Tuesday, September 14, 2010

When a moth-eaten pro tries to get back in the game

It used to be held among big writers gone to seed, that a professional was at least safe among amateurs.

This may have been true in the old days of typewriters-- or among any number of fuzzy-eared incompetents in a creative writing class--but not today.
An idiot on a computer can make a football schedule sound interesting and relevant. Such is the nature of technnology...Just give the god out of the machine an idea, and it'll practically write it for you. We're getting close to Hallmark cards in the creating of fiction. Just give Hallmark the idea. Mark will finish the job.

So the old typewriter pro is no longer safe among amateurs. For them there is automatic thesaurus, spellcheck and Google-goosed ways to go.
So even a raving paranoid can be electronically augmented to actually saying something.
How many bloggers out there now? A billion?....Easy.
And its strange that in this electronic age, where McLuhan said Big Brother moves to the top--everybody still wants to be a novelist.
Well, nice work if you can get it.
Cyberspace, like a Boeing 727, can do anything for you but write your novel.
Keyboard or typewriter. As a novelist you are back to Square One.

Snoopy atop his doghouse.
It was a dark and stormy night.
Strafe marks along the roof and lawn. Curse you, Red Baron!

So when a professional ventures out to join a group of amateurs, or maybe a critique group where all hope to gain sustenance from each other--the unfortunate metaphor of a can of worms comes up--he is just another worm in the jar...and if you don't like what we're doing, get the funk out.


Forty years have passed since I worked for the magazine to which I now write as a supplicant. I used to be a sizeable fish here in the boonies in those days.
Now it's Square One.
Geez, I'm not a journalist any more, but would you take a used novel from this man?....I mean you did in the past. You even serialized my Black Icon novel, even if you left out a chapter or two to save money.

Anyway, here goes. I will thump my tub.
I endeavor, like any ambitious type looking for exposure, to write a news story about myself.
To wit,

Newmarket's prolific writer, pamphleteer and former teacher Ivan Prokopchuk has written a novel about Bradford, but watch ou! It's pretty Damon-Runyon. Guys and dolls--and some of the dolls have problems.
The Fire in Bradford is a novel along the lines of the antique movie The Professor and the Blue Angel. The professor meets his Marlene Dietrich, and to a straitlaced Prof recently divorced and lonely, this signals trouble right from the word go. Lana is glamorous. Among her other pursuits, she has a job jumping out of cakes at conventions. He is newly divorced and looking for love and identity. It is not a cake walk.
The two personalities clash, there is fire. There is Fire in Bradford, which in the Eighties, was a pretty wild place in some sections, as the call sign then was sex, drugs and rock and roll.
It is into this world that the poor professor is thrust into.
He falls in love with the vivacious, gorgeous Lana, he the mousy Professor Rath and she the racy Blue Angel.

This was not the familiar College, Professor!
This was a world of players, pimps and police and it seems any number could play. Except him.
He was not a weekend man, but a weakened man after separation from his wife. What he wanted was love, understanding, a new start, perhaps a new identity.
He would surely not find it in The old Village Inn environs.
So he is beaten from the start, caught in a menage-a-trois between Lana, her husband-- and even Lana's extra lover.
He soon discovers that five into four won't go.
After years of success and couthness at the college, he is something of a prude, and he just can't keep up with the fast style of Bradford Yuppies at the time.
He is finally dumped by Lana for an apparent drug dealer whom Lana needs to maintain her own supply.
She was not in love with the professor in spite of her love notes and entreaties to him as her possible way out. She was in love with the drug.
And so begins the professor's downfall as he descends into alcoholism and obsession over the lost Lana. "Only you," he cries into his beer at the Bonanza Tavern, while Lana marries the fourth man in what had really been a rectangle, not triangle-- and herself descends into a West End drug existence in Toronto.
But there is something of the Don Quixote to the professor.
He attemps a rescue of Lana, who, of course does not want to be rescued. He botches the attempt and is ever further rebuked and rejected.
Says one reviewer about The Fire in Bradford, "the fire is largely in his pants, Lana is unattainable --and for him and his obsession, there is no exit."
He squanders all his savings, finally travels the world, trying to find in motion what he has lost in space--the unnaturally beautiful but wild Lana--and ends up as a Main Street alcoholic in Newmarket. No exit.
He finally sits near a dumpter at the 404 Plaza where there is at least stale-dated food-- and writes his novel.

