Sunday, November 30, 2008

The virgin sturgeon....Surgeon? Do I need Freudian analysis?



Warning to nice ladies: The following copy contains scenes of prurience and immaturity. You may have to pause at the authors abysmal ignorance... You might even even yawn.

The majority of top fiction writers, male (with certainly the exception of top-sex scene writer John Updike) are people with high intelligence and low sexual drive. W. Somerset Maugham comes to mind. Or Gore Vidal.

This might posibly be (if you read Joe Orton at all) because the majority of top male novelists are outrightly queer. They're good becaue they're queer, it seems. Testosterone does not a good novel make.

Well, as a person with low intelligence and high sexual drive, it is small wonder that my novels haven't sold so well.
I might have to "turn" at once.

Captain of the stupid fooball team. No way.
This turn will be hard to execute.
You're a writer now, not an athlete.

And poets have more access to women than most athletes.
Even if you're not all that good as a lothario.
I mean, face it. You can be excused from being Didus Ineptus in bed if you have the mystique of the novelist or poet around you. You are special...Maybe even retarded?
Women are bountiful. They understand. They will show you not only how to use your left hand in poetry, but your right hand at making love. Woman is the poet's sister.
So this you know, as graduate poet and cad.

What am I going to do with this?
There will be a way.

Hm...This might all be TMI.

Well, take a burned-out alcoholic poet, have him meet a Blue Angel, and wow, do you have a story.
The professor, spoiled by women, used to not having to do anything at all--the woman willl initiate--suddenly meets a femme fatale whose sole mission in life, it seems, is to f*ck up an artist.
There are complex reasons for her behaviour, It might be Mother, whose lifelong indifference has caused the femme fatale to commit cruel atavistic acts, like squashing butterflies and hurting people emotionally. Cruel, generically beautiful, she can do this, again and again. Dickens shows her to us in Great Expectations.
Or she may have had a father whose affection for her was less than honourable.
Better to explain through a Bob Dylan line:

"Don't put on any more airs when you're down on Rue Morgue Avenue.
They got some hungry women there
And they'll really make a mess out of you."

And:

"Sweet Melinda
The poets call her goddess of the gloom
She speaks good English and will invite you to her room
And you're kinda careful not to go to her too soon

'Cause she'll take your voice
And leave you howlin' at the moon."

Well, along comes a burned-out poet, spoiled by women
who meets a femme fatale, the bug-squasher who very soon squashes the poet.
He is used to easy conquests, is cocksure, but he fails miserably.

Hey. This was not in the script. Why, of all times did the shift-lever mechanism not work this time?
Now you've got a problem She's got a problem: You. You have a problem. Her.

The psychologist Jung would say let it go;you should both ignore the awkwarkdness of the impasse.
The moment will come around again.

But the poet, a maniac in the first place, will become obsessed with this lapse. It will be all he thinks about. It will take him over. He will try again. And again fail.
His sexual performance, or lack of it will lead him to a kind of compulsion neurosis. He must now have this woman, only this woman, or he will die. Magnificent obsession.
Well, both will suffer damnably and neither can win.
"Stick to easy conquests, say Herodotus.
But it's too late for the poet to remember this. All his being is now awash alligator sperm.
Foxy chick. Gotta get!

Some men turn gay.
Others know that the male does eventually get there.
But so much patience, so much strategy.
Woody Allen. "There is nothing a man can do in the woman's power. Nothing. No way. The woman is more intuitive, and stronger."Even the dumbest one will not be taken advantage of sexually."
"But," says Allen, "They do fall in love". Then,one might add, they're f*cked.
But often it is the male who falls in love first, and, "What am I going to do with this?"
Biker chick will know what to do,but the femme fatale might say, "work it out for yourself." Then she goes to squash a bug. Or maybe you.
The man of experience knows that bad love from the git-go will not work. It will take months, perhaps years to resolve this.
F*ck this, he might say and go off in search for an easier conquest.
Transitional women. They're everywhere.

But there might be another more circuitous way.
It is in your hand. No, not that.
Write a book
Maybe it's what she wanted in the first place. And she as the heroine.

The lascivious instinct takes many forms.
Like the killer instinct.

You might even get her to stop squashing bugs.

It was a ladybug, mother, after all, wasn't it.
And she needed you to break the spell.

Some writer, that Dickens.
.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Lost the blog again. Blame it on Microrsoft..Or my soft head. Now you get snippets.




Damn.

I did it again.

Wrote a blog, made a copy. But there was an error. Hit the wrong button. Nobody was saved.

Lost the whole shooting match.

I think it's my browser. Certainly the jar of "cookies:" is long gone.

Buck up, f*ck-up!

Lana will scold! :)

So now all you get is snippets of a novel in progress. To wit,

Stalking is a no- no.
But this was a special case.
A Nick Carter, Master Detective case.

In the first place, The Blue Angel had made a total fool out of the professor, having sex with not only tried-and-true husband, but also the mysterious stranger.
Nobody reading this blog would remember anything from 1936, but in the famous German movie with Marlene Dietrich, Professor Jalbert is cuckolded and bidden to act like Chicken Man in a walk-on scene, in the Blue Angel's cabaret routine, The professor crows like a rooster, while dressed in a clown outfit. He is having a nervous breakdown over his wife's carrying on with the stage director. But he crows all the same.
Cuckaruckakoo.

One is not sure whether to cry or laugh over this scene.

In the the classic gothic novel, the heroine usually lives in a castle and is purued by a villain, usually Italian. The professor, in his Sherlock Holmes (Holden Caulfield?) hat. He has to find the mysterious Italian. Close with him. Pop him one.

It's really a matter of ego.
Some Sicilian has done the professor a dirty. The professor, probably half-mad with Celia's mind games, has decided he is not going to lose at love again.

There is also the posssibility that the Italian is indeed a vampire, but of a different sort. He might be a high-level drug dealer and very likely a master pimp.

The professor had been observing and reading, viz:

Lief the Unlucky, Celia's husband, worked for a large overground
drug company with ties all the way up to External Affairs Canada which at the same time
had strange anthropological ties to Astralopitchecus Paisan.
Overground drug company becomes underground Mafia River is jungle and jungle is river.

How badly we Canadians are served by a weasly media.
Only Montreal police and Montreal journalists seem really up to their jobs.

Enough that our professor has decided to give chase....


Kinda exciting, no?

Well, I never did finish the longer form of this novel..

I am now working on another novel, but I am told you have to structure, structure, structure.

And I am especially prone to stream-of-consciousness.

So I take an excellent Joyce Carol Oates novel and use it for structure, viz:

Comprising five sections, each subdivided into short chapters, Unholy Loves moves through an academic year in the lives of the members of the English department at Woodslee University in upstate New York. Each section is introduced by a date on which a social event occurs: September 1, November 5, December 31, March 8, and May 10. At the center of each event is the presence or absence of Albert St. Dennis, famous English poet-in-residence, whom more prestigious universities have failed to attract to their campuses. The action of the novel takes place in upstate New York and Montreal.

Well, crap.
You're not stealing from the excellent Joyce Carol Oates. You're just stealing her envelope

So you set off to write your own novel, which will have, heh, five sections, each subdivided into short chapters. You move through your own academic year in the lives of your English department at Seneca College, King City, Canada.

