Thursday, June 17, 2010
The quest at first seems noble.
Listen up, all you poseurs and incompetents, writer manqués, poseurs, English teacher all.
I will go to Tahiti, do what I have to do there, and when I come back, I will go to the auditorium, read my stuff and bring the house down.
Well. Certainly great expectations.
But the allure of a new paradise, the smell of eucalyptus, the vodka taste of alcohol, the gleaming limbs of women, most distracting to the ordinarily closeted writer.
The rewards seem there before the accomplishment, the novel, the painting.
For Gaugin, it was beautiful Wahine women. For Joe Orton it was lightfooted Arab boys in white, and for me it was a Hollywood starlet.
But both Gaugin and Orton got the work done.
Thirty years later, I'm still stuck at the work, the nuts and bolts of it, before I go up on the podium.
Oh sure, there were the palliatives the little romans a clef to spite your underachieving peers, The poetry readings, the coffee house grind. But it was largely dreck, coffee house leftovers from the magnum opus that was to have been your novel.
Well, I'm finally ready. Not with the novel that I had meant to write (though it was somehow shoemakered together) but with a knock-off, my Fire In Bradford, with which I hope to read on the podium--hoping to bring down the house.
Something is happening to Professor Irwin Kovalenko.
It is happening, 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 campus in summer, with its stone arches and lentils among the flowering tiger lillies and cultivated roses, the college a jewel in the Caledon hillls of Ontario, and it is here that Professor Kovalenko freezes up.
He had laboured mightily, toiled for years, thought, fucked, drank.
And now this.
A friggin' clown.
But somehow he gets through the reading.
There is faint applause.
He bows, goes in among he audience, takes off his mortarboard hat, turns it upside down, uses it like a panhandler's cup.
And strangely, there is the first hollow click of coin.
And the tragicomedy of this is that there is suddenly wild applause.