Thursday, November 01, 2007

Valley of the Dolls

Trouble with blogger today.

I had intended to tell the story of two women, one Canadian, the other American.
It was to have been an attempt at a trash novel.
What is below is all that blogger would give me.

So here is an attempt at a trash novel, with just the American girl left in.


I hate the word.

It floats like a banner down there among my earliest memories, my father calling me beautiful, "my little doll", my mother showing me off to the architects and painters she was sleeping with. "Isn't she beautiful," they'd say, as if patting me on the head with the word, anxious to go into that bedroom to lock me out.

After the divorce I got to miss my father, really miss him. I would even have put up with him using the word, patronizing me as only father patronize little girls who look like they've walked straight out of a suntan lotion ad, cute, blonde, the bathing suit half pulled off by the cutest puppy, or the healthy little girl face on the jam jar. As I get older, I wonder if the affection of every father for his little girl is always totally honorable. Still, my father and I were very close. I would write him letters; we could exchange little presents. But I was always his beautiful little girl. Even now, when I see him, still trying to make a living with his blueprints and his pencils, a bottle always nearby, he still calls me his little doll, while reaching for a nip when I talk about my latest divorce. Good God, maybe it's all beauty and no brains with me. How could I have stayed with Richard for those long five years? Richard, himself a beautiful man, an actor, though unemployed most of the time and in the last two years cranked up on speed, playing that damn rocksichord day in and day out like a mad phantom in a rock opera. Should have been a musician. But he was too vain. It was his looks that he had put all his eggs in. Until one day it became plain that two Robert Redfords in one Hollywood just wouldn't do. Redford went on to being The Robert Redford and Richard hit the spike.

How is it that we are felled by the very gift that makes us stand out from other people? Puberty hit me like a witches spell. I was given to strange dreams, allergic flashes, a sensitivity that was unbearable. And all around the boys, the men (and women too), "You are so beautiful." Then I'd run off in a storm of tears. What was it with adults? What is it with people even now? How are they so certain that appearance was reality? How is it that no adult really knows what is going on with a child, and all the time the adults so self-possessed, so confident in what they seem to know of the child, and it's all subtle control, a kind of bullying. "You know, you should..." Adults and children may as well belong to different species.

Our family moved in a very fast set. My father, in those days, was a very successful architect, back then in the Bauhaus fifties, where everything worked in terms of squares, of function, before the automobile makers went bananas with their chrome fins, and, some say, masturbation fantasies. My father designed beautiful modular houses back in California. He'd probably gotten the idea from a Middle East village (he would travel far and wide to develop his concepts). California was just right for his designs, the use of open space, terracing, little gardens at various levels, the house resembling a child's Toggle set, squares heaped upon squares, but interlocking in such a way that every room had an open terrace, a view and a separate entrance from outside, so that a number of rooms could be bypassed if you wanted to reach any particular room in a hurry, or if guests wanted to sunbathe or hold a hibachi party.

He was a clever man, my father, but when it came to me, when it came to loving me for something than the adman's image he had of me, he drew a complete blank.

I don't know why we were forever having parties, why all those actors, actresses, other architects and painters were always hanging around the house, my mother sometimes shooing off still-drunken revelers on the day after. I guess it came with my father's success. But it was short-lived. Styles changed. Back splits became the big thing. At first my father refused to compromise, but when he eventually bit the bullet, gave up and tried to survive by appeasing all those contractors. All the beautiful people had gone. He was just another architect, virtually just another draughtsman now. He took to drinking and being abused by my mother. He was a kind, sometimes almost childlike man totally incapable of defending himself against a woman turning bad . Once his career started to slope down, my mother became very good at undermining his confidence.

Mom and apple pie. How right Philip Wylie was those many years ago, when his work was overshadowed by Pearl Harbor and all the FDR patriotism that went with it. "Momism" in America. Mom, the celebrity's wife turned clubwoman. Mom so ensconced in being the answer to the great American question, "Madam, are you a good lay?"--all this booming at you out of the television tube and all the billboards and the bright inside ads on the buses and subways. Lady, are you a good lay?
Well, my mother must have worked very hard at being a good lay; she worked very hard at developing me into a good lay. After her divorce the men would come to see Mom, but they would stay and try to flirt with me.
I had to get out of it all. At seventeen I ran off with the first sympathetic man that came along...

