On Being A Writer In The Writing World

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When I go to a literary event, I first have to gather my bearings to find a familiar face. I keep to myself most days and social media is my connection to networking and “being out there.” I’m maybe 90% more introverted than extroverted in person, so seeing a familiar face in a crowd I feel comfortable with helps. After a bit of catching up with a few people, I will try to meet a couple of more folks, not just for networking, but mainly because book people and fellow readers are awesome. We share in our love books and it’s amazing that we have this world of art that many try to stamp as dead, but damn it, it’s still thriving.

Although I wonder, at most events, about the starving writers, the blocked writers, the struggling writers, the keep to themselves writers and the many other writers that we don’t really talk about. They might come to these events and they might not. They work a full day and might be too exhausted, but they still stay up and work on their manuscripts. They have been unable to put words to paper because trauma or sickness or anxiety prevents them, but sometimes a thought comes out and they journal about it hoping one day their story will be heard. They work a factory job or take care of their kids all day and feel out of place, but they still go to the open mic or the poetry slam. They write and submit, apply for grants and prizes, but don’t get their chance because the literary world is big and racism, sexism, and ageism still exists big time in it. Writing and books are just as important to the types of people I’ve mentioned because they are writers. Some of them published and some of them have not. Some of them are you and some of them are me and maybe we’re all a combination of many.

I write this because as writers we tend to glamourize or romanticize what we do and that’s most of what the world sees. The parties and launches are wonderful, but I do enjoy hearing about lives outside of writing; people’s work days and their boring commutes. I want to ask if behind it all, you’re ok. I’m very confessional by nature and I don’t expect others to be. It’s just interesting to know I’m not alone in the struggle to have a life and still be a writer, or rather to have a life and just be me.

Not all of us are professors or can afford the money or the time for an MFA (although there are struggles there too). Not all of us have the inside track in publishing and know the ins and outs of it (although there are struggles there too). Not all of us are adept at schmoozing (maybe they’ve taken a course?). Yet that’s how the media portrays writers and that’s how the writing world is seen: a bunch of people who dedicate themselves to writing and made it despite the odds. Maybe one percent of those out there have, but most of us have lives outside of that media portrayed world.

I’m a writer, but I’m a single mother of two kids. I combat daily with my own issues, but I live comfortably because of alimony and I have time to write. Although now I have a goal and ambition to be independent. It’s imperative for me as a feminist, and as an example to my daughter to show her that we can create and make a life for ourselves without depending on others financially. I freelance and am out looking for steady work, but my non-writing resume is a history of blue collar factory jobs where computers have made them obsolete, and outdated advertising desk jobs from fifteen years ago before my children were born. I have a supportive family and a close relationship with my children’s father, but I can’t lean on them anymore. I have to stand on my own eventually and it’s hard. I do recognize that I have a roof over my head and food in the pantry because of others. Aiming to change that is the difficult and overwhelming part. I fear writer’s block because of it. I fear not having time to write for myself. I fear my anxiety and cycling bouts of depression will hinder any progress I have made in my writing career.

I am fond of saying that if you work hard at something, things will manifest for you. They might be the things you were looking for, but things will happen. For many writers, they can’t get to the part of just “work” because they’re busy trying to stay afloat. Launch party? Hell, some people have to wake up at 5am for their daily commute.

I’m glad that there are spaces like Sachiko Murakami’s The Hardest Thing About Being a Writer and Daniel Zomparelli and Dina DelBuchia’s Can’t Lit. These are places where writers can be human. I don’t feel alone when I read or listen to these sites or interviews like them. I’m not a big fan of pretension, name dropping, and ego. I like emotion, substance, and am comforted by the idea that in every writer there is a fallibility and vulnerability where stories and poetries are born. Get to know the people that combat the world while still writing.

I’m just bored by the David Foster Wallace or Wonder Boys portrayals of writers.

 

I’m not saying we should end the glamorization of writing, but rather that when we’re out there doing our thing, we should consider the world we write about, the lives write about, and the topics we write about when we write about writing. Addressing personal concerns and things that hit close to home for us individually is easier for some and harder for others, but it’s good to understand we all live in a world where we have to make compromises to survive. We find our niche, we build our own moulds, and yeah, we’re writers. But writers must feed, cloth, and house ourselves.

If more people knew that we work, we struggle, they’d buy more books from authors, they’d help small presses more (for these are the places a lot of the disenfranchised authors get their chances in), and they’d be more willing to take us seriously when we say that writing is a job, so please pay us. BUY OUR BOOKS. PAY WELL FOR YOUR CREATIVE CONTENT. Pay and pay writers well. It’s work.

