Sunday, December 30, 2007

Going Away


The story will deal with "going away".

This kind of story is standard for us misfits everywhere who want to be writers.

Working at a donkey job, with donkey associates. Everybody greying. Pigeon-grey Dilbert cubicles. Pigeon-grey people.

Oh to strike out, to see colour, to finally make it with Britney Spears. Hey.


Walter Mitty fantasies.

They say neurotics build castles in the air.

The psychotic moves right in.

I can at least dream the story I am going to write.

Love and Sacrifice in the Labor Movement (No not Britney's sister)


I am, probably a closet communist.
Certainly interested in labour movements of the past the --Wobblies, the Winnipeg General Strike, the first insurrection of this kind in Canada.
They squashed the Wobblies (One Big Union) movement, squashed it good, as in, maybe, Pakistan.
They absolutely pilloried the leaders of the Winnipeg General Strike, which took place at about the time of the First World War.
The McCarhyists weeded out anybody even knowing a Communist in the Fifties.
And Stalin was shown to be a monster.

Communism has a past of despotism, genocide, murder--certainly most foul.

Yet I hate capitalism.

Kingston Trio: And I don't give a damn about a greenback dollar
Spend it fast as I can

I am dreaming of a story of going away, of heading off to some Tahitian Island, like Gaugin, to have wahines, concubines, mistresses.

I want to get Clamidia (Do I like Roman chicks?) and, maybe become really fashionable, contract AIDS--I mean, wouldn't you?
I am tired of garden-variety ailments. I want to get "designer diseases"...Maybe I could get to meet Stephen Lewis, champion of the AIDS fight.

I want to meet a Tahitian girl who lives by water.
I want to wear a sarong...Heh. I worry about this.

These matters are, of course, resolved in the process of growing up.
But I never have.
I sleepwalked through my marriage, sleepwalked through my pigeon-greay job, sleepwalked through my affair with the beautiful lover, and I'm still sleepwalking, still dreaming.
My children have grown up in my sleepwalking.
I don't think I ever grew up.
I still want to be wonderful. I still want any number of beautiful lovers.

But, as in the past, you need words. The beautiful words.
If you produce the beautiful words, you will surely get laid. My professor said so.
And, as a published writer of grand mysteries, he should know:

"Two things are certain: You will get published, and you will get laid."

Hey c'mon. Times a-wastin'!

I am given to understand that one good novel will do it for you. Doesn't matter if you're a limp spaghetti noodle in bed, artistic power will be enough. It is all up to the bounty of the woman, and women are bountiful. Bootyful.

I am off to write my wonderful novel.

This, of course, will require a trip.

I am going away.
Away

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Lesson and the God-Awful Secret


Thirty years ago, on a bright January day, I decided to quit working as a part-time teacher and learn something about life.

The decision was not hard to make.
I was untenured, low man on the totem pole and developing all the insecurities that come with that plight. You don't know whether or not you'll be working next semester. It is up to the gods and the Dean. There was also the manuscript gathering dust in my attic, reminding me over the years that the dream would not age, while I surely would. My intention was to have been a writer, not a teacher. Teaching is a job, chores. It was what everybody else in my cirlcle did. It was kind of a temp position.
There were, of course, perks.
The night dean would come in, load me up with night classes, lead me to drink so I could come down from being
"on" all the time. Wife upstairs asking my whey I paced the kitchen floor and whom was I drinking with.

Christ.
I had "people overload", everybody was nipping and tucking on me. I guess I was a good teacher, but my true vocation was writing, and here I was explaining to students the difference between the subjunctive and the indicative.
Yep. The good old "as it were" and as it really was.

As it really was.

I was teaching too much.
Forty hours a week, half of it at night. Talking, talking, talking. Gesticulating, demonstrating.
Intellectual stimulation all the day and then up to ten at night. Insomnia with my own theatrics and pumch lines still in my head, Johnny Carson impersonator, Professor Irwin Corey, Fungus Freddie of the science classes. Dr Suzuki goosing fruit flies for fun and profit.

