Thursday, July 23, 2009

Riders of the Purple Stage



When I was in grad school, Vance Packard, guest lecturer,used to tell us, "Don't waste you time writing an artcicle. Don't write an article. Write a book."
So every time I feel that the apocalypse is surely upon me and that "Whoo Dat Callin'" feeling haunts me for days, I tell myself I must not write a an article or a blog, but a book
(Speaking of books, I am hoping E. A. Monroe will soon send me an exceprt from her own book on post-deression childhood in Oklahoma)
But I digress.
I write apocalyptic novels, Biblical or personal.

I always lose money on my apocalyptic novels.. Like a Jehovah' s Witness at the stipulated end of days, I mount the rise, wait for this certain end of days--but am so disappointed to see that the sun still shining, and the birds unawaredly twittering. Someting must surely be wrong. I decide I have somewere miscalculated in my charts and augurings.

Ah well. Back to he drawing board. The Four Horsemen ain't gonna show at the track today.

Anyway, I'll offer here Chapter One of my apocalyptic novel, The Hat Peoplle


Chapter One

The year was rife with signs, entire series of strange occurrences and unlucky portents, events so ominous that the superstitious in Toronto's great European community took immediate alarm and even the less skittish native Protestants began to entertain secret misgivings.

On the westward commute, on the QEW to Hamilton, a new object had appeared in the heavens, an L-shaped chunk of what appeared to be a Corinthian column, larger than the moon and out of all proportion to earthly size. Hardly anyone noticed, in the lengthening days of February that an eclipse had occurred at about the same time, appearing to have the sun setting at five-thirty p.m. instead of a quarter to six. Only on the eleven o'clock news did our commuters learn that the fiery column, replete with its lower chunk of plinth, was an unexplained phenomenon by the local observatory and someone must have been sleeping at the switch, since the accompanying eclipse hadn't been predicted either. A satellite did pick up the torus, and all agreed, that from some angles, it did look like a hat. Torontonians shrugged and waited for other events.

Something was happening to the money. The paper banknote seemed to change colour every day, while at the Royal Canadian Mint, die makers were already tooling up to turn old American-style quarters and dimes into huge coins resembling Mexican pesos.

Three Conservative political campaigns fell as they rose, giving Bay Street a shudder, and in one Ukrainian Catholic Church, the very pillar of a conservative people, a priest went mad. In the midst of high mass, when the great onion-topped cathedral was crowded to its very doors, the Reverend Moisei Papryka, leaped to the altar, and shouting blasphemies, proceeded to lay violent hands on the Sacred Host, understood by all to be the body and blood of Christ.

There was a Ukrainian-Canadian reporter at the mass whose news sense superceded his ethnic pride and he wrote up the story in the Toronto Star, along with all the other strange things that were going to and soon the radio and television reports were full of it. The reporter's name was John Lazarowych and he had noted for some time that the icons, holy images of not only his own church, but that of Bulgarian and Serbian and Macedonian denominations had taken to weeping, great globular tears wiped away by clucking abbots, some having to use mops to dry wet naves. "Why has everything gone topsy-turvy", John Lazarowych wanted to know in a Starweek magazine article which he was editing at the time. "All of our society's icons are flipping over. I've been to Marshall McLuhan's lectures. I was in Copenhagen, just after his conference with the Bildebergers, that group of billionaires who think they run the world. There is no doubt as to what's going on. Rapid social change and the breakup of Canada”.


For which he was soon fired from his job, ostensibly because of a campaign of complaints from the Ukrainian community but more properly because his writing had taken on a lunatic quality and a lunatic with a powerful typewriter was dangerous indeed in a newspaper known for its rose-coloured glasses view of things. And so, while the city appeared to go to the Devil, John Lazarowych left Toronto in confusion and disgrace, taken to wandering around southern Ontario looking for God, or, for that matter, anyone who would dissuade him from believing that there was apocalypse just around the corner, if not for his city and his country, then certainly for him. His lovely raven haired Jewish wife had known for years that he was quietly going mad. He hardly drew a response from Laura at his announcement that he was leaving, and from his children, who did not understand yet, a bare shrug and a hug.


Well. Wordy, ain't it?
I show a chapter or two to the late Susan Sontag. She sniffed.
"No wonder everybody turned it down. Your book has no plot."
She got up and left the table.
Felt like a guy leaving a quarter tip in a good restaurant, which in fact I had done once that New York intellectual lady had gone.
Schmuck.
She didn't say it, but that was certainly the message.
Not only can you not compose, but you're an asshole.
Other writers in New York tell similar stories about lunch witht the thorny Susan Sontag, top intellectual in the Sixties.
Seems I'm not the only condom- head in that Woody Allen galaxy.
But she was right. In spite of the apocalyptic feel to my novel, it really had no plot, save for death and destruction and the end of days. All lightnin' and no tellin'.

