Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Impotent Jack--and we had the knack!



Always, while you yourself are in a crisis, there's someone cool, collected and calculating, who watches your brain pitching and tossing-- you hanging there on your rack of troubles!--and he might just say, "Why you stupid bastard.
"The solution to your problem is perfectly obvious. You've got your head up your own backside."
The was pretty well the case when I got rejected by Ryerson University's literary magazine, The Fifth Page.
I thought the fault was mine and I splattered the university's newpaper with my self-castigation and tales of woe.
...I could do this because I was editorial page editor of the Dalily Ryersonian, and here at least, I could be something of an artist, that is to say, suffering damnably, but letting the whole world know that I was suffering--the way of the professional tragedian!
"You didn't get rejected because you wrote badly," said Ross F. "You were rejected because you failed to focus on the weaknesses and hang-ups of the editor.
"What do you mean, Jellybean?" I wanted to know.
"Talk like that and I'll think you're as bad a Jack, the maginally gay editor," Ross snapped.

"Come on. Smarten up."
The editor, who is really your faculty advisor, is a frustrated creative type, the most dangerous kind of creature in publishing. He is also something of solipsist--thinks the world revolves around him and his problems...and his wife just left the poor bastard...Get the picture? Your "editor" is a complete mess."

"Well, yes. Everybody knows it. Jane Austen fanatic. Sexually repressed...Monosexual, actually. Pee-Wee Herman fan. You could tell through his lectures in English Survey. Really hung up on Moby Dick. Keeps repeating the title.
"So what of it?"

"You've got to go to the centre of the edifice," said Ross. "Focus on him and his troubles. Write a story about a
guy with sexual difficulties and dark thoughts of murder of his wife, or ex-wife."

"You mean that's why I got rejected? I didn't cater to his likes and dislikes, his fears and phobias? Didn't get him right where he lives?"

"Exactly so," said Ross. "
Now write a story about an alcoholic, sexually impotent guy,who blames it all on his wife and makes plans to "off" her."

Still a student, I was rather good at taking orders, especially from an "upperclassman".

I watched a lot of Alfred Hitchcock on TV, picked up a plot and crafted a short story about an impotent alcoholic who, in a drunken episode, murders his wife and doesn't even know he did it.

"You're not a writer until you can write about murder," said old Dostoevsky somewhere.

I took out a room apart from my ordinary digs--had a girlfriend who might dissuade me from the short story quest--and, with a map of Australia leaking down from the ceiling on a rainy night, and while I shivered with no heat, I wrote the story. .. The one about the alcoholic impotent guy who murders his wife, blacks out, and doesn't even remember.
My story certainly wasn't "In Cold Blood"--far from it!, but thanks to Alfred Hitchcock, I had myself a pretty good plot.
Three days later, I submitted the story.

"Why didn't you tell me you had a story like that?" the editor had said over the phone. "Let's have a coffee at Fran's and we can talk about it."

Well, my arrow did not fall to earth.

Poor Jack in his tiny apartment, his students making fun of him, sending him soft porn just to get him going.

Seems between smart Ross and me, we seened to have an insight into his problem. And maybe even a catharsis, the reaison d'etre of all literature, according to old Play Dough.

I immediately phoned Ross to tell him of my success."

"See? I told you. We might even give the guy a psychoanalysis. Lord knows he needs one"

Just before graduation day, my story, titled "Marjorie", was hitting all the kiosks around the cafeteria and the Great Hall.

Met Ross outside for a smoke.

"You did 'er, you coldhearted little bastard."

"And I still think you're a twerp."

I went back to the cafeteria to read my own story.
Seemed that somewhere along the line, I had missed an important character.

Some writer. Couldn't even tell that Ross had, in his own smart way, been manipulating me.

Ah well. Both of us probably had to be devils to earn our halos. He got his job in government and I got my job at The Star because of the short story.

To be a writer you had to know how smart people manipulate other smart people. Do con jobs on each other.

A little cold-blooded. Both of us.

##

19 comments:

Monique said...

It's a funny old world this publishing world, isn't it? A friend of mine was a reader at a well known publisher and he found rather a lot of really good novels but they were all rejected because the publisher was not after such stories. Disillusioned, my friend left after a couple of months.

I really came to inform you that episode eleven of Middle Ditch is going to be posted tomorrow and hey ... I'm first again!

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Ah, Monique, your are certainly first in imagination and output.

I just caught your entry into Facebook, and I really would like to crack that cartoon egg you have posited there just to tease us into reading more about you and your work.

Yes, the world of publishing.
I notice our on-again and off-again blogger, who goes under "JR's Thumbprints" seems to have a definite "maybe" on his short story. Now he has to rewrite his submission and keep his fingers crossed.
I've certainly been there. To wit,
"Yes, sure, work your book over and try us again with it, though I'm not sure its A's kind of book in the first place."
(I have read A's total output and they seem to prefer Bi-Bi women in Birkenstocks who hate their husbands and lovers, see them as pesky). What was my story of World War Two doing there in the first place?

....

Looking forward to Episode Eleven of your play, Middle Ditch.

