Monday, July 19, 2010

Trying to be Henry Miller...But he used the F-bomb a lot...Wrong novel title?

Before completion, success
If, before completion, the little fox dips his tail into the water,
nothing will further.

--The I-Ching.

I am tossing the I-Ching again. Last time I did it when I quit my glamorous job with the slick Canadian Magazine and decided to buy a cottage in the backwoods to be a writer.

Well. Great expectations. I sat for two years with something like a painter's Blank Canvas feeling. All set up. All needs met. Enough money to last two years, in relative luxury, bucolic arcadian existence or no

Wifey is trying to be diplomatic. "You picked a hard thing to be, baby. You switched from journalism to fiction...It is not the same thing. You had to have learned your craft...You haven't really."
Meanwhle back comes the answer from Stanford University, California, where I had applied to get into the writer's program there.
Said the late Wallace Stegner (of Big Rock Candy Mountain),
"Your talents seem to lie in journalism.
The program is for fiction writers.
...Besides, you're not an American."

Oh fok! Bad enough in Canada when in the Fifties not being born here was a crime. Today any number of exotics can play, to spite old Plato who had said that the promotion of foreigners was really bad for a country, certainly Athens at the time.
Well, I watch foreigners here being promoted every day.
Many come aleady wealthy, some of them are even nasty, just getting off the plane and demanding thier rights, and pee on you, "foreign" devil.

Well, I had the sense of being peed on by Wallace Stegner.
Well, better to be rejected by the best in their country to be than some hack T.A. in a writing program.

For Wallace Stegner, was really a super American in his writing, I was not an "American enough" for the Stanford Writing Program.. And I hadn't yet attained a satisfactory level of skill in fiction to be admitted to this Ivy League school.

Eventually, I had to settle for the Instituto Allende, Mexico,accredited then by the University of California.
SeƱor, we will get you your MFA, But first your novel. We have to see.

Well, better luck. A scholarhip after they read my Black Icon novel. Eventually a fellowship. They made me a professor...But of what? Non Fiction, that's what.

Well, maybe the great Wallace Stegner was right.

Still, my ego keened like a trapped hare when it began to dawn on me that my talents were more like ambulance -chasing than being the elitiist with his quill up in his posh study, the very model of that famous New Yorker logo, the guy with the top hat and the pince-nez.
Damn. I would never be able to put "Fiction Writer" on my tee shirt.
So through academe and journalism, no matter how successful I became in those fields there was also the nagging thought that I was not sine qua non, not a real writer.
I was meanwhile seeing that America had changed her mind. They were now promoting foreigners. Jerzy Kosinski's
The Painted Bird was already a bestseller--and he, to my envious mind--was a Polack.
Yeah, but the Painted Bird was art. I was back in See Spot Run, with Dick and Jane.

Smarting with a sense of not being up there with the best, I had another read of the late Jerzy Kosinski.
"Being There."

Oh-oh, I smelled a rat when I read this boiler plate. It was about an idiot who became president of the United States.
Bullshit. This is impossible. You have to be smart!

...And then along came Dubya.
Prescient man that Jerzy Kosinski!

Well, I was was by now neither talented nor prescient, it seemed to me.

So I went off and wrote a real novel, about a displaced person trying to hold it all together in Tornto.

Well. Some "damning with high praise" from above. A grant of money. But fizzle.

Years went by. I took on the cast of the Canadian would-be writer. In short, I became a prick. I drove away my family, went back to the cottage to be the next Canadian Honore' de Balzac.

Oh-oh. Another book, another fizzle.

Tough luck, Henry Muck.

And now neither chick or child.

What now?
Write about squalor, says Salinger in his "To Esme From Love and Squalor."

I became a friggin' bum.

And met there a bummette.

Hey, squalor and then even love!

I decided to write about love and squalor.

The book will be out this week.

I pray I have not become Rumpelstitkin.

...Who was an asshole....

(The I-Ching again):

Before completion, success.
If before completion,
the little fox dips his tail into the water
Nothing will further.

Next week will tell whether or not I had thrust my entire major appurtenance into mud. But it's almost too late now. An adolescent Confucious joke rings in my mind.

"Man who f*ck on hillside not on level!

I had set out to follow the wisdom of Lao-tse.

More like Rumpelstiltskin.

Or Mudhumper.