Well, Well, Well. Hoo dat callin'
It was almost an apocalypse for me as a budding novelist. Told to f*ck off by Susan Sontag. Not the first guy. Either she hated men, or I couldn't find a plot. Other authors, male and female, say she hated men.

I had to find a plot, couldn't, and finally used myself as grist for my own mill. How you doo dat?
Tampered with a commandment, that's what. Danger here. God'll get ya for that.
He did.
I finally had a plot. Adultery.
Thou shalt not covet thy neigbour's wife, nor his goods, nor his ass.
Well, I didn' especially covet his ass, but I certainly coveted hers.
Now there was a plot!
Oh -oh, here come the apocalyptic cowboys.
Those aren't Riders of the Purple Stage.
Them's for real. Ever been reamed by a scythe?
That'll teach you to try and write Anna Karenina, male version.
And somebody had already don Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo.
I got nothin'.

##

23 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

But enough articles might make a book.

ivan@c reataivewriting.ca said...

Yes indeed, Charles.

And warm, warm congratulations on your latest published work, "Write With Fire: Thoughts on the Craft of Writing".

Damn. I wish I could have done something like that myself. I am jealous!

the walking man said...

I love you old man...BUT that opening has been done 2001 Space Odyssey...amped up a bit for the reaction of the human church fold.

If you decided on adultery as the narrative theme then for God's sake don't start with apocalypse start with a porn scene...sex sells.

ivan said...

Thar's damn perceptive of you, Mark. Huge Corintian columns instead of a monoliths.
But I wrote the first draft of the book in book in l970.
Heaven forbid the Kubrick should steal from me. lol.
As for starting with a porn scene, somebody else in the business suggested the same thing.
Ah, we live an learn even after 100,000 words.
What the Dickens!

Middle Ditch said...

Someone once told me that the first line is the most important one. Then the second, then the third. After that it is the next chapter. How true this is I don't know.

Keep going my man X

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Hi Monique!

Mona said...

So you are saying that writing a book ( successful one) is like writing a Dramatic Monologue where you have to plunge headlong into crisis.

Well I find the chapter quite interesting...

Maybe late Susan could not comprehend something like being ahead of time...or non conventional...

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Mona,

Quite a lot of real dialogue went on between Susan and me.
I guess I may have tried too hard to impress her, saying that at heart I was a kind of hippie nonconformist though I was wearing a war correspondent's raincoat in Copenhagen, where I was covering a NATO Exerctise. She snorted, "Look you've got short hair, a suit and a London Fog trenchoat. What makes you a nonconformist? You're a phoney. Establishment all the way."
Or maybe that first chapter actually intrigued her. Dunno.

ivan@creativeriting.ca said...

PS to Mona,

So you are saying that writing a book ( successful one) is like writing a Dramatic Monologue where you have to plunge headlong into crisis.

I guess so. Dickens often used the device. Certainly on A Tale of Two Cities.

Ginger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ginger said...

Apparently Susan never heard of my theory of quiet rebellion. Yes, you dress like the others, but you don't THINK like they do, and in a million quiet ways (and in your case, Ivan, some not so quiet) you work to subvert and change society.

What dictator says that you can't wear a nice trench and togs and still be a rebel? And who put them in charge?

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Ginger,

I suppose Susan Songag, Woody Allen,Jsne Fonda, Robert Redford and the like were royalty in the late Sixties.
They had solid accomplishemt behind them. I was just a piker, a wannabee.the supplicant.
But I hear from other writers that that was the way Susan handled people. She was not loved.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

PS to Ginger,
Yes, you dress like the others, but you don't THINK like they do, and in a million quiet ways (and in your case, Ivan, some not so quiet) you work to subvert and change society.

It has just struck me that I may have been a real subversive when younger, in fact Uncle Tommy was a Commie.
And why should a Canadian publisher have taken my book?
"He criticizes our perfect Canada. He must be crazy."

Donnetta Lee said...

And what a plot it is!! Nothing like a little adultery to catch the attention.

Charles is right. Enough articles a book doth make. Or might!

Well, you are a writer. Need I say more!?

D

ea monroe said...

Ivan! Thought I'd check in to see what you've been up to! Well, 2012 is coming up soon so get to sending out the "appoxiclipse" novel (I love Mad Max!)

Josie and I have said before that you should do a book of the collected writings of your blog posts!

And, we discussed Gnosticism in your Hat People once upon a time not too long ago.

Love ya!

Liz

PS -- I'll send you an Agate chapter soon.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Donnetta and Liz,

Gals!
Like I used to comment on my students' work, "What can I say?"

"What kind of comment is that?" asked the bright Rehvka. (She gets up and walks straight into the brick wall). "When we graduate, are we all going to be like you?"

Liz, by all means send me the Agate chapter. I'm sure it will not be a marble but a jewel.

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