Saturday, January 31, 2009

"Oh the horse stood around, with his foot on the ground"

Droll blog.

Like many another borderline alcoholic, I am trying to use the hooch as a reward. Don't get up to a drink. Get up to a poem, or at least a beginning of a novel. Never mind the alchol bites. Produce. Produce anything. Then, at least you will have an excuse for your afternoon imbibling. You can use the drinking as a reward.

Ah, nice if it could come that way.

Harkens back to old Ezra Pound, who was not a drunk, but a madman who certainly had come to my impasse.:

For years he strove to resuscitate the dead art
Wrong from the start.

The dead art.
The dead art.

Must resuscitate the dead art
Ah, who the hell are you, Art?
Gave my life for art.
Laboured mightily, and seemingly produced a mouse.

Ah, there are palliatives.
Forty- ouncer of rum in the cupboard.

And yet, that's the reward, not the means.

Gotta try, gotta try.

Let's see. Another lead about the wigged-out professor.

Let's see now:

Something is happening to Professor Ilya Kovalenko.
It is happening Ilya Kovalenko, is happening, as he had always dreaded, happening to him in public, before students, yes, a public breakdown.
Yes, a crack-up on this glorious, but unnaturallly chilly high- level Mexican campus, with its stone arches and porticos among the flowering Bogainvillea and cultivated prickly pears, a jewel in the blue hills of Guanajuato, the cooling paradise of his new life.
Cooling indeed. For he had just received a "Dear Ilya" from his
Jewish wife.

Well, not bad, I suppose. All the style and at least one buzzword is there.
Can't--dare not--open with a dull paragraph.
But the hot ember is gone.
Artificial fire must come.
Cold fusion.

Never mind Art. Ron is my friend now.
That spic Ron Bacardi.

Talk like Hemingway.
Drink like Hemingway.
Heh. This, at least I can do.
Oh what a great friend I have in Ron.
He can so grease your optimism.
Not like that Ezra Poundoff.

But this is blasphemy.
Pound took a piece of crap like The Wasteland and made a poem for all time out of it. Never mind that piker Eliot. Eliot needed a fix.
I need a fix.

And so with that, cheers.
Raise a drink to yer.

"Oh the horse stood around with his foot on the ground
The horse stood around with his foot on the ground.
The horse stood around with his foot on the ground.
The horse stood around with his foot on the ground."

(Second verse. Same as the first....A litle bit louder, and a little bit worse):

"Oh the horse stood around with his foot on the ground
The horse stood around with his foot on the ground
The horse stood around with his foot on the ground...

Migod, I have broached the first part of a play here, maybe like like Equus

Now, why can't I write like that.

"Because you are a fucking drunk," says the shrink.

Ah. Guilt--edged advice.


Time to pop the cork.

This I can do.

Rally well.

Ein prosit!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

John Updike dead at 76

John Updike, premier American novelist for the past fifty years is dead.

A star has fallen, and there is nothing we can do about it but cluck and somehow pray.

To my mind, he was the best of his generation, blowing most journeyman writers out of the water.

In 1969 it was all New York novels.

Jewish writers were so hot, they just wanted to jump up and grab their own tails.

Out came titles like "Good as Gold", about a writer named Gold, along with the durable Saul Bellow. If the Wasp writers weren't good enough, they would just have to move over.
But there was one Protestant they couldn't seem to leapfrog and that was John Updike, the last of the breed that sprang out of the New Yorker, on the heels of the Thurbers, Cheevers and even Salinger.

Blew them all out of the water with his Rabbit series and astounding works on Hollywood like In the Beauty of the Lilies.
The trouble, I suppose with the Jewish writers certainly like Roth and Heller, is that they assimilated, became almost carbon-copy Wasps and somehow lost power in that metamorphosis. Saul Bellow never assimilated, he was the modern urban Jew. I am a Jew, not a Montrealer, not a Wasp, he insisted, to the point of going back to his original name, from the assimilationist Bellows to pure Bellow. Roar!
And not much would affect the faith of Herman Wouk, who spelled out his God writ large.