I love going to book launches and readings because it’s inspiring to see the amount of folk that still go out to these things. I get huge stage fright before a reading because why would anyone want to hear my poetry? It’s a privilege to be able to get up there and have an audience for it. And I’m paid to do it nowadays. That’s huge. I get paid to write AND get paid to read my poetry…to people even!

I’m a nobody like the many nobodies out there. I hope to forever be a nobody like the many nobodies out there because the only glamour I enjoy from writing is being able to read my words. The rest is work and some of it is fun, I admit, but the rest is work.

On the power of erotica and literal masturbation…

I have reviews in the queue to write and movies to finish watching, but it’s Saturday. I’m lazy and procrastinating and it’s what you do on day with nothing that’s pressing on you to get done. I also blame this book for my dreamy state:

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Tamara Faith Berger’s Little Cat

It’s two of her previously published works, Lie With Me (1999), The Way of The Whore (2001) put into one volume. When I read Berger’s Maidenhead, I felt so spent after I finished it. I was physically drained from being incredibly tense all over. I was stuck between the need for physical pleasure and relief. Although titillating and exciting, Berger’s prose provoked a higher sense of expectation rather than arousal per se. I had sore shoulders from keeping my back straight at attention for the next page. It’s hard work staying like that and not realizing how physically involved I was with the book until I had put it down.

I was so tense and my back so done that I could barely review it. I didn’t want to digest it. I wanted to keep it in my stomach.

Then I wanted more.

My eyes bugged out and I lunged at the book when I spotted Little Cat in the bookstore. Sure enough, I find myself in that same erect position, flipping pages, and wondering, “How the fuck do you describe it so well?”

When I mean “it,” I mean the mundane biological and mixed emotional reactions of fucking and not giving a damn. There’s a unique perspective with individual women as there is with men. Everyone has their preferences, but I guess beyond my relating to the visceral needs of the characters in here, I admire Berger’s raw honesty in her approach to writing them.

“….my body is filled to the ends with these kinds of murmurs:

I need your cock to touch my cunt.

I need us naked for only one second.

I need us forever to be here forever.

 

I have always had to feel myself like I’ve never felt myself before.” –  Berger, Tamara Faith, and Tamara Faith Berger. “Lie With Me.” Little Cat. Rev. 2nd ed. Toronto: Coach House Books, 2013. . Print.

It’s a beautiful rendering of the sensual and all-consuming wanting lists that come to mind with sexual urge/need. It’s basic above, but further along when our protagonist gets what she thinks she wants, there’s a continual woman’s sexual monologue and third party descriptor that pushes buttons, like a perineum word massage.

I’m in love with Berger’s writing. Much like the protagonist pleads for the reader to understand her needs and why she does what she does, I want to know because I want to know if she knows what I also want to know. Weird sentence, but that’s the tangent I get into in my head as I read Little Cat.

I’d write a review, but I’m barely finished the first half of the book. What prompts me to blog about it though is my delight at reading Berger’s words and the connection that I find so compelling in erotica. I don’t have much of a collection. Pitiful, really.

IMG_20140614_082853 (1)I’m a disorganized book lover and my shelves have their own weird system. I’ve somehow mixed my more erotic forms of literature with feminist texts, Freaky Fountain Press books, William S. Burroughs, Samuel R. Delany, poetry, and the Bible. The Bible can be pretty porn-y, no? Sometimes Joyce’s Ulysses finds itself up there too.

I read a lot of online erotica. I would love to read and collect more paper erotica, but I have specific things I look for and with time and age, I find there are different specifics I’d like. Life is short. Can’t waste time on duds, you know.

I think I love female erotica because it speaks to something that is rarely acknowledged: masturbation is a tool of self-empowerment. I know, as a woman, it is for me because it is my head that’s in charge of the scenario, the tools to get me there, and I do what I need. The best partners figure that out, and even then the best partners are the ones you can adapt to that or have their own ways that are natural to them to give you that pleasure.

Yet most people’s first awakening is the first touch they give themselves or the first orgasm they experience. I’ve yet to encounter anyone that has forgotten their first time coming. Most, I would think, remember it and spend most of their lives trying to recreate that first extraordinary release of tension. After that, it’s old hat and everyone creates their masturbation rituals and sexual rituals.

Porn, at its base, is ingenuous. Nothing gets hidden (except maybe in the type of porn you read or watch: fake boobs, nipped bodies, hairless encounters). At its core, there’s a universal high that is to be achieved in the making, watching, or consumption of it. For me, it’s worldly constraint that reminds us that we’re all just animals and not alone. There’s no social passive aggressiveness, no algorithms I have to navigate, there’s no angst in getting there (unless, of course, it’s a hate fuck, and that’s more for relief making the hate fuck more of a mutual masturbation session). Thus, it’s me in charge of my own pleasure.