Mid-life crisis.
I had to run away. To escape. To learn something about life. To write my great novel, which would finally put things into perspective. Theory of Everything... Einstein--now there was a cat.


Now Dr. Rip Van Winkle is back.

The book she is writ; the Einstinian pathway was a rollercoaster.
And what did I learn about life?
Not much.
Except that science is theology and theology is science--both point marvels above and beyond and both try to form a synthesis. Science and religion sharing the same yoke.
And science is today propaganda---like religion?

I was either dangerously close to the Ass' Bridge where I thought I knew everything, or the very Matrix that everybody is writing about these days.


I was sitting in my loft apartment shortly after I came back from my odyssey.
Thumbing and old bible in Russian.

I noticed strange similarities between Hebrew and Church Slavonic.

Especially in one of the names of god, the old biblical one.

I was getting close, really close. I think I mouthed one of the names out loud.

And then a lightning bolt hit my apartment, and the earth seemed to split underneath.

No kidding.

This will be the last time I will go fishing in forbidden streams or roam in magical forests.

Send an apprentice to the underworld the next time.

The poet says,

Every so often one of us makes a run for the wall.
And brains himself against it.
But the wall knows more wittily than we about being alive.

I had hit the wall.

Oh that "subjunctive and and indicative."

Kierkegaard went mad with it.

And that, I suppose, I share with him.

Existentialism?
What rot.
"Mere literature," Einstein would say.

But Something is out there.
And it punishes.

...And I know that writing on these matters is somehow going to cost me. It already has.

##

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The frustrated novelist as CIA hit man with his "final solution"




Leaving off blogging for a while is like getting off the bottle for an alcoholic.
Feels so good, you are so overstimulated by the good feeling—and then you need a drink.

And so it was when I visited my family in Hamilton.
Some of them are abstainers so I didn’t drink very much.
…Felt good, but my family’s reflection of all my woeful negative qualities were enough to drive one to drink…First thing I wanted to do this boxing day was reach for a bottle of scotch, but all the liquor stores are closed here in Ontario.
Jeezus. Boxing Day and nothing to drink. We must be in Canada.

So it’s back to the other addiction, blogging.

Well, don’t we ger ourselves into a cul de sac here.
Seems blogging, like alcohol, like a cat—takes you right over.

From my relatively sober standpoint here, I notice that one has become a sort of cartoon image of this little circular railway with the same chugging little train going around and round on the same circular little track. Sort of like the old Charlie Chaplin silent film, Modern Times, where Charlie dreams of putting bolt #35 into Frame #72, over and over again, ad infinitum.
Almost the same as the often-rejected novelist.

And nowadays, you might as well say it on--the novelist-blogger, for all novelist-manque's seem to be bloggers now.


The submitted manuscript: Both publisher and author suffer damnably from the proffered hardcopy material and oftentimes it seems that neither side can win.
The publishing house is, more often than not, immensely bored with the material.

Writer and publisher are doing each other damage.

The publisher may get final satisfaction over rejecting the piece.
The writer, if inventive in expressing his outrage, may write a neat little roman à clef to expose the publisher for a money-grubber and a fraud.
The publisher may come back with blacklisting the crazy bastard. “The guy’s dangerous, and a flake.”
Or so it seems to me when it comes to Canadian publishing.

Ah well.
Smarting recently over a rejection, I sent my script to a former theatre director.
“It’s produceable, but it needs work. We all do.”

So maybe the work “needed work”?

Seemed to me, when it came to novels, people look at your work and an ass looks out.
I am not certain these days who is the ass.

Makes one want to do mad Russian parodies of Shakespeare in Julius Caesar:

“The problem, dear Natasha, is not in our tsars, but in our serfs.” LOL.

Serfs?
Or maybe serifs?