But strangely, it was Updike with his Protestant theology, the theology of Carl Barth that won the day.
His characters, even though profligate and often profane, seemed nevertheless scrupulous as nuns when it came to the nature of God and man.
The culmination of Updike's theology seemed to be summed up in "Roger's Version" (1986), about a computer scientist's attempt to prove mathematically the existence of God,, and the dweeb fails miserably.
And the penalty of losing your faith "In the Beauty of the Lillies" (Knopf, 1996), about a Presbyterian minister's loss of faith and its aftermath, You lose grace, you lose creativity, Updike seems to say. Strange that a lothario and stick man in his novels should be so inclined,-- a penis with a catechism?-- but that is the way Updike's contrary heroes seem to see their cosmogony.. Mr. Updike was greatly influenced by Protestant theologian Karl Barth Because Updike accepted Barth's belief that God confers grace through the gift of creation.

Oh but what sinners Updike's characters-- "The man is immoral" --says my dentist and any Rabbi would insist that to go against God, to deliberately do wrong is stupid and self-destuctive, (viz. Adam and Eve and the obsessive, but damned Captain Ahab). God'll get you puny human, and who did you think your were?

Well Updike's puny humans (says Margaret Atwood, "a penis with a thesaurus"),seem to become the very models of you and me, so like the Hemingway characters whose upper heads are hungry for truth, and whose lower heads will go after anything that moves. (Certainly yours truly not so long ago!)

Somehow, Updike's characters either stay in their sin--and attain redemption all the same. That or they in themselves give us an object lesson. Sin will do you in.

Seems to lead us back to the garden, the attainment of wisdom, the nature of God.

I have read almost all of Updikes novels, but not all the short stories, which are gems, veritable jewels.

Oh to have been like Updike.
Characters morally obtuse.

Yet somehow abtstruse.

I think I would sin for that...Oops!


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lost in lecternspace

Crap. It has happened again.
For all my scrupulocity in keeping copies, I nevetherless lost my second draft of the currne novel. Gone off into space....I have gone off into space!

It is not enough to be alone, flat broke, out of cigarettes and booze while at the same time clutching at straws while wtiting a novel.

I have only been able to retrieve an earlier draft.
My hero was supposed to be teaching not in Edmonton, but in Mexico-- I will have to change the locale to a country I know something about--and I hate like hell to arrive at a blog empty-handed. So I'll give your something out of first draft, and change locales later.

It is late in the evening, the hour rings with confusion, there are voices and laughter coming from the clas and to Ilya Kovalenko, something is happening. Something is happening to Ilya Kovalenko.
It is happening Ilya Kovalenko, is happening, as he had always dreaded, in public, before students, a public breakdown.
Yes, a crack-up on this windy, cold Canadian campus among the snows and pines, so like his native Ukraine, but more alien, glacier-scraped, where the water was a tea colour and rocks erratic and themselves alien,on what could have been a moonscape save for the trees. Canada withour trees is a landscape on Mars.

Something is happening, a familiar voice murmurs in his head. It is his wife, now so estranged. She is not murmurring, she is scolding. "If you only knew how deeply I resent you for what you've done. Left me alone with the kids to go on your precious lecture circuit and for all this time. I am lonely, frustrated, face it, horny. And you are not here. I'm not too sure I'll be here when you get back."

Everyone stares. Everyone listens. It seems to him suddenly that all of the northern part of America is his audience. They are all writers, listening to the adept. They are memorizing him, storing up anecdotes to be repeated after his death. Tales of the great old old poet, a Ukrainian,, but writing in English. Had he visions to pass on to the young?
God knows Canada needed a vision Had he wisdom to pass onto the young? Had he the visionary calm, the authority? Post-modernism. What is it? Is it evil, is it guity?

After all in Alberta they would call him a mere Ukie, those palookas out there hardened by the cold and the money. An immigrant, "Samigrant", Nester Pester with his manuscripts and pretentions. But he was of the intelligentsia, priestly class and they would have to accept him all the same. For in Ukrainian Alberta to be a priest was to be a Boyar, a nobleman in the old system of things Ukrainian. They would have to listen. They were pre-conditioned by their intelligentsia and the Boy Scout jamborees, so much a part of Ukrainian culture in Alberta.
He began to talk.