Reading erotica doesn’t necessarily make me want to self-pleasure, but it essentially gives me the power to say, “It’s ok, other people think about this stuff too.” It’s what a good book does. You can read about dragons, spaceships, farms, tales of high adventure, stories of death and triumph, and they’re all escapes. A writer writes for all sorts of reasons, but these are dreams brought to paper. Erotica are wet fantasies brought to paper.

In BDSM erotica, a reader is given the power to dominate and submit. For women, it’s such a liberating world to play in. Growing up in a background of catholic guilt and shame for everything, part of that BDSM mental play is the guilt and the shame. It can be good and it can be bad, but reading erotica gives you the agency to manipulate it how you want and what place you want it in. Reading a good passage, entrusts the female reader to go there, where she has always been forbidden, or shamed into going. I was starved into submission by being denied what I want through guilt. Upon reading a good book, I am given a unique power with a different kind of actual submission. It feeds a starved brain and makes for a happier individual.

I don’t know. I see a tendency for people to get addicted to porn because it’s the dishonest porn. The porn that dictates what you want. It’s the kind that I saw when I saw my first ever porn magazine.

When I was a kid, I was at a friend’s house and we were playing hide and seek. I hid between the bookshelves and the bed in her big brother’s room. Underneath the bed there was a big red glossy paper. I pulled it out and saw something I’d never seen before. There were naked bodies on top of one another, tied up women smiling at me, men and women with contorted faces like they were in pain. It was a spread out of an orgy someone had taken out of a magazine. Plump rumps and hairy everything was staring back at me, creamed in many areas. It was both gross and fascinating to see, but I quickly put it back feeling a shame that felt familiar and gutting.

Many, many, many years later after sifting through different and confusing versions of porn, I realized that much of what is commercially available, isn’t targeted to me, nor is it honestly targeted. It’s a frustrating world to wade through and it’s diminishing and disturbing that it takes such a long time for some of us women to realize what we individually want. I’m sure making porn was at one point, but somehow commercial porn evolved into something that dictates rather than provides. Maybe people who heavily watch that sort of commercial porn tend to not find what they sexually need in real life? I’m just making assumptions here, but I find that what fulfills me and fulfills many is porn capacitates its viewer/reader with the means to explore and re-examine what it is they really want to sexually satisfy them.

This is why I enjoyed Matthew Pollack’s Run Run It’s Him. There’s a hint to that need for the search of that agency because the individual has a hard time finding what he wants in real life.

Recently on a tour of the Queer Outlaw Cinema exhibit at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, I was thinking about Bruce LaBruce’s work, which is featured in it. LaBruce’s films do explore the sensual body as a political and radical being. You can change the world with how you use your body and you can change the world with how you react with it. Erotica is one of those tools of activism for it gives people the liberty to be in command of their sexual agency.

When the “MRA” (“men’s rights” people) came in after the female targeted tragedy in Santa Barbara this year and said, “More people will die unless you give men sexual options,” I balked. I’m sorry, but women are not in charge of your pleasure. You, everyone should be in charge of their pleasure and if you want it to be with someone else, it must be mutual and consensual for it to be an option. Men have options. Men have porn, magazines, literature, and everything that involves sex targeted to them. All you need to do is go to your nearest television show or convenience store magazine display. Even the magazines aimed at women are heavily or subtly charged with options for how to please men, ie. Cosmopolitan.

This is why books that cerebrally acknowledge a woman’s wants and give her a plethora of options don’t get ignored. We might read them in little corners, the back of the bus, or full out on our commutes, but there is a universal want for honesty in our porn. Maybe men should ask for that too because I’m sure there’s so much more to explore on the matter. You can do on your own, like we women have to as well.

But I digress. With the popularity of the Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto and the new female targeted sex shops trend around the world, I’m just glad that there exists a marriage between the written word and the female experience between the sheets.

Claim your experience. Accept your wants. Explore more. Most of all, play well and with consideration, knowing everyone is still searching through their kinks too.

 

 

 

Some of my favourite reads of 2013.

I rarely let anyone lend me books. Every book I’ve ever borrowed has either been damaged by one of my kids or I’ve been careless and devoured it in creases and dog ears. I try to be nice to books, since they’re so wonderful to me, but books are a place where I escape to, in much the same way as I do with movies. They inhabit my headspace and everything physical I do becomes an extension of the book’s world. I live in the books I read, hence it’s very hard to select a few reads as my top favourite. I’ve decided to select a few from a pile that I read this year to recommend to you.

This year I chose the worlds carefully, mostly because I found myself with no time to dedicate to “just books.” Luckily some of these were up for review and at least one was read because I had an interview to prepare for. My picks were culled from a need for pleasure than anything to do with what people would enjoy or not enjoy (although I do have a vivid memory of being very angry with a certain unnamed book this year). Through my activities and work, I reconnected with reading as a writer and being a writer as a reader.

