Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The absurdity of society, the absurdity of the teacher, and the madness of the self

While mainly teaching english and creative writing at Seneca College, I was Shanghaied one March break, when most of the other profs were gone, to teach something called existential philosophy.
What did I know about existentialism?.

The regular philosophy prof seemed to hear me.
Yes, she said. "It's absurd!
"But I really need my March break (At Seneca,we were teaching trimester)...And you, as an untenured prof, need the money, I'm sure.

"You're sort of a dramatist, aren't you? I had been giving them the facts of the philosophy. I'm positive you could supply the drama. I mean, look at you, You're theatrical as hell, and I'm sure in my all-woman class will be intrigued."

The first class went rather well, though I heard one lady exclaim, "He's drunk!" which, of course, I was. Doesn't everybody?...Well, no, not really. Not every teacher needs a drink to get the wind up, but some do.

I had begun with Nietzsche and his observation that people leave marks on each other,manipulate each other, damage each other. ...uck each other up!

There was a pigtail pulled by a lady siting behind another lady. There was some giggling.
I posited that the attitude known as existentialism had been around for a long time.
I made references to Dostoevsky, Kafka, Hemingway....There was no glazing of eyes. Everybody seemed to get my references.
I suddenly realized that this was a bright class, they knew of those authors, and I decided, as I started to sober up, I'd better give them their money's worth. I had earlier joked to the class that the college had hired me "becaue they never saw a drunk before", and I hoped they didn't take self-deprecation for information, though I surely must have given them a bouquet of vodka across the lectern platform.
I went into teaching mode.

How would you define existentialism? I asked. Hands went up.

"It is a literature of extreme situations," said Polly.
"It is an encounter with the absurdity of life," said another woman.
A third had shown to me how good the other prof had been. She had taught them well.
"It is I , in answer to your THOU"...Hell, she had read Martin Buber!
"It's absurd for sure," smiled a fourth.

"Yes, yes," I agreed. " Jean-Paul Sartre would describe it as 'the absurdity of society and the madness of the self.'"

I added a bit of silliness.
"And some would say, "Neetchee is peachy, but Sarter is smarter.'"
This brought up a groan, but here and there a giggle.

They looked up at me up there, on my lectern, needing a haircut, half drunk, baggy Polack pants, looking like TV funnyman Professor Irwin Cory of old. Seems all I needed was a yo-yo.

Somebody whispered, "Ivan's crazy."

But I was building up to my lecture, the core of it, and since I was crazy, I would quote from no other authority than MAD Magazine on the topic of existentialim.

Fifty bucks an hour, is fifty bucks an hour. I had to give them their money's worth, event if it was drama, entertainment...The truth is often couched in humour. At least I hoped it was.

The absurdity of society, and the madness of the self. Well, better no other "text" than one from that scholarly journal, MAD Magazine, issue #2

I introduced the class to the plight of the Jewish intellectual in America just before and after the Second World War. Life in comparatively illiterate America, for the Eropean immigrant with an education, seemed pure hell.... And then McCarthy came and fired any director or actor worth his salt. And the immigrant may have turned nihilist, having barely escaped the hell of the holocaust left behind. It may have led to madness, and even crime. In one comic book instance, it led to a character named Melvin Mole, this strange little apparition out of William Gaines' Humour in a Jugular Vein--Melvin Mole, file-toothed, rat-faced, pimply, whose sole (perhaps only) talent consisted of his ability to burrow underneath all obstacles. The undergraound man, burrowing like a mole, accompanying himself with obsessional mutterings: DIG! DIG! HAH! DIG! DIG! DIG!

The underground man. And when burrowing underwater, the talk balloons would have bubbles attached. GLIG! GLIG! HAH! GLIG! GLIG! GLIG!

Melvin tries to rob The Last National Bank, but the onmiscient police had placed guards there. hE avoids guards by incredible cunning and digging, but surfacing by accident at the Policeman's Ball. He is eschered, caught, at one point pulling out an automatic, which he discharges in all directions, yelling JOHN LAW! JOHN LAW! HAH! HEEH! HAH!....YOU'LL NEVER GET MELVIN MOLE...NEIN! NICHT! NEVER! Eventually, Melvin is dungeoned, and after many escapes (DIG! DIG! HAH! DIG! DIG! DIG!). He is finally dungeoned, escapes, and is redungeoned
Te finaly INdissoluble antinomy had been reached for Melvin Mole. For him, there is the electric chair. Says the jailer, "HAVE A SEAT, MOLE!"

