Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Every good post deserves a failing one
It was one of those mornings after a night of drinking, letting off steam,in a euphoria, as if on drugs, still in the Dionisaic bloom of youth, possessed, he thought, of a body that would never corrode or wither, of living forever, of being a drunken artist, constructing huge, sprawling novels in the barroom air, bragging, fighting--but knocked down off his barstool at least once.
It was probably the concussion that now left him wandering the streets, somehow still high, with this eerie feeling of being able to see around corners, of being omnipotent and omniscient. The mania of it all.
It was a feeling state he had come upon pretty often of late as a blocked writer, missing his deadline decade to produce something fine at 40. He had not completed his novel. His ego, built up for years after a series of journalisic successes--stopped being fed. He had the odd sense of dying of starvation. But here and there the CARE package of a published short story. Yet this was not enough. Mere palliative. Still, there was the alcohol, but the euphoria was short-term. Yes, sure, he could get drunk, tell people at the bar you had to destroy before you could create, of quoting entire passages of the Iliad and Odyssey, like a real phoney, and telling all how wonderful it was to have had a university education, that anybody who didn't have one was not yet fuly drawn out,inchoate, like maybe an animal. This made him popular not at all. There were other bibles, other people.
And he had not completed his own biblos.He had not run in the literary Olympics, matched against those better than he. He had become not even an also-ran. Now his own instincts were animal.the success, the pleasure. Gotta get! So there had been success, considrable success as a short-sprint writer.
He was working, now, as a columnist for the Telegram, well paid, and he supposed, still among the writing elite, but he had not completed his novel, the sine qua non for any journalist, and some people had said, well, thank God, the guy is insufferable with his poses and his superiorities. Something like Zippy Lood King out of the underground comics, Fat Cat Charlie Alpha with the big mouth and evey bigger stomach and capacity, devouring other columnists, but too fat himself to be devoured. Falstaff of the cocktail hour. Full of shit, lying bragging,
And yet when he had friends over after the party, hoping to impress them with his wall-to-wall library, they asked for his book. But there was none, merely a collection of short stories and a monograph on William Blake, which was really part an old thesis. There was no book. But he could live, act, drink like a writer.
He had come to work still half-drunk like this, his head still fulll of epiphanies and entire passages of the novel he was yet to write, to tell everybody about, but this was reality here at the editorial office. He had a job, while other writers had not. Writers are notoriously dysfunctional, unemployable. He was, at least, employable, though through the graces of a kindly editor. His job? He had to write rings around ads with his clever observations from bar-side, with which he somehow made a living and proved, at least to himself every day that he was not a failure.
"Hah. Made it to work, did you? said the editor, blowing smoke rings from his Havana.
"You know something?" Said the canny, bearded editor.
"You should write when you get feeling like this, this sense of seeing around corners that you tell me about. No, don't just talk about it.
"Don't tell me how you feel. Write it down. That's where the gold is.
"Write it down. Write it down. Write, write even if it turns out to be drivel. I will edit it into something. Write your about your block, if you have to. Just churn out the copy. Writing is really entertinment, you know. Mere entertainment."
Writing was entertainment.
And drinking and writing seemed to go hand-in-hand.
So he'd write about drinking, usually beginning with, "Excuse me, said the lady at the bar..."
Then he would try to make her interesting, coquettish, funny. And somehow flawed.
Like himself. But she, gloriously so. She told him her secrets, that men were beasts, especially her "honey", the one she was living with. He began a lovelorn for tomorrow's column.
Aping Dear Abby. People would read.
Trying to be the Moliere of the columnist set,setting up scenes, dramatizing here and there, lapsing into French in this bilingual country, making his lady at the bar seem like drama, like Irma la Duce. But there had been a faltering at this morning's writing. He was sudeenly almost in a panic. Blocked even at this?...You were only as good only as your last piece, and God help you if you put in a bad performance on this day, or else the Press Club would know all about it immediately and they'd be the first to tell you.
Oh what the hell. It was all fluff and flummery, any idiot could do it, stand-up comic of the typographic set, giving everybody else, he thought a case of typographic penis envy...But that morning, he produced a really bad column and it seemed the whole world sudenly knew about it. Certainly the wags at the Press Club.
The fall from popularity was immediate.
"I pay you for shit like this?" from the now- angry editor.
"I could sit here at the office and drieam up stuff all day...But it's gotta be good stuff. Where is it, Zippy?
"Running a little dry?"
Well there were palliatives for this. Things the neighbour said, things you saw on TV, cutting one's grass.
"Good," said the editor smoking his Havana. But is it art?
Is it art indeed.
He recalled after last night's debauch, of walking along Queen Street West and be drawn somehow to an icon in the window, a poster, really for the upcoming Olympics in Vancouver.
In boldface, the Latin motto taken from the Greek,
Citius, Altius, Fortius.
‘Swifter, Higher, Stronger.’
"Well, not so swift, nor not so strong, and not so high today, though the alcohol had given him a huge short-term lift.
It seemed time to pay the piper for all those superiorities in his columns, the satires, what fools these mortals be.
And he, the seeming immortal in his amber haze of whiskey.
He had taken now to carrying a flask
He pulled it out now out of his vest pocket.