But it is only an envelope. The story seems to have a life of its own, and it's trying to escape the prison of form.

But I must remember to structure, structure, structure. One editor from the past had said I write too much and not structure enough.

Structure!

I re-read Ms. Oates perfect little masterlpiece, Unholy Loves.

It's got structue. Lots of structure.

But in her novel too, sometrhing is trying to get out.

I read the book again, and Carramba!

The structured was probably superimposed on the book after she had written it.

It is stream-of-consciousness!

Well, I have one thing in common with the great lady.

I hate structure.

I write stream-of-consciousness.

Like maybe:

Bang!

" Miss Scarlett, the war is over!"

:"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."




Rhett Butler is a loser!

I am a loser.

Almost lost this blog too.

Latin for dodo is Didus Ineptus.

Well, flap my wings!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Merle Haggard and the Depression of 2008



Are the Good Times Really Over for Good?
I am exactly as old as Merle Haggard, that old "Okie" who tried, at about my age, to take a sleigh ride right back to the good old days "When a buck was still silver/Back when the country was strong/When a man would still work and still could", but:

"Are the good times really over for good?"

Geez, he was singing this back in l985! Thirty- three years ago.

Some prophet, that Okie.

Haggard can be quite a social critic besides a constantly producing songwriter and singer.

"Wish a Ford or a Chevy could still last ten years as it should

Are the good times really over for good?"

For forty years, the country music legend has been kicking ass and making God laugh, and like me in an old codger mood, he don't need no stinkin’ sound check. I am hardly Merle Haggard, but I play music and write by the seat of my pants. After ten years on the road and three million words in print, I'm a lot like my sometime hero who once and again tries to be Babe Ruth, trying to repeat a great moment at the plate.

So I am a litle like blogger Walking Man, who really longs for the days in his thirties, when a man worked in grease, was proud of it, and had never felt better or more the rebel, even after thirty.

And me? Again and again, I am trying, after a bankruptcy (like Merle Haggard’s), to relive that great moment when I got my first column, my own kind of greasy job, which went something like this:

"For the past ten years ,I have been clocking my fellow humans' sprint back to the dark ages..."

Well. It's been thirty-three years now and the dark ages have deepened.

"The captain is out to lunch and the crew has taken over," laments the great alternative comic book man, Robert Crumb, and it's certainly the case with Canada and more specifically Toronto, where last year seven people were gunned down in broad daylight during, of all things a Boxing Day sale, right in front of the Eaton Centre, the very heart of commercialdom. The crew is indeed taking over. The motley crew, and I'm not talking about rock.

The phenomenon goes right back to 1974, where Professor Irwin Thompson, of York University, first noticed, in an Atlantic magazine article, that in North American society, someone had shot the captain and the crew had taken over. One entire generation to see things go completely to hell not only in political Canada, but in a city once known as the world's first truly urban civilization. Marshall McLuhan's pal, Edmund Carpenter said that Toronto was the city of the future, and, sadly, we have gone the way of a Baltimore Ohio on the gangster twenties, and much later, the decaying Sixties. Small wonder that Merle Haggards "Okie from Muskogee" was such a hit.

Those of us just slightly ahead of the Baby Boomers are shaking our heads and seriously longing for the good old days of the Fifties.

But back in l985, Merle Haggard was already wondering, "Are the good timer really over for good?"

They are not really over for good in Edmonton and in Calgary, and even Saskatchewan, but they appear to be numbered here in Toronto, numbered unless we smarten up and get to the root causes of gang warfare with the same zeal we applied in the stupid war against cigarettes. Oh, that they could do, and how thoroughly they did it.

And now the depression, right on time, is upon us.


And a new report in Toronto, now out about the need for doing more for the kids in the Jane Street and Regent Park ghettoes, more outlets for sports, recreation, culture. Otherwise, it' drugs and gangs.


When he was chief of Police, Julian Fantino was thoroughly hamstrung by what is surely stupidity in not realizing that Jamaica, say, has been exporting criminal gangs to Toronto for years. Former Chief Fantino nearly got a handle on it when he visited Kingston to get the lowdown on the gang situation in Toronto from another perspective, but he was the last smart copper. He is now head of the OPP.

So here we are, in dangerous Toronto, listening to old country songs on CHUM 1050, wondering, along with Merle Haggard, "Are the good times really over for good" as we try to shop, try to recover our youth, try for reentry through the wall of time, while "rolling downhill like a snowball headed for hell" and wishing, along with the Ford Motor Company, "that a Ford could still last ten years as it should."

There is doubt the Ford itself can last ten years.

Yes, prophets of coutry music and academe have known it for years. There was no need for the latest multi-million dollar study, soon to be shelved, compiled by fatcat sociologists and lawyers, largely white.. The captain is out to lunch and the crew has taken over. It really took guys like Merly Haggard to early tell the news, a generation before the bureaucrats and economists..

And still we cannot break through the wall.

Cassandras have a way of dying.

You stil alive, Merle?

Somebody already wrote an obituary on you. But I saw you on TV just last night.

Was it on Stephen Colbert's Christmas?

Willie Nelson was certainly there. And even Elvis Costello.

I swear it is the artist and not the sociologist who really knows anything.

##

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dawdling and Maudling. Dare I quit my day job?



This first bit
from an inspiration
© by Holly Lisle

Professional writer Holly Lisle writes on quitting your job to become a full-time writer.

".... It took me about eight years from the time I decided that I wanted to leave nursing to write full-time to the day in November of 1993 when I was able to give away my stethescope and do it. And even then I did it wrong, and jumped too soon, and cost myself some momentum and some money.

" ... I think I still would have jumped when I did. Writing full-time is as cool as you might ever hope it would be on the good days, and scarier than you can believe on the bad ones, and I wouldn't trade any of the rollercoaster ride that it has been up to now for the security a few more years in the day job could have given me.

First things first. If you are wedded to the idea of security and you like knowing that you're going to be able to pay your bills on time every month, kiss the idea of full-time writing a permanent goodbye. At levels of success higher than those I've yet reached, I imagine money is a bit more secure. At my level---which is fourteen or so books in print, all in a solid genre that generates a good audience, no single title breathtakingly successful, but several that have earned out and pay regular if small royalties---it is an adventure. And remember that the definition of adventure is "some poor shmuck having a hell of a hard time of it a thousand miles away." I'm doing what I love, and getting paid for it, and I wouldn't do anything else unless I were in imminent danger of starvation. Life doesn't suck. But I'm one of those people who never minded a bit of adventure. And even for me, sometimes the sheer amount of adventure makes the whole thing dicey.

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

Sez Ivan:

I reckon in the course of my long career I probably made abou $200,000 from my writing, but a lot of it had had to do with PR work, influence peddling, editing, teaching people how to do it, and a lot of journalism. I can certainly not boast Ms.Lisle's 20 novels--I have only written five.

Ms. Lisle is very lucky, and obviously very talented.

But here is how it really goes:

A working journalist, I had been greatly inspired by yet another writer, Gail Sheehy, who warned that there is something called Catch-3O...that at age 30, you slow right down. Yes! Thirty.

To someone bulletproof, like me at 30, this was depressing news.
I had taken a huge gamble on my novel, The Hat People, quit my job over I starved, but somehow, through the dance of the dialectic, fallen into a million dollars. The novel remained unpublished, save for one chapter in TOPIC magazine, but I was rich.

