Thursday, August 06, 2009

Are writers really human?

Are writers really human?

That's what an editor wanted to know forty years ago when I'd use any situation, any person just so as to produce the story.
I had become very much like one of my old girlfriends, though she was talking about men and not short stories.
"Of course I manipulate men. But it's only for their own good."

Well, after a million words you find yourself manipulating situations and people just the get out a good story. You had established a reputation. You cannot afford to be stuck, to not produce. Three beautiful novels about Toronto lost to you because you had taken the magazine path, fifty thousand dollars a year to write about champion baton twirlers, inventors of snowboards, zoo crocodiles who kept falling asleep with their mouths open, prankish kids throwing pennies into their awesome mouths. There would be surgery. Vets removing the pennies, one by one, sayiing, "Hey, Scrooge come to collect."
And yet there comes a time of adversarial journalism, where you have to go out and " bite and brain someone", a hatchet job, to expose a cad, a Madoff, or a well known religious figure
who kept a dungeon in the basement of his church and where he'd take young girls. At first you befrend the Wookie, get him to trust you. And then you sink in the knife.

Using people, good and bad to get your story.
"What we do is morally unacceptable," said one woman journalist from New York. Setting people up. Hanging them on their own quotes. Yes, I do indeed beat my wife. He had said it as a joke. I wrote it down, adding, "And often."
Yellow journalism. How else can you make a buck?
You don' t last long, but do you ever clean up.

I'd spent some time working for the National Enquirer.
"Of course there are no vampires, the editor grates.. "You gotta find one. Get it on tape."

Are writers really human?

"Vampires? asked the townsman carrying his enormous faggot of firedwood.(Interesting montage of words in 2001)... "Vampires? Maybe a sawed off little f*cker like you," says the backwoods villager whom you had tried to trick into saying he'd actually seen one and in fact, had garlic in his pockets as precaution.
Success at all cost. Ben Johnson and his Speed.
Me on my rough journalistr steed.

Ah but journalism is a young man's game. You get tired. Your tongue hangs out. You are running out of gas.
But there must be vampires in them thar hills. The mountains are polluted with them!
Poor yellow journalist. No moral compass. Full of his own bullshit. No backbone.
Cracks his spine.



Mona said...

They must be, since they are seeking their own doom aka. vampires aka. critics(?)

No one cleans up. Not even those who created myths. And they are still going strong...

Like I always say, life is a gossip, on the eternal sea of silence...

So give the poor devils their due!

Erik Donald France said...

Excellent! Yes, sooner or later, most(?) writers seem to see everything as material, grist for the mill. But most(?) writers are human, very much so.

Charles Gramlich said...

Humans aren't a very nice breed. I'd prefer not to be one. But I'm afraid I'm stuck by a trick of genetics. Writer or no.

Midnight said...

Ivan, take no prisoners!

Mona said...

Life a gossip on the eternal sea of Silence...& humans are gossip creating animals.

Hope that the full moon has been vanquished!

so ...who is 90 in your fantasy? You or the jealous husband?

Midnight said...

Let's hope that at 90, Ivan will be neither waxing (his back and bum) nor waning!

the walking man said...

I'm human. I have a brother who is a journalist turned he is not human. And besides he couldn't write worth a shit not even for 80k a year.

I'm human and I write for free. I suppose that makes me a case for Letterman' segment of stupid human tricks. He'd have to pay the airfare though.

ivan said...

Interesting take on critics being vampires. Literature must be like sex to them. They know how it's done, but they can't quite do it.

ivan said...

Erik Donald France,

Yes, they're all human with the posssible exception of H.L. Lovecraft. :)

ivan said...


why is that somehow so right-on?

ivan said...


Dr. Johnson said that only a blockhead writes for any reason but money.
I've been writing for free a lot.
You too.
But art for art's sake seems more fascinating and stronger than bought-for art.
Take Canadian literature. Get paid for nothin' and the chicks are free. But what remains?

ivan said...


The full moon has not been vanquished. I am still in Peanuts' Woodstock mode.

’ ) ’ ) ’ ) ’ )


Fear my member has developed a droop lately. I think I'll probably turn voyeur. Er, can I just watch?

JR's Thumbprints said...

I'm currently reading a vampire tale. Faery porn too. And a talking demon cat. Don't really get it, except for the part about the author's past experience as a magazine editor.

ivan@ said...

It was a mini momoir about tabloid journalism.

the walking man said...

What remains is they are in debt for money and I only owe a voice to the words. said...

One of the few, Mark, and probably the most relevant.

Jo said...

I have always envied people who can write. They can create a whole world -- a universe -- out of their imaginations. It's a gift. But I have also found that writers spend a lot of time dissecting their gift. It seems to come with the territory.

"I write ... therefore I write."

ivan said...


Ah it's that French culture course you took on Vancouver Island.
Nice turn on that Rene' Descartes quote in italics at the end.

Midnight said...

Do writers become writers just to legitimize (in their own heads) their propensity to drink and enjoy and describe life? And let's not even try to dissect poets ; they're really fucked....

Ivan, you are both ; may the Wings of Mercury, merely give you a nice tan.

No need to answer ; the world wouldn't be the same without youse.

Cheers, and, Na Zdorovlia!

benjibopper said...

no backbone or maybe developing the backbone to move on. it is a younguns game, i think i was past my prime before i hit it. it's a game of sex violence and celebrity for hire. on the other hand, maybe any hillbilly stupid enough to talk to the press is the engineer of his own demise. said...

Right on, Benji.

Sounds like you've been around the block. I like Borges' perception that things happen to us and it is only years later that we figure out what those things really were.