I think I'm going to kill myself.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The mature student as elitist twerp


The solitary drinker has always been regarded as a peculiar creature, worse than a cripple or an onanist. He is lacking something: another person, other people.
--Ludwig Wittgenstein.
(Much underrated philosopher)

It was probably because I was a solitary drinker, yea, even an onanist! that I almost choked on my exam in Greek and Roman history at Trinity College, Toronto.

"Students of Dr. French's class in Greek and Roman History will answer Part B of this exam paper.
"Students of Dr. Weintraubs['s class in Philosophy will anwer Part A."

I was so screwed in the head from all the vodka that I was glad we were writing the exam in the open air of the now-demolished Varsity Stadium.
Student by night, reporter by day. I had just come back from submitting a written piece to the Toronto Star, where people on the elevator, sniffing my breath had said something like "Man, this elevator is really loaded."
Still "loaded", I undertook to write the exam.
But I was so nervous, so hung over, , that I answered both parts of the exam, the Classics part and the Philosophy part. I had taken Philosophy at another institution, Ryerson, and remembered enough of it to actually
have no diffuculty in answering Dr. Weintraub's questions as well as those of my "home room" prof.

This, of course, weakened my overall mark; but if I were to fail, bigod, I would at least show Dr. Weintraub (a prof I never had) that I knew something about philosophy.

So after the boring section on the reforms of Kleisthenes, following the real estate grabs of the tyrant Pisestrates
(much like the mischief of today) I went back, for some reason to the section on Philosophy 101, not realizing that I did not have to do this.
Nervousness and the hangover that screamed to God.

"What is a syllogism?"

Well, I'd spent a lot of time in the Air Force, and it was certainly a phrase I wanted to build some humour on.

But, straight. Think straight:
"A syllogism," I had answered, "is a trio of proposisitons. Viz,' Socrates is a man. Socrates is wise. Therefore, all men are wise.'"

Nah, that's Sophist logic-chopping. I had to try another way. Let's see now... "The whole is greater than the part; therefore all wholes are greater than the part."
This brought me back to barrack room humour. I could just imagine old Plato saying this, adding, perhaps, "Now bend over, kid."

Oh beware of us late bloomers. Donus nus. Sumus fornicatus. "Give it to us. We'll f*ck it up!."

It is small wonder that we mature students would get our degrees and then stumble from one disaster to another
because we never did get our basics down in high school, especially the math, which as graduates of Trinity, we would eventually have to teach. (Trinity was like high school but three times as hard).

But beyond high school, there was something else. There was Kierkegaard, and Wittgenstein.

Kierkegaard: The only thing between the way you are and nothingness is language.

Wittgenstein: But what are words? What are sentences? A sentence is a word picture. Let us now examine the picture.
Wittgenstein seemed to undermine language itself. And underneath it all-- nothingness. Sartre?

Well, I did know that Wittgenstaein, for all of his philosophy, was a pretty salty guy and a veteran of the army himself.
I liked his other quote:
"F*ck and live. Suck and die!"
Now that was closer to modern times, but it could not stand up today; maybe that's why Wittgenstein eventually withdrew the quote. Said he didn't write it. But I know that old Ludwig once had a homosexual lover and that sure has hell would have made him more thoughtful than he already was. But he did marry and have children.

But still, like many of us, something of a flake.

I began to wonder, as my hangover cleared up, what it actually was that separated a Bill Clinton, Rhodes Scholar from the the solitary scientist, the bookworm, who, usually a complete failure, suceeds nevertheless because no one was watching him down there among the fruit flies and the bunsen burners.
A Rhodes scholar somehow gets it. He take science as a continuing inquiry, always adding the new.
He gets into public life and is always ahead of the pack. There is something he instinctively knows about learning, about life.
Well, old Wittgenstein again. Figure and foreground. Perspective. Without it, you are back down there with the fruit flies--unless, of course you're Dr. Davi Suzuki.

I drew a C+ on that exam. Just enough to pass.

But I had discovered, somehow, the back of my brain.

Being and nothingnes.

I had to be.

I just had to be.