Ah, how fascinated we still are by that old trash novel, Valley of the Dolls....How, in our heart of hearts we'd just love to write a trash novel.

Or is it just me, trying to jump over the moon?



Danny Tagalog said...

Perhaps not the comment you expected but...

I suspect it's rather pleasurable writing in this style, but y'know I sympathise with the girl and being lumbered with being 'beautiful'. Here in Japan - for the first few years, I - a male - with a 'cute' face had to suffer the label: かわいい 'kawaii', ALL the time. By beautiful girls, and even Bay City Roller lookalike boys. The former was welcome, but that word 'kawaii' is applied to mean 'pretty' and 'childlike'. It made me so angered everytime I heard it. Still, it brought me closer to the girls, and for that how can I complain!

But, having a name, loaded with 'meaning' that does not descibe the 'inner' you, is rather painful at times...

Anyway, the trash template is certainly attractive isn't it! said...


Seems both men and women seem to suffer the label かわいい
It is astute of you to point it out.
Thanks for the comment.

eric1313 said...

Maybe the moon is unjumpable.

Maybe what we get told is the moon is actually just a bunch of trash, as you say.

Maybe that was just that "right novel at the right time", the fable we should all hope for with our own writings.

It's no Slaughterhouse Five, which is also a fabled right novel at the right time, but it did it's job. What would one do to get a book into Oprah Winfrey's book club? Write cute commercial fluff, get derided heavily, have a million guaranteed sales and the first, the middle and last laughs.

Or we can keep putting up with blogger and it's flaws.

Personally, I think that's what I'm going to do. Keep writing. That story last night? Two and a half hours, I could have edited it better, but what the heck. I was just asking your opinion because I haven't written a short story since June, id didn't feel up to it. The first paragraph was a wreck because I was writing a poem at first. The begining was the first thing written.

I should spend a few days writing. A few weeks. See what happens when I really get rolling.

Thanks for the advice, though. I need to learn those editing skills. However--have you taken a good look at the trash getting published right now? Even if it is in low pay quarterlies, they are reaching print with some terribly average stuff.

Leet me get the rest of the dust and rust off of my bones. And you should mail around to more places, too. Get your name back out there, put it in front of people's noses so much the begin to recognize you again on site, on hand writing--by your font. And send to some American places, too. It couldn't hurt to snub the Canadians back a little.

Show them your not one of their dolls, and that's by design. said...

Wow, Eric,

If you can write like that in plain, you should be a devil with your fiction.

The producers around Bono and U-2 have just put a documentary together and in it they say that not only "out of shit comes the flower", but go so far as to say out of nothing comes the flower--it just comes.
As for Oprah, you need a lot of stuff in magazines that still take fiction, then the book, then the citations and then the Show.

You know, of course the story of Jonathan Franzen, who was finally going to be interviewed by Oprah, deciding this was declasse, and then snubbing the old girl.
Jonathan Franzen's career is now over.
I found a lot of flaws in his THE CORRECTIONS, but as a bellwether for the abuses of the Medical-Industrial Complex, he cannot be beaten. THE CORRECTIONS was an immportant novel, but Mr. Franzen screwed not Oprah but himself in his hubris.
My last nationally published story did indeed come out of nothing...I just took the back of a manilla envelope and started scribbling.
I have tried to consciously repeat the process, but it has not worked.
I did notice a sudden trend toward pure fiecion in myself, could not get it printed and unloaded the piece on poor Mrs. Heather Eigler on Phantom Keyboard, her site.
Then Heather wrote someting for me, I loved it and published her electronically through my Island Grove Press.

Yeah, the blogging.
I have in my files the address of a number of important New York agents, but five years of only my journalism being acceppted have made me a trifle gun-shy-- and living on tube steak and cigarette butts has not improved my writing at all.

