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.



Mona said...

Is there something really like a deadline decade. Plato said something about fifty being the maximum age of a poet, but I disagree...Many a good pieces have been produced by poets over fifty .

Thank goodness there is nothing like vaginal envy!

Charles Gramlich said...

I've gotten great ideas while drinking. Not great on the carry through though.

ivan@ creatrivewriting.ca said...


Voltaire, the prolific pampheteer and novelist, produced his last play, at, I think 84.

Dunno about "vagina envy", Maybe Richard Simmons dreaming in a sports goods store, but there was much made of The Vagina Monologues on Broadway. Even Canadian singer Alanis Morisette took part.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


Yes, the incredible detail and even grandeur of the alhocolic novel-dream seems never matched by later sober execution.

Says old Ovid, "Water drinkers can't write.

Mona said...

I could never get to see that one, although it was staged here too. Heard a lot about it though!

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Well, there is always the back story.

From a Wiki article,

Eve Ensler (author of the Vagina Monologues) was born in New York and is Jewish[1] She reports having been physically and sexually abused by her father when she was a child.[1][2] She graduated from Middlebury College in 1975. She married Richard McDermott in 1978, and divorced him 10 years later. She is the adoptive mother of actor Dylan McDermott, whom she adopted when he was 15 and she was 23.[3]

Eve wrote an article in The Guardian (June 12th 2010) in which she mentioned that she is receiving treatment for uterine cancer.

Anonymous said...

Hi folks,

My latest column is up at The Coast. It's about how progressive policy could keep low-income households from living in cold leaky buildings by marrying affordable energy and conservation programs. It's happening already on a small scale in one Halifax housing project: http://www.thecoast.ca/halifax/energy-poverty/Content?oid=1754699

Happy reading!

Chris Benjamin is the Sustainable City Columnist for The Coast (www.thecoast.ca). In 2006/2007 he worked as a journalist in Ghana. His first novel, Drive-by Saviours, will be published by Roseway in Fall 2010. His first book of nonfiction, Green Souls, will be published by Nimbus in Fall 2011. He shared an honourable mention in the 2009 National Magazine Awards. Chris has written fiction and features for The Toronto Star, VoicePrint Canada, This Magazine, Now Magazine, Descant, Third Person Press, Nashwaak Review, Pottersfield Press, Rattling Books, The Society, University of Waterloo Press, Z Magazine, Briarpatch Magazine, The Chronicle Herald, Coastlands, Progress Magazine, and many others.


Mona said...

Benji, How does one marry energy and conservation programme? :D

ivan said...


I guess that's a conudrum.

...Or an interesting montage of words.

TomCat said...

Sometimes I will wake up in the middle of the night with what seems a profound insight, only to drift off again and wake in the morning unable to remember what it was.

Mona said...

Tomcat, you should keep a notebook and pen by your pillow!

Ivan, I know, i was just pulling his leg ( Long Distance) :P

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


...Didnt' think of that. Roll over and go to sleep! I guess I didn't have any sense!

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

"All the cats and chicks
Can get their kicks
at the Eye Prop."

the walking man said...

I'll take 50% in this racket and be satisfied that the averages did not go against me. Hell i didn't even start to keep any of my writing until I was 46. I guess I simply squandered my best years on not getting educated and working on your car so I could take your money.

ivan@c reativewriting.ca said...


Yes, but look at how you're doing now. You have a huge cult following and people are taking you seriously

But yes, it's somehow the luck of the draw, though I think I had hit so-called success too early and didn't know what to do with it.

...Who would think, that someone who stuttered a bit, shuffled his feet when talking to you, and had a name somehow synonymous with Veal Cutlet-- would somehow stumble onto the best journalism school in the country, and land an immediate job as staff writer for the Star.
And then the asshole somehow married rich.
Quite frankly it was Wifey who played the role of Ariadne to lead me out the maze the Hamilton ON social contract that led "the immigrant" straight to the greasepit and the machine.
But it the last twenty years, The "Flowers for Algernon" guy ended up back in the greasepits, service bays and the dumpsters. (I was catching up with you?)That's what happens when you start to drink your life away.
Well, thank God this a-hole kept his manuscripts --in old Winn-Dixie shopping bags.
The shink said it was a good thing to have done that. :)

TomCat said...

Thanks Mona. I use to do that, but by the time my eyes focus enough to write, it's usually gone.

LOL, Ivan. Congrats on your Bigmouth Award ap PP. :-)

G-Man said...

Whats going on over here?

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


Wow. Thanks!

I have just placed the honour up on my blog above.

I did describe myself as "Fat Cat Charlie Alpha with the big mouth" right in the blog, as you might read.

Funny case of serendip.

But hey, It's usually seven years for me between any kind of award. Well, my novel, Light Over Newmarket (new edition) came out this week. Now the Polics Plus for being garrulous, I suppose.

I'll take it, I'll take it.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


What's going on? Check the pic at the top of my blog.

But really, you are going on.

I greatly enjoyed your dialogue betweent he Mayan calendar makers in your flash 55. Viz,

..(A heated discussion is taking place between Master Mayan Stone Cutter DeNumnutz, and his young apprentice Krill)."Master....These calculations are WAY off!19 KINS should be where 19 KATUNS are!The actual Doomsday Date is December 20th, 4012"!!!!!.'Look Krill...The Kings emissary is coming TODAY to pick this up...KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT'!!!!..