And if not, there was always the drinking, which worked every time, and in your euphoria you went back to the Romans. In vino, veritas.
It's just getting that paperwork. Without it, you are just a self-taught fool, who, more often than not, has a fool for a teacher.
If I failed at Trinity, I would just be another drinker and thoughtful masturbator.

But not like Ludwig.
He had the paperwork.
But I suspect he was also also a drinker and masturbator. Had to be. He was a man.

Problems are sometimes resolved by humour.
"What did you get?" asked my editor at work.
"A 'C'".
"Ah well. It's a pass.
"Do you think it's going to make you write better?"
Ha.
The giggle of reason.
##

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Are writers "Dickheads"?


"All writers are dickheads," the hitchhiker was saying to me.
"They got this monomania, this obsession; they go on scribbling while the world around them seems to collapse--and they won't stop doing it. It's the words, the words, the beautiful words."

The hictchhiker's own words had a strange truth.
I myself was in the middle of a divorce, but writing a novel all the same, I had just left a workshop where they were producing models of Boeing 747's for airline displays (I was hoping to sell this business story to the Toronto Star), my head was way in the clouds, and I was somehow sleepwalking while my old life and family were collapsing all around me.
So I wasn't D.H. as in D.H. Lawrence--but another kind of D.H.
D.H. as in DickHead?

Still, I was the guy in the driver's seat and my hitchhiker had been picked up on Yonge Street, steps away from the court house. Probably a felon.
Yet, strangely, it is the outlaw and the thief who seems to have a better grasp on life than the man of letters, the dandy, the precious one, God's chosen.
I was so reminded of William . Selkirk, stranded for years and years on a desert island talking to Daniel Defoe, fancy man of letters and probably thinking to himself, "This dandy is a dickhead," while Defoe couldn't wait to get home and produce Robinson Crusoe, one of the masterpieces of modern times. Somebody's gotta write your story. Certainly your obituary.
Perhaps my latest conundrum is what set ny hitchhiker off. Could he have decided I was a dickhead when I told him that
I had a girlfriend who was trapped by a pimp in Toronto, that they were taking all her money and that I had to be some kind of white knight to get her out?
Was I inspired by the Desiderata, itself obviously an apochryphal work (added to) but the words having great weight nevertheless..."And yet everywhere the world is full of heroism."

My wife was divorcing me; I was still picking up the kids; I had gotten beautiful mistress whose other life I did not know. I was suddenly in contact with a Damon Runyon world of pimps, priests, police--and all the while I was writing the beautiful novel and trying to sell a business story to the Toronto Star.
And the hitchhiker I'd picked up was calling me a dickhead.
Well, yes, probably. Intellectual monster in a turtleneck sweater, that was me.

We had, however, both of us, forgotten theprogress of time, which is unrelenting and dicky in its own way. It has no sense of humour and you couldn't stop it. Sort of like the Iraq war.
So I dropped my hitchhiker off in Toronto, went down to the Star--and would you believe it?--sold the story.
My hitchhiker went off to the Winchester Hotel in Toronto, stinking pub, and resumed his Damon Runyon life.

The Star had given my model airplane story an enormous spread. I was soon hired to do more, but this is where the dickhead demi-god showed his ugly face. My car had broken down, my Ho mistress had stolen my typewriter, research notes and guitar to feed her drug habit, and I was suddenly reduced to a writer with no tools with another deadline looming in front of me. ...Bad enough being scared stiff over an unexpeced success (can I do it again?), but suddenly the very tools that you need for your work are gone. Dickhead! Why did you ever get involved with that woman?
So I fretted and fumed, tried to rent a typewriter, but hard to do with no money, produced something that looked like a newspaper article, longhand and sent it to a typist. The story ran, but in my despair over circumstances, I had made errors in matters of fact. No sooner had I been hired, than I was fired.

Oh no. Not again. Fired twice by the Star.
Dickhead!