Still, I had failed to win a New York agent. Rich and depressed.


Why? A paid-for house, two beautiful children and not having to work for the rest of my life.
Still, depressed.
Catch-30.
"Father says, "What is the matter with you. You not got enough to eat? Hah! Pepsi Generation. Good for shit."
(Ukrainian fathers tend to talk that way).

Yet here was Gail Sheehy telling me that it all starts to slow down at thirty, that you don't have the energy of a teenager any more, there is a biological slowdown and soon, you will be delving into more of life's mysteries.

Fact of the matter, I was totally seduced by Sheehy's writing style. It is almost poetry and seems to go past the usual intellectual wall in writing.
I guess marrying Clay Felker, top editor in New York and top magazine publilsher didn't hurt Gail Sheehey..Hey. Me too!
But the writing must have paid the rent. And Mr. Felker had a hit on his hands with his New York Magazine..

When I speak of New York Magazine, I don't mean the New Yorker, which, for the longest time seemed to talk of people living in the l930's, not having a crisis, like Catch-30.

Father used to say, "Not married by 30? Hah. Pepsi generation. Good for...."

Well, I certainly got married before this deadline decade. Family pressure. Girlfriend pressure.
I had proposed in a bathtub and my intentions were straight and clean.

Anyway, as I sat in my neat white cottage, case of beer usually in front of me, I had noticed that I could now guzzle down only seven beers instead of the usual 10.

Catch-30. The slowdown. Lost capacity.

On the typewriter to do some editing; my toddler is tugging at the paper in my typewriter and I complain to my wife over the frequency of my turns at babysitting.

An editor calls. I would at least be out of the house, working for the Star Weekly magazine, writing about baton-twirlers and inventors of the snowboard, chuckling over what Mordecai Richler had said about baton twirling: The Orangeman's flamenco."

Still, at today's equivalent salary of $60,OOO a year, I could put up with it.
Off that morning to interview Toronto's top hostess witth he mostess for the food and drink column.

Yet the novel was going nowhere. Rejected by a writer's co-op! Teased by House of Anansi Press because it might not be "our kind of book."
So what if you were a published writer. The folks at ANANSI were in fact using the word "sellout" quite a bit.
But didn't you sell out a little when your novels had to dovetail with Canada's public policy of political correctness and gay rights?
Well anyway. Catch-30.
Doing stupid stories and slowing down all the while. And the rejection letters for your novel.
Ah, but there were emoluments. The Reader's Digest reprinted something of mine.
Got me a trip to Florida.
Yup. Right to Ft. Myers Beach to join others in a Reader's Digest world of rich middle-aged f*ck-ups.
Wow. Is this how it goes? I want to be a rich middle-aged f*ck-up at once!

Back home at the cottage, with the Thirties Crisis upon me, I was starting to feel like a real middle-aged f*ck- up.
Off to Toronto to see "Jacquea Brel Is Alive and Well", wherein an artist sings, "The Middle Class Can KIss My Ass."

Well, I'd sent a rewrite of The Hat People back to Anansi. Maybe soon, I would be able to sing they dud ub Jaques Brel.

But the news was nor cheerful:

"The character in your novel doesn't entirely avoid self-pity. He is a spoiled brat."
Hah. I am thinking to myself: "Besides that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?"

Clearly I had to stop using myself as my gristmill.

Animal stories. Yes. Animal stories. I wrote about my dog Gulliver and the frequent times I wanted to shoot the son-of-a bitch.

Got an award.

But still the Uncle Vanya feeling. Chekhov. Men who just slowed down and froze.
I was an unpublished novelist while my peers were ploghing deep furrows into Canadian literature.
And I was 30.
Bird in a gilded cage. Married and 30.
"Oh you poor thing," my wife is jibing.
"Look around at all your friends. Living in cramped quarters, drinking cheap booze. Making noises like writers, but not having published a line.
"I am an artist, Martha."
"Well, 'artist', here is the vacuum cleaner. I'm tired of picking up after you."
"But I'm a genius, Martha."

'Who says? I made it in the top percentile at Mensa."

"Oh yes. Mensa. 'Open the encyclopaedia anywhere and I bet I can spell the word.'
Encyclopaedia salesmen all and not an achiever in the crowd"

"So achieve, achiever."
The money had come from her family. She was really my patron.
Ah, Catch-30.

Wasn't until decades after, I would hear Alanis Morisette singing, "I Got One Hand In My Pocket, And The Other is Swingin' on a Cigarette."

But Alanis had written the song at 24.

And here I am at Catch-70, still trying to write one.

And the turtles have long since passed me.

From white rabbit to something like the Red Queen.

Running madly to stay in just the one place.

Egad. My wife used to call me a king.

Now she's using terms out of anatomy.

#

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Farting and tap-dancing....Again



I am getting a lot of hits, even now on this old blog, so I think I'll brush it up and try it again.

The only thing I have in common with old Willie S. is that he said you can turn old gilt into new.

So would you take some old gelt from this epsilon semi-kraut?


FARTING AND TAP DANCING

A story is told, in Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS, of a little alien who communicated great danger by farting and tap-dancing.

He lands on a golf course frequented by redneck businessmen and is soon dispatched with a nine-iron.

Ah, how many of us are farting and tap-dancing these days.

So many budding authors waiting for The Call, the telephone message, the fax, the e-mail.

I fear I am one of them. Three million words in print and one novel jammed into the nervous system of a company that seems more into political correctness than literature...I have a sneaking notion that all fiction is politics in Canada. Poltics to get the grant, politics about being angry only about government-approved things, i.e., AIDS, the shoddy way we treat women, novels of reverse utopias set in the future usually better done by William Burgess or even John Updike. We have no imagination, it seems, but these are our novels, our Canadian novels, we with the garrison mentality (Damn Frenchies will come any day now to get their country back).

And yet, even when you produce government-approved second-rate work, there is some skill required, some bragging rights once the book is out, air time, you might get on CBC and CPAC and bore the hell out of everybody.

I have been waiting for a year now.

Friendly notes. One is advised to be patient. And all the while the AIDS and ANTI-SMOKING crowd is coming out with all sorts of titles. And they are from the publishing house you'd sent your novel to.... Those evil pharmaceutical companies, those demon tobacco giants. Everybody is making a fine living, and probably sneaking a smoke or a hooker, female or male, during the lavish food fests.

And we marginal writers still harbor the naive notion that if you speak from the heart, you will be heard.

The heart is left to the Health Care crowd and Howard Healthcare is fast beconing its prime novelist.

The rest of us dangle.

Dangling man.

Dangling woman.

How fingernail-on-the-blackboard a feeling. Either/or. Fame or nothin'. Heisenberg Uncertainty principle.

Well, myself being so old that I distinctly remember the fall of Rome, I've had it happen before.

A disastrous attempt at local politics had left me fired from two prime writing jobs (There are Masters and they don't like what you're saying) and working in a wood shop, my apartment consisting of a berth under the saw machine...The sawdust kept one warm....yeah, yeah, I know...mawkish, Dickensian.

The call came to my boss in his glass-ronted perch above the machines.

"Come on up, Ivan. I want to talk to you."

Uh-oh. Fired again.

