Thursday, December 06, 2007

The life of P-Ivan


How easy it is to imitate the actions of the tiger. The Life of Pi lifted from another author?...
Dick Beddoes, famed sportswriter from the Globe and Mail fired for "stealing" from Russell Baker of the New York Times?
My former drinking buddy, Clifford Irving, saying he had met Howard Hughes and then having written a book about it?
(The late H.H. went on Canadian TV to say he'd never met Clifford Irving and had only heard about him through another spoofy book titled, "I swatted Flies for Howard Hughes".)...I forget what Clifford Irving said about Hughes, but I do remember him as a wonderful, intelligent companion, even if he did stutter a bit when drinking.
Clifford then went on to teaching fiction at the Instituto Allende, Mexico,where I had been teaching nonfiction.
(I told the faculty Clifford was a good choice, as he was known to spin a pretty good yarn. Heh).

Imitating the actions of the tiger.
I got to know a writer named Bob Sommerlott, picked his brains about "The Institutional Novel", got on the trail of Ken Kesey but he was already dead at that raiload siding.
Next think I knew, I thought I was Ken Kesey and wrote my own novel of madness and institutionalization, especially Big Nurse.

Imitating the actions of the tiger.

Well, a tale out of school:
One short story, your own, can sometimes get you a pretty good spot in a slick magazine, or even the Toronto Star, where someone had noticed my fiction.
But that initial performance is hard to match. So you spend your time in the archives, in front of the TV and at the movies, hoping to get some of your original magic back....Damn. It seems to work best when you imitate the actions of Russell Baker, the Sunday Times columnist. No wonder Dick Beddoes got fired. He was imitating the best.
Who doesn't like stories like that of the trailer park family, whose son, having just gotten his driver's licence, asks if he can have the ignition keys to the house for a Saturday night date.

Imitating the actions of the tiger.

For years I tinkered with the typeweriter Ernest Hemingay was reputed to use at the Star.
And thinking of Superman, also a Toronto Star product, I seriously thought of investing in a cape.

"Come down to earth," said Patrick McNenly, a former Typhoon pilot during D-Day.
"You are becoming far too arty;
"Join the Conserfative Party.
"Van Gogh-style paintings can be seen in all the madhouses. How sincerely do you wish to be a nut?"

Ah, imittating the actions of the tiger.
Said my editor at Starweek Magazine:
"You write-- or try to write-- like Hemingway. This isn't convincing, coming from a guy five-eight with eyes that tend to fix."
I took over his job, but was soon caught for imitating the actions of another tiger--tigress really--who did a bang-up job on witches in Ireland and I tried to follow suit. I used to much of her material.
Fired.
Imitating the actions of the tigress this time.

I finally produced a book that was really my own.
The work was largely greeted with a yawn.

Until I found a Bootleg copy of my "The Black Icon" in a library.

Gadzooks!

Somebody is imitating me.

But like the Starweek editor had been telling me, "You're no tiger, you're a pussycat."

Yet I suspect it was he who had copied my work.

One night, in a bar, while possibly feeling guilty and vulnerable, he pointed to me, like a cop. "There is the plagiarist for you!"

There was almost a drumroll as everybody waited for my response.

After all, this was Ivan, famous writer. He had been to schools, was greatly known for repartee.

For some reason, I found myself imitating the actions of Henry Miller.

"F*ck off," I had said.

##

31 comments:

NR said...

Brevity is Poetry ,

Poetry is Brevity .


With a touch of Flair, of course...

The tiger moves, only when he has too...

Original magic, has never been, his dream.


Night Rider

ivan said...

Wow.
I think I saw you on television.

nr said...

Whew! I didn't mean to stop the conversation, with my occassional,
flickering, brilliance...

Just remember:

The Tiger does not think about Zen.

He is Zen.

ivan said...

"Bird thou never wert"?

Keats playing with Play Dough?

Universals.

This blog may be a tough market to break, but you have no problem.

Startin' to follow your word order.

Think I know ya.


Cheers,

Ivan

Champagne Rain (nr) said...

Thanks, Ivan , and Cheers to you too!

Actually , I'm not some established blogger, just a dude who is thrilled to find a site about 'Creative Writing', where I can sometimes entertain my urges for poetry, instead of only having the option, when I'm in meaningfull (and sometimes costly) relationships.

ivan said...

How do you do.

Champagne Rain said...

Thank You , I do okay ...

In fact, if it wasn't for an occasional poetic dalliance, I might qualify as a borderline alcoholic.