Anonymous said...

For Immediate Release: Feb 21 2008
RE: Editorial: Poverty forum off to a running start!

The first “square-table” meeting in an ongoing series on poverty, was held Feb 20 at Newmarket’ s Magna Centre and deemed a resounding successful start to a forum that includes a panel of PACC members as well as leading politicians from Northern York Region, which will be working towards action solutions that lessen the affects of poverty in the region.

The idea was first broached in Oct 2006 at the first ever (PACC organized) rally against poverty in the region at York Regional headquarters front lawn on International Day for the Eradication of Poverty where it received various committments including regional councilor to be at the time – John Taylor - and ultimately MP Belinda Stronach - with the stipulation that it lead to action. Others who subsequently committed to the non-partisan “outside the box” thinking forum, include MPP Frank Klees, Georgina Mayor Rob Grossi, former Aurora Mayor & MP candidate Tim Jones, Newmarket councilor Joe Sponga, and will be adding representatives from Aurora town council as well as East Gwillumbury in future sessions.

“This first meeting has exceeded our expectations” states PACC Chair Tom Pearson, “ With such a diverse grouping we expected some vigorous exchanges and we did have some of that, but to the participants’ credit we were able to come to a consensus on how we would proceed, what the goals would be, what areas we would focus on, how we would receive information and of course subsequently apply conclusions into action.”

The unique first of a kind forum will meet again in late March or April for a full day session that will encompass receiving information directly from residents who are experiencing poverty in the first part of the day which will drive the direction of the subsequent discussions and information sought for resolutions in the second half and future meetings. The meetings will continue on a regular basis and include receiving information from various other sources as well.

“ This kind of commitment from such a grouping – one that encompasses all levels of government, gives this forum the ability to make changes and reccomendations to a degree that no other in the regions history can boast and for that alone these leaders need be recognized and commended - and it also confirms that PACC’s message, that poverty is ripe in the region, has finally gotten through to the political leaders in the area”.

Adds Pearson“ The only disappointment was that the media completely ignored this historical day, proving that they still don’t get it, that poverty is indeed a crisis that needs to be addressed - before the cost in lives and the affects on our children is too high to recover from.”

Media release by TP Entertainment & Media

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Hey Tom Perason,

You didn't invite me to speak on poverty this time, though I did speak at the Oct O7 rally.

Wassamatta, you no like what I was sayin'? :)

Josie said...

Hi, Ivan, I just popped over to say hello. I haven't had time to visit you lately. I will be back later.

Cheers,
Josie

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Hi Josie,

I see you're having trouble with a foul-mouthed, nasty blogger on your popular blog, and you have decided to squelch him.

Guy looks like a real piece of work, first disparaging your good friend and then adding something about the depth and breadth of his Uber-sophistication, viz:

If those nit-wits can't figure that out then they can just go f*ck themselves.

I was going to say something like that to him after he insulted you for what seemed the third time, but
it looks like you squelched him first.

Mr XXX offers us an entreaty to "go f*ck ourselves."

What else is new? I've been doing that for years.

And so has Pee-Wee Herman. LOL.

Anonymous said...

Change your tiny tool into a POWER DRILL.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Anonymous spammer:

Yes, yes, I want to do that! :)

Anonymous said...

knack?...it's simply a matter of lubricant...all the world's a slippery stage...

"Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody,but unbowed.

I am the master of my fate;

I am the captain of my soul."

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

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Anonymous #2,

Go to the centre of the edifice, I say.

...But I think you mean orifice.

ea monroe said...

hahahah. I'm cracking up!
Tiny Tool.
Power Drill.
Moby Dick.

hahahahaha.... ;-)

Hey! That's a cool pic of Cleo June and her two guys!!

~Liz

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Ah, it's all a fallacy. (sp?) :-)

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Liz,

Says Julius Caesar to Marc Antony,while looking at Cleopatra,
"Nice asp!"

Donnetta Lee said...

How to con a con man. Hey, well, it's a con after all, nicht wahr?

Say, that image of Cleo looks mighty familiar to me. I think I may know her!

Donnetta

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Donnetta,

The actress' name is at the tip of my tongue, but I can't remember straight off. British, I think.

Charles Gramlich said...

We humans are such manipulative bastards.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Right you are, Charles.

And high intelligence is no defense.

Norman Podhoretz, on meeting another student in London with an IQ of 140: "High IQ, eh? You must get taken a lot."

Guess there are peopple with heads in the clouds who stumble into traps.

the walking man said...

Manipulate me, I volunteer, it has been so long since anyone bothered to try because where there is nothing of worth to give there is no direction to go. And that is a good thing.

Peace old Man

mark

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Mark,

We feel that way at different times.
Having a sunriser here.
Fighting off the morning chills. Heh.

Start with Will Durant's "Story of Philosophy". It was written in l925, but copies are still around.
It has to be that exact title, "The Story of Philosophy", not "The Story of Civilization."
It's the quickest B.A. I could recommend anybody.
Keep the faith.
Uphold the right.

And cheers,

Ivan