Damright it's good. I think you gor a zillion comments.


Donnetta Lee said...

The idea of never growing old and wrinkling. I think I had once, too. Maybe the drinking made him a believer in his youth. Maybe the drinking numbs the reality of his maturity. Enjoyed this read. D

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


You've always got this great insight.

I guess he thinks he was trying to bet back to the place he was before, but he was really mourning his youth, to which he could not return... Could not "come home" again.

Mona said...

So..what is it about the correct title thingy?

Ivan you should have gone and posted the 10000th, to get another award!

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


Title thingy.

I drink too much.

The 10,000th comment?
Very likely. I'm over at TomCat's blog all the time. I might just take a bead on that number, lead it, follow it, and just shotgun it, like a skeet shooter.
I'm not very accurate, but bigod, I got a lot of shotgun bbs. Shooting all the time, in all directions like a wild man on a l980 video game.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

PS to Mona,

I was risking rudeness in the title thingy. :)

Mona said...

ah well, that could have been a freudian slip...

I could do with a couple of drinks tonight, myself. I feel like a suicidal misanthrope tonight!

TomCat said...

Ivan, being publishes is a far greater award than my small recognition. On 10,000 you'll havwe to fight Lisa for it.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


Maybe a little humour might help.

I had a lady friend who said she felt not only misanthropic, but homocidal.

I told her I hoped I wasn't the homin she was going to cide.

(Lord, others have tried. :)

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


Your commenter, Lisa, seems like a very bright woman.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

PS to Mona,

Perhaps a little more low rent humout might help.

Talk about someone maybe just a little worse off.

I was thirsty last night, and had to go to a nightclub parking lot, which for me was really my liquor outlet, as the drunks sometimes leave an unopened beer or two lying around, ceratinly when the cops come; they eject the bottles out of their cars as fast and unobtrusively as they can.
Well, who happens to be in the parking lot but old Satchel here with his catcher's mitt.
It was a good night.
What should fly out of one new SUV than a 750mm bottle of JANEAU Greand Armaglac cognnac;it almost hit me on the head before I plucked it forth. Heh. I have been stewed all day. Pretty good taste for a dumpster diver, no?

To switch to football, here was one for the Gipper!

I am getting to be very athletic of late.

Or maybe reading the Bible too much.

Ask and thou shalt receive? :)

And this morning, in the same parking lot, I found a full package of cigarettes.

Why shop at Wal*Mart?

The world seems suddenly my liquor store and tobacconist

Mona said...

:) it seems that it was certainly your day to the hilt!

For me, even if I need a drink, I have nothing here at my mom's place where I am in right now...

You understand what I am saying?

To quote Philip Larkin :

" They fuck you up your mum and dad"

This be the verse...

ivan said...


In the Sixties, I first discovered legenday French singer Edie Piaf.
...And at about the same time, a new rocker, Melanie Safka, oddly, almost in the same tradition.
When I first heard Melanie, I had to pull the car over and stop.
It was too much for me, as a new writer, realizing the editors around me were changing my song around a little bit.
Here was Melanie:

Look what they've done to my song, Ma
Look what they've done to my song
Well it's the only thing I could do half right
And it's turning out all wrong, Ma
Look what they've done to my song

Look what they've done to my brain, Ma
Look what they've done to my brain
Well they picked it like a chicken bone
And I think I'm half insane, Ma
Look what they've done to my song

I wish I could find a good book to live in
Wish I could find a good book
Well, if I could find a real good book
I'd never have to come out and look at
What they've done to my song

La la la...
Look what they've done to my song

But maybe it'll all be all right, Ma
Maybe it'll all be OK
Well, if the people are buying tears
I'll be rich some day, Ma
Look what they've done to my song

Ils ont changé ma chanson, Ma
Ils ont changé ma chanson
C'est la seule chose que je peux faire
Et á§e n'est pas bon, Ma
Ils ont changé ma chanson

Look what they've done to my song, Ma
Look what they've done to my song
Well they tied it up in a plastic bag
And turned it upside down
Look what they've done to my song

Ils ont changé ma chanson, Ma...

Look what they've done to my song, Ma
Look what they've done to my song
Well it's the only thing I could do all right
And they turned it upside down
Look what they've done to my song

You might identify.

Meanwhile, I'm having a Sunday. Fork it.

Mona said...

Yea, that is exactly what they do...

To quote Larkin:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


Well, yes. I swear there was an ancestral Lizzie Borden, axe murderess in my family, for my mother often took an axe-handle to me and worse. But somehow the madwoman loved me, and it showed more often than not...As for my father, he often aimed a kick at me, but fell down more frequently than not. Hah. In a culture where men beat their wives, my mother would sometimes take a rolling pin to my father.

I met my wife, of Canadian culture.
She treated me like gold. This I was not used to. Sort of like Norman Bates in the movie, I took to reverting to some of my mother's traits. Poor woman finally had enough.

And yet the having of children. Fatherhood. I would not have missed this for the world. Beautiful children whom I did not abuse or browbeat. They are both successful, very successful adults.
Maybe you have to break the mold?
But the phantasm of family sins does always seem to rise. at the worst times.

Mona said...

If you can break the mold, nothing like it!

Show us a picture of your children would you? :)

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


Done. Right up top...but I had to do it subtly. No names. Internet. You know.

Mona said...

Ah! Great looking young woman and man!

Thanks for sharing :)

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