Mona said...

don't worry, even those who became famous were not sure about 'what' they had created. Beckett could never answer who Godot was, since he himself was not sure. So no one really knows...

Not American? Was Jhumpa Lahri an American till she married this publisher of hers?

Mona said...

PS I don't like your comment on my blog. It clearly means you did not 'read' :P

Charles Gramlich said...

JOurnalism and fiction have a pretty long connection. Hemingway and London wrote both. That's a pretty good pair to wave about.

TomCat said...

In History of the World the first neolithic painter was quickly followed by the first art critic, who looked down his nose and peed on the painting on the cave wall. Critics have not changed much over several thousand years. Nevertheless, I trust you will do well, because the quality is there.

ivan said...


Even in Toronto,I have heard of, even scanned, the writings of Jhumpa Lahri. In factm I just had to put up her photo now, just now on my blog.

I guess like many another Eastern European, I am somewhat visceral, and seem to have been dazzled by Jhumpa's picture, and then your photo--which sort of blunted my reading of any text. :)

ivan said...


I think Papa almost singlehandedly invented the crypic, journalistic form in the novel..."Where the words come straight and clean." said...

Well, thankee, TomCat.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Paint the bird red, Ivan, paint it red. Then you'll have a painted bird ... if not, give them the bird Ivan, give them the bird. said...

Funny thing, JR,

When I finally graduated at the Instituto Allende, some writers there said my first novel written there, The Black Icon, was a lot like The Painted Bird.
But some of the praise came from people like my friend Clifford Irving, a documented liar who claimed in print he was Howard Hughe's batman though all of the late "aviator's" psychotic episodes.

...Well, in tradition, poets usually are accompanied by a liar, no?
Or is that spelled lyre, a totally different montage of words?

Holy Howard, Batman!

And, BTW, thanks for the note.
Made my night.

I hope your ADOPTED BEHAVIOURS, is er, Adopted.

Mona said...

Uh oh!

Et Tu Ivan?

As I say this, at this moments, Millions of microwrinkles must be forming in my face!

Substance Ivan, Look for the substance!

Anonymous said...

Busking is what we call prostitution in're so cute
though Ivan that everyone would think you were a police decoy. Try the
cardboard sign at the freeway exits, that is if you could put on the
sad face when the cars pass by and not flip them the one finger salute
when they see you are invisible.

Missed this whole thread because of this crap internet connection,

be well said...


I am finding substance in your writing, nuggets of gold, but at first blush it seems some good ole Ben Franklin editing is needed to sort-of Westernize the story. Hm. Give it constitution?
But still a beauty! said...


Only recently computer literate, I used to have nerve storms over internet commentions....But it's getting better and my neurons seem to have lined up to be plucked by the web.
Migod, McLuhan was right! Technology changes man.
He didn't quite say technology is man, as his buddy, a Dr. C Abrams over at the now-defunct Centre of Science and Technology, U. of T.--said to me.

My intention was to go ver an interview Marhall McLuhan, but by this time he had had a complete emory loss...Damn price of greatness!

Mona said...

Oh no no no!

If anything, I have to Indianize it more. What do they call it here? Pidgen English!

That is the whole point. I am nowhere if I sound westernized! I have to be an Indian writer, if at all! said...

Well, Kipling could do it--he went both ways between the straight english and Indian patois. Hemingway also in the Snows of Kilimanjaro.

But I do find most times that Jhupha tends to "jump me", and so does old Solman Rushdie...But not V.S. Naipaul.

Perhaps find the trick of V.S. Naipaul?
Perhaps it's because I'm from the old school of journalism, which demands in magazine form anyway, for a story to be constructed on a kind of three-legged stool, that is to say, on LEAD, BODY and POINT.

In good fiction, as in the case of Tillie Olsen, the story can be stream of consciousness, and the "lead, body and point"worked into the entire narrative, at which final stroke of the pen, the story becomes symbolic. It ringhs throuhout like a bell...Perhaps that is your style.
Take your story of The Curse. What is your most powerful symbol here? The curse?...Well, it does kind of ring throughout...But it seems to me, not very loudly.
I would suggest reading Dylan Thomas play for radio, "Under Milk Wood" for an extension of this particular way of writing about your childhood.
But I'm an old journo with a creative flair; I suppose. I have to have my postulants, and while there really are no rules for creative wrirting, I would say all well-though-out stories are constructed like a house. They have a foundation,walls, and roof--Like your old temple?
So I have my own rules..