The startling utterances of a Turgenev--my father as my rival in love?--the sprawling rhapsodies of a Pushkin, the finely toned, but stark pronouncements of Yevtushenko and the Holocaust at Babi Yar? This was new material for the rednecks-
and they were getting it from the horse's mouth, from a master who had been to the Russia of the snows and pines.-
-But he is only Ilya Kovalenko-- Smith woud be his name in English--. Illie Smith of the frail, but tremblind outraged flesh. Trembling all the more, because he was now on his own, on the Alberta taiga, wifeless and alone.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Amoeba. A poem

One of these days I'm going to produce a folio of poems--as soon as I figure out what a folio is.

Until then, a doodle and a dawdle.
And here goes:

Dr. Stranglove's Poem

For ten years the circle looped
And he knew for another ten years the circle would loop
And he knew that he would never break the circle
And he knew this was already the end.

So he kissed the face of the evening wife
As he had kissed it before in all its forms
And saw his own reflections in the note re.

And as he saw the note
he strode off, seemingly inside a clef, his signature now, his bubble of notes,
his bubble of contradicions.
His bubble.

And there were others surfing in this new sea of pepper and angst
inside their own bubbles,
Spinnakers before the sea.

He saw her.

She came to him like a Cirque du Soleil Soleil performer
Striding elegantly, in filigree
an idyll, inside her own bubble
while he struggled with his

And both bubbles seemed to attract each other,
almost like planets, or death,
for he feared her awesome gravity, and now also his own, for it seemed that he had flewd a death star, on moth wings,
attracted now by an even even stronger, alien light.
For this was not the familiar marriage of planets. This was a land of Pegasus,
mortally wounded.

He was afraid of this new alien. Her. For she seemed to both attract and repel. Like death.

A mindless response of fear,
reptilian, but really Pre Cambrian,
primeaval oyster's foot in his brain wanting to kick,
to kick the alien away from his consciousness,
to kick the death out of
what could could be another death star,
not the one just passed.

But he only damaged his own balloon, there was a hiss. And he seemed to be driving her away now.
And he was running out of air.

He had to rejoin.
He needed to dock.

Running out of air. Gasping for air. He needed her now
. He needed her now to even to breathe. To exist.

He now sought to guide his runaway orb towards her, hoping to penetrate, to become
one with her and live.

Another hiss

Arificial life. Yes.

Parasite One had landed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Oh Josh, poor Josh. Something's hung you up and you're stuck in a mosh

Perhaps out of envy (is my talent strong enought to carry me?) or disgust at the recent spate of experimental writing in Canada, that I decided if I couldn't fight them, I would try to join them. But this could be a mistake. To rejoin the clamoring crowd of experimentlal writers whom I'd heretofore held as "helpless- can't-do's," it seemed to me that it was literary helplessness on trial; you hadn't really gotten down your basics-- Realism before abstraction!
Ah well. This old trick will now try to learn some new dogs.

So without further ado, a first crack at an experimental short story.

To Josh Wellberg, PhD (failed), drinking beer after the class he still had, into the wee hours while wife was away, listening to all those familiar house noises, it seemed the world was in a conspiracy to keep Josh Wellberg from becoming Josh Well.
Nervously buttoning and unbuttoning his formative memories.
There was the undone button of his youth.

Josh Wellberg at the head of his class in middle school.
Josh Wellberg getting too involved in yearbook editing at high school--and failing.
Josh Wellberg enrolling in ROTC a community college, and finallly getting an army commission and a Master's degree.
Captain Josh Wellberg landing a teacing job at a university. Joshie-come-lately proving, to his Judy at least, that he could do it. Then the teaching job. Two kids. Picket fence. Exurban house.
And now Judy was about to leave him. He was a ghost inside his own house, Victorian clunker making all those famiiar house noises, the furnace, the humidifier. The blue lights from the TV.

I became the man you wanted me to be, Judy. Did what you wanted, Judy, and now what?
In love with your randy prof, who says his wife has decided to stay monogmous, "but that's her hang-up."

Josh taking another another drink in his comfortable, woody, posh library. Yeah. Night school for Judy. Judy in crisis. No guarantee the randy old bastard is going to stay with her. Two ways to go. Leave old Hubber and/ or go to The House of the Rising Sun.

