Monday, April 07, 2008

The Magus

Sometimes when we attempt to write prose of some length, we look for a quote to put on top of the piece in the hope that the story will at least match the appositness of the the quote or poem.

And sometimes it is the wrong way to go.

Experience has shown me that it's best to let it all hang out, in first draft anyway, otherwise you might be jigsaw-puzzling somebody elses work in between your own.

The work will then come out somewhat spotty, impressionistic, a "shoemaker job", and most will be able to spot the unevenness of the ideas, even the telling of the story.

Recently, I took a walk past my matrimonial home. I had left somebody there, all alone, to fend for herself while I did a Ponce de Leon thing, in a faraway land.
In a tear-stained letter to me, she had said, "The hell of it is, I understand." She was, of course, half of me and an aspiring novelist herself. Perhaps she had been thinking of leaving me to find her own way. Who knows the mysteries of this kind of relationship.

Thirty years. I looked at the two-and-a-half storey brick house from behind, noticed that the garden was gone, the
lilacs at the front of the driveway had long been salted to death, and the entire back yard in fact, was now paved over as someone had obviously been running a business out of our old house.

There is a novel by the late British writer John Fowles The Magus.

In this slightly flawed masterpiece, Nicholas leaves Alison to find a magus, an adept, a mountebank, a magician
who will soon show young Nicholas that he knows Nick better than Nick knows himself.
Nicholas becomes something of a sorcerer's apprentice on the Greek island where Conchis the magus--and master puppeteer with human marionettes at his hire--will soon show Nicholas' relative shallowness, not only in his relationships but his knowledge of the Greek gods insofar as they reveal parts of ourselves to us.
He is set up to to meet a Victorian "Julie", long dress and all. He tries to have sex with her, but her answer is always in the negative. In fact, she is unnatainable.
In the course of his pursuit of this Julie with the two names, he is delivered a fantasy of a court held by noted psychiatrists from all over the world who hold this kangaroo prformance to try him as morally shallow and having badly hurt the one who loved him so. All his psychic flaws are laid out. He almost begs for mercy.
But of course all this is orchestrated by the Magus and Nicholas smells a rat.
He goes to try for the centre of the Magus' edifice, almost finds the key to this rich man's god game, and reels back from it all, the stink of it, the hyporicy of the actors and actresses who are doing this for mammon.
And they themselves are soon not real, even to themselves.

Half-mad, unemployed and wandering, Nicholas somehow stumbles on his original love, Alison.
They have a sad reunion.
But they do reunite.
The Magus, devilish as he may have been, has somehow provided an object lesson to Nicholas.
Nicholas had to purge himself of the great gaps in his makeup that caused him to hurt Alison in the first place.

Well, here I myself go quoting, but this time at the bottom of what I may have to say:

We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time ~ T. S. Eliot

And from John Fowles himself, in the Latin:

Cras amet qui nunquam amavit; quique amavit, cras amet.

May he love tomorrow who has never loved before; and may he who has loved, love tomorrow as well.



Donnetta Lee said...

And TS Eliot KNOWS! We come full circle. I enjoyed this piece.

Anonymous said...

it's all a carefree highway,at some time or another in our lives...sometimes that highway throws heavy duty baggage in our way...or we stop,quite purposely, to pick it up... tomorrow's always there...and the road is open...we find ways of lessening the load,and the stamina to stay the journey... said...

Thanks, Donnetta.
Glad you enjoyed thi ole exercise in reading. said...


That's the word I've been looking for.

the walking man said...

I think like you Ivan i have finally found the solution to get back to my love, drive aimlessly until I get there and I think that maybe I finally see the old home where the lilacs bloomed but now are dead.

It is different yes, but the spirit I left behind, still sits on the stoop waiting for me to open the car door, as a gentleman should.

Peace Ivan; there just ain't nothing else left that we have to connect with.

mark said...

When a body meets a body coming through the rye.

ea monroe said...

