Thursday, May 21, 2009
The writing and "pilgrim's progress" of one book
The rejection was hard to take.
"The book is wordy, there is no plot structure, it takess forever to get going. It is hard to find sympathy or even empathy with the hero...Especially his sexual immaturity. The typing is messy. There are many corrections I could have made but I was too lazy .
...Perhaps I am too harsh. There are entire passages that are pure poetry, and one really wonders how such an uneven book should have such brilliant nuggets laced throughout. We cannot acept the book in its present state.
I'm sorry, but Montreal Writers' Co-op cannot publish.
My first reaction was of wounded ego, outrage,
Why, you unpublished, mendacious gay bastard. Who do you think you are?
Writers' Co-op is a place for the otherwise unpublished-- the
would- be Albert Camuses, old burnouts and young snots who hadn't had a line published and so have set up this co-op for themselves so that they could get published...but only the club.
I piss on your co-op and send me no more of your own crappy books.
But the unnamed reader did have a point.
The book was indeed wordy. I had written by the seat of my pants, and so, it rambled, and rambled. If some passages were indeed good, I should have done a better job of self- editing.
And the hero was sexually immature--say it on-- spent a lot of time jacking off...But this was good enough for Portnoy's Complaint, where the "hero" is even worse-- makes love to the family's liver in the grocery bag...Hell, Philip Roth got away with it...My sexual scenes involved largely women. Does that bother you Gaylord?
House of Anansi was kinder. "Work it over and we might have a second look, though I'm nor sure it's Anansi's kind of book in the first place." Well, what was Anansi's kind of book? Adopted Aboriginal woman growing up in a small town made first aware of her lesbian tendencies?
Subsidized art. Politics. Reinforce a society's propaganda.
Still, something was wrong with my work. I had taken it to a big-shot New York intellectual...She had said much the same things as the co-op. "No plot? No wonder it was not taken.
And she got up and walked away from the table...I did end up paying.
The magnificent obsession. The novel. The great bitch in the sky.
The unattainable woman. The unattainable novel...Inchoate was the word, tentative, not fully formed. Awkward A dead hand of intellectuality. Erectile dysfunction.
But then Hegel came around., The dance of the dialictic made so famous by our own Mordecai Richler.
I had quit my job as staff writer for the Star Weekly to write the book. I labored mightily and seemed to produce a mouse. "This we get from a professional writer?" Heritage House asks. We are not rejecting you. We will put in in our Bring Forwaard file when the time comes--if ever...I would suggest trying another publisher, but I don't think he's going to publish it either.
Wow. No job, now, might as well say no book.
But the dance of the dialectic...
There is great power in a vacuum.
When you're down that low, your class will pick you up.
A grudging cheque written out by a relative..."I'm getting sick and tired of you sitting on your own Ukrainian shit..It embarrasses my daughter..So here's a hundred thousand for you and her to get you through until you get it together."
Well, the apprentice had finally gotten it together. A columnist's job with a magazine, room to print whatever came into my head; I had served my journalist's apprenticeship and cound finally make money out of what I thought from day to day. Getting paid for what you think... Preposterous....The one -hundred -dollar -a- day intellectual. This, for most writers would be paradise.
And still I had come no closer to truth or piety....I had scewed up the novel, the novel, the sine qua non for journalists...Not just keeping a job, but running with the big literary cats. Wondering, while the money kept rolling in, "Did I, did I make the grade?"
"You write pretty good," says wifey. You should get a PhD and teach.
No immediate need for the PhD. I applied to the college on my publishing credits. There were short cuts. They gave me some paper. I was in.
Two jobs now. Writer and teacher of writing. An still, "Has he, has he made the grade?"
There were some wobbles at the college. Some students, though already possessing their B.A..'s--lord knows where they got them--could not write their way out of a wet paper bag, and they said it was all my fault. Hm. "You don't complete your writing assignments...how could it be my fault?"
"You gave me a "Did Not Write.!"--"Well, what do you expect when you don't write the final exam?" You might have your B.A, baby, but you must have gotten it out of a popcorn box...Who let you into this programme anyway. Community college. Mature students not so mature. Think you're better than the teachers while polishing that diploma mill B.A. that you didn't have to work for. And you dare not write for me because i'tll show.I put in five years to get my mortarboard, and even then I'm not sure if I really got it.
You really have to put in some time, kid."
So this particular bunch, something of a cult, eventually dropped out. I was getting tired. Tired of being on every day And for whom? This particular bunch of idiots.
I was glad when they dropped out.
Got some real students, real novelists, journalists, some better than me. And I was glad.
But still, my own poor novel. the sine qua non. I had faied.
Quit the college. Surrendered the vows.
Put more stock in My "Hat People", the rejected book, the novel that I thought had merit.
Ah the dance of the Dialectic.
I lost with "The Hat People"
There was a carom here. I had to write an entirely different kind of novel.
Somehow, thought divorce, personal failure, financial grief, madness I somehow got the new book done.
Came back to town with something called "Light Over Newmarket"
Jesus. You could see for miles.
The book published. Critical acclaim. A grant.
But, tradest thou a wife for an MFA?
Ah, Hegel's dance of the dialectic.
Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.
Made astronaut. But lost in space.
Major Tom to Ground Control.