Without further ado, here are some of my picks from 2013.

1.

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PostApoc by Liz Worth

I am tired of dystopian scenarios, but there’s something about them keeps pulling me back. In PostApoc, dystopia isn’t an end result, it’s a reality that has slowly been building up in the now.

Ang is a Torontonian teenager who explores her inner world by ambling through life. She isn’t coming of age. She isn’t looking for love. She might be looking for a connection, but at the core what she really needs is a reason for it all. The world is literally falling apart around her: people are disappearing, friends are decaying, the moon quietly falls into the ocean, and ghosts become wails in the night.

Worth experiments with stream of consciousness and surreal imagery to anchor her readers through the poetic medium she so deftly employs in her narrative. Much of Toronto is transformed into a fantastical Goreyesque dream world where anything ghastly that can happen does. The end of the world is not as frightening as it is palpably sad. I couldn’t help but think of my own children left alone with only their instincts to guide them. My heart raced as Ang traversed the despairing pages wishing I could comfort her in a motherly embrace.

PostApoc is a new way of looking at tomorrow. We can only hope that no one is left.

2.

 9780385677806Drunk Mom: A Memoir by Jowita Bydlowska

“I’m exactly like the baby. Pounding his heels against the mattress when distressed. Give it to me. Give it to me right now…Now. Now. There is no waiting, no biding time. The wanting is enormous; it swallows him whole in lung-emptying breaths.

I get it. I get the screaming baby.

Because my wanting is just as powerful.”

Oh man, I get it. Reading that while going through bouts of depression, I felt it. I felt it hard and I still do. There’s something about Bydlowksa’s prose and the images that she evokes that makes her condition universal and relatable to anyone who’s struggling with issues.

Drunk Mom is the raw account of Jowita Bydlowska’s wrangling with alcoholism as a mother. After witnessing my twitter feed go off the charts with people condemning or praising Bydlowska for this book, I had to see what all the fuss was about. I’m so glad I did.

It’s a refreshing release from the self-conscious writing I’m used to in mother confessional blogs. Women are people. Mothers are people. We all have our flaws and make our mistakes. Maybe it’s social media that makes it acceptable to be so blatantly honest online and in print, however, has literature hit a new low because of it? Hell no! As writers, we need change; as readers we need to read new things and new perspectives. Mothers never get to give new perspectives because what is expected of us blindingly shadows who we really are.

With each misstep the author takes the more human she is, and with each step she makes towards sobriety, the more fragile her existence becomes. I’d love every new mother to read this account. It’s not all about alcoholism, but a unique depiction of motherhood. Does this make Bydlowska a tendentious writer? Does it really matter that much? Isn’t it time we cast off the apron strings and stop replacing them with the unrealistic superhero cape?

I put my foot down and say, YES.

3.

KateCayley_coverWhen This World Comes To An End by Kate Cayley

I was browsing the poetry section in the bookstore one day and came across this collection of poems. I’ve always been curious about how this section in the bookstore is divided up. There are “Poetry” books and “Canadian poetry.” How do you discover or explore new poetry if all you get is the spine or the cover of the book to go by? This one has a picture of a horse diving into water in a supposed outdoor carnival trick. In my head, that horse made it quirky so I bought it. I love quirk.

“The slender scaffold bridges out

over the lake, the horse

halfway through a tense and sunlit dive, 

its freakish grace transfiguring 

the crowd, a trickle of the mildly curious.

Close your eyes.” -The White Horse Divers, Lake Ontario, 1908

See, that’s not quirky. That’s a poet’s view of a horse diving into the water as a carnival trick. That’s beautiful. Each of Cayley’s poems are like stories pulled out of a photograph or a situation. I found out that the poet is a playwright, and I can imagine setting and tone through the first few lines of the poems. I found myself letting go, watching the images pass by as I read the lines. Her codas don’t reach for more nor do they leave you hanging; she lets you run through the structure of her verses as if they were pictures strung together on a mantlepiece.

This was the first book I’d ever read entirely on the subway in one day. As more passengers got on the train, her writing affected me so much that I was making stories out of the minutiae around me. A spider I named Aldous, kept staring at me daring to meet it’s gaze, but Cayley’s book pulled me in that he got bored and left. I missed my final destination.

4.

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Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland -I read Girlfriend in a Coma, Microserfs (my favourite so far), and this in preparation of my interview with Coupland this past Fall for 49thShelf.

This book might have offended me a few times, but it was its offense that made me keep reading. Have you ever read something and said, “How dare they?” and it just made you want to find out where the author was taking you?

Raymond Gunt is a first rate scumbag. Bad things happen to Raymond, but he’s also an inconsiderate instigator. As a photographer he’s sent to an island to film a Survivor-type reality show and recruits his exact opposite, a charming homeless man named Neal. There are nuclear effects and filthy sexual shenanigans which lead our anti-hero from catastrophe to catastrophe to head shaking embarrassment. It’s hilarious.

