism, 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 auras of all the past lovers.
Jacques Barzun: More people f*ck 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."
O how profound, we male writers!.