Well, while you're not working, you might as well resume work on the novel. Better a busy dickhead than a crazy one.
So I went to work on my beautiful novel and found, suddenly that I had a voice and the thing went well.
I put THE END at the end of it and submitted it to a publisher.
Back came a form letter.
It may as well have read, "Dear Dickhead."

In the middle of the journey of our lives, I came to myself in a dark wood. Not for nothing do pornographers talk about a male's poor performance on the set. "The wood problem".
Intellectually, I had a "wood problem". Dickhead can't seem to get it up and the world knows it. The journalistic and literaryrary establishments certainly knew it. "He just can't get it up any more."

I went down to seedy King Street, just west of the entertainmen district and sat down at the Winchester Hotel for a beer.

And whom should I see but my little Ho drinking with the hitchhiker. Probably after pawning my belongings.


Most blows are not right-crosses, but straight from the chest, the fist out.

Call me a dickhead, you mother....ker

It is an uncomfortable fact, both in life and literare, the all problems are really solved by violence.
Time and chance had led me to this place and now the Dickhead had no choice but to stick to time's script.
.................

Nothing was resolved, it is all open-ended, but for about three days, the dickhead, who had backed out of the bar--began to feel better. Much better.

Yet still a dickhead.

##

Saturday, December 15, 2007

B.S. Makes the grass grow green. My encounter with Clifford Irving


Have you ever tried writing?
Its impossible.
Talking to Clifford Irving one day, the successful literary flim-flam man, he said, "Don't even try. Let us guys do it.
"When childhood is over, the things of childhood should be put away."
All right if you're Clifford Irving and his spurious biography of Howard Hughts, the Aviator man. ("Who in hell is Clifford Irving? The billionaire Aviator man wanted to know on CBC radio. "I never met the man.")

Ah, how B.S. makes the grass grow green! *

Clifford Irving got his fifteen minutes, and by 2006, more, much more. Howard Hughes died of old age and Hollywood made its successful The Hoax and Aviator movies.
And thought I did once date (only in a prof and student relationship) one of Howard Hughe's old dates--an alumnus of the old Powers Modelling Agency, I only learned of the weirdness of the man. Also the strange authenticity of the aging Powers Model. She really did meet Howard Hughes, and she was to have done a trick.

And the oddity of Clifford Irving.

Powers Modelling Agency used to supply gorgeous whores for the rich and famous who didn't want to go the dangerous way of Hugh grant( who really didn't want to blow his own horn, but well, it happened and the hooker herself became a famous author).
In the case of my Peggy, the Powers hooker, Hughes had done a Leonard Cohen,
"touched her perfect body with his mind",paid her, and sent her home.
Nobody got laid. (For that matter, neither did I with this by-now matronly Powers model...but how close we get to the mystiique of the rich and famous...Damn, I was meeting everybody at the age of 29 and I neither realized my good luck-- or was just too young and stupid to realize that when it came to my career, I was already there).
I too had sent the aging Model home...At least I had that in common with Howard Hughes. Success had made me something of an eccentric something of a young prick; the knowledgeof too many women had made me spoiled, and I was one rat with women...Comes from finishing a novel at 28 and pulling so far ahead of the pack that your contemporaries were still doing bush notes out of East Jesus, Ontario and you were already in the Ivy League--or at least on the edges of a fellowship at Stanford with Wallace Stegner, the famed teacher of writing.

But Clifford Irving said "when childhood is over, the things of childhood should be put away."

Was writing mere child's play? Shouldn't we all get a job, a real job?

Well, what was Clifford Irving's job, really?

To write succesful novels, autobiographies, spurious profiles on people he had never met? And the smash hit movie, with Richard Gere, The Hoax, which made Mr. Irving doubly famous?

Whose childhood, whose profession?

"Songs for aging children come", Joni Mitchell used to sing.
Ah well.
"Aging children, I am one."
Indeed.

So Clifford Irving was telling me to give up and go back to my wife.

He was probably right.

