Monday, June 07, 2010

Melvin Mole finally under control

Somehow it happened.

Thirty years of stumbling around, mislaying parts of family, business, houses--many houses--good friends and at least seven of the best women one could love--to finally crash land on Main Street Newmaket ON, accompanied, at least metaphorically, by two Mexican goats (have noticed how adorable young kids are as they tentatively clatter along?)

Ivan and his goats on Main Street, pursued by the health department. Yeah. People finally got my goat.

A cartoon frame pushes it's way into my consciousness.
In Mexico, I had worked once again on my thesis on MAD Magazine. It is the image of Melvin Mole, finally chained and dungeroned, Melvin Mole, the Man out of Control, rat-faced, file-nosed, bepimpled.
There is a jailer, grating, while he picks his teeth after a KFC meal. "You've dug you last hole, Mole. You're under control!

But somehow it happened.
Just befoe electrocution, there is a letter pushed through the bars. It is from a Montreal publisher.
"We like your novel, and we'd like to do it."

Thirty years on the wilderness. Thirty years of risking all, thirty years of being Melvin Mole, underground man, though like in the song about The Bastard King of England, somehow having ones women by twos and threes. Women can sense extreme stress in a man, and that somehow makes him attractive to them, no matter how ragged and funny the man.
Melvin Mole about to be executed but reprieved not by the governor, but a Montreal publisher.

"But don't think it's all gonna be roses from now on," the keeper hisses as he grudgingly opens the cell door. "You got a lot of suffering yet to do."

Free. Out on Main Street, Boogie Street, Leonard Cohen without the talent, but very nearly as old, Christ out of the tomb, but this time cagier, more careful.
It was a surprise that the turnkey actually had had a sense of humour, "You've got a hard Icon to bear" (referring to my novel, The Black Icon which steadily sold through private publishings but never by a big publisher).

Yep. Incongrous image. Melvin Mole carrying this huge church icon on his back. Did he steal it? Clucking Serbo-Croatian abbots in pursuit, thinking he had stolen from the sacristy.

But these are talk balloon out of a perfervid brain full of reaseach on what many would say the ridiculous. Master's thesis on MAD Magazine. The fucking guy is MAD!

A mole with an icon on his back. Incongrous image.
One could see a cat with an icepack on his back as being cool, but a mole with an icon on his back? What up?

During the McCarthy hearings, a young lad was brought up to testify as to EC comics seducing the innocent. "It was the comic books that dunnit to me."

Well, it was the comic books that dunnit to me for sure.
Yeah. Yeah. The zany thesis.
But the plan, after graduation was to write the big book.
And like with everything else, it takes a very long--too long-a time.

Thirty years in the wilderness. Fragments of headlines while working as a headline writer.


The hicks were not enamoured over a novel I had done and published about them. I called them The Main Street Soldiers,
riff-raff on the street, townspeople becoming paupers before the Wal-Marts finally did the town in.

...But one is free now on an empty street, full of CLOSED and FOR SALE signs.

Dilapidated Mole Man, clutching manuscripts.

And carrying this huge Icon!


eric1313 said...

Melvin Mole as hero to the damned.

The mention of the icon on his back keeps throwing me back to scenes from the Greatest Story Ever Told, waiting for Alfred E. Newman to deny him 3 times before the cock crows, or the cow belches...

Somehow Alfred E's book on his version of events would make the cut after the hack process performed by the stodgy and controlling Editors at Nicaea Mass Market Press. Yet the equally doubting Gospel according to Hans Brickface would be dropped in favor of "agreement with a certain interpretation". Editors have never changed and never will.

But at least you remember your goats, even if someone got them long ago. One to King Herod Hurst III, and one to-go for God, made the we he likes it.

May I take your order sir?


ivan said...


What a riff!

The comment is so hip, that I swear you must have once met T-Bone Walker, and Chuck Berry would never punch you in the mouth for stealing. Hah. What a performance!

Jesus. I think you're beating me a scat writin'.

Sid down in your cat seat.

And I'll serve the fries! :)

JR's Thumbprints said...