Coupland is a master at quick dialogue. Much of this book reads like an extended British comedic sitcom where the characters know exactly what to say and when to say it. Punchlines are the realm of Raymond, but Neal is like every character in The Young Ones, full of the real chill pill that makes one sit back and say, “What hell am I getting so worked up about?”

Worst. Person. Ever. is an experience that made me stifle a giggle even when no one could possibly read what I was laughing at. Why was I laughing? Why wasn’t I outraged? Parsing that afterwards was the most fun I’ve had in the afterglow of reading.

Coupland keeps up with the times and isn’t afraid of trying something different. Try it, maybe you’ll like it.

5.

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Knife Throwing Through Self-Hypnosis by Robin Richardson

I want to stroll through New York City when I re-read this book of poetry again. Robin Richardson is my new Jack Kerouac/Charles Bukowski pastiche artist.

“Bye , Baby Bunting,

father’s gone a-wheeling

through the Western 

dives; bronze pocket-

watch to crown a stack 

of poker chips. He listens

to the breathing of each

bluffer. Even masters 

have a tell.” – Mother Buzzard

Richardson’s words encapsulate moments and posits them as a David Lynch-like  confessions. You know there’s something beyond the metaphors, beyond the non-sequitosr, but you don’t reach out for the otherness; your forced to stay within the phrasing. Ghosts, graves, waffles, and film dwell in fluid verses and her timing keeps a steady rhythm reminiscent of a beatnik drawl. This book is wonderful to take with you during a rainy night or a relentlessly sunny day.

P.S. And also look at that cover. How could you not buy a book with that cover?

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Those are the few on the top of my head. Of note, here are some reviews I put up for books that I’ve read this year that made an impression on me, but are not from this year.

1. Walden by Henry David Thoreau: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/590648487

2. Maya Deren and the American Avant-Garde edited by Bill Nichols:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/637315274

3. Of Lamb by Matthea Harvey:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/246484437

4. Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze by Thomas Allen Nelson: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/612154574

5. The Road by Cormac McCarthy: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/500137812

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On my last day of retyping Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man

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Dear James Joyce,

This morning I had my cup of coffee, with two creams and six of those little packets of sugar, and typed out the last few sentences of your book, Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man. 

I’ve been kind of down thinking of today because I started this on March 11, 2013 (depression has its own agenda). On paper March doesn’t seem like such a long time ago. In reality, if you count down the amount of times I’ve sat at this desk to do this, that’s two hundred and seventy one days I’ve dedicated to retyping your book. I can’t say it was all wine and roses, because it wasn’t.

There were days were I was fascinated by what you were doing at the beginning. You tried to recreate an infantile brain and how it processes language (the infection of language is insidious, but it has to happen). However, my writing suffered indirectly at the time. I handed in stories to my writing groups and they all but spat them back at me wondering where the punctuation was and my odd ways of forming a story. I was experimenting without realizing it. I think I entirely missed the point then, but I look back at those works and have come the conclusion that they will stay without revision. Not everything I do has to be a possible published piece.

That brings me to why I did this. Well, to rehash what I’ve had to repeat to others:

I read Kenneth Goldsmith‘s Uncreative Writing. Everything he mentions there rings true. I think as a creative medium, as writers, we’re stuck when we write. We’re writing the same way, and while the art world has had its breakthrough with the avant-garde, poets stayed behind swimming in a lyrical oasis. At least, that’s my interpretation of it anyway. I’ve suffered fifteen years writer’s block. It comes and goes, but it’s a terrifying thing. Even worse than the block, was the feeling that I was trying way too hard at my poetry. Poetry is hard, but I wasn’t bringing anything new to the table. I wrote pantoums, villanelles, sonnets, and free verse. I am very proud of those works, but I felt like I was running around in a circle, discerning the world in 2D glasses.

Anyway, Goldsmith mentioned a project by Simon Morris who had retyped Jack Kerouac’s On The Road (http://gettinginsidejackkerouacshead.blogspot.ca/). I thought it was an interesting thing that I could do with one of your books. You see, Ulysses is my favourite novel of all time. Sir, you broke my brain when I read it, however, I didn’t want to retype something I had already read more than a dozen times. It’s my literary bible. So, I picked up A Portrait, made a blogger for it, and started.

Retyping A Portrait spun off other projects including:

The uncreative projects keep coming to me. I’m still sorting out a visual poetry project I had going on the side, but there’s only so many hours during the day. I am a mom of two children who are almost teenagers (they say “GAH!” to me!), and balancing a career and home has its own schedule. As for my creative projects since I’ve started retyping A Portrait:

And I’ve met so many like minded folk and inspiring writers/artists that it’s been overwhelming. I’m conversing, exchanging ideas, arguing, defending, reconciling, but never compromising. I mean, if you didn’t, why should I?