Yes, certainly Orwell, Dostoevsky, Kafka.

How was it that a generation of brilliant luminaries in Europe, was suddenly reduced to being subhuman, cockroach And even mole.

And in America, for a long time, these Displaced Persons
were held as such. Maybe all displaced persons, "furriners" until they became acclimatized.
Melvin Mole never became acclimatized. Like Al Capone, he chose an underground role, but literally. Nihilism. Anarchy. A throwback to another time of Prince Kropotkin and Bakunin. Undermine everything! A life of crime.


Would Melvin Mole every become fully human? Would he ever find love?...Perhaps an anarchist potato!

At this they began to titter.

The monkey professor was in.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sieur de Montaigne, inventor of the essay that we work so hard at writing

The best writing is the best researched-- otherwise what can you contribute with your own awkward scrawls...At least, so I tell myself

Ordinarily, I research all my material--who had said in print what you now say, long before you, and probably better.

But I find I'm more like that ancient noble Frog, Montaigne. He wasn't up to too much research: "How can you square the circle when you're perched atop your wife?"

Saucy fellow....And way before Shakespeare.
The French are somehow superior, and they know it

Who else, in about 1550, could come up with a line like, "My stomach rumbled today...And that made me think of..."

Well, my stomach is rumbling today. Too heavy on the dumpster stew....Hey, I found a filet mignon not yet stale dated in the dumpster...Don't knock it if you haven't tried it!
....But I think it was that stale-dated tomato that is giving the old tum the rumbles. Shouldn't have had it raw, no matter how often I'd washed it. Shouldn't have had that salad with the tomato in it without parboiling it first....Gad, I think of Mexico. You had to practically parboil everything. And still, you wife would get tourista.
My stomach is rumbling today. One of my students insists that all my philosophy come from my rumbling stomach. A thought, a concept an idea...Nah, just the filet digesting.
I hope to feel more together and brilliant soon.

But not as brilliant as Montaigne. His stomach rumbled too, but that rumble came down the centuries.

Consider this observation on philosophy at it applies to teaching children. How does Montaigne compare to today's teachers, who blab, "Give my your input and I'll give you my feedback, or "What's your PTR?"

Says Montaigne:

Since philosophy is the art which teaches us how to live, and since children need to learn it as much as we do at other ages, why do we not instruct them in it? ... But in truth I know nothing about education except this: that the greatest and the most important difficulty known to human learning seems to lie in that area which treats how to bring up children and how to educate them.

In his commerce with men I mean him to include - and that principally- those who live only in the memory of books. By means of history he will frequent those great souls of former years. If you want it to be so, history can be a waste of time; it can also be, if you want it to be so, a study bearing fruit beyond price. (Michel de Montaigne)

Myself, I would add, Hip is self destructive. Smart is timeless.

But Montaigne also had a mischievous, almost H. L. Mencken side. He writes, way back in the sixteenth century:
Here in my town, I pay to have my books printed. But all through France people pay money to read me.

Lord, have things changed for some of us in the last four hundred years?
I have printed some novels at my own expense. Now some professors from out of Edmonton, Alberta, want to pay me. Also India.

Ah, Sieur de Montaigne. Inventor of the essay.

Is that what I have been doing for the past fifty years? Writing the essay which somebody had already done, and done better?

I've got to give this some thought. I live in Canada, which was really founded at about the time of Montaigne (never mind the Anglos who say, officially that Canada was started in 1867. Canada is half a millenium old, if you count John Cabot and then Champlain.
I think as a non purloin, I am starting to learn.
We might have Shakespeare, but the frogs had Montaigne.
And even Balzac, the Shakespeare of the novel

Ah the melding of two cultures.

I think I am finally starting to get it.

...But I was sort of schizophrenic in the first place. :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What's in a name, you ask.

The recent interest in Geneology and the source of one's name has me poring through old family records hoping to find a distinguished old Cossack or somebody. I am not English, but with my luck it'll be John of Gaunt, not the most savory of historical characters.

What's in a name, you ask.
Well, suddenly long names are in. New movie stars appear, with easy -to- pronounce names like
Gyllenhaal, Wasikowska and Arulpragasam,
I especially like
Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam (aka M.I.A.)

Whatever happened to ingriguing, almost literary (Henry Miller?) names like G. Muff Diver?