You've inspired me to write about another Melvin. Melvin Garza, doing life for murder. Give me a day or two or three. said...

Well, John Dillinger had one prediction wrong when he said "two things are certain: Taxes and electrocution."

eric1313 said...

Inspiration is never too far around the corner in these parts I've noted. That's why i like it so much!

And also why I felt trepidation to come back by, didn't want to find myself immune to the magic I find here, was afraid I would. Glad you hollered at me the other day, as I now know how wrong I was! I do like being wrong when in cases like this.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sometimes you guys are just too erudite for me. Or maybe you're just talking about moles and I'm thinking too complexly. said...

Charles, I guess that's why we have Humanities along with Science in the universities, and it looks like so far the Humanities have not yet been expunged.
Art, poetry, fiction.
And painting a Moustache on the Mona Lisa.
There are odd times when even the paranoid might just stumble upon a truth. Not the same method as in the case of the sane scientist, but sort of getting it a' priori.

(But then maybe I'm gettin' too high falootin'.
I tried once to explain a priori and a posteriori to an acadamic upgrading student (JR's Sweathogs?), and he said, "Why don't you just stick it up your a' posteriori?

TomCat said...

Ivan, I hop that bit with the goats is not a romantic thing. ;-) said...


Get 'em young, I say. Before they grow horns.

the walking man said...

Is the manuscript in the required bi-lingual format or are you flouting politically correct convention again? said...


Straight English.

The French Canadians at the National Library legal deposit office are the warmest, fuzziest people. They give you a sense of warm welcome and belonging, and, of course, you have to love them back.

Mona said...

I like comics too.

Hey, they say that writing is one thing, getting published is another business...

...& writers are bad businessmen..

Therefore the Melvin mole...and..

Therefore I stay away from publishers...

eric1313 said...

I share Mona's point of view on publishers. Though my experience with them is fair all in all--fair considering I have not been accepted--it's been years since I have tried to convince one to accept me.

Instead, and this may sound nutty, I would love to make them try to convince me to accept them! Probably will never happen, but still I would like to turn the tables just a twist on them. Until then, I'll keep writing for the art. And to entertain a very small group of people, and sometimes myself too...

But you never know! One day I might become a carpet bombing 20 submissions a day for 2 week stretches kind of guy, but right now thinking about it only turns me off. And plainly said, I prefer to be turned on. You know how it goes. said...

Eric, It might have been the literary atmosphere at your college.. Was it Eight Mile High?
Did you have a student paper or literaty Magazine?
That makes all the difference to a budding writer at college: Two or three literary outlets right on campus!

The budding writer takes chances, sometimes wins, surprisingly, with an actual published piece; his/her fear of rejection abates as articles and stories are actually printed....At my Ryerson, the demand for writers seemed greater than the supply. Copy! copy! editors needed copy, and there were so few writers,( most student too busy with regular programmes to bother sullying literature with what they saw as their scrawls).

I think we Journalism students at Ryerson Polytech, Toronto, were a little bit spoiled. There was the student paper-- and, surprisingly, a daily newsaper-- where you could fill some unused ad space with a poem or witticism. There was the literary magazine called The Ffth Page...Or if you were something of a mover, you could be editor of your own section of the current newspaper or magazine and forcefeed your own poetry or fiction upon the page that you now "owned," who was going to stop you?.
We journalism student would do stories on each other.
...I told somebody I wrote poetry and fiction and voila! out comes an article on me as poet, and of course, it included my poetry written up to that time.
As I say, we were spoiled at a time when a young Truman Capote himself would have killed to have something published in a college paper.
This was clearly literary sandlot and not the real world.
The real world would come when you worked, while still a sophomore at the Toronto Star, which was very, very heavily edited and you were lucky to get your name attributed to an obituary that you wrote.
"At the Star, we don't have stars. Get used to it!"
And at the Globe, "Anybody with a zippy style is shat upon at the Globe"....And they certainly shat on me, until luckily, a woman editor came in who liked my "zippy" style.
But soon, Moira was gone and so was I. Back to the grey old Globe.
I guess with you guys, the Eight Mile High alumi, the atmosphere might have been something like my college's except that by now everybody has a computer and everybody is a publisher and the audience of your peers is right out there.
Seems that technology is everything, the medium is indeed the message and it's the ATM's and Entertainment Tonight articles that use up all the paper. There is less and less room for the so-called creative writer. And the few slick magazines, largely edited by snots, have no use for the freelancer.