So here I am after having typed your words and I feel like I can’t let go of them. I don’t think I got inside your head, per se. Sometimes, and it’s weird for me to say it, but I’ll say it anyway: I’d be typing your words, and your head would appear in front of me obscuring my screen. You’d ask, “What the hell are you doing, woman?”

“I’m typing.”

“Why?”

“I like loosing myself in it. It’s like meditating. Like my morning coffee. May be it’s even better, for I am often unhappy too.”

“Poetry?”

And then you’d kind of go away. Each of our exchanges were different, but the gist of them is there.

I’ve decided that I haven’t had enough of you thus I’m taking on a new project. On Monday December 9th, I’m going to write every word of Ulysses, a page a day in a journal. I’ll take photos of the pages I write every day and post them on http://gettinginsidejamesjoyceshead.blogspot.ca/

Many thanks to the writers, the innovators, the cyborgs, the thinkers, and to all those who continue to challenge me and have given me a chance to do something with my words. I started all this way before I retyped A Portrait, but something about the retype stirred me on and asked something more of me. A great writer I admire quite a big deal, said once, “You can’t start from everywhere.”

I can’t start from everywhere, but I had to start somewhere. Does it matter than I reach out with tentacles at the possibilities? I focus. It’s how I function. I work. I create. I uncreate. I multi-do and I multi-undo. I am being. I am not a convention. I am a mathematical theorem. Dispute my method, but I still stand.

Retyping words that weren’t my own. It’s not a creative thing, but if I retyped the words and did the work; if I retyped the words (finding myself in a drunken stupor late at night remembering and then doing my daily retype regardless of my lack of sobriety) at all hours of the night; if I retyped the words and found myself pondering What Would James Joyce Do?, were these not my words? This work came out of me and went out into the ether. I thought upon them and breathed them back into my consciousness. I didn’t mind meld with you, Mr. Joyce, but as I finish this little ramble off, I have to wonder, where do the thoughts that inspired the words that went into the work, where did the thoughts go?

We have a quarrelsome comradeship, Mr. Joyce. I can not exile myself from the stagnant world. It will always spin in circles, because it’s what we do. But I can shake my wings still and look for the escape.

Photo on 12-6-2013 at 9.49 AM #2

Nov. 29th: I’ll be reading in St. Catherines for The Grey Border Reading Series

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Projects: On Day 58 of retyping James Joyce

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I’m on day 58 of retyping & rewriting The Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man. You can find the retype here: http://gettinginsidejamesjoyceshead.blogspot.ca/

The rewrite is written out and logged in Word on my computer and formatted in the same way as my copy of the Joyce novel. I’ve been approached by a couple of publishers to submit it when it’s done, therefore, I will decide what to do with it after the project is completed.

Some might call the idea of retyping James Joyce as mundane. Unlike reading it and turning the page, I find myself typing, reading it, and having to stop myself from typing more of it. I would, but if the purpose of this experiment is to “get inside James Joyce’s head,” then it would behoove me to take a day to digest each page. The constraints I’ve imposed on this project have been to specifically engage with the text as opposed to “getting” Joyce.

Which brings me to the debate I’ve had recently with a few about the title. I’ve been told that in order to get to know Joyce, that I should speak to scholars or read books on Joyce’s history. That it would take me decades to figure out the layers within the author’s pages in order to “get to know” Joyce. I’m not coming to this project out of nowhere though. Even though I don’t qualify myself as a Joyce scholar, I’ve read Ulysses at least ten times in my life. It might be an odd book for me to re-read, but it’s the book I go back to as much as I do with pulp, like VC Andrews novels. A weird mix, I know, but it’s my mix. You have to go back a few posts for the explanation of my fascination with Joyce though, so I can understand people’s bewilderment with both the title and where I’m coming from with this.

Retyping James Joyce is one of my first uncreative writing projects. After reading Kenneth Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing (what I consider now as an essential text that every modern day writer should read), and a chapter where he mentions Simon Morris’ retype of Kerouac’s On The Road (another one of my favorite re-reads), it felt like something I wanted to do. Choosing The Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man was logical for me since it was the Joyce novel I had yet to read. Experiencing his prose in the most experimental of forms (yeah yeah yeah Finnegan’s Wake…we can discuss that over drinks if you ever meet me), has given me a different perspective on not just Joyce’s writing, but on writing in general. When I read, I discount anything about the author, even in autobiographies. It’s a technique I learned when my world literature professor, Professor Charles Lock , introduced me to reading books three times: 1. Reading a book as a fiction with no history connected to it. 2. Reading a book as a non-fiction with a history connected to it. 3. Reading a book as pure text.