What do I know? I am just the dumpster diver who happens to have a long name. And no powdered wigs in my background, though I learned is Slavics class that the Queen is ten per cent Ukrainian...Old Norse nobility from the Kievan Princes. I mean, look at Her Majesty's picture and my own odd likeness. Scare the crap out of you, no?

Anyway, failing to find royalty, I had my ex wife design a crest for me and mine. Two crossed hoes rampant on a potato field...I mean, I was born in a potato field in the old country. My first cousin was a potato.

Well, been in Canada pretty well all my life.

Heh. Will success spoil Ivan Prokopchuk?

But how he longed for a real cool name, like the late journalist Seymour S. Elegant?



Thursday, September 16, 2010

Those who can't-- teach; those who can't teach-administrate

I am bugged of late by people who want their short stories published here.
Latest supplicant is an old Ryerson U. acquaintance, Tony Mac. I am holding his story on "the ghost out of the swimming pool" on my desk, pending feedback from the "Quarks", my sort-of editorial board...Or is that Editorial Broad? They're all women.
But I felt Tony's story lacked something. What?
And what did I know? I was a mere teacher.
And could I do any better? "You show us, teach!"

This gives me some trepidation. I have been a prof, and am perfectly aware of the riposte by some students, that "those who can't, teach."

Anyway, "Helpless-Can't -do" over here, will now attempt a short story of a kind. The impressionistic kind. And, hopefully intertaining.


My friend Gogol (of Google) had been a hotshot computer whiz and ethnic writer with a string of published books in English, a Joseph Conrad who one day fell into the Rye long before he realized that what he had been drinking and smoking was neither soda pop nor Vicks.

Occupational hazard. Success brings anxiety. There is an impossibility to relax. With alcoholic achievers, it usually leads to a woman or a bottle. Gogol was married, but he took both. This, of course, led to violent protest from his wife, who told this budding Felix Unger to get the hell out, and that he was no odd guy. Just a little too high on the testosterone scale, the result, no doubt of getting calculus mixed up with cabbageheads and all too frequent "love relations" with his computer. "Your lovemaking has gone from the mechanical to the electronic. I've always been here. Have you noticed?"

Out in the street, like Robert Crumb's Felix the Cat, Gogol (of Google) was beginning to notice. Pawning his laptop and down to his last vial of Aqua Velva, he took the standard step.

Starving, he joined the "between you and I" and "please-and-thank-you crowd" and "sign this for me" group of happy, ambitious illiterates who ran the food bank, secretly humming to themselves about how the mighty had fallen.

Now Gogol of Google was a a natural phenom who had risen so far as to teach Boolean algebra at the local university. His published novels gave him such stature that when talking to the dean in the halls, everybody knew who the important person was. People would say, "There goes Gogol of Google." That's how big he was.

Now, fresh from the food bank with his matched set of Price Chopper shopping bags in his hand, people would say, "Gogol-eyed fraud. And "Get a job, Gogol!"

He tried to re-establish his reputation by writing a play with which he had hoped to make some money, but the local theatre company had been adjudicated and found No Good, like the rejected manuscript of the same play he'd sent to a publisher. It had been, in fact marked by some fuzzy-eared slave, "NG".

No Good Boyo. Under Milkwood and all that.

All because of a Vodka habit and an inability to relax ( He'd had a worm in him for some time, not a computer worm, but,he feared, a real one, the same worm that had goaded his ambition. The worm had seemed to set set up residence in Gogols tummy, with full amenities, the DVD player, plasma TV --the entire entertainment unit. "Hey wise guy, splash a little vodka down this way."
Whether the worm was real or virtual, Gogol did not know, He was beginning to realize, that for some time, something had been eating away at him
Getting a girlfriend didn't seem to help. She may have given him an even worse hitchiker in his tum. Maybe in his brain. Pirouettes and spirochettes. "Our Seargeant-Major's got a hell of a dose of clap!
But Gogol's biggest problem was turning forty.

"It was a mistake," thought Gogol. I shouldn't have done that. If I had it to do all over again, I'd never turn forty.

"Who wants to live with a forty-year-old vodka sniffer and gin-sock," his wife, still a hysterical thirty -three had said. So she divorced him --just when he got fired by the college.
"Boy," said Gogol," this is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Now I can drink."