I do know, Eric that you did get a poem actully published here and there, even in spite of a pee-poor market.

It is a pee-poor market.

But that's how it was, oddly, even in Balzac's time, except that there were no computers. How good Balzac had to be-- and he was!--as a young man to break through the Sir Walter Scott mystique as we now try to pin a tail on Harlequin.
And yet, the new writers keep coming. Armies of them are gathering. I read the work of Brian Miller, frequently a commentator on Charles' page--and am smitten by his cool kitten poetry. It is so deft, so fine so sensitive.
Myself I am more of the Henry Miller mold.

Fuck You.
A poem by Ivan Prokopchuk

Where have the universities failed? :) said...


Your comment is elgant and to the point.
Yeah, writing is the fun part.

Publishing more like the real world, sometimes dog-eat-dog.

Mona said...

It is indeed Ivan..

But writers are also the people who have the best revenge... on the publishers who refused them...

..for isn't success the best revenge?

ivan said...


You are a woman of amazing insight. Almost into the place where Ivan lived, or used to live.

Years ago, I was "jacked around" by a Canadian publisher, We'll call him Alpha Press.

For years and years, I was told that my second novel could have been pushed through as an "absurdist, surreal masterpiece'" but he did say it still wasn't "Alpha's kind of book." He still suggested I work the book over and "try us again with it."
Well, I worked it over and over took two years at it, and finally sent it to Alpha for the third time. Meanwhile I met a beautiful girl from the Ontario government who said she had all this money to give out to budding writers, and she would not get her budget back if she couldn't find any, and would Alpha got to bat for me with my "promising novel" if I could get Alpha's editor to give the okay for the grant.

Well, I phoned the editor, he said, yeah, I will recommend you on the strength of the book you sent. Sure.

So I got the Ontario Arts Council grant, but soon after this, I did something stupid. I was broke, demanded an advance on the now recommended book before the actual publishing decisison. The editor balked, said "we are not such good friends" and fired the book back at me.
Years went by and here I was an award-winning novelist with no novel out. Friggin' phoney!

So I got a job as a newspaper columnist, got to have a big following,--oddly mostly women-- used my success as a columist to isssue the "failure" of the novel. through the presses of Topic Magazine, the slick that I worked for.
And I somehow got Jerry Barker, the owner of the magazine to pay me for the book as it now began to be issued in serial form, my book in segments now istead of the column I had.
Well, eleven installments were published, Jerry Magazine Man was getting impatient over my switch to novelist; he was not overly impressed with The Hat People. "I am paying you week by week for this shit?"
Well, shit or no, I was making my point against Alpha Press.

The editor of Alpha, who had really rejected my book, novelist's grant or no, had phoned about some matter and
asked about my novel, convinced that it was still in my drawer. He almost blanched when I told him that it was now out. "Got it published, huh?"

This was so a Melvin Mole moment where his keeper grates, "You almost got away. You slipperly little rat!"

So yes. There is a kind of revenge on a publisher if you prove that you are publishable after all and that he was full of little beans.
But my revenge was shortlived. The magazine publisher, Gerry Barker, said "no more novel segments. You are impoverishing me with this at $175 a chapter every week (this was l975 and would amount to a thousand today).
"Stop this artsy-fartsy bullshit, I could dream up crap like that any time, and go bac to being a regular columnist wihch is what your really are."

So I went back to writing my column, but the book got me notoriety. On the strength of it I was hired as a teacher of writing and Seneca College and I could now tell both publishers to piss up a rope.