Well, what the hell it worked once for me at the Globe and Mail.

Here is hoping for luck at the Strobe and Snail.



Charles Gramlich said...

I think in the creative world, with rare exceptions, it's kind of "what have you done for me lately? The creative world has a short memory in general, with rare exceptions as I say.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


That is prescient! Especially when it comes to the creative world in Toronto.
BTW. The Toronto International film festival is on right now.

All of Hollywood is here at TIFF.
Jeezus, I gotta go out and do something for somebody. :)

TomCat said...

I, for one, depend on my gizmos, but political commentary is a different animal from creative writing.

I like the review, Ivan, in that you quickly descrbe the central conflict of the novel, but do you think you are giving too much information? Perhaps a little less might inspire more desire to find out by reading it.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Well, they might say "What does your wife think of all this," but she ain't around no mo'.

Neil Diamond:

"You'd be better of I know
With another kind of man..."

the walking man said...

I guess it just looks so easy to sit here and be witty and pretty and dumb. That's why the field got so crowded that and an explosion of sex after the war that is now blowing up or should I say booming up everyone who once had something but got madoffed. I have been at it for longer than a neophyte and I still can't get past the writing is what I do everything else is when I get around to it.

Question for you old man and everyone else who cares to answer...why the fuck is it so important that you publish to the world at large? Money? Celebrity? Ginsbugian entre into society so he could bugger boys? What is that so compelling? You are validated by the simple act of being able to string two intelligible sentences together. That alone puts you far ahead of most people.

I don't go to parties so no one whispers "Oh look who just came in it's that poet." and I am fine with that.

This the second piece I have read today of frustration about not having the icing for the cake. You got the cake. Time may have to make the icing after your gone. It did for Emily Dickinson. But then I suppose she thought herself a failure too, after that 2000th piece of poetry.

ivan said...


I am probably a frustrated Reader's Digest condenser of books.

For example, take Gone with the Wind.

I might undertake to condense, really condense:

"Miss Scarlett, the war is over!"

ivan said...


I am probably a frustrated Reader's Digest condenser of books.

For example, take Gone with the Wind.

I might undertake to condense, really condense:

"Miss Scarlett, the war is over!"

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...


Oh we poets try, Mark. We really try.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

But thoroughgoingness...Mark really does finish the job.

ivan said...


It's the Primaries.
I think Poltitics Plus had become an important and influential site.

Right at about the time I can't raise the site through my own web or google.

Have the Republicans finally gotten to you? Have they snuffed your site?

Well, there was that old country song:

Now old Doc Williams had troubles of his own
He had an ole' yeller cat who'd never leave home

Tried everything he knew to keep the cat away
(Even gave him to a preacher and told him for to stay)
But the cat came back
The cat came back the very next day
The cat came back
Thought he was a goner but the cat came back
'Cause he wouldn't stay away...

But in my paraoia, I think it's more sinister.
Like "Rooster", from old Alice in Chains:

Ain't found a way to kill me yet
Eyes burn with stinging sweat
Seems every path leads me to nowhere
Wife and kids, household pet
Army green was no safe bet
The bullets scream to me from somewhere

Yeah they come to snuff the rooster
Yeah here come the rooster, yeah
You know he ain't gonna die
No, no, no, you know he ain't gonna die

Here they come to snuff the rooster
Ah yeah, yeah
Yeah, here come the rooster, yeah
You know he ain't gonna die
No, no, no, you know he ain't gonna die

Okay. So I'm a dramatist.
But I think they're whaling on your site.

Dastards. Foxy news people.

Oh-oh. Here you go. I've finally gotten into Politics Plus.

The cat came back!

He did. He did. I just raised your site.

Donnetta Lee said...

I think Charles is right. Short-short memory. D

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

I think you're right,Donnetta...

And an entirely new generation on the scene.

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