Judy, Judy Judy, all my life doing what I was told, the good old uppermiddleclass way, BA MA PHD. But Elmer Fudd goofed on the Phd. Pulling his pud. And now you're run off with a real PhD. And you're preventing me from not only being the Josh I thought I was, but the Josh I wanted to be...which was free spirit, poet, aviator.

Josh wondered when it was this morning that Judy Judy would return.Classes end at ten p.m. Last time it was three a.m. Made a dramatic entrance into the bedroom where Josh had been asleep. Threw off all her clothes and started to almost snuggle in besided him.

He was startled and annoyed. What's this? Left-over passion? The male question. "Did you get fucked?"

"What if I did?"

Being Josh. the tao of Josh. Hardworking Josh. Achieving Josh. Josh loving his children. Josh loving Judy-come-lately. Josh with his headscratching, his IQ of 120 in a world of l40's.

"You weren't smart enough to got that PhD. You just weren't smart enough."

"And how about you? You couldn't even handle undergraduate work. Failied your B.A. Piggybacked onto my dream, got your break,me, afer all that failure-- and now it's night school finding out how antique Pakistanis, Harrapans or something, may have discovered some kind of psychic radio through their statuettes. Wow. High research."
This bolted her back out of bed.

She threw the quilt off, rose from the futon. Fumbled through drawers to slect her white nightie, the modest one.
She stood now in front of the dresser, facing Josh, red, ochre red in the glow of the night light. Angry. Red head, her ginger colouring enhanced. five word gave her itent.
"Get out of my house."

"Your house? It' suddenly your house? Not our house?


I am trying something here. Writing while upset over a similar situation.
I wonder if it's going to work this time.
Oh Josh, poor Josh. Something's hung you up and you're stuck in a mosh.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Angelina Jolie, I know you're a fan of my blog, but try to control youself.

Pam, my unofficial agent from Australia sent me this.
Oh what comfort for these subzero nights. Angelina, of course, hardly thinks I'm Pitt the Elder.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Holden Caulfield fantasy--and other rushes of a raw youth.

We go through phases-- especially if over forty-- wherein we somehow convince outselves that we already written the great American (Canadian?) novel, but the critics had somehow missed it.

Take my fantasy. I am convinced that in my first draft of my "The Hat People", I had already incorporated the Man from U.N.C.L.E,, The X-Files, The X-Men. Rollerblade, and even Soylent Green.

And there's more:
In my second draft I have no doubt that I'd already invented Holden Caulfield, most of Dostoevsky's A Raw Youth, and a good bit of Gunther Grass--I had surely done some of that!

It all came from reading and identifying works by authors whose teenage conundrums seemed so much like mine in my adolescence,though such hangups and scrupulocities seemed common only in young Eastern Europeans
But no. As I read more, English eccentrics had religious hang-ups too. An English author named George Borrow, could manufacture, out of his own head, hang-ups that I as weird European kid with a penchant for writing, could hardly imagine.

Borrow's father lived in mortal fear of an unexplained act of "committing a sin against the Holy Ghost". Those who commit this awful sin can not get to heaven. There is a stoppage on the soul here. This is a sin ever worse than "mortal". No baptism will take it away.

Borrow writes:

"'Ah!" said my father,"thank God I never committed that--how awful must be the state of a person who has committed the sin against the Holy host! I can scarecely think of it without my hair standing on end;
and then my father and his friend began talking about the nature of the sin against the Holy Ghost, and I hard them say what it was as I sat up with greedy ears listening to their discourse.

I lay awake the greater part of the night musing upon what I had heard. When I awoke in the morning the first thing I thought of was the mysterius sin and a voice in me seemed to say, "Commit it:; and I felt a strong temptations to do so, even stronger than in the night.
"After breakfast, I went to sdhool and endeavored to employ myself upon my tasks, but all in vain: I could think of nothing but the sin against the Holy Ghost; my eyes instead of being fixed upon my book, wandered in vacancy. My master observed my inattention and chid me.
The time came for saying my taks and I had not acquired it. My master approached me, and yet more, he beat me. I felt shame and anger, and I went home with a firm deteminamtion to commit the sin agains the Holy Ghost.