(I am neglecting my ex-wife here. She stuck by me for years while I was failing as both novelist and columnist, and were it not for her support I couldn't have afforded the hubris of telling two publishers to piss up a rope). But I was so proud.
They were going to make me a don.
"Karen, they are going to make me a don!
"People will no say, 'Hi there Don. How's it going, Don?'")

She did not say that if it weren't for her support I would have been Don Quixote.

Ah well. End of segment.

Mona said...

That is interesting :) Thanks for sharing!

TomCat said...

Hornier isn't better? said...


As long as we're into rural pursuits, why not geese?

There's something about the flapping of those wings...

eric1313 said...

Love the insights, as always. Glad you didn't compromise though it might have been easier on the ole life in some respects. But to your soul, where your art comes from, it would have been corrupting and fraudulent, so I totally agree with how you handled it.

And I did crack open the editor's tools one last time... changed the line you spoke of but still needed a syllable in that spot to keep rhythm... Some times I know to let feel take precedence over technique. My love of playing the blues taught me that. But your advice was sound and made the line work better.

Thanks for the support. I appreciate it so much. said...


Cheers. said...


Speaking of editors, they all seem a necessary evil. Or do they have a benign side?
I have this week been delving not into fiction, but in journalism

Here, as usual, there was considerable editing of my stuff, fiction or non-fiction.

Here is what I wrote into yesterday's Era Newspaper here in Newmarket, and in the 20 area papers that picked up my letter:


The current witch (shaman?) hunt over illegal cigarettes gives me images of Keystone Kops, Mounties jumping off their horses and cruisers at known illegal border points, and in their enthusiasm, going willy-nilly very nearly to the point of mistaking whiste for horse, or cigarette for reefer. Our governments have, over the last decade, tried to tax cigarettes out of the market. The predictable result is that, instead, this has created a black market which delivers cigarettes to Canadians for the price of a song. When the Mounites calm down, they say: "These imported, black-market produced cigarettes are available for sale on our streets and around our schools. It is estimated that these illegal smokes account for more than 30% of Canadian consumption and much higher than that in Ontario and Quebec. I would say this evidence points to the government's complete lack of commitment to enforce and control the distribution of illegal cigarettes. Local convenience store owners say, "This was entirely predictable based on the previous attempt 15 years earlier when taxation was tried as a way to encourage smokers to quit. The result then, as now, was that smuggling increased out of control." The astronomical overground tobacco prices have encouraged higher smoking rates among young people by tolerating the proliferation of cheap, black-market cigarettes. Premier McGuinty, be at least as smart as the former Prime Minister Jean Chretien--cut tobacco prices by t half. You'll find tobacco tax revenue to be about the same now, and fewer smugglers. ...But your government has never been known to be commonsensical like that. Police man/woman power wasted while there is murder and mayhem in the entertainment districts. Seriously, Premier. Get a life

Here is what came out, edited by, I think, Tracy Kibble, Newmarket Managing Editor:

The current witch hunt over illegal cigarettes gives me images of Keyston Kops
Our governments have, over the last decade, tried to tax cigarettes out of the market.
The predictable result, is,instead, this has created a black market that delivers cigarettes to Canadians for the price of a song.
The RCMP says these imported black market cigarettes are available for sale on our streets and around our schools.
It is estimated they account for more than 30 per cent of Canadian consumption and much higher than that in Ontario and Quebec.
I would say this points to the government's lack of commitment to enforce and contol the distribution of illegal cigarettes.
This was entirely predictable based on the previous attempt 15 years earlier, when taxation was tried as a way to encourage smokers to quit.
The result, then as now, was smuggling increased.
Astronomical legal tobacco prices have encouraged higher smoking rates among young people by tolerating the proliferation of cheap, black market cigarettes.
Premier Dalton McGuinty, be at least as smart as formere prime minster Jean Chretie, and cut tobacco prices by half.
You'll find tobacco tax revenue to be about the same as now, with fewer smugglers.


Heh. I kinda like the image of the Mountie mislaying his whistle and blowing his horse. But that's MAD.


TomCat said...

Goosing is fine, but not with fowl. :-) said...


I don't know what to say. I'm all feathers.

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