But no. This was Hollywood.

This was The Call.

"It's Moira Dann. Globe and Mail. She likes your first-person essay.

The contract came in through the fax (so lucky the boss had a fax) and uh, the cheque was in the mail.

Sweet Jesus Christ. One million readers!

I had to do even better than this. I had to write another novel.

I now had a real friend in a real publishing world.

Sent Moira the part-novel. Nothing.

Nothing again three months later.

I checked out a proper publishing house and sent them the outline.

Nothing.

Hemingway: Y nada Y nada Y pues nada.

This is bullshit, I decide and immediately invest in a computer and run the damn thing off myself.

Luck. Another website picks it up and the book was, sort-of, published.

In the middle of all this, I set up a Creative Writing programme all by myself, actually putting up a shingle. "Put a Doctor in front of your name, one girlfriend advised.

It worked.

Soon I was making money, albeit on the backs of my poor students, largely seniors with time and money on their hands.

So many had so many good novels, but they would, some of them die before actual publication.

This tended to scare the hell out of me. A completed novel by 74, you are about to submit and you die.

"I am a failure, one old gent is lamenting on his deathbed.

I am an ogre, I say to myself, assuring the poor old writer that he had in fact reached me. He had reached another person. Yes you did, Mr. Maxwell. You can die with some comfort.

The dying and crying soon got to me.

I may well end up like poor old Bill Maxwell and die unpublished, or, at least, not published widely.

So I invested in this old computer, hoping Google at least would pick me up.

Google scoops up everything.

My poor novels are up and listed.

But I fear I'm still farting and tap-dancing.

Again.

##

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sour grapes and bathos on the Giller for 2008

Power currupts," said Lord Acton. "And absolute power corrupts absolutely".--Hear that Dick and Carl Rove in your bunker?
Watch it. Dick still has his trusty blunderbuss.

But now we come to literary power in Canada. How come I ain't got any any more, and I'm still corrupt.?

Ah, literary power.

Joseph Boyden wins 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize
Updated Tue. Nov. 11 2008 10:01 PM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

Novelist Joseph Boyden is the winner of the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize, one of the country's most prestigious literary awards. Boyden receives $50,000 in prize money for his book "Through Black Spruce."

He thanked his mother for his win, saying that through her "selfless love and hard work" she helped guide him on his proper path.

The announcement was made at the 15th annual Scotiabank Giller Prize gala. Hosted by Seamus O'Regan, co-anchor of CTV's Canada AM, the black-tie literary event held at Toronto's Four Seasons Hotel was broadcast live on Bravo! and on CTV's Video Player.

Boyden's win puts the spotlight on a new wave of Canadian writers who bring divergent themes and world perspectives to their books.

Two women and three men were nominated for this year's prize.

Montreal writer Rawi Hage became toast of the fall awards season with his sophomore novel, "Cockroach." This book about a lowly outsider looking for meaning in his life was also shortlisted for a Writers' Trust Award and the Governor General's Literary Award.



Well, congratulations to Joseph Boyden. A true Canadian this time. Aboriginal. About as Canadian as you can get.

And power to the Giller judges who finally seem to have seen the light.

For the longest time, it seems, Rawi Hage's Cockroach had been all the rage, especially when he won the mammoth IMPAC prize in Ireland.

Says one cruel wag commenting on the Giller win, "At last. They have killed the Cockroach. Splat."

Heh. No wonder I was getting all that flak from anonymous book editors when I criticized Mr. Hage's subject matter.

"Nothing for you, Ivan if you ever get to our publishing house."

Sheesh. I haven't even submitted yet. A rejection before I even find a stamp?

Why you anonymous little pipsqueak with a grammatical mistake in every sentence. Heaven forbid you should ever be my editor. You write like I make love. All speed and fury of the attack. No skill.

Moreover, some people on the judging committe at the Giller know me, and I know them. Who the hell are you you illiterate little nance?

Ah but I know why I was attacked. Unbeknownst to me, they were priming Mr. Hage for a second run at the Giller after he won the IMPAC. If my little scribbles had an efffect on that, then I am sorry. I guess everybody betting on Mr. Hage was congnizant of Murphy's Law. "If anything can go wrong, it will."
It did.

I had said, "I liked Cockroach better when it was written by Kafka."

Hate to splat a Cockroach when it's down.

Mr. Hage himself is no cockroach. His life reminds me of a Newfoundland aphorism:
"Every man's gotta eat a tonna shit." Well, there was a time in my childhood too that I had wished somebody would change my diet. No monopoly on war and suffering.

Overall, Mr. Hage is indeed a skilled writer.

And a Christian.

But remember Exodus 20:2–17

Thou shalt not steal.

##

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tired of getting fired... I must enjoy the process.



My editor at the Globe & Mail is gone.

I tried to contact her at her new post as literary agent. She seems to be ignoring my screeds and pitches.
So I write to everybody these days, even The Wicked Witch of Publishing who is herself on a roll with a book she's flogging for somebody else, titled, I think JET LAG.


Seems like a doggy sort of book, but aren't we all jet-settters these days, inflated fares or no? You gotta get around especially at Christmas time. And you wonder, as you finally get home, why your behavious is suddely strange, you hear a phone ringing and ask, "What is that thing?"; the same with your computer and keyboard.

Familiar things seem strange, you get claustrophobia and argue with your spouse. ..Like right now I am here in body, but my soul is surely in Mexico.

Like the guy in the joke with the born-again wife. "Your heart may belong to Jesus, but...."

I am heartened to hear from well known writers that they get jet lag. Real bad. I thought the problem was unique to me, but lookee here:

Dave Newton Says:

November 7th, 2008 at 11:06 am
A question for the experts:

After a long day of writing and editing, I experience a strange set of symptoms — namely, well, I don’t know quite how to describe them…I feel, well, disoriented — I actually don’t know where I am, for long minutes at a time. I try to concentrate on where I am, but can’t. I stress myself so hard trying to recognize my surroundings that, before I know it, I’ve developed a headache. It’s almost as if I’ve passed into another time zone. Can your techniques help me? I’m feeling a little spacey right now.

Jeez. What else is new? I think I'm that way every morning. And as for writing, i might as well be Ferdinand the Bulll.
Ever try writing? It's impossible. That's why I write blogs like this.
And even here, there is disorientation, claustrophobia and really worrying about my maxed- out credit card.

I must get a job. A real writing job. But that takes brains and a lot of practical thinking. After all, a freelance writer is really a businessman and you've got to get into accounting, tax forms--and find some lie to tell the pension people about your added income, for they are niggardly and will trim your old age security.

I used to freelance casually, sending out seven pieces in hopes that one would stick. This used to work in the past, but now it seems all seven stories land in somebody's trash can.
Well screw you, editor. Like any self-respecting character assassin, I'll getcha. Send a paper airplane with a pointed nose right to the centre of the edifice.
Like they used to say in Father Knows Best, "We don't mess around, boy."
But then most of my past editors don't even talk to me.

thirty years ago, I was let go by the Oakville Beaver (sic) for rather crummy writing. At least the publisher thought it was crummy as I started to interview relatively unknown New York singers(at least unknown in Canada) like Elly Stone, who was sort of the poor man's Edie Piaff. I loved Elly and wanted to spread the good news to Toronto. "Whom do you think you're writing for, Rolling Stone?" the editor hissed. "Here. Interview this really cool champion baton twirler from Oakville.
I went to interview the champ, but her father had her practising in the basement. She had hit one of the joists with her baton, which bounced and knocked out all of her front teeth.
"Well, at least that's a story," said the publisher, puffing on his havana.