See how that goes? Magnificent obsession. Sin agains the Holy Ghost.
Go across the English Channel and East: How close would that be to Kafka and his "sin"?...There is no God and the imppersonal god that rule us show up in their trail in documents and trials .
Kafka was born almost next door to my house.
So the young hero in my early works was committing the sin against the Holy Ghost. And all the time. No only that, but the cumpulsive masturbation! Double sin! This of course, would have made an adult laugh, but with the obsessive and talent-possessed child, it seems a matter of life and death.

God will get me. I have committed a sin agains the Holy Ghost!

Well, little boy, little boy, how important do you think you are?
Everything does not turn around you, though it seems there are whirls and eddies in some obscure literature where you could almost fit.

Or is it missfit?


Monday, January 12, 2009

"Clark Bent" today. Hobbling from spittoon to spittoon. Fruit flies following me.

And I'm talking to myself at night
Because I can't forget
Back and forth through my mind
Behind a cigarette
And the message coming from my eyes
Says leave it alone

(But) the feeling coming from my bones
Says find a home

--Jack White.

A flu of delirium and near hallucination, coughing up big oysters, like MAD's version of "Clark Bent", flies hovering over him, hobblling from spittoon to spittoon, finally given this big backhander by Lois Lane, her tight skirt hiked up a bit with the effort to reveal the lines on her Forties nylons, as she yells at Clark Bent, "CREEP!"

Clark Bent today. No energy to become MAD's Superduperman, right down to Guaranteed by Good Houskeeping somewhere on my tights.

I am beginning to understand how comic book authors sometimes take some weird drug to get them into a fantasy state nobody's been into before, to come out with Superman, and with MAD's versiion, Superduperman, and even Prince Violent, who is a complete incompetent like Clark Bent who, when sensing danger, Picks up bow, drops bow, drops quiver, drops chain mail pants.

Ah well. I may have done an old thesis on Mad Magazine, but the scene has changed so much these days.
I had done my thesis in l967, but so much more was to come in the development of comic books, and even satire.

There is, for example
French artist, author, and comic strip illustrator Jean Giraud, who achieved his greatest fame and influence as Moebius - not so much a pseudonym as an alter ego. In 1975, his comic magazine M├ętal Hurlant shook up the world of bourgeois French comics and American superheroes, creating a new "grown-up" way of looking at the comic strip art form.

And who could have missed Saturday Night Live and Belushi and Jane Curtin, Dan Ackroyd and his constant jibing at Ms. Curtin with the now nearly immortal line, "Jane, you ignorant slut."

Delirium over here. And now out of booze, I fear it will soom be dellirium tremens. I begin to eye the nyquil not entirely for medicinal reasons. My son could have said, at one point when I was drying out, "Nothing stronger than pop for him now...but Pop is apt to drink just about anything."

So high on nyquil with ideas and themes popping about, I think I'd better quit while I'm behind.

I had meant to do a piece about horror comics, which, perhaps Charles Gramlich would have dug, but the flesh is weak, though the spirit stirs a bit.

Maybe Charles, a blogger who knows his horror genres, coluld do a better job on the graphic novels that some comics, especially European comics, had gotten to be.

Damn. On blogging today, all I seem to have is the desire.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Mad editor goes mad on Halloween

The second-last time I got fired by a magazine was by Starweek, a glossy TV and entertainment supplement in the Toronto Star.
Freelance writing is a madre-chingado way to make a living in the first place, but when you're driven half-mad by poverty...your kids are starving-- and finally something clicks-- then there is a rush that comes with unexpected and sudden success, and you seem to get even crazier as you know there will now be detailed, top-drawer work demanded from you and you can't afford the luxury of screwing up or the perceived slovenly condition of being mad. Professional writing too can get your ear cut off, either by you yourself or some jealous fellow-editor.
The jungle is no place for preppies, the mad or stupid.

I was asked to produce a story of the longest streetcar ride in Toronto, a whole fifteen miles along Queen Street and the people you met along the way-- made this story come out like a ride on the Staten Island Ferry in New York. Unbeievably cheap fare, a song, really. But this was not a ferry, though we have lots of those in Toronto. This was all on street rail, but a kind of omnibus all the same.