Though I'm sure, all the 'Greats', used the same excuse, when necessary.

And it's only 'rain', when one opens the bottle improperly; I fear I have become a professional in that manoeuvre, but the youthful memories remain...

ivan said...

Borderline alcoholic?

I am a journeyman. Main Street Soldier. Privado Soldado. Berracho toto.
Got up out of bed in the a.m. and can hardly walk. This worries me.
Never lost equilibrium before.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

p.s. I thought you were a Yank, but you spell British.

Champagne Rain said...

BTW , I googled :

"Bird thou never wert".

Awesome ... thanks for the enlightenment.

Could it be, that our imagination takes flight, when we realize that we are 'legless' ?

Champagne Rain said...

Yup. The British tradition is alive and well, in the centre of the universe, south of Newmarket.

As is the Ukrainian tradition.

ivan said...

Whoops.

I need a fridge break.
You may have to rock on without me for a bit.

Champagne said...

Understood. Actually , I have to get up in the morning too...

Nice Driveway !

(A Polish friend of mine, used to say that , instead of: 'Na Zdorovlia!').

ivab said...

1. During the night, A, though sleeping with B, dreams of C. C stands for the furthest extremity or (if the image is considered two-dimensionally) the apogee of a curved driveway, perhaps a dream-refraction of the driveway of the house that had once been their shared home. Her figure, though small in the perspecrtive, is vivid, clad in a tomato-red summer dress; her head is thrown back, her hand are on her hips, and her legs have taken a wide, confident stance. She is flaunting hereself, perhaps laughing; his impression is of intense female vitality, his emotion ifs of longing. He awakes troubled. The sleep of B beside is not disturbed; she rests in the certainty that A loves her. Indeed he has left C for her, to prove it.

PROBLEM: Which has he me profoundly betrayed, B or C?

The story goes on with the sure realization that A, inspite of therapy, in spite of new sunny days, is nevertheless profoundly wrong in what he has done.

(Just the sin side of me coming out).

ivan said...

You out there TomCat?

My computer has gone haywire and so has the "mail administrator" who says you comment can't get through.
Appreciate the effort.
Try again.

Shesawriter said...

It took me years to find my voice and write like me, instead of imitating authors and writers I admire. I still have to watch myself to this day. Maintaining voice isn't as easy as some seem to think.

ivan said...

Tanya,

Oh how right you are!
There are other creative writing blogs where the poor woman just doesn't have it, so she focuses on externals--do's and don'ts of writing, what a hero or heroine should and should not be, character development, myriads of references to essays on creative writing,the whole nine yards.
And then she puts up her own work, which, though containing words, is not writing at all. Gibberish.
That's what happens when you don't find your own voice.
In my own case, it took me two unpublished novels to find-- I think-- my voice. It involved application to the point of nearly losing hair and teeth. Ya gotta be serious.
And then, when you find your voice, you finallly submit your magnum opus--and what happens?:
"Thank you for you submission, but the selection process comes first, and we will have to return your work to you."
WTF!
Who says life is fair?

But I will have to agree with H.E. Eigler, a blogger who has a new baby and doesn't come around much now. Said Heather, "You have to find a way. You have to have ingenuity."
My way was to get rich and publish every novel I'd written.

I was just building up a head of steam, critics were kind, I was all over the papers--and then wham!
Lost a pile of money in the bad investment market of l993 along with a disastrous foray into politics.
Square one.
Cranky blogger now.

But I do admire the work of others. The example in my comment just atop yours come from an Updike short story, titled "PROBLEMS".
Jesus, the living dude can write!
And he has a math bent, sommething very uncommon in writers.
So while I think I have found my voice, I find it very tempting to imitate, at least for a while, the work of real masters.


Ivan

Josie said...

Hi, Ivan, I haven't had time to visit many blogs lately. I just popped over to say hello. I will catch up with you this weekend.

Stay warm.

Josie

the walking man said...

What's a pile of money, tens, hundreds, thousands, millions or enough for a pack of smokes and some joy juice?

I was plagiarized in a big way once and vowed never to sleep with an A,B,C, combination again. It didn't bother me so much that I didn't make the money off the work but rather that I wasn't given credit for an idea that was easy to write a just nearly enough story line around. But you learn never send a story to a woman who's husband is a script writer.

And now that I do write sometimes I don't read anymore than a bit of the news because I don't want anyone to say I sound like such and such or so and so, which is a freedom in a way because I will never sound like someone else.

Now old man about that ending epithet wasn't that a quote from Vice President Cheney to the democratic leader of the house when the Dems were the minority party?