Anonymous said...

Hi, it's Michael Koerner once again. Thanks for allowing me into your web space once again. A little early with this months newsletter. Mainly to announce the opening of the guestbook (see the Pinetree line Site entry). Also because after going through the latest issue of the Airwomen's Nominal Roll Handbook I was able to add a few more names to our database.

Thought for Today:

"My doctor says that I have a malformed public-duty gland and a natural deficiency in moral fiber, and that I am therefore excused from saving Universes" ~Douglas Adams
Our always-growing community of newsletter subscribers reading this email is now over the 800 mark. The following is contained in this edition of the newsletter. If you have anything that you would like the community to see, or your looking for old friends, don't hesitate to ask, and I will post it here in the newsletter.

Links Worth Visiting,
Site Support,
Pinetreeline Site,
The Brass Chronicle,
39 & Counting (Birthdates),
Anniversaries, and
Track Faded (Last Post)..... said...

Ah, the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Way better than high school!

And it was co-ed!

the walking man said...

"And let's not even try to dissect poets ; they're really fucked..."

Aww shit just when I thought I was gaining in mental health I gotta get this...pass me that liquor bottle, naked woman, and Vancouver joint then hand me the .44 magnum will ya Ivan.

the walking man said...

"And let's not even try to dissect poets ; they're really fucked..."

Aww shit just when I thought I was gaining in mental health I gotta get this...pass me that liquor bottle, naked woman, and Vancouver joint then hand me the .44 magnum will ya Ivan.

ivan@ said...


Like Bishop Berekeley said about Matter and Mind to
David Home when philosophically talking about Matter, "Damn you, Davie Hume, 'no Matter never Momd." (I think Mona, with her PhD will really dig that one).
Now, when it comes to you:

You're a poet. I know it. I know you won't blow it (apologies to Bob Zimmermann). said...

Oops! Google sometimes prints without being told. I had meant to edit the above. It should be addressed to Mark, the Walking Man and Berkeley is spelled Berkeley.

Anonymous said...

...And speaking of poetry, this just in from Ginger who is fishing in some place called Bohemian Valley.

Bohemian Valley is a real place,

And it is an idyllic dream particularly suited for late, hot, summer poetry...

Bohemian Valley

Slow summer afternoons fishing.

We knew we probably wouldn’t catch anything,

But there was always a chance.

Gray trout swimming in the shadows.

We watched them.

And they watched us.

As we ate Swiss cheese and apples,

And my nose got sunburnt.

You showed me how to cast across the stream.

Trying to trick the trout into taking the bait.

I don’t think we ever caught one,

But that wasn’t what I was there for anyway.

Just being with you was enough for me.

"Never offend people with style when you can offend them with substance."
--Sam Brown

The above was from Ginger...I'm having some trouble with Google.

Middle Ditch said...

I'm a very nice human AND a writer so they do exist.

XX said...

...And sweet.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...


Maybe in the beginning a journalist thinks they are invincible. They, like a teenager, don't care who they step on. But in the end, they see the light even if the light is at the end of their "tunnel". They have that sudden urge to regret because they ARE human, they just forgot for a while.

Then again, maybe we are all vampires as you say. We feed off each other in sadness and in love, we want purge the ugliness for as long as it take to not have to look in the mirror. Or maybe it is as simple as we think we are doing the "right" thing, but inside we know all along that we are less than human at that particular stage of our lives and wish we could take it all back.

Bubble bath please?

Soft love,
T said...


It's true.

There are some things I have done in adversorial journalism that may have destroyed somebody's reputation or even job prospects.
Myself rich at the time, I went to the Director of Education hereabouts. We had a latte and he slapped me on the back, saying, "Old chap, you are one of us. I can tell. You are relaxed and comfortable. The radicals in our system are not comfortable.... Now what is it about that communist school trustee worried about what she calls "educational bureacracy"... and she seems to want my job. Radicals. The're all the same. Agitate. Propagandize. And then themselve rise to the top."


So I bit and brained her. For no good reason, really, except that the director of education had flattered the hell out of me and did a superb sales job. Yeah. She was a commie all right.
Not like we toffs.
Talk about class struggle.

Now that I'm poor, I may as well be a commie too. :)

Yeah. Bubble bath.

Midnight said...

Mark (Walking Man),

Actually, I really WAS thinking about you, when I wrote that.

Sorry I haven't visited as much as I'd ideally like to (here, and at your blog), but I make no excuses.

But you truly are, an inspiration.

Both of you. All of you, in fact.

Thank youse, and Cheers!

Midnight said...

And to answer the question of your post, Ivan, writers (and poets) only pretend to be human, so as not to (further) raise peoples suspicions of them.

They osmose their brilliance,
in their own sweet time.

What they say may have been said before, but not in quite that way. said...

Yeah, some of us might get like Ken Kesey, high on his LSD lightning bolts shooting around, Kesey throwing out a few of his own,writing his One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or some other masterpiece.
Happily, in my own case I was more extingushed than distinguished.

Went to an editor. "What you need is a genius on your magazine."
Without batting an eye, he says, "Great. You know any?"

Midnight said...

"Shakka, when the walls fell." said...

Temba, his arms open wide.

But some Berlin cat wrote a long poem about When the Wall Came Down.

Heaven forbid Startrek was his inspiration.

benjibopper said...

Ivan, that's why sometimes old material is worth a rehash. said...

Benji, thanks.

It was rehashed somewhat when Jeff Mitchell did a story on my in the Newmarke Era. During the interview I admitted I was too zealous in attacking that school trustee. He printed it.