But then for the next thirty years, I would be back there in suburbia, teaching students how to parse sentences, clipping my toenails at night and watch my poor wife grow cellulite and consider me crashing bore. "So where's the Great Canadian Novel, baby?"

Well, I did come back with what I thought was the Great Canadian Novel, Light Over Newmarket. It did go a long way, but I blew the money, like a writer, like a child.

I seem to be dodging a lot of coffins these days.
And yet, strangely, childhood is not really over, neither have I put away the toys.

A writer, they say, should be child-like, but not childish.

How childish I had been in my late twenties and how long it takes to, uh, mature.

##

...................

* The 1970's Howard Hughes hoax, committed by Clifford Irving, or the "Hitler diaries," scandal, which were published by the German magazine "Stern," in the early 1980's-- the world has not seen such a mega scam.

Clifford Irving almost got away with it. Exactly 35 years ago, his sham autobiography of Howard Hughes nearly made it into bookstores before the reclusive billionaire granted a rare press conference (via telephone) in which he claimed never to have met Irving, let alone participated in the marathon interview sessions upon which the book was said to be based. The game was up. Irving, his wife, Edith, and his co-conspirator, Richard Suskind, all pleaded guilty to fraud and served jail sentences of varying lengths. Egg-faced publisher McGraw-Hill stopped the presses, and The Autobiography of Howard Hughes retreated into myth. (Today, portions of the book can be downloaded from Irving’s Web site, http://www.cliffordirving.com/.) Those events were recounted by the author in his 1981 memoir The Hoax, which has now been adapted into a feature film directed by Lasse Hallström and starring Richard Gere as Irving and Alfred Molina as Suskind. But as Irving himself cautioned when I spoke to him recently from his Aspen home, when it comes to Hollywood movies, seeing isn’t necessarily believing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Uncle Tommy Was a Commie


The freelance writing is not going all that well, the bank account dwindles fast.
I told myself I would write at least 800 words a day, but all I can come up with his shit tlike this:

"I'm so glad you're not a Communist, Ivan" the lady named Forrestal gushed one day in my creative writing class.
She was the wife of the board of directors at Seneca College and one mention from me of the "dance of the dialectic" or somesuch would have led me straight to the welfare rolls. Don't want no commies working at the college, especially when one part of the beatiful stonework preserve had been reserved for busines conventions and another part for a golf course. Wilderness at the back.
We were all here because of development, development and the Florentine princes that run our region had to be ensured there were no pinko commie faggots on faculty. There was no House of un-Canadian activities, of course, but it was understood that pinkos were not welcome, unless, of course, you visited China as an exchange teacher now and again. Business is business! And in the case of the Chinese visits, monkey business!

Square peg in a round hole. A teacher of writing who was not only bourgeois, but a damn good bourgeois, no fan of Ayn Rand but no stranger to Karl Marx, whose major premise seemed to be, "Damn all your philosophy, history and classical economics. The world just doesn't have enough to eat!"

And: The only thing worth writing about is how bad it feels to be down and out.

Oh I might as well say it on. I was a closet Marxist.
Oh sure, I had all the trappings, the exurban Victorian clunker of a house in the exurbs, two south-seas vacations every winter, the 2.3 required beautiful children of "the nuclear familiy", the intelligent wife and really fine threads leaning toward velour tops and brushed jeans. Shod in $100 Wallabees.

Yet all my writing had to do with the maintenance of swimming pools, the fast, deadly rubber of bridge and my travails on putting up a deck on my Lake Simcoe cottage.

I had to gain some real experience in life. I had to go down to the centre of the edifice. I had to write about being down and out. I had to become a bum.

This is fairly easily done.
In a society where you can lose everything overnight, the quitting of a job soon leads to a dwindling bank account, bad sexual performance (you are now unemployed), people dropping you socially and a wife who wants to argue.

So you do a Siddhartha, that other fool, and wander, Ghandi-like to all the hell holes of the earth in hopes of enlightenment, at least enlightenment as a writer.