Ah well. Man bites dog.
Baton bucks back.
Ivan in bucks.
But even my baton and better mouse trap stories got to be a little long-winded. Said another publisher, Fred Cederberg, "I can' t keep this up any more; you can't keep it up any more. You and I are parting commpany."

Twenty years later, I went back to Fred, after a successful novel publishing and my own column in TOPIC Magazine.
He was now working for the Department of Transport, in Downsview ON. I no sooner sat down across the desk from him that he said, "You can't get it up any more."
Why the nerve. I was now God's gift to publishing now. Why is he suddenly so arrogant?

The answer was in the library shelf behind him. "The Long Road Home", by Fred Cederberg. Hard cover.

"See me when you get to hard cover." said Fred.
Said the receptionist as I turned to leave, "Better you than me."
Felt like the guy in the movie, like Beau Jeste or something. Stripped of all my medals, cap and even moustache.
Jesus. I'm so tired of being fired.
Like Gerry Barker firing me at the Star. I came back three times by different routes, Starweeek Magazine, The weekend leisure edition, the exurban insert. Gerry caught me every time and fired me. I really think the man had a problem.
Some lady gushed to him how fine a writer Ivan was. Jerry sucked on his cigar. "We don't think so."
He didn't know I was on the other phone. Gerry, with all your accomplishments, are you jealous of me? Or do you just enjoy kicking my ass?
Ah well. Maybe he had a point. I was, at times something like the Girl With the Curl. "When she was good, she was very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid."
I finally found Gerry again as editor of York Magazine.
...and he fired me again.

Roadrunner and Coyote. The sudden drop from the mesa. Puff of smoke. Beep-Beep.
But there was another Gerry who never fired me, would give me $700 advances for just an idea. But Gerry Anglin is dead, God rest his sweet soul, and I am starting to die as a freelance writer.

My novel titles are all over Google and Amazon and Abelard Books, but for some reason, I seem to pull back every time I come near success. Was that the case with Gerry Barker?...Hit me, says the masochist. No, says the sadist.
This is worrisome. A Saddy-Massy relationshijp with an editor. Who knew?

There is certainly a lot of masochism out there with oft-rejected writers. I mean would you take that much rejection without kind of enjoying it?

Heh heh. The staff of TOPIC Magazine once caught a snapshot of Gerry Barker with his pants down, reading something while on the can. I think the pic was doctored a bit. I don't think he was reading Playboy.

Gerry fired the entire editorial staff. Ah well.

We do remain friends. Can't say the guy has no sense of humour. I like to hear the story of a well-known woman journalist
who, in her newspaper days, took on the entire male editorial rim, four copyeditors, each of whom had this ear-to-ear smile, like the puffed-up automatic pilot in the hilarious movies, Airplane.

Well, I'm a guy. Where are you, female former Globe&Mail editor?

I'll get under your desk!

I'll write a food column. Anything.

##

.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Would you take a used blog from this man? Looks like somebody in Richard Nixon land did.



Some lady named Modesta just put in a comment to an old blog of mine,titled
Donning Gay Apparel and Riding Bike in Fake Spring.
She says "People should read this."

Well, I'm in a funk today." Helpless, can't write" department.
I ping back to her blog and among other ads there, I see,

Horse Insurance
Free SEO firendly directory with direct links. Submit your site for free.
quickdirectory.biz/info-31313.html

Ah well. Lady's out to drum up business.

But hell, as any number of women know, I'm vain as the guy in the Carly Simon song. I somehow feel that the insurance company is about me. Heh. From the sublime to the ridiculous. I mean, get real. An old girlfriend used to say, "You are so boring when you talk about yourself." Vain even then, I would say, "but I do bore you!"

There used to be something called Vanity Press. I would have come. A natural for tub-thumping.

But then the Quarks, fellow travellers along this blog, have spoiled me rotten.

Pam, from Australia, had named a horse after me. Hope that race horse is doing all right, he's been sold and I hope he's winning all the harness races. I think of him with fondness. I worry about his health. The above ad for horse insurance has caught my eye.
So I guess Modesta, from Califonia, the insurane lady, gets a free plug. But the horse named after me is from Australia! California is right across the ocean. Ah well. Think global, they used to say untill all the money in America went to Iraq and now everybody on the globe is suddenly broke.

Ah well. It's been sunny and warm here in Newmarket ON for the past few days. Indeed, it might as well be spring.
So I'll reproduce the essay I had written on another day like this, which goes,

It might as well be spring.

The trees are bright and silver, the way they are in spring.

The Christmas just past may has well have been Oklahoma. Flowers were faked out, there among the hemlocks, the pines along the Holland River where I bike a lot.

Today, I am biking with a group led by a man called Fish. He is seventy and can pass for fifty, younger even.
Though his face is parchment, his fine legs are ageless, almost gay in his tight shorts as he easily rounds the corner of the bikepath and turns his helpeted head to urge the rest of us on.

Wle are an eclectic crew. Frigginbunchaneurotics.

The effort of biking has freed us from pedalling against another load, a pushcart fulll of pain that many of us had been pedalling against, often backpedalling against the awful weight of it all. Everybody in the group is ushing or carrying something.

Baggage from another marriage, the great sprawling novel that hardly any publisher wanted to take, the smoky air of distant barrooms, the white line on the asphalt bikepath reminding you of other lines you had done, and somehow recovered from.

There is the real hop of a steamer on the horizon--that we shall be rescued from this Raft of the Medusa by a jovial, somehow Germanic sea captain. Santa Claus from the season just gone by?

One must be chary of such a notion.

Recovery is miraculous and dramatic. It may come this spring, or it may not. The local Indians will tell you that it is all on the whim of the Creator.

In the meantime, the Indians will tell you to stay away from waterfalls, great confluences of water. And large lakes, like Simcoe, for there is an agepogee in each one, each with its own monster.

We ride side-by-side, some of us. Then uncouple to ride along somebody else. We talk of family, hopes achievements, cycling achievments, dreams.

What has brought us to this bikepath, along a river, along these aspens, along these larches known in Canada as tamaracks. Tamaracks seem to the greenhorn like so many reddened, discarded Christmas trees, but they are not, for these conifers will regain their needles and will again be bright and bushy.
Hopefully like us.
I am talking to a lady lready in capri pants and white sneakers.

Like me on this almost-springtime January, she is a little whimsical, vulerable and kind of shy. But she is in there pedalling for all she's worth, like an out-of-wedlock teenager pushing a baby carriage. Maybe she does push a baby carriage.
God and good people. The people are still good, but this is a dark age and the liberal sentiment proclaims one thing and then practises its opposite. Randy ministers and gay Conservatives.
They have stolen the welfare money. First sign of the Mob getting into government.
They have probably taken my riding partner's welfare money. Lazy woman? No.. Decided to work at McDonald's and they have taken away all her benefits. She barely gets eight dollars an hour now and daycare is hard to get.
She gulps air and keeps her beautifully eyebrowed visage straight ahead.