I don't know, Eric. The flash comes from nothing and you can not goose it along, at least not nowadas for me. In the past, I could produce a mini-masterpiece on demand (I was reguarly employed in publishing) but now it's like pulling teeth.
...Speaking of teeth, mine are going to hell, but there is a strange hope here.
They tell me people with dental problems produce surprisingly fine work.

I will be making some moves this weekend with the work... Be the clown of the cocktail cirquit and hapy hour.
See how it goes.

Your comments, as usual, are right on the nose.

Sienna said...


Nil desperandum Ivan; you write nulli secundus nulli secunda.

Per aspera ad astra!

Dum spiro, spero.


(hearts over in San Francisco has described her annoying neighbor noisy on stilletos, as the *skankblossom clitoris-clatteris*

I love the ingenuity of that description. said...


I know some Latin because of the Air Force.
Certainly Per ardue ad astra.

Gratias Ago Tibi.
(That's not abo. Heh).

"Heart's in San Francisco" hasdescribing her annoying neighbor noisy on stilletos, as the *skankblossom clitoris-clatteris*?

eric1313 said...

Thanks, Ivan.

My teeth are killing me, so that explains a lot. Half a molar says I may yet find a novel in my bones if I try hard enough.

Thanks for the words. Sorry I didn't oroof that comment. My go, I'm de-evolving... Anyway, see you again when I'm a chimp. Ooga booga.

Josie said...

Wow, this is really good, Ivan, written from a woman's perspective. And very true as well. You have no idea. said...

Not a chimp.
More likely a Pongo. Orang-Utan.
I have this private theory that Orangs are okay, but chimps sort of accuse you of being ofay.
But then, when I play in clubs, it's "play that funky music, White Boy."
Yep. Teeth. Totally involved with the creative process.
....I'm into the Listerine.
Out of liquor? Hell. said...


Oh, thank you!
Women readers of my stuff seem to be saying the same thing.

the walking man said...

It is a lead up to somewhere but the fifteen ways this could go from here are all sitting on the back of a manila envelope waiting for you to see the words on them. See the first couple of words and then begin to grind your teeth but no gnashing or weeping. I like the sterile feel to the narration so far.

Maybe that is what happens when a true journalist writes fiction and finds a style of writing that works. Quit thinking and just write.


mark said...

Thanks, Mark.

Right on.

eric1313 said...

Orangs are a little closer to us than chimps, so from the anthropological side, you're correct.

Now, if only I could grab a bottle and drink with my foot! Then I could get a laptop and write at the bar without interruption.

At least you're not into the rubbing alcohol. I had a grandpa who died from doing that.

eric1313 said...

And he wasn't even a writer!

Donnetta Lee said...

Ah, well, we each have a trash novel in us somewhere! Most of us are still living it.

Take care, my friend.

Donnetta said...

Not am I suddenly living in a trash novel, myself, but the hard drive on my computer has become
Had to take it into the shop.
Damn. I was on a roll.
Now I find that it's not only old Ivan who is corrupt and depraved, but so is his computer.

Hope your health is improving.
My daughter too is ailing with internal stuff. She has had an operation, but apparently no improvement.

Josie said...

Ivan, I just popped over to say hello and to see how you are, and I see things are not great with you. Both your computer and your daughter?

I hope your daughter is well soon.

Josie said...

Hate to introduce the phrase "when it rains, it pours", but there suddenly seem a lot of shoes dropping around here and Mastercard just told me I was maxed out--just when I had intended to live on plastic for the month. "No extensions, deadbeat."

About the only good news is that "The Fire In Bradford" is 'doable' as a stage play, but the Director I'm dealing with has himself been "Fired in Bradford."; he is now merely working the front door. Ah well, in the game still.
--I could not have handled one more rejection, though it seems that for the moement, my director isn't all that busy himself.

Stupid business.

(I could have been a really good pimp, but even that did not go all that well...I got old, and in any event, everybody was into freebies).

Donnetta Lee said...

Ivan: Sorry to hear about your daughter. Will say lots of prayers for her. Cross your fingers. Tomorrow is the my big doctor day and all the test results are in. 100% certain of autoimmune disease but will get the final verdict tomorrow. Guess we're all a little corrupt/ed right now!


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