Sure wish I'd never gone.

Kinky sex in strange beds.
Alcoholism.
Divorce lawyers.
Wife clamoring for support.
Shotgun-totin' husbands.

Being so broke that no woman would have you, your poor abused sexual organs shrunk to the size of walnuts, and then, only then will there rise an Isis beside the dumpster who will get it all back for you. Aha.
Approaching a landing pad in the underworld.

But then you go down deeper, really down this time, uncomfortably close to that sewer pipe of the universe.
This is where you finally falter and yell for rescue.

The book? The manuscript you had intended to produce? No time. No time. Too busy surviving.

And then you wake up in the morning realizing that Maybe Karl Marx should have gotten a job, and perhaps
Yeshua should have married Miriam and been a good Jewish boy like everybody else.

Yet why do I begin so many short stories with a lift out of the Talmud:

"Life lays down strange paths for men to tread upon in the dark"

Heaven forbid I should have come across an ass' bridge that made me think that all the world's great men were assholes.
And Karl Marx too?

"Yes, and Karl Marx too," said Mrs. Forrestall as she got into her Cadillac.
But her parking lights had not gone off automatically and she needed a battery boost.

From me.
There just happened to be a battery in the dumpster.
Inside a blue box

.....................


Whoops, I did it again (Sorry Britney).
Instead of writing for money, I got no money.
And ain't it grand.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Writing about writing--and other crazymaking processes






Blogging about the actual practice of writing is somehow dangerous.
It's like watching your fingers while you type; damn sure you'll get typos and strikeovers.

I notice E. A. Monroe has wisely pulled back on her blog so she could do some serious cutting on her submission to an Amazon contest.

Writing about writing, however, seems to bother sometime correspondent Sela Carsen not a whit.
She blogs and she publishes.

Well, I'm not going to write about writing.
It is a mysterious, somewhat wasting process. Who was it who said, "Writing? Just open up a vein and bleed."

So I think I'm going to "bleed" for a while.

So easy to blog.

So difficult to actually write.

Seems lately, in this flu season, everybody's coming down with something, certainly Seasonally Affected Disorder (SAD?).

I think of Hippocrates, the original scientifc doctor:

"Life is short, art is long. Healing difficult."

I am opting for a long life, and, hopefully, long art.

Hope it all works. There is something so therapeutic in picking up an old trade and typing, typing, typing madly.

##

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.

##

Monday, December 03, 2007

Lucifer as scapegoat


The column will be an example of professionalism.
The column will be proof copy, not a word wasted.
The column wil deal with matters large and small, though the column itself will be tiny, almost transfinite, and capable of pointing the reader to larger works where fine points could be argued.
The column was inspired by George Boole, who figured out all the ways a person can think, long before Microsoft.
The column is you.
We are jogging together.
Inside this computer.
Rah Rah Rah
Kabbalah.
All things come from God.
But I don't think, Mircrosoft.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

I finally found a publisher (Fer to get the Giller Prize)


Stop the presses.

Ivan's immortal letter to the editor of the Era-Banner (Newmarket)
has been nominated for the Giller. :)

The letter has to do with garbage, and in fact, it is garbage. LOL

Success is your name in print I say!

Difficulties create art, whoever the hell Art is!

Typical Canadian response. "I am so angry I'm going to write a letter to the editor!"

So I did.

And here she be:


Letters to the Editor
Dec 01, 2007 12:42 AM

Re: Halton court case put off to ’08, Nov. 22.

Hooray for Newmarket Mayor Tony Van Bynen for finally resolving, along with council, to “put an end to the serious and ongoing impact to Newmarket residents and businesses as a result of the offensive and adverse off-site odours from the operations and activities of Halton Recycling”.

Talking to the mayor recently, he told me he was putting “local matters” first and it’s about time.

It’s obvious they didn’t want Halton in Toronto, where the waste is from.

Ivan Prokopchuk
Newmarket

Oh what immortal prose.
I think I'm going to frame it. LOL.