I move to another party.

And entire family, father in tights and shorts. Helmeted mother in ski pants and yellow top. Little ginger-haired daugher in shorts and sandals, doughtily holding up the rear.

We are all pedalling, moving, moving, past the trees, past the bird, pst the pair of discareded horses of green clay and other small bits of rubbish aling the Holland River. We seem, in all this dormant vegetation, to be already moving toward spring.

Ahead of us is the ringing of Fish's bell. He has seen something on the path. He rings again.
There is a huge snapping turtle on the path. Not impressed by us. Moving in that robot-like slowness. But just stick your toe out!
All turtles were once birds.
Like us.
It is going to take a very long time to fly.

--------30-

Friday, November 07, 2008

Journa Good, Journo Good, Baby Journo Good. Actually bad. Too much coffee



Jumpy and jittery today. Ran out of good Nescafe coffee and drinking Maxwell, which makes you crazy and rots your guts.

Reminds me, somewhat mawkishly, of my childhood days when my mother woud insist I drink coffee, which would sort of make a kid roman candle like a balloon with the end suddenly opened, caroming this way and that, giving Mother a really good psychotic episdode and an excuse to slap me around a bit....Gotta be careful here. One who writes about his own family in this way is probably mad. Ah well. I think one or two of my novels could be out of Gogol's Diary of a Madman. Wow. There was another Ukrainian who had some issues. But how well he brought them out! One of my tribe. Genius. But then he was Nicholas Gogol and I was Ivan the Terrible.

A bit like a starlet today, looking over old clippings. Chapters of old novels, one of my students criticizing a reading of it as self-indulgent and not terribly professional....This from a student?...Especially when I knew she had copied her own reading from Master Nick Gogol himself?

How dare she? I was God. Lightning would strike her.

Ah well. Let me bore you with Chapter Three of The Hat People.


Chapter Three

Driving back north from Mexico City, through the Sierra Madre mountains the movie setting of that great Humphrey Bogart film about the down-and-out Yankee and the treasure sought there. Road incredibly flat stabbing ever forward into the haze now that the roadrunner and Coyote Mountains seemed a little behind. Countryside levelling off now, becoming dreamlike and in April bloom. Prickly pear, chaparral, Yucca, strung out like columns of hatted figures with arms outstretched, already priming of some nightmare dream of John Lazarowych's future. But this had been a great year for John Lazarowych, driving his battered '63 Dodge into the heat. Beside him, wife Laura, black-haired, freckled and soft, sexy toothsome dumpling. Pregnant, a little bring-uppy, her last bout of car sickness behind since they'd crossed the Namulique Pass, that stark mountain horror show with the narrow band of road around hellish highlands, vultures on either side of hills, clinging to shrivelled mesquite. Laura was looking better now, her round face dimpled into a mysterious smile. Pregnant. Why not? Things couldn't have worked out better. John taking nine months to complete his novel, completing at last a lifetime project and Laura's own biological clock was obviously working bang on time.

Hating being sick, Laura thought of other times, in California and France, places she'd been to and been sick at, meeting, as she termed it, "a whole series of assholes", surfers, drug runners and a Canadian boyfriend who had treated her, in the face of all the available women in both places, like a hamburger in a steakhouse. She knew that non-swinger John would never leave her and it was his baby that she wanted to have.

She thought of San Miguel Allende from where she and John had just returned. San Miguel, ageless Mexican hill town, houses of buff and yellow adobe flush, Italian and Greek style, one against the other; churches stabbing up into a dark, thick sky. The Jardine, the town square so common in Mexico rubber and trueno threes, palms fronting arched hotel fronts, and to the south of the garden the great three-spired parrochia, parish church, a cathedral really, with its icons and its magnificently gilded interior. She had loved the colonial lock of San Miguel, the scroll-doored mansions, wrought iron balconies, something straight out of technicolour dreams long ago before she had lost some of her colour sense, maybe it had been the LSD she'd done while backpacking through France and Spain, rebellious artistic type that she had been. There had been a nightmare or two where she dreamed she couldn't distinguish between two shades of gray and then she'd wake up to find John's face beside her and she was calmed.

She had come to Mexico to live with this strange Slav she had just married, this strange, intense man who fairly bristled with frailties and inconsistencies, but who, with monomaniacal fervour, wanted to do something right and consequential for once, so he had set out to write a book. And he did. And of that they were both proud. And the two of them had conceived something more important together, this new thing inside her which now so troubled her insides.

She watched John her madman and frequent social boor, his left hand on the wheel and the right one thoughtfully scratching his crotch. "Good old John Lazarowych, your friendly down home social misfit who wants to be great," she thought.

They had been able to go to San Miguel after her chain store owning father had given Laura the alternative of a big wedding or a vacation in some inexpensive country to live. She had gone to San Miguel with this penniless Slav, this young-old man with his dreams and pretensions, with the manners of a churl.

Like many another escapees from the factory, the lift trucks and the machines, he had little idea of personal grooming, bushy eyebrows growing together, the baggy polack pants, second hand shoes a size too big. She had made a swan out of him, had gotten him a couth denim outfit, taken tweezers to his eyebrows under which the hazel eyes now shone, he complaining and yelling in the process.

I wonder if the baby will look like him, she thought.

He had a good profile, now that he was no longer down-looking and not quite so nervous; straight long nose, high cheekbones, narrow bone protected eyes. His chin, which was a trifle too small, was the only part of his face that seemed out of line, but she never did like men who were Hollywood handsome. She liked his face, that simpatico face that somehow gave the impression of being startled, violated. John too, was happy, Laura had been good to him, incredibly so. Laura, this hot-cold emotional little battery of a woman who had put up with his monomania, patiently letting him work six hours a day, locked in the spare bedroom of their Americanized modern apartment in San Miguel, madly pounding out fourteen pages a day, retaining maybe three after self-editing. He'd have supper drink a half-pint of tequila afterwards, give her an "affection fix" and then go out to see a friend or two. Next morning, the same thing would happen. He had no idea how to write a novel, that bastard adultery-laden form. He did end up as a journalist, writing for money, all brains and no money. Journalism took smarts, political savvy. But a novelist, that was the crème-de-la-crème. A journalist who wrote a fine novel was a person who elevated him or herself to drama, no more the chores and ambulance chasing. Or at least that's the way Lazarowych saw it. He had to write the book. And he had done it, but at no small degree of personal suffering and doubt, in spite of the freedom from work for a year, the cosy uncomplaining love of Laura and their ridiculously high standard of living in impoverished Mexico, where Gringos invested pennies and gleaned dollars. To be a writer, he discovered, one had to be a fanatic, prone to fixation, a kind of compulsive madness. Maybe his long-dead countryman, Nikolai Gogol had it right. Maybe a book was always the diary of a madman.

He was coming back with 150 closely typed pages of manuscript, 40,000 words of what he thought would be a passable first novel. Passable, but not more. It had come from drinking fourteen cups of coffee a day, pounding that damnable typewriter for six hours a day, day in and day out. And then throwing away most of the work afterwards as simply not acceptable. He had developed intestinal disorders and finally bleeding haemorrhoids from the combination of the every present dysentery in Mexico. "At least you know you didn't marry a perfect asshole”, he joked to Laura. He had done it.