These postulants have to be kept in mind, otherwise the story might lean towards the inchoate, maybe in three languages.
...I guess I'm a sucker for Aristotle' Beginning, Middle and End.
It seems to me that good writing has to jog memories, for both Asian and Westerner. There is a common consciousness afoot...But if the bell of symbolism is not properly struck, it can, go, er, clunk.


Mona said...

Curse was hardly a story :) It was an incident reported

Tell me what do you think about This

I just want a frank opinion, if stories like this can go into making of a collection of memoirs. said...


The collection of memoirs. Yes, definitely.

Mona said...

On the contrary & on second thoughts I feel that that particular one that I pointed out would rather make a short story than a memoir.

...But then I can't be sure, ha! I am no least not a creative writer! said...


I would keep it as a memoir at present. There are entire passages within the memoir that would make incredible short stories--like the frog you were expected to dissect in Biology--but the durn thing was still alive and jumping into your lap!

I was thinking of that anecdote all day!

I'd say do the memoir first and later on break it up into short stories. said...

Note to JR,

I am trying to access your facebook page as per request, but I always have bad luck with my browsers, be they Mozilla or Gorilla.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Ivan, will you accept this rose? A "friend request" is on its way.

ivan said...


I am having trouble with facebook. It will not accept my password, ord or new.
Certainly accepting the ah, rose.
But I can's get onto your facebook page.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Hey Ivan, I'd have to hide you anyway - one of the wonderful features of facebook. On a much more serious note: You're not missing anything on facebook anyway.

Mona said...

When will your book come out of press! I am waiting!

Mona said...

JR is right. You don't miss anything on facebook...

...unless you miss digging up old corpses...

the walking man said...

Ivan...I love those photos of that handsome man in the gas station jacket and the well kept hair. Who is he? Someone famous? said...


The book will come out on Monday (Jul 26). Unfortunately this will be on a full moon. And I will be manic at that time. Howl!

re Facebook.

You mean there are necrophiliacs on facebook looking for dead ones? :) said...


Heh. I guess I had to find a male counterbalance for beautiful authoress Jumpha Lahri (above).

Actually I had meant to re-post the image of your poetry book, STINK but I couldn't find the GIF. But I found your old pictures and put them up.

...Actually, I was concerned that JR was getting all the attention in the last blog and I neglected you and Eric 1313 and others from Detroit.
BTW, I see on TV that there are folks trying to get a renaissance going for Detroit...Regrouping, pulling back, accepting its reduced population, trying to live together...At least somebody is trying.
A country's once cultural icon gone to seed. But there is apparently a rebirth, or talk of a rebirth.

Mona said...

Lair Lair! Jhumpa Lahri came much later! ;)

Ivan Ivan! What is this? I go to your profile and see you marked as a Pisces!!!

Have I got your birthday wrong???

Mona said...

I guess I might have something to do with the full moon connection! I was born on a full moon night, so was my husband and so was my son. Then I also got married on a full moon night!

I hope I am not a wear wolfess!

Mona said...

PS> don't tell anyone that I used a bad word but 'necrochoading' is exactly what facebook is all about!

JR's Thumbprints said...

Hey Ivan, have you had the chance to check out the review of my little chapbook? I'd certainly value your opinion regarding it.

Here's the link: said...


Well, your reviewer, Spencer Dew is one crackerjack of a writer himself.
Dew likely better than yew. Or me.

The last part of his review of Adopted Behaviors:

This man, too, works in a prison, swallows his daily poison, and sticks to the set trajectory with no mind toward anything resembling either satisfaction or defeat. The story is called “Jail Bait,” but there’s no baiting, really, no pursuit, no capture, just worms that will ultimately eat us and the hooks that, in the meantime, go through us all. The sense one gets is that in Tomlinson’s world anything more than that is a two dollar word–a fancy fantasy, a make-believe abstraction–with no place in reality...

Yikes. There is no redemption? Abandon all hope all ye who enter here? I'll have to have another look at the story. Mr. Dee suggests you offer no exit.
I suppose a Jean Genet could make art of this, this world of hooks and cankers. And yet for Genet, out comes Our Lady of the Flowers, an anti-Mariology poem that portrays Mary not as the Divine Virgin, but rather a homosexual named Divine,Genet's former bunk buddy, with whom Genet seems in love, especially at the time of Divine's execution.