Story came out all right. Old streetcar driver who tried once to be Casey Jones with the CNR but blew it somehow, and was kind of demoted to his level of competence. Street car driver. "It' a living."

Fifteen miles in Toronto, going east and west along Queen. For only fifty cents at the time. And passing three ethnic neighbourhoods, including happy, singing Italians, Rastas and Bollywood dancers. Naturally, with that kind of story, you're bound to get local colour.

I made the front page of Starweek that day and was suddenly back from obscurity to even funnier things happening.
"The asshole got a job," my sister-in-law yelped.
Yep, back in the big leagues, but, as I say the jungle will not tolerate the mad or the stupid.
Seem with my midlife crisis, I was suddenly both Crazy and stupid..No time to think. You had to think on you feet. And edit your own copy, tight, so that the bigwigs at the Star proper could not get their red pencils into it.... had to produce, produce, produce. Crank it out. no time for you. And letter perfect.

Ah, fine getting to the top. ..But can you keep it up?

It was getting near Oct. 31. Witching time. And I was suddenly witched. "Go out an interview people about Halloween. What do they do? Where do they go? In a word, interview Halloween.
So I interiviewd some celebs, pasted something together and put it in.

My sudden promotion was entired unexpected. Jeez this had to be a set upl. I had only been with Starweek for a month..
"The entire staff of Starweek is taking a Holiday during Halloween. Going to New York, as a matter of fact. Heh. Your last story. We might even be taking the Staten Island Ferry. Good Job on your last piece.
" You will now be the boss., at least temporarily.
...Put the magazine out yourself for October."

What the hell. I had had some layour experience at Ryerson University-- but to edit copy, crop pictures and make up headlines?...And no one to turn to? Ivan Prokopchuk, Proprietor, at least temporarily, of Starweek, a slick division of the Toronto Star? What were they thinking? Did they now know that I was mad, and it was only my madness that had driven me here, the madness of poverty?

"They might be be setting you up," warned my friend.
"Nonsence, I had mumbled..

"I will soldier on."

Well. The Star is heavily edited, Ivan as magazine editor or not.
They did not like my sort-of "green eggs and ham" halloween story at Number One Front Street.
Seems I was not so hot as a layout editor eigther..
But I finished the job and put the magazine to bed.
Did 'er.

Schizo or not, I am of two minds on what happened next.
I was let go either because I was not good enough.
Or too good.
Old editor came back and fired me.
What, no kiss, no foreplay?
"No foreplay. Yot an I are parting company."

Again and again, there is the newsman who will make you weep over his stories of beached pilot whaels and starving children, but will f*ck you right up if you appear to be a real challenge.

That, or I was just plain crazy and the editor spotted a weakness. Especially when I gave him three pages of copy stapled with a large safety pin.
Doesn't everybody?


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Ah, Paranoia will destroy ya.


I set up one anti-war blog and all hell seems to have broken through my site.

That, or it's a technical glitch, but my home page (which is the same as my webpage) has suddenly gone awol, as well as the web page as I try to bring it up from here.

I have been awaiting my friend the technical guy to set up for my computer some anti-virus protection, but I think I've aready got a bug.

Or maybe I've gone bugs. Strange dreams at night of vipers standing up on their tails, spitting cobras, standing up man-size and flukering into your eye.

And dreams of worms at the bottom of your being, only to find that this morning, youre computer might have a worm.

Strange how the unconsicous is always abou two days ahead of your conscious mind...if my mind can be considered conscious!

So, praying to the god of repair (The Walking Man, master mechanic who often
visits these pages?) I am putting up this new blog hoping to fix what is surely becoming my Diet of Worms....Yeah, yeah, I am part Luther scholar!...Can't say heretics don't get nun!
Into the habit. Heretics in the habit, Smothers Brothers into "pumas in the crevices" " and me holding a narrow bag, tryling to capture this a stand-up cobra hissing and spitting. The bastard can stand on its tail and come right up to ya. And it can somehow move around like that...Or maybe it's the Listerine I had when I ran out of liquor.
Kissing sweet breath, but wow, what a rush!

Paranoia will destroy ya.
Why did I ever write that novel of love and loss?