"Not so fast," said the worm. "Where's my toke?" And "Who's gonna feed me now?" Gogol somehow felt that he would never again walk alone.

So now there was only Gogol and his little pal the worm. Both were thirsty as hell. No money.
Gogol's girlfriend lived out in West Gwillimbury, something of a beauty, but careless about her personal habits, a real ditch pig, actually, a Moonbeam McSwine and homeless too. He the rake professor. They were made for each other.

Pooling their Canada Pension cheques, bottles in hand, they would chase each other up and down hillsides, past garbage cans and into town, where Irene never said goodnight. She was a nonstop two-four guzzler, always complaining it was too hot at the Bonanza tavern, where she would attempt to take her clothes off. Like Scott's Zelda-- and try to sully the owner's beer, though it seems that women can't aim very well. This was great entertainment for the men, but disgusting for the women. She would dance on tabletops, knock drinks over with her high heels and generally make a fool of herself. Like Gogol.

Soon, they were "disinvited". Thrown out. Professor and Blue Angel from Georgina. The last thing they heard before the door slammed on them was White Stripes singing "Seven Nations Army."

But in fact, the following morning, broke and hungover, they hit the Salvation Army. There had been some trepidation over the decision. Just before they'd been thrown out of the Bonanza, the White Stripes had sung:

"And the feeling from my bones says find a home..."

Now they had to find a home. Hard to do when you're down and out in whitebread Newmarket.

"People just don't behave this way."

It took the Salvation Army two years and six thousand dollars to finally straighten out Google and his Moonbeam.

And would you believe it? Gogol got his computer back. One of his novels became a local bestseller, especially one aided in creativity not by "Seven Nations Army", but by the Salvation Army. Story for ya.

And Moonbeam got an unexpected inheritance from a developer relative. Moonbeam and Gogol moved in together and lived happily afterward.


Now, have you read anything more awkward?

Small wonder that I teach. :)

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.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tired of self-promotion. Here is Chris' (Benjibopper's) big book launch

Invitation attached)

Roseway Publishing

invites you to a Book Launch for

Drive-by Saviours
a novel
by Chris Benjamin

8 pm, Monday October 4
Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas Street West, Toronto

With musical guests Charms (the duet of Gabe Levine and Jessica Moore) and Sarah Kenvyn

on hand and on stage to celebrate the launch of Chris Benjamin’s new novel.

All those 19+ are welcome to this free event. Cash bar.
902.857.1388 for more info

“Drive-by Saviours is a fine first novel by a fine new writer.”— Stephen Kimber, author of Reparations


In a crowded world, a single connection could change everything.

Chris Benjamin masterfully, magically weaves together the seemingly disconnected worlds of Mark, a failed social-worker-turned-unhappy-grant-writer coming to the end of an even unhappier relationship, and Bumi, an Indonesian illegal immigrant on the run from his past and the ocd that dogs his present. Their chance encounter on a Toronto subway launches them on a complicated friendship that allows both men to finally confront the demons in their pasts and to find the hope in their futures.
— Stephen Kimber, author of Reparations

Chris Benjamin’s debut novel is part contemporary fiction, part social commentary and part kick-in-the-ass storytelling. Although refreshingly unique in its portrayal of Indonesia’s cultural landscape, with its universal themes of greed, betrayal, family and redemption, Drive-by Saviours transcends both time and place. Through weaving Bumi’s tenacity with Mark’s ennui, Benjamin skillfully elucidates how globalization entangles us all in an artificially exploitive web and how escape can only be found through creating genuine bonds, those that deeply connect us one to another.
— Carla Gunn, author of Amphibian

Chris Benjamin has travelled widely in North America, West Africa, Europe and Asia working as a freelance writer. He writes for several national and regional magazines in Canada on a variety of social justice and environmental issues. He is also the Sustainable City columnist for the The Coast weekly newspaper in Halifax, where he lives with his wife and son.

Read a review: http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/rss/article/1203544
The launch on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=150427638314456&ref=ts
The book on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=150427638314456&ref=ts#!/pages/Drive-by-Saviours/128468323858905?ref=ts
On the Fernwood Blog: http://fernwoodpublishing.ca/blog/2010/08/a-conversation-with-author-chris-benjamin-drive-by-saviours/
Trailer on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COQ1KYZUY-g
Listen to readings from the book on MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/chrisbenjaminwrites
More about the author on his website: http://www.chrisbenjaminwriting.com/


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Crazed Eskimos, Nazis, Communist Russians, Chinese foot fetishists and lesbian assassins.

