Thursday, April 05, 2007

Marion--Certainly no Mother Mary!

This is my "I-am-sick-today-so-I-will-give-you-this" piece.


My friend Gary Lautens, over at the at the Star, used to have a column that could always be thrown into the breech when a writer was sick.

So into the breech, the Screech.

The beautiful woman in her paiseley dress wanted to know why I persisted as a teacher of writing.

"Why are you wasting your time at this," Marion Gallagher wanted to know. "You should be writing, not teaching.

"You are a writer. .

"And all you do is teach.

"People are counting on you. You have to go out and do something really fine. Stay out of classrooms.

"If you can't make it, none of us can make it."

This was more than just a challenge.

It was a goad towards sainthood, if novelists could ever be saints. If anything, most novelists are pagans!

I would be Sysipus poised at his rock. Saint Sebastian at the stake, about to be skewered by archers.

Some habitues of the writing schools say all creative wriing instructors are frauds and should be shot. All the better with arrows. More pain.

I don't know how many times I had taken Marion Gallagher's advice seriously, how I'd kept to the vows, produced the book, the short story, the newpaper vignette.

And almost every time, came back with two goats, a staff and a terrible hangover from the writing, and--say it on--plain Dionysian drinking and carrying on.

I don't know if my work was art, but art exacts a terrible price. You lose hair and teeth when writing a novel.

So, back to the classroom again, a shadow of your former self, having paid your pound of flesh to this guy named Art.

Marion kept taking my course, over and over again, as had many others over the years.

I suppose my "support group" of perennial students spoiled me. Certainly energized me.

After the challenge from Marion r Gallaher, I won my own column in Topic Magazine in these parts, and was soon writing essays for the Toronto Sun. My novel, The Black Icon, began to be reviewed in Toronto.

I began to have groupies, but never Eleanor Gallagher. If I did actually have her, I must have blanked her out in my mind--what was left of it. She was My Lady. My Lady challenging the knight. This was courtly love.

Marion Gallagher kept wanting proof of me that I was worthy.

If I could not produce something fine, then
I might as well give up both teaching and writing and go back to the ways of my father, master housebuilder and real estate man, probably a more honest trade in the first place.

"You must go out and write another novel, Ivan.

"Not just a fragment, like last time.

"The real thing."

I don't know why I had allowed a student to act a guide for me.

Maybe she had taken the words right out of my mouth.

Every teacher feels at some point in his/her life that she's a fraud. I was beginning to feel like a fraud.

I had to do a second novel.

Well, I did

After my Light Over Newmarket came out, there were a lot of women on the phone, and I swear one of them was probably Marion Gallagher

I do believe she was Ukrainian, married to a local guy. She had said that her mother had observed that all us Ukies go soft in the head by forty, never complete a project, and in the last count, are no great shakes.
My ethic group is almost characterized by an inability to stick together--there are so many factions, and a predilection toward extreme criticism.

"So why don't you reissue your original novel. I could show it to my mother and prove her wrong."

Her timing was good.

The critical success of my Light Over Newmarket had encouraged the Toronto Public Library and the nearby Aurora Public Library to ask for reprints of my original novel, The Black Icon, and they would pay for the printing.

So out came the book, the reviews, the newspaper articles showing a busy man, certainly at promoting his work.
For a while, I was hot copy.

How do we get into these Rumpelstiltskin situations?

I seemed to be weaving golden thread for Marion Gallagher.

The price for my forays into the wilderness to write all those books got to be almost unpayable.

Loss of home. Loss of job. Loss of spouse. Loss of mind.

Loss, loss, loss
And yet enough love within the loss to almost make it worthwhile.
And proving to Marion Gallagher that I was not entirely a bullshitter.

And yet Ozymandias.

Shattered statue in the desert. Look how great I am.

Could this be what Marion wanted?

Do not the roads to hell start with good intentions?

There was a time when life was simpler, more authentic.

Young man on the make, with beautiful young wife, driving to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, to write the great Canadian novel.

What was ultimately produced was a fragment, the story of my mother and father. And maybe that may have been enough.

Why did you torment me, Marion Gallagher?

Were you real, or were you something else entirely?
I phoned Marion recently.
An oriental female voice said, "Marion doesn't live here any more."


Donnetta Lee said...

It's not in what we accomplished (they say) but how we got there. Many metaphors about that. Have to ask yourself (not Marion) was it worth the trip? Bet you wouldn't have missed it for the world!


islandgrovepress said...

Hi Donnetta,

Yeah, it was worth it.
It did take some time.


EAMonroe said...

Oh no. Josie has the mean reds.

islandgrovepress said...