Sturm und Drang. For Genet what had been up is a project through which he will almost pull Mary and the Church down... Gloriously pulled down down through one of the finest long poems in the French language."Our Lady of the Flowers." Genet spins and fahions a world of love out of this prison bedlam.
(Whoops! the full moon is upon me.
...I am now moving to the manic).

...So you need to get a biggie-on for some prisoner, and the two of you transcending he ordinary reality of bars and bells and writng poems mash for each other? :)
(Wow. This is getting bipolar, at least, over here).:)

Mr. Dew in his criicism suggests you have become hardened to the condition of the average inmate. Allmost nihilistic, nearly incapable of the Greek feeling of Laeticia, the yearning for sweetness and light.
But how do you find sweetness and light in the Michigan Corrections system?
Some review.
Some question. said...


I am not a Pisces. And I hope you are not one, for after a hilarious read of an obscure and nasty book titled "Sexual
Astrology", it was revealed to me that "Pisces like to roll in shit."


(I am only quoting above).

Anyway, I'm a Cancer, looniest of the mooniest.

My birth certificate has an error in it, and my son, putting up my blog header, deemed me a Pisces...So maybe I like to roll in shit? The mind boggles.

Fact is, I was born July 7, l938, into Depresssion and the Second World War...I still can't get over that "bombed" feeling--an no one was drinking.
Still get the feeling that for most of my life, I have rolled in familiar substance. Ha.

So I am a Cancer. Yep. said...


While struggling with Latin, I was amused by the word for wolf. Lupus.
Sounded kinda gay to me. Howlsy-Wowlsey?

But later, in Mexico, I came across the word Loba--female werewolf.

Well, that sounded scarier.

I think I met one in Mexico.

I still shudder.

Gringa Loba take your soul!

Was a durn precious thing to lose.

Mona said...

Great review that, about JR memoirs!

No I am not even vaguely close to Pisces . I am a Capricorn who are the terrible people! said...

Capricorn Dec 22?

Practical and prudent
Ambitious and disciplined
Patient and careful
Humorous and reserved

On the dark side....

Pessimistic and fatalistic
Miserly and grudging.

Not to worry. Sound like you were born at about the Feast of Aiid. Important birhdate in most religions.

Like Dec 25? :)

Mona said...

January 11th to be exact. And no, I am not miserly. But most capris are! said...

From your e-voice, you sound to me like a most generous (and to borrow a phrase from my relatives by marriage), sympathisch
Actually, your e-voice is American.
No "pidgin english."

Mona said...

:D strange you always say that!

Because they always tell me that I was a native American spiritual leader in my last life :D

If there is a 'last life' at all... said...

Well, old Cristfo Colombo must have been bewitched...Came over here and called them Indians.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Hey Ivan, I'm not all doom & gloom; My way out is "retirement." But enough about me. I can't wait to get ahold of your novel. I'd even suggest sending a copy to Spencer Dew for a litle PR work. I'm sure he'd appreciate it. said...


Mona has alredy done a wonderful review of THE FIRE IN BRADFORD.

But I'd certainly welcome on from the august Spencer Dew.

...That guy so smart that even his goldfish travel not in schools, but universities.

Donnetta Lee said...

Ivan: Mona and I have the same birthday, I believe. Unless I am remembering incorrectly.

Write, write, write. Right, right, right. Rite, rite, rite.

But I ramble now. D

Mona said...

Donetta, we do have the same birthdate ...

Ivan, Mark is gone again :(

Ivan, its his birthday on the 28th I believe. I was sure, but now I am not. if it day before yesterday no one wished him!!!

Ivan I feel terrible about this! I was thinking of doing a post for him for his birthday!

Also, Buf, another co blogger, died a few hours from now.. :( :(

the walking man said...

I have not abandoned the blog I simply took 5 pieces down. I will be posting again in the morning. Read your email old man.

ivan said...

Donnetta and Mona,

Capricorns are cool.


Practical and prudent
Ambitious and disciplined
Patient and careful
Humorous and reserved

Yep. said...


Soddy, old chap.

This hundred-degree heat is getting me at about the time I must keep all my lights on, though I have been told at least once that I am of sort of low wattage.

I have just finished a blog extolling Mona's critical gifts and I think the heat has finally gotten to me...I will get to the email as soon as it's morning and it's not so blamed hot!

And BTW: Happy Birthday, Man!