John turned up the radio. Still nothing but mariachis and the echoing chanticleer cry of Mexican advertising. He flicked the knob off and went back to his thoughts.

No, it hadn't gone badly. But now that he had finished the project, would it go the way he had hoped it would? Would this novel be the magic psychological key that would open a New World, liberate him from the incubus of wrong background, family nervous disorders, the Second World War, incest, Portnoy's Complaint and the whole sorry history of a Canadian-raised displaced person, home and hearth shot up so long ago by both Nazis and Russkies, brought to Canada with his parents to begin a new life, reading the comic books and Gogol and The Story of Philosophy to somehow salvage what was left of an I.Q. Too many comic books? (It wuz da comic books that dunnit to me).

Was he just another fast Horatio Alger, still another hungry foreigner who had come to reap the obvious wealth of Canada? Or was he more authentic? Was he just kidding himself by all this scribbling and drinking?

Comic books. Superman, (Made in Canada), Captain Marvel, (made in U.S.A). The ultimate immigrants. Scared to death of Kryptonite, Dr. Sivanna, the Joker.

The book, his novel, thought Lazarowych, would be a personal statement, and incantation of 40,000 words, a sort of SHAZAM! Through which he, the crippled Billy Batson from Galicia in the Ukraine would invoke cosmic forces to assert himself as a human being, to join ugly ducklings, some of them profound, and put his name on the world's list of authors.

Authenticity. Had he taken too good an English course at university?

Could it be that he was cribbing Balzac by way of Gogol? He remembered hiding his Russian copy of Taras Bulba under his school desk while pondering the intricacies of Dick and Jane. And Dick and Jane were intricate.

See Spot run back to Canada along the Pan-American Highway.

He had been deluding himself? He had written a staggering 900 pages first draft within six months, working first in Toronto while Laura worked, and then in Mexico. He had been riding on a crest of optimism and confidence buoyed up through unbelievable success in a Johnny-come-lately University writer's course.

On graduation, a number of teachers had assured him that he was gifted and would someday write a fine novel, this based on their reading of the poetry and short stories he had published in the little magazines, Tamarack Review, Fiddlehead. Now Lazarowych wasn't so certain. Teachers were kindly men, and their own ambitions, their own way of justifying a job in Toronto and not at Trinity College, Cambridge.

He'd worked as a newspaper reporter after graduation, all the while making three or four false starts at a novel. Finally, after three years, he decided to start at the beginning, the standard "I was born" opener and at last he seemed to be onto making a book.

But looking over his first draft, Lazarowych had been distressed to realize that all he had done in the script was state his origins and go on to still another imitation of Portrait of the Artist, a book he had learned to love, like many another English major. He could also see in the tortured words an attempt at startlement, drama to get himself out of a prosaic style. Apocalypse began to sound every few pages, the fiery borrowed phrases of Nietzsche out of his philosophy primer, the beautiful but borrowed encounter poetry of Martin Buber, the "I" meeting the "Thou", almost a primer on the way the eastern European mind really works, cf. Stanislaw Lem. Our galaxy is in the shape of a hat.

But it was their thought and not John's own. It may be true that genius steals outright where mere talent only borrows, but John at that point wasn't even certain he was in the talent category. So much to digest, so little time.

Within 900 pages of manuscript, Lazarowych was panicked to discover that he really did not have much to say in terms of a personal philosophy or a unified theory of the world. What emerged was a mere beginning, an account of his family's survival in Europe and the combination of strength and blind luck that saved the family from a tragic Bosnia situation to find final safety in Canada.

What appeared in John's work was the story of Michael and Sophia, barely literate, ignorant bigoted characters, steps away from peasantry, his father and his mother. Yet they were the heroes of the book. "We wrote The Madonna and the Teuron for you”, they seemed to say.

An autobiographical reprieve, the luck coming from the story rather than the style. How can you possibly develop a world view, a philosophy of life and art when you were only 29? Sure there was Keats, and Shelley and Dean Swift. But they leaned heavily on Plato and Swift certainly on Juvenal. All John could do at 29 was to assert the survival instincts of his parents. They had created and maintained him. They had brought him through a war on three fronts and years of daily bombings to the luxury of an education and the vanity of writing a book.

The twentieth century seemed so full of Heisenbergs, Max Plancks, quantum technicians who were already shaping the beginnings of artificial intelligence, yet this too would someday show itself as phony, since, as Celine might say, the universe is a phoney, events having happened millions of light years ago and all we see with our telescopes is illusion. It's back to Newtonian conceptions, though Newton, a virgin, a Dr. Virago, missed a lot of the feminine equation too. A clockwork universe until the four horsemen come on the scene. Then it's Hieronymous Bosch time; the time of the "painted birds" already chronicled in a work similar to John's. And yet the author of that other book was soon found to be a CIA operative who was accused of stealing that World War Two novel from another man, a cipher, and therefore something of a phoney himself.

Whatever the tricky problem of authenticity was, John's Madonna and the Teuton was at least original. It wasn't a magnum opus, but there were compensations. Well, it's done. It's done anyway. Done at age 28, just before my 29th birthday and I'll probably have a son on top of that.

Laura was going to be sick again.

He pulled the car over to a gravelly halt in a dust cloud, along a yellowed ditch and watched the car's temperature shooting up as he opened his heavy driver's door to get out and help Laura.

He held her side while the girl gave out with a sort of dry heave, not offensive, for he loved her and she was in a way, him. Laura didn't get sick. A hot, moisture starved burst of desert air played around her face and long black hair, cooling her off a little and abating the spasms. They couldn't set off immediately, for a curious, wandering cow, something not too new in that part of Mexico, couldn't stop being curious. The little white Brahma cross soon made up her mind as to where she wanted to go. John turned on the key and they drove on.

Laura tried to think of more pleasant things, to get her mind off the weariness, the travel, the morning sickness, the car sickness. She thought of Toronto and the familiar things there after nearly nine months in Mexico. Even as early as her fourth month in Mexico, she had taken to thinking and dreaming of busy Yonge Street, or Yorkville mall with its colours and its wares. Mexico was beautiful in its own pristine way, the solid Latin culture, the incredible Samba beat to the music, like a drink of hot whiskey first thing in the morning or a Budweiser beer buzz without the rock and roll. Touches of Flamenco instead, wafting around the beautiful colonial hill towns, paved with stone. But there was much to be said about the First World too. Bathtubs, cleanliness, the sheer abundance of consumer goods, the abundance probably standing in the way of Canada ever developing a real culture, most Ontarians wishing no doubt that they could be from upstate New York or Baltimore Maryland, so heavy was the American pull. Yet there was a straightness about living in Mexico for too long. So little of that fabricky stuff, nylon, poplin, linen, Dacron, polyester. And easily managed coins that could fit into a stylish purse. The Mexican peso was three times the bulk of a Canadian quarter, and for all its size was only worth eight cents. And Mexican Dysentery was three times as bad as a case of the runs in some northern Ontario privy.

Not having to wash every item of your dinner in purified water. That would be a relief. Laura had found art in the blue hills of San Miguel, and Guanajuato. She had painted and it all came out blue, just the way she had imagined those hills and that colour in a girl's dream of the future. An artist, Laura loved beautiful things whether in clothing, architecture or art. She had also, a bourgeois lass, sat on cold steps in Yorkville in the middle of the night to suffer, be an artist. What a dumb kid I had been!