All I had to do was pick up Nicholas Gogols' Diary of a Madman and I would have nailed it.

Ah well.

Ezra Pound:

For years he strove to resuscitate the dead art
Wrong from the start.

Well Ezra, all I seem to do these days is pound.

At least Luther had something going for him.

I don't get nun.


Monday, January 05, 2009

Come You Masters of War

....Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul."

--Robert Zimmerman

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Tale out of the Ontario Arts Council.--or, how the novice writer, almost always a pr..., got some money

What follows is in the form of a fictional memoir from the vinyards of Canadian publishing.
Who the hell wants to be sued?

The grant administrator was a man nearly of my own background, greying and fairly recently arrived.
First thought in my mind was parvenu.
Hm. Wonder if he knew the word. Probably did. You had to speak French to be a Canadian bureaucrat.
But off the boat and already my boss.

Anyway, his smallish grey eyes are peering at me through thick brows and high cheekbones, "Anyway, it's only $360 dollars.
Hardly enough to get drunk on....and I know you guys drink."
Three hundred and sixty dollars for my Light Over Newmarket. Four years in the writing and tinkering.

The grant had come from an editor's recommendation of the book by House of Anansi Press...I suppose I could have gotten more, but I had stupidly tried to hit up the editor fo a loan out of pocket, so desperate was I at the time. It had been my turn to be an asshole.
"Listen now," said the editor, while kind of undulating seductively, "We are not such good friends."
Jeez, would I have to blow this guy to see the book reach print?
So I watched him go into a pigeon hole, pull out my manuscript, along with a form. "I will recommend you for an Ontario Arts Council grant because I can see your book between covers." He gave me back my script, but along with the grant approval by Anansi..
"So why don't you print it?
"Anansi has no money right now. All that's keeping us going is our bookkeeper who throws in her own money, out of purse-- and grants to guys like you, out of which we get a percentage. Publishing in Canada is government don't ya know."

So manuscript tucked under my arm and grant papers for somebody with the elegant monicker of
Steve Physical. Steve Physical the bureaucrat. I was soon on my way to Bloor Street to at least get the money.

F*ck this guy called Art. What I needed now was money.

And Steve Physical, the bureaucrat was going
to obtain it for me.

There was some exchange of patter whille Steve Physical cut the cheque.
"Tell me," I had said to him, "Do you sometimes feel llike a fish out of water, being out of your own country and culture? Do you like this culture?
"What's not to like? I got a job, haven't I? You haven't got a job."

Why, you parvenu bastard, I'm keening. Just off the boat and you've got the super job....Been here pretty well all my life and I almost have to blow the doorman.

"You've done some journalism, haven't you. I read some of you stuff in the Star. S'matter. They fire you?"
"It was a summer job, Later, when I made the front page, things seemed to get difficult.' No stars at the Star,' the managing editor had said....
I guess I got the Polish mark. Like the one at university. C+."
"We all get the Polish mark," Steve was saying. But I guess It's really paranoia. Hell, I'm paranoic too I might not have this job by January, with the change in government."

So Steve Physical wasn't all physical. Not made of stone.
But he spoke English so badly. And he had the job.
Must have been his good handwriting as I could tell by the cheque.

Ah. Writing for money in Canada.
"I got job. You no got job."
Well, I sure as hell am not giving the doorman a blow job this time.


Friday, January 02, 2009

Dangling man in January

You know that wistful, lethargic--but at the same time "Gawd! If one more thing goes wrong!" feeling.

Borderline psycho, I suppose.

I guess Alanis Morisette says it best.

"I got one hand in my pocket and the other is hailing a

What pocket is she talking about? For a guy, would that be playing pocket pool?
Hm. Not feeling myself lately. Gave it up for New Year's anyway.
Well, one thing Alanis can do is craft a song. And how she can craft! Almost ancient Greek odes, but extremely modernistic, always unrhymed coming down in lines of three. Calliope from Ottawa. She of the many voices.

Well, one thing I seem to share with my little goddess is an early January sense of unrealiy.

"I'm drunk but I'm sober.
I'm brave but I'm chickenshit
I'm sane but I'm overwhelmed baby."