Good morning, Ivan! I'm with Donnetta and enjoyed this post, too. I'll look for The Magus and read it. Just the other day, I emailed Donnetta, that I just realized my "flawed masterpiece" I have been busily pruning words from has mini-stories contained within each chapter. No wonder it's so frickin' long!

And, it's much like a rollercoaster Oklahoma highway! ~Liz

PS -- I'm on the final 9 chapters of getting all the pruning rewrites done on the computer. Whew. What a chore getting the novel whittled down to 175,000 words! I am almost there!

Maybe that's what sometimes happens from "getting it all out and down on paper!" I've learned so much I surely deserve a Ph.D.! Hah!! said...

Ah, Elizabeth,

Yes, sometimes we write and write and feel that surely we deserve a PhD for all of that.

My first intimation came when I reckoned I had penned a cool million published words after winning a column spot for a magazine out this way. Well, the Ontario Weekly Newspapers Association gave me an honourable mention (which even in this case, I had to share with somebody else on a competing paper). But here and there, I google around and actually find some of the stories embedded in somebody's book and credited to me. Heh. A footnote again. Ivan in an OP/CIT or an IBID. My intention was to have been at least an interesting minor. Looks like I succeeded. :)

Well, there are a lot of awards out there, some in the tens of thousands of dollars. Next deadline at the University of Calgary, Canada is May. It is April and I seem very soggy and hard to light. You know the feeling. Everything says GO, GO, GO, but all you do is light up and see if your cigarette is drawing properly. Ferdinand the Bull.
Flowers are out. Have to take a walk in the meadow.
I suppose I have to snap myself out of this lassitude, because the rent is due, and damn it all, Saul, it would be nice to start making money from writing again.

You say there are stories embedded within your novel. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had said the same thing about one of my novels. Said they'd run the book in script form if I could find a producer.


Why the f*ck do you think I sent you the book,schiesskopf? I'm thinking.

The woman I had been dealing with has since been laid off, first by the CBC and lately with the Toronto SUN.
Hey Valerie, you and I should hang around together, since we both are jobless serfs.


I have been on a Willa Cather kick of late. Prairie writin' woman from the past. Reminds me of you, but after reading O PIONEERS and The Song of the Lark I think you might be able to supply serious competition to the late Ms. Cather.

And, yes, that is an Oklahoma up-and-down highway in my blog photo.

Great to hear you're almost finished with the pruning of your novel.

I used to have the power to grant degrees, but only on the B.A. level.

Well, from what I've read of your writing, I'd say you surely deserve at least an M.A. on your novel.


Charles Gramlich said...

I think it's a good point about the dangers of epigraph quotes. I used epigraphs in "Cold in the Light" but they were all from a poem that I'd written which tells a separate story within the larger story. said...

Hi Charles.

I get it.

the walking man said...

Aye sometimes the world must ken. said...

Well, they don't say Hoot Mon any more.

I have adopted the current phrase in the last few years. "Fok me!" :)

ea monroe said...

What was any art but a mould in which to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself - life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose. Willa Cather

Get out there and enjoy the shining elusive moment while walking among the flowers, Ivan!

~Liz said...


That was Willa?

She was good, wasn't she.

Dang it all. I am approaching the crocuses a bit like Super Dave Osborne.
Proper flower smelling position and all that. :)

Lana Gramlich said...

Appropriate quote. Beautiful photo, btw! said...


The photo is out of Oklahoma. I have never seen such natural variation in just one state.

p.s. to Lana,
I've got some freelance editing lying around. Author say he will pay $20 an hour. It is not much, but he don't have much money either. Struggling author. Guess he needs an editor-fairy godmother.
Stikes me you might fill the bill, but as I say, my author is too impoverished to pay much more.
But he claims to have sold to a News York agent...still needs a fairy godmother with an editor's wand, though.

ea monroe said...

Ivan, ;-) I was going to say "Tip-toeing through the tulips." ~Liz said...

Well,why not.

One is odd and can play the ukelette. :)

Anonymous said...

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