Toronto, with its well-treed streets, often backing onto park-like ravines, the Victorian and neo-Gothic houses not at all jarred into modernism by the new City Hall, a light-toned Boticelli shell of a building. Yet Toronto seemed a little sooty, old. Younger, centuries younger than San Miguel, it had yet to hold a candle to some flower-bedecked, fountain filled city like Guadalajara. You needed a Copenhagen for that. The great Finnish architect Urjo Revell was leading the way in that direction for Toronto.

She looked again at John who for once in his gesticulating, exuberant life was not saying anything. A look of something like fright had crossed his Alexander Putin face. Since he'd finished the book he seemed to be in a state of shock, vulnerable. Silently, Laura said to him: Don't worry my darling. Don't worry about anything. Some day we'll both have what we want, if not through your efforts, then through help from my side. Some day I'll have my beautiful things and you'll have your beautiful words.

Hours becoming days. John and Laura moving ever north, past the customs hassle of Laredo, past San Antonio, Tulsa. Freeways and turnpikes, at night luxuriating in American motels with television, bathtubs, cleanliness after the damp, dingy roadhouses and motels of Mexico. Watching cartoons on television, the Incredible Hulk, the Herculoids, Popeye and a strange cartoon show where every character was a hat, Lidsville. There was something about hats that had scared John for many a year. It made him think somehow of oppressed blacks and the pointed hoods of the Ku Klux Klan. He had, since coming to Canada with his parents felt black, an outsider, a freak. One day the Hat people would get him. Lynch him.




....end chapter

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Plumbing, Heating and Drains. PhD's passing through the rye



I am frustrated and annoyed. As happened to Josie yesterday on her blog,I have lost two blog drafts into cyberspace...I never take blogger Lana's advice to have a copy at all times; I get so hot in the speed and fury of the attack in blog composition, that I am like old King John and the cakes he was supposed to watch in the oven....Burned to a crisp, and since he was in mufti, the housewife took a broom to him.

"Mufti. Quite a word," My friend the builder of banks, said. "Mufti? Sounds French to me. Perverted bastards!"

Anyway here I am, King John sort of in mufti, for they don't call me Doctor at the college any more. "Looking at your lifestyle, especially at the reveling and carousing, it's more like asshole than doctor and I'm not sure if I want you at this campus any more, said the campus dean. "Go to King City where all the other whackos are. Just stay away from Newnham in Toronto.

I was fired. I was not fired. There were about seventeen campuses of mammoth Seneca College. All over the Province.

"And another thing, he said over his shoulder as I turned to walk away. "I hear you are teaching your kids Homer in your creative writing class. Homer? At a community college?
He was dangerously close to an oxymoron here. In fact, I suppressed the urge to call him a moron. Hell. Homer wrote not only the world's first set of ancienrt Greek bibles, but also the world's first two novels, flashbacks and all.

Ah. You're not supposed to teach them about Homer, you the Mickey Mouse prof among the other PhD's in Plumbing, Heating and Drains, Applied Beekeeping and Underwater Basket Weaving for divers? "Divers blow farts and bite at the bublles," the arts students used to torment.

"You should be teaching university, not comumunity college, you are so awful," said the dean.

Another oxymoron, it seemed to me.

''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

Well, I have lost two blogs in the ether already. Looks like too much of the familiar unholy trinity of Rejection, Failure, Pain has brought back a flahsback, this moment of synchornicity to another ridiculout, but painful situation.
Rejected by a campus dean, I fear I might be even rejected by even Google, or something.

I need self-assurance, compensation.

So like the "You're So Vain" man in Carly Simon's song, I google madly, trying to find myself.

Google, google, google.

Well hey, lookee here:


Google Books by Ivan Prokopchuk.


The Black Icon: A Story / by Ivan Prokopchuk
by Prokopchuk, Ivan - 1992
No preview available - About this book - Add to my library

The Fire in Bradford: A Novel
by Ivan Prokopchuk - Fiction - 1996 - 101 pages
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The Black Icon: A Story
by Ivan Prokopchuk - 1969
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Light Over Newmarket: A Novel
by Ivan Prokopchuk - 1991
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Storm and Stress on the Campaign Trail: The 1985 Election in a Small Ontario ...
by Ivan Prokopchuk - 1986
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The Hat People: A Novel
by Ivan Prokopchuk - 2001
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..........


Damn, campus dean.
In a world of publish or perish, I know darn well you never even finished your thesis to get your job. You had pull.

And you're calling me odd because I teach Homer to my kids?

Get a life!

Ah vanity. Thy name is Ivan.


Gadzooks.

Ah well, Atleast it's a finished blog.

Even if I am finished at one campus of Seneca College.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Fun movie nights in little Transylvania with the Phantom of the Paradise



Ah, Faustus,
Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,
And then thou must be damned perpetually!
Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,
That time may cease and midnight never come!
Fair Nature’s eye, rise, rise again and make
Perpetual day; or let this hour be but
A year, a month, a week, a natural day,
That Faustus may repent and save his soul!



In my oddly successful career as an actor (I made a whole $200) I practised this line out of Marlowe's Dr. Faustus
till I got the full timbre and fright evoked in Marlowe's lines. Damn! Those Elizabethans were good.

Take note, you horror and fantasy writers out there. De Debbil makes the best play or novel,

So how many takes have there been on the Faust legend--a hundred?--And when Faust becomes Armand Moncharmin, the manager of the Opera, he is the perfect Beelzebub, the devil who will demand your soul--in blood--before you attain immortality. Fascinating, oddly timeless plot.

And when you combine Faust with an early 20th century chiller like Phantom of the Opera, you make bucks on the stage, big bucks as any peek at receipts of Broadway's Phantom of the Opera are any indication.

But there was an earlier work largely unnoticed --or savaged by the critics-- Titled "Phantom of the Paradise (or Fillmore, the 1970's the rock place?) which was the seminal work for movies of that type. (I shudder to use the term seminal since Phantom of the Paradise one day became the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and it was a great hit on the midnight TV channels, and as a film.It featured, in part, characters from the planet Transvesitia.

But from little acorns, tall oaks grow, if you consider Rocky Horror as a tall poppy.

It was Paul Williams' Phantom of the Paradise that broke the ground for the Rocky Horror tour de force.

Panned by critics and everbody in the film unfarily criticized, It took Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada to recognize Williams' genius as an actor and director, and I suppose, for an audience about four generations removed from Transylvania (Ukkraine is just next door, to Transylvania) the Ukies bought it. It remained on local screens for eight years.

Phantom of the Paradise remains a cult classic and it is aired on public television just about every Halloween.

Moral of this story?

You can write a genius work, partially based on the Faust legend, you can sell your soul to the devil and fail all the same.

But there are vultures circling about overhead, not so much to eat your liver, like that of Prometheus, but to steal your play. One year later, out came the cult hit, Rocky Horror Picture show.

Paul Williams produced a masterpiece, was unfairly called no good for this--and then everybody copied him and made a fortune. Only Winnipeg was in there pitching for him, and of that I am proud. Phantom of the Paradise, though released in l974, was a masterpiece that is still today played over and over again by the buffs of that kind of film.

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