Peace

mark

ivan said...

Josie,

Hi.
Not for nothing do you say "stay warm."
...Brass Monkey Deparment here in Ontario.
I thought it was BieloRussia where I had lived among the snows and pines.
Kee! Kee! KeeRist!
Brrr.

ivan said...

Mark,
Woo-Eee! You'd been around some.

Pothphar's wife!
And Potiphar steals your story idea!
What the hell. Potiphar found he could always use a mess of pottage!

Yeah Dick Cheney.
Said Barbara Walters: "He's a mean one."
I did say on Tomcat's blog that Dick don't know dick about shooting geese.
(Oh-oh. Here come the 1940's-style T-men in fedoras and trenchcoats.

No, no, I already speak Spanish!).

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

::smirk::; I could see you standing there, giving them the finger, and walking away.

You are a psychedelic man Ivan. Way too kosher for the everyday person. Life is what it is really; an imitation of itself. Perhaps they should have considered that before they fired you. But then again, if they had not, you wouldn't have this great little story.

Soft love,
T

ivan said...

Tara,
Funny thing. A former employer did tell me that sometimes my "confidence" kinda scares people.
I did go back to the Star several times, but I found people entrenched there who still remembered. It was a Pyrrhic victory...I tried to flog my book there.
Said one top-level book critic,
"You are wrong in saying that I had said you 'had made all the mistakes a first novelist makes';
I just hadn't read your book. It was just sitting there...I may read it in the future."

Friggin' snob!
He now works for another paper.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Ivan,

This is what I mean.... people are just too much for the common mirror. God forbid it breaks in front of them. They would lose all self worth. One day the view will be different and they will all be shocked. Behind closed doors they will cry like babies while you look back and shake your head. (Your own victory of sorts) I have said it many times now... to hell with those that can not accept great things or people when given the chance. Let them wear those rose-colored glasses all they want...like the mirror... one day the image will be different.

Soft love,
T

ivan said...

I think the motto in Canada is "keep your head low."
Americans are more forthright.

And how you forth-write!

Thank you.

eric1313 said...

Thanks for all the great comments, Ivan, they are appreciated.

One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest is a favorite of mine, too. What a great piece of writing. I liked that the Chief was the narrator. I thought that was interesting over the movie.

Now, how about the imitators? That's credit, if it only does your own soul good, at least it did something.

But you never know, Ivan. There still might be the editor who was born to read your manuscript out there who is still waiting for you to show up on their desk. Re write them all, line by line, get the corrections done yourself and send them to every pencil pushing dork who ever suited up to fill up some pages.

eric1313 said...

The internet still giving you trouble?

Where's the IT guy at?

ivan said...

Thanks, Eric.

I did meet the good editor at age 29, but something happened.
We,one Tom Mayer and I together went to the late Wallace Stegner who was going to take me the rest of the way.
The verdict of "The Big Rock Canday Mountain" man was that I was a better journalist than novelist, and in any event, I was "not an American."
(Standford School of Graduate Studies--Writing).
So I missed my big break early and went to work as a journalist....Probably the wrong move, but the money was sweet.
In the course of this, I kept writng more novels, something I never fully succeeded at, though I had Canadian writing awards aplenty.
In a word, I kind of f*cked up early, especially telling Wallace Stegner I never heard of him!
the arrogance of youth!
I think that when they build a novelist, they expect certain things, one of those things being
sort of middleclass and not quite so scary. I was, as one rather bad teacher pointed out, "all talent and no judgment", sort of a loose cannon intellectually."
Oh say it on--I just did not suck up to people.
Live and learn, I guess.
Ah well. At this stage there's just the putting a stamp and the publier's address on the envelope...and this, strangely, is the hardest part of all. Simple things seem suddenly the hardest to do.
I continue to have luck in beintg successful in my own home town, and it looks like I'll have to make my stand here--again.
Thanks for the encouraging words.

ivan said...

My internet trouble seemed to start when I joined Facebook, and if you've been reading the papers of late you'll see Facebook's major domo apologizing for all the advertising-- very nearly spam-- that he had been sending to subscribers...At least I think that's where my site started to go astray.
My techie is going through some fairly heavy stuff right now involving his family; I certainly understand his state of mind; don't want to bother him too much right now.

BTW, your aunt. I continue to try to send good waves out in that direction.
Things happen to people, and almost always to the good people.
...We bad bastards just keep slogging on.

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ivan said...

No quiero.

Obligado.

Me piense esto es spam el toto. Juan