In Portrait, Joyce starts off infantile in his prose almost to the point where it’s hazy and mixed, with a children’s story. He can’t really make out words, just images of them.:

His father told him that story: his father looked at him through a glass: he had a hairy face.

A lot of repetition and a lot of images, smells, and sentence fragments are sprinkled out right at the beginning. There is so much more now after page fifty. The style gets more coherent and images become sharp like a movie being filmed with tight shots and all of a sudden we’ve achieved….wide angle lens. I’m enthralled. I’d say more, but it would take more than just a blog post to write about my explorations right now. Maybe a concise book review would be in order after the project is done which will be about 218 days from now.

I’m very much looking forward to it. As it is, this project has sparked quite a few things now:

1. Typing out James Joyce poems on old Imperial 6 typewriter: https://soundcloud.com/ravensee/sets/typewriter

2. Reading Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis backwards for 55 days:  https://soundcloud.com/ravensee/sets/metamorphosis

3. As mentioned above, re-writing Portrait a page a day.

4. On going film reviews. This year, I’ve taken it upon myself to go back to my love of movies. I used to sneak in Cinema Studies classes into my schedule in university and I learned more about criticism and analysis in those classes than I did in most of my literature classes. Bookworm-ing has always been my escape, but cinema makes the gears in my head go completely haywire. I believe it has to do with my “autistic” fondness for visuals. Regardless, cinema has continually been a focus and I’m happy that I’m back at watching movies the same way again. Recently I’ve made cases for  Kubrick’s 2001 (which along with Psycho 2, and Taxi Driver {with Paul Schrader in attendance, no less!} I saw on big screen as well!), Weir’s Master and Commander (and in turn, Das Boot), and Spielberg’s Lincoln on this blog. I’m still making a case for Conan The Barbarian (SHUDDUP), but have been delayed due to a few rewrites and my anticipation at watching Kubrick’s The Shining again on the big screen at the TIFF Bell Lightbox this weekend. I started writing up a review of it, but will save it until I see it again. Kubrick movies calm the OCD in me: it’s visual and audio poetry. There’s so much I could go on about books and film with Kubrick.

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Also, cooking up a review of Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color , which I recently saw and I’m dying to buy soon (GO SEE IT IF YOU FIND IT!). I could review every Kubrick and Scorsese flick to death, but I’m looking for a challenge. Kind of like my case in defending Master and Commander or writing a review for a bad movie. I’d like to experiment and see if I can take apart a movie that isn’t so great. I hate spoilers, but I’m going to require utilizing them if I want to take the review into more analytical territory. I’m still navigating all that.

I’m very excited to see La Jetee on the big screen too next week. That film and Chris Marker are highly influential when it comes to experimental film in my life. And don’t even get me started of Fellini. Oh Federico.<3

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Old course book for Italian Cinema with Professor Angelo Principe.

5. Now that my artshow at Playful Grounds is done, I’m setting up shop and selling my paintings & prints. Already sold two originals, so I’m grateful for that. I’m working on the cells to the graphic novel that this show was spun off from. Since I started I’ve added two new characters and since it’s also in a visual poetry style, it’s made it a far more involved work, which I enjoy.

When asked what this retype can do for me, so far it’s kept me from the abyss of writer’s block. My last bout lasted about 15 years of no creative output, (with the exception of my children, of course, but I consider them outside me. Ha.). I’m keeping busy and the ideas keep coming. I haven’t experimented so much with words and poetry as I have recently: you can also check out some stuff in my Noise and Video page.

I’m not aiming to write the great Canadian novel, because really what is? I’m a second generation Colombian mixed-race bisexual Canadian woman. There are tons of us out  there, but not all of us are the same. I write from my perspective and hopefully with uncreative writing, I’m accomplishing something outside of that experience, and who knows, maybe I’ll see more of myself in it than just those labels I’ve described myself as: writer, Canadian, woman…so on and so forth. I’m not aiming to be anything other than what I am: a writer who experiments, who loves to read, happens to be a cinephile, and wants to keep learning.

If there is one aim that I would love to go for, it would be to come back as a robot or computer or a computer program: analyzing unpredictable algorithms and seeing the math among the stars. I believe James Joyce did that, and maybe that’s why I love his work. Maybe.

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On May 26, I’ll be one of the featured poets at Howl at Q Space in Toronto. I will post up more details as I get them.

For now, I’ll leave with a photo of my daughter as Daft Punk (she’s a big Daft Punk and Wendy Carlos fan).

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Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001

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I often have several books on the go. This time it’s no different: retyping Portrait Of The Artist, tackling Infinite Jest, and Philip K. Dick’s Ubik.