And then the coda:

"What it all comes down to
Is that everything's gonna be fine fine fine
'cause I've got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is giving a high five"

I mean to ask her, "Alanis, have you ever been crazy?"
And she'd probably answer, "Yes, many times...But you just walk through it."

Hard to walk though it this January, that god of the two-faced coin. Got one hand in his pocket saying "heads you win and heads you win."

I am schizophrenic, and so am I.

Same as if he were to say "heads you lose and heads you lose?

God of doorways. God of change.
Brings to mind, somehow, a joke heard in Quebec about this two headed guy who answers his phone and promptly offers, "It's for you."

January of the two heads.
Perhaps the most imprtant god in the Roman pantheon, perhaps even more important than Jupiter.
Says the Greek Heraclitus, "The one thing we can always count on is change."

...But for me, the more things change, the more it seems the same.
Or, to get it from the street: "Same shit. Different day."

Ah dangling man.

Got one hand in my pocket and the other on the blue movie.interface.
Heaven forbid if it is of such stuff that blogs can be made of.

But it's January. Do the Robert Frost. In February you will sleep.

Doing the Alanis today in January. Lovely Calliope of the two heads.

From the Alanis to the Pacifis.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

The world as my idea

Arthur Schopenhauer, the gloomy philosopher who often cited the horrors of womankind, was probably not a little affected by his mother, a published writer, who, in a psychotic episode, threw him down the stairs one day with the parting shot from the landing: "I am a published writer, you little runt. You'll never amount to anything."
Bitch, he yelled from the bottom of the staircase, "I willl be more famous than you. People will forget you, but I will live forever."
Which was outrageous, but absolutely true.

But it was a tough go for Arthur, his first philosophical treatise selling an entire five copies and the paper stock for his magnum upus was given to a butter merchant for wrappers.

Doesn't that sound like your luck, Bunky?

But Schopenhauer's fame, once his new publisher got more stock, stirred at first, and then quickly took flight as he became fitst a privavat docent and then full professor of philosophy at Heidelberg. He published, and he did not perish. People came from miles around to hear his talks on "The World as Will and Idea."
Small wonder his book sold so poorly.

He begins with "The world is my idea."
Which, of course was outrageous, but absolutely true as later thinkers like Hegel and Einstein went on to construct not only philosophy, but hydrogen bombs. All from Schopenhauer's contention that the world is will and idea.

Corollary: All women are bitches.

Well, you can't always be right. There is a notion that all science is an attempt to get away from women. Newton said he wanted no truck or trade with them and the econmist John Maynard Keynes, when not being a genius, was gayer than Richard Simmons at a Sears-Roebuck display of athletic support.

Einstein, however, was straight--oh how straight!
A handsome man. Had to shake women off with a slipstick. For him, the big bang for sure. But that's what happens when you're world class.
His pre-emptor, Schopenhauer would tend to sort of go off by himself and complain about life being evil, about everything being evil because once you solve one problem another one immediatly pops up. And women were bitches.
The thing about Schopenhauer was that he certainly seemed right- on about the world being will and idea.
Take writing, for example. You have the idea, you have the will to put it forward, the will to cover all the bases-- and finally get your work out, in spite of all evidence of your certain failure....I can speak from some experience on this, though my wife says it was just stubbornness.
"OK, genius. Here's mop. I've put an idea in your head."

So I myself would never begin a thesis with "The world is my idea." What does ones wife think about it?
But Arthur had no wife. In fact, of all the philosophers, only Aristotle was married. And twice. No wonder his thinking was so mature! What does your wife think about it?
Well, Aristotle's second wife had brains and drachmas--how else to finance all his research...Whoops. Getting close to home on this one.Were it not for my poor wife's brains and bucks I would still be a Ukrainian Nearder(h)al, who might have walked stooped and carried a cobassa.
"You have the raw brains of an Irish Jew," she had said. "But you need help. Yes. From our community."
I do not bite the hand of those who have fed me.
Or Art Schopenhauer, because it was probally his mother's estate that got him the professorship and the bucks.
But he had the brains. And they were not raw.
I fear, even after seventy years around the sun that I still need more cooking.
Heh. But like the gloomy Schopenhauer says, "You just get it together, and then you die." :)