Yeah, I read Josie's blog.

What's the matter with all of us?

We seem to be down all about the same time.

I got the pink elephants over here.

But I just got in a CD by Pamela Shane (Not Pam-Sienna, though it was Pam-Sienna that sent me the CD.
World class this Pamela Shane. Match song of hers once done by Joni Mitchell).
So I listen to the CD while composing a piece for the local paper.
It's about the Mob.
Talk about the masochist tango!

From abstract writing to the concrete!


Sienna said...

Well I just love how you write Ivan...sorry to hear you are unwell.
The naming of our latest pride and joy (racehorse) has gone through, "Prokopchuk". Have just told him, he said nothing of course, obviously soaking it all up.
He is, at this moment having new shoes nailed on.

Glad Pam's cd reached you..she writes so well too, much like all the people around this part of cyberspace, so descriptive and entertaining and very clever.


islandgrovepress said...


I must be dreaming!

A racehorse named after me!

You might have to break the name down into syllables so the announcer doesn't lose his uppers!

I have hit Pamela Shane's site. I think it's been up for a while; a tad hard to navigate and takes a while to load. I love the music.
I had no idea I'd be anywhere near this kind of world-class talent!

What "Sienna" has wrought!

We have girls here who sound a little like Pamela Shane--Sarah McLaughlin; Chantal Kreviazuk (My tribe?--but the purity of Ms. Shane's sound, and the country leaning, is all Pamela Shane.
There was Niko Case a little bit in Pamela's groove, but there is really no comparison. Pamela's piano work is really fine.
I think Niko Case
plays mainly guitar. No comparison.

Pam, you have no idea how you've lightened up my life with your encouragement, comments and urging to try the Australian market.

Poetesses published by me were thrilled at seeing their work prominently displayed.
Their letters were quite complimentary.

I think I will echo them now and begin to believe you were Heaven-Sent.
Talk about horseshoes!


Donnetta Lee said...

You mentioned Sarah McLaughlin. (Did I spell it right? You know how I have trouble with spelling.) Hubby took me to see her last year. Oh happy day. I love her music. I would probably like Pam Shane as well. Songs that carry me away.


islandgrovepress said...


Looks like it's Sarah McLaughlin . I have also seen it spelled Sarah McLachlan.

I may have led you astray by my original spelling.

Yes, Sarah has it, and from what I've been listening to, Pamela Shane has it too.

I have been visiting Pamela Shane's site, but it's a bit slow in loading. Probably my browser, which has been acting up.


JR's Thumbprints said...

Yes Ivan, the roads to hell indeed start with good intentions. Why else would you take the risk, why else would you decide to take the road less traveled instead of Easy Street? Unless, of course, that damned Marion switched the signs.

doubting thomas said...

A racehorse named Prokopchuk! well glory be! Doesn't scan like "AnnaBelle" but then there is the darned honor of it all. Getting his shoes nailed on. That ever happen to you Ivan? Any other references to horsey stuff would tend to be pornographic, I fear.

Come back Shane, come back! So. Ivan. Are you going to tell the good people what really happened to the Easter bunny? I've had so many little chocolate easter eggs today, that I am positively awash in good endorphins. Or whatever self-serving myth that some people need to assuage their guilt feelings about eating chocolate.

islandgrovepress said...

Thanks, JR.

That Dr. Peck book is really something, isn't it? About the road less travelled. I really appreciate your own take on all this, though.
As for Marion--that's a very shrewd observation about a person of that type..
I never got it straight whether Marion was another teacher or a hooker who liked to be wined and dined--as they do.
These mysterious women seem to come and go, in and out of creative writing classes.
Some have been known to thoroughly eff- up an artist. Others serve as a kind of pole star.


islandgrovepress said...


Prurient references: Heaven forbid it should be the late actor Forrest Tucker! Kind of had a ring to his name.
As for that gallows humour picture you sent, of the Lab retriever having dined on the easter bunny--I plan to use it somewhere down the road. I sent it to Josie and it cracked her right up.

Seems Josie has infused everybody with her chocolate habit. I'm drinking cups of the hot stuff. Seems to settle you right down...But then I go to sleep and wake up a three a.m. with a thirst that cries out to god!
I am sure that in the Bible, when they described a man as having thirst, it surely wasn't for water!
Drank up everything in the house!


Josie said...

I'm feeling better today. Come on over and visit me.


Josie said...

Ivan, I added another picture (without the mask) to my post. Check it out.


islandgrovepress said...

So glad you're perking up, Josie.

Family anxieties, especially if they are heavy-duty, sure can wear you down.




I am so indebted to wonderful Pam (Sienna).