I had to abandon Ubik for a short while due to a recent re-watch of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 (many thanks to my friend Bogart for grounding me back to my film nerd-dom – click his name and find some awesome tunes btw) . What fascinates me about the movie is the colour schema feast and  comforting OCD-pleasing shots that Kubrick utilizes, in all his flicks, but in this film in particular. Something about it always leaves me wanting more and since there is no more (well, Kubrick-wise in that world), I end up watching all my Kubrick movies again. This time, since the book was written alongside the screenplay, I picked the book out of my bookshelf and prepared myself for the dry read I remembered it being.

It must have been the time I had read it when I was a kid, or maybe my mind was busy wrapping its head around the science in its future casting, but it’s definitely a different read now. Almost poetic at times in the passages I’ve picked out below:

1. “It was hard to tell when they lifted from the track and became airborne, but when the roar ofthe rockets suddenly doubled its fury, and Floyd found himself sinking deeper and deeper into the cushions of his seat, he knew that the first-stage engines had taken over. He wished he could look out of the window, but it was an effort even to turn his head, Yet there was no discomfort; indeed, the pressure of acceleration and the overwhelming thunder of the motors produced an extraordinary euphoria. His ears ringing, the blood pounding in his veins, Floyd felt more alive than he had for years. He was young again, he wanted to sing aloud – which was certainly safe, for no one could possibly hear him.

The mood passed swiftly, as he suddenly realized that he was leaving Earth, and everything he had ever loved. Down there were his three children, motherless since his wife had taken that fatal flight to Europe ten years ago. (Ten years? Impossible! Yet it was so…) Perhaps, for their sake, he should have remarried…..
He had almost lost sense of time when the pressure and the noise abruptly slackened, and the cabin speaker announced: “Preparing to separate from lower stage. Here we go.”There was a slight jolt; and suddenly Floyd recalled a quotation of Leonardo da Vinci’s which he had once seen displayed in a NASA office:

The Great Bird will take its flight on the back of the great bird, bringing glory to the nest where it was born.
Well, the Great Bird was flying now, beyond all the dreams of da Vinci, and its exhausted companion was winging back to earth. In a ten-thousand-mile arc, the empty lower stage would glide down into the atmosphere, trading speed for distance as it homed on Kennedy. In a few hours, serviced and refueled, it would be ready again to lift another companion toward the shining silence with it could never reach.”

2. “Floyd sometimes wondered if the Newspad, and the fantastic technology behind it, was the last word in man’s quest for perfect communications. Here he was, far out in space, speeding away from Earth at thousands of miles an hour, yet in a few milliseconds he could see the headlines of any newspaper he pleased. (That very word “newspaper,” of course, was an anachronistic hangover into the age of electronics.) The text was updated automatically on every hour; even if one read only the English versions, one could spend an entire lifetime doing nothing but absorbing the everchanging flow of information from the news satellites.

It was hard to imagine how the system could be improved or made more convenient. But sooner or later, Floyd guessed, it would pass away, to be replaced by something as unimaginable as the Newspad itself would have been to Caxton or Gutenberg.

There was another thought which a scanning of those tiny electronic headlines often invoked. The more wonderful the means of communication, the more trivial, tawdry, or depressing its contents seemed to be. Accidents, crimes, natural and man-made disasters, threats of conflict, gloomy editorials – these still seemed to be the main concern of the millions of words being sprayed into the ether. Yet Floyd also wondered if this was altogether a bad thing; the newspapers of Utopia, he had long ago decided, would be terribly dull.”

I imagine space flight to be a hundred times as exciting as being on a plane taking off or the biggest rollercoaster ride in the world. The miracle in the “miracle” of flight is just another assurance in the way humanity moves forward. There are a few passages where Floyd is amused by arriving on the space station and seeing his passport check/border check as a mere formality. There are no divisions in outside of Earth.

Then further on his thoughts on the news and how we get our news (the Newspad/iPad/e-reader), are topical and say so much of the book’s future and our present. All the news is the same, but it wouldn’t be news if it wasn’t. What would a Utopian newspaper give us? What is the inevitable, unfathomable technology that will replace our current medium of text reading?

All thoughts that coalesced in my head as I rode home reading my paperback in the new streamlined TTC subway trains. The train’s polished silver, blood red seats, interactive maps, soothing announcements, and subtle advertising, were a hint that all things predicted are merely forecasts from the past.

It’s going to be interesting to see The Shining at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in April. I haven’t read the King novel in forever as well. There’s something about Kubrick that compels you to grab the read. I find his cinema to be visual poetry and that’s probably why there’s so much of an appeal on my part.

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A reminder that I have an art show opening at Playful Grounds this weekend!

Charlie and Crush Are Here – the Art Exhibit

7pm

Playful Grounds: 605 College, Toronto

https://www.facebook.com/events/481645721891273/

P.S. If you ever ask me what my favorite movie is be prepared, you won’t hear the end of it.