The quest started in the late Sixties, A comic book collaboration between geniuses Michael O'Donoghue and Robert Springer, "The Adventures of Phoebe-Zeitgeist", a drop-dead gorgeous Moonbeam McSwine, almost out of old All Capp, perhaps, but nothing McSwinish about Phoebe- Zeitgeist. She is beautiful, especially when drawn nude and in extremely stressful situations.
Phoebe-Zeitgeist, the belle of any ambassadorial ball, is suddenly kidnapped and captured by a series of bizarre characters, such as crazed Eskimos, Nazis, Communist Russians, Chinese foot fetishists and lesbian assassins.
She does have a hard time of all this.
She is variously rescued, recaptured and rescued again. How I would have loved to have rescued Phoebe from the clutches of those evil Red Chinese, Russian Communists, Chinese foot fetishists.

She is a Serbian debutante, an aristocrat, really--I don't want to mention somebody I hardly know in the same breath, but as gorgeous as Michelle in her blog, Michelle's Spell.... like that, and very sexy in no matter what scene or comic book frame.

Phoebe is variously rescued, recaptured and rescued again. How I would have loved to have rescued Phoebe from the clutches of those evil Red Chinese, Russian Communists and all the assorted rejects of Katmandu.

I was fresh out of liberal arts school, still high on old Hegel's notions on the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, that old German shepherd seeming more abreast of the times even today, than he was during Bismarck's reign, where a united Germany seemed to be the actual zeitgeist. And Hegel had all the brains. (Of course, right now America seems to have it all. But brains?...Well, not before President Obama.
Bob Dylan: Don't let Henry Kissinger tie you in a knot...When you gonna wake up?).

But cut to the chase: I was just out of the liberal Arts school, a former army guy, like James Blunt, guitar handy, sitting in front of a radar console to look for Russians, a real Norman Mailercharacter, inspired by the best art of my time, like Howl, by Allen Ginsburg, Advertisments for Myself by Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac and, especially Michael O'Donoghue. His was the "Mr. Bill", plasticine puppet on Saturday Night Live, always being dismembered by some sadistic ogre-puppet.("Oh, Oh, no! Ooooh!)

I was half in love and on the way to writing a beautiful novel about Toronto, and if not that, at least meet my personal Phoebe-Zeitgeist.

A naked woman in chains, political correctness be damned,was a huge turn- on for a young horny fool who wanted to write.

I had to be as good as Michael O'Donoghue. I had to find a love object as beautiful as Phoebe-Zeitgeist.

Three novels later, I found myself in the unenviable position of an old balding guy in love with a woman out of an erotic comic book, the very epitome of some pimply guy with a guttering candle stuck his head, looking for Paris Hilton.

Always the Phoebe- Zeitgeist comic strip in Evergreen, Grove Press and even Playboy.

Michael O'Donoghue's perfervid imagination, a Diogenes not with a candle in his hand, but with a candle on the top of his head, the picture of his chained porn queen firmly embedded in te demented seeker's brain, and he had to get her. "Gotta get!"

I had somehow stumbled, after my three novels upon an untenured professorship in English and the porn queen seemed to suddenly appear live as one of my students in a night class.

Professor and the Blue Angel. I was not aware, in those days that women who went to night school risked the House of the Rising Sun, if not serious marital difficulties.

But my Phoebe was more a graduate student, graduate habitue of the House of the Rising Sun. Lately, all the Ho's are taking Creative Writing. At night class. Or so it had seemed to me. And why not? What are you going to do with a plodding statistician husband, and you with all the imgination.?

She told me she was an actress--and what an actress, I later found out as I checked out her VCR's.
I was in love with the BJ queen of Holland Landing.

Ah the professor and the Blue Angel.
Vanya and Phoebe-Zeitgeist.

There was a dungeon in her basement. We would visit it on her off days, when the pimp was away dealing drugs in Edmonton out of little red Toyota trucks.

But it was not me that she sought. It was the idea of me, the tweedy prof, raconteur, classical guitar player (Learned it from Leona Boyd, at least some Ponce preludes). What she really needed was a new pimp, at least one who didn't have to dress up in her clothes, put on her panty-hose, high boots and somewhow finally get himself off.

I was seriously out of my league.

She dumped me for a new pimp. I hardly had the resources. She stopped bedding me, of course, terminating what passed for sex between us.

I still had her in the hippocampus of my groin. I had her smell. "Better easy conquests, said old Herodotus. Better that, or your body will drive you mad as you seek the unattainable."

Yet there I was, in late middle age, the candle on top my head, a character, suddenly out of Michael O'Donoghue.( Mr. O'Donoghue was by now dying of cancer quitting his Saturday Night Live position. Why him? He was, after all, the genius of my quest, the explainer, the interpreter of our time. I was just a follower... With the candle on my head).

Yeah, yeah, it's fun to be a genius, of course, but keep that old candle before the cart.

Listening to Bob Seeger all this time.

Twenty years
Where'd they go
Twenty years, I don't know.
I sit there wonder some times
Where they'd gone.

I beat up the pimp and have scattered the foot-fethishists and lesbian assassins.
The PI side of me.
Had to break it up. Hero in my own novel. But to me she would still not come. She went to others.
Still the candle on my head.

Art imitating life?...I had the spookiest notion that she was art and I was life, not the other way around.

I sit here on a rock, along with my old Bob Seeger and Julian Lennon tapes, my old walkman with me. Daydreaming in the park.

"Sittin' on a pebble by the river playin' guitar
Wonderin' if we'll ever get that far."

Doing the Ivan-man.


BTW, Over in another blog, ChuckerCanuck 2.0 (chuckercanuck.blogspot.com) there is a review of my latest um, escape, my new novel, The Fire in Bradford. Crafty Chucker had to tell me to review it myself. Dunno why. I protested. "Mona Rahman has alredy done a brilliant review of Bradfored. Chucker says, you do it. The blog should offer some entertainment. So I reviewed it all by myself...Dang, I'm getting tired of being self-made man...Reminds me of some blue movie, Planet Porno, where a RonJeremy-like hero is accompanied by his faithful companion, whose name is Jerkoff. Egad.


Friday, September 03, 2010

How the hell do you review your own book in somebody's else's blog space?

Recently invited by ChuckerCanuck, a blogger, to do my own review of my latest edition of my novel,The Fire in Bradford, I found myself in a kind of kaleidescope. How can you review what you yourself have produced, how did the work come about, and what in f*ck a are you talking about?
Except for the late Norman Mailer, no one has explored the mental calisthenics to do with such a project. Being your own character in a book. Then reviewing your own book.
Where the hell to begin?

You could start with, "I know the author well. He is a friggin' genius." Fatuous, but perhaps revealing the compexity of the project, which to me is like viewing the old picture of Elsie the Cow on a milk can, holding up a milkcan on which is Elsie the Cow, on which there is a pictue of Elsie the Cow, ad infinitum...or ad absurdum?
Migod, is this the way you think? Is this you?
You're a f*cking idiot!
I mean, this is how the book came about, not quite an infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of keyboards-producing a masterpiece, but this is the way you write. Pick, pluck and pray... Not like the New York Times, printing all the news that fits, but rather all the mini-epiphanies that fit into the yet uncreated jigsaw puzzle of your book. The book is sort of blocked out; you do not build the armature consciously, but it's there. You know it's there. Otherewise there would be no rhyme or reason to what you're doing. It would be a tale told by an idiot, and you probably became a writer just to daily show the world you are not friggin' idiot.
Well, maybe idiot-savant.

So I begin the project lighting more than one candle to show the way.

Actually, it's a little spooky. Going into the cellar of your own uncounscious, where there might be a familiar figure or two a tiger, a bat, perhaps a dong..
Heaven forbid I might have become like Margaret Atwood described John Updike, "A penis with a thesaurus, but lately my penis has been drooping and in any event, I think I lost the f*cking book.

Enough that my The Fire in Bradford is a little like the antique movie,The Professor and the Blue Angel.
Wimpy, stunned, Dr. Rath, pole-axed by a music hall Marlene Dietrich, who of late is screwing anybody but him, until he goes mad and crows like a rooster, right up on stage where his rivals had placed him, just to have a little fun with the dizzy old bastard.
And a reference, perhaps to another, similar work.

The Old Man and the She?
About the most intelligent thing I can say aboutg my own poor novel, is that a man's force, once deflected, goes off on another route. It is not deminished.

...And he might just come a round through the back and goose ya.

The uh, killer instinct comes in many forms.

Watch it Chucker. Gonna come and getcha. :)