Category: distraction

Stardate 29.04.09

star-trekWell, I couldn’t let an opportunity go by without referencing the upcoming Star Trek movie.  The franchise is hanging on this one, boys and girls; the Next Generation sputtered out after the woeful “Nemesis” and nothing that followed appealed to anyone other than hardcore fans.  A drastic re-tooling was in order.  That’s why the guys in suits chose J.J. Abrams to carry the torch.  A guaranteed crowd-pleaser.  Hell, that Lost show made buckets of money–as a gun for hire he comes with a pretty high rep.

Abrams has been around awhile, longer than I realized.  And he hasn’t always been a golden goose either.  He receives a brief mention in Richard E. Grant’s film diary With Nails.  Grant runs into him at some Hollywood gathering and  with his acute perceptiveness, describes J.J. and his cronies thus:  “Meet a twenty-four-year old screenwriter called J.J. who wrote ‘Regarding Henry’, has a three-picture deal, and talks real fast, as do his friends, all of whom seem young, ruthless and rich.”

Hmmm… “ruthless and rich”.  Not “gifted” or “witty” or “intelligent”.  Ruthless and rich. And “Regarding Henry”?  Remember that turkey?

kirkBut all will be forgiven if J.J. can revitalize the old gal, make it contemporary without abandoning the campiness and charm of the original show; I’m a retro nut and I’m worried the writers (one of them the “genius” behind “Transformers: The Movie”), will bury the story under CGI, comic book level dialogue and stock characterizations, while bending as far as possible to meet the abysmally low expectations of the fan boys/girls.

End of rant.

Now, as you’ve likely guessed, since my last post a couple of weeks back I’ve been working, plugging away on new material and prepping old stuff for revision.  Beginning to gear up…there’s something about the summer that gets my creative energies revved up to full throttle.  I can’t explain it.  While the rest of my family is off traveling or out at the beach, I’m up in my office, sweating buckets, scribbling like mad.

With the coming of warmer weather this month, something clicked into place and I’ve been at it for long stretches, working on–well, I can’t say yet.  You know me.  Like to play it close to the vest.  Might show it to Sherron later on this week but until then–shtum.

So I’ve been working hard and every so often scrambling down the stairs to watch a period of hockey–it’s the Stanley Cup playoffs, doncha know–before rushing back upstairs to work some more and then back downstairs to check the score, watch highlights, never missing Don Cherry…

cherry

I’ve been a Boston Bruins fan for nigh on forty years–oh, yes, my children, the big, bad Bruins and I go wayyy back.  Watching old footage of Bobby Orr still brings tears to my eyes.  And this year…well, the boys had a terrific regular season and then they destroyed the Habs in four straight games.  I hardly dare wish for anything else.  Must not tempt the hockey Gods to turn on the B’s like some blind Greek guy with a taste for older women…

It’s a pleasure to watch players like Marc Savard and I love that Lucic kid.  Wideman is an under-appreciated talent and Tim Thomas has been good when called upon.  But if that idjit Phil Kessel doesn’t stop with the lookit-me-dangle-all-by-myself-I’m-Jason-bleedin’-Spezza lone man dashes up the ice (which, inevitably lead to odd man rushes the other way), I’m going to end up kicking the front of my television set in.

Sorry, had to get that off my chest.  It’s just that one commentator described Kessel as the Bruins’ best player during the Montreal series and I just about swallowed my beer mug.

kesselOkay, I admit it, I picked New Jersey and San Jose to make the final this year.  Tells you what I know.  Yeah, and now watch Kessel go on to win the fucking Conn Smythe Trophy.

Okay, besides  work and the odd period of hockey, I’ve also somehow managed to squeeze in a fair amount of reading, lotsa music and even a movie or two.  Part of that whole getting-some-balance-in-my-life thing I’ve been working toward.  With mixed results (hey, but at least I’m trying!).

Read John Fante’s 1939 novel Ask the Dust and absolutely loved it.  Set in 1930’s Los Angeles, the story of Arturo Bandini, aspiring novelist, come West to seek his fame and fortune.  I described the book elsewhere as a cross between Nathanial West (Day of the Locust) and Knut Hamsun (Hunger).  I photocopied  two pages and glued them into a “Book of Commonplace” I keep of favorite quotes and excerpts.  I also hand-copied these sentences:

Over the city spread a white murkiness like fog.  But it was not the fog:  it was the desert heat, the great blasts from the Mojave and Santa Ana, the pale white fingers of the wasteland, ever reaching out to claim its captured child.

fanteHere’s a piece from Salon.com that talks about  about Mr. Fante’s life and work.   Definitely a book–and an author–worthy of rediscovery.

In terms of movies, Sherron and I puzzled our way through David Lynch’s ultra-weird “Mulholland Drive” and I’m nearly done watching the second and final season on the 1967 TV series, “The Invaders”.  Fun to slam down one or two episodes with a stiff glass of scotch after a hard day of writing.  That’s my method for stress relief (patent pending)…

Lots of time in my office means lots of tunes playing too…and, as of yesterday, that includes Bob Dylan’s latest, Together Through Life.  Not sure what I think of the new one yet.  Maybe give it a few more listens before I decide.  It lacks a cut with the mythic, spiritual power of something like “Man in the Long Black Coat” or, from  Time out of Mind, the searing and entrancing “Highlands” (all sixteen-and-half minutes of it).  Some good songs, especially “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'”, “My Wife’s Hometown” and “It’s All Good” and I like the Tex-Mex flavor but I wouldn’t count Together Through Life in the front rank of Dylan’s body of work.  Not by a long shot.

godPlenty of instrumental, ambient stuff pouring out of my speakers:  Explosions in the Sky, God is an Astronaut, the soundtrack of “Mysterious Skin” (Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie collaborating).  Old Tangerine Dream (“Atem”), Mogwai and NIN’s “Ghosts I-IV”.

The perfect accompaniment; the music transports me to a place beyond physical laws and temporal constraints.  In this undetermined location I can work without distraction, removed from obligations and duties.  That door over there opens on nothing, the backdrop outside my window cunningly executed but, upon close inspection, reveals imperfections, chips in the paint and swirls left by careless brush strokes–

The artifice holding, for now, but I keep the door closed and the blinds mostly drawn.  To maintain the necessary illusion, preserve it through a combination of higher physics, prayer, alchemy and the judicious use of duct tape, when all else fails…

door

Under a Spell

apejpeg.jpgTwo weeks into intensive revisions on my novella and every distraction, everything that pulls me away from the fictional world I am in the process of creating, is infuriating. The mundanities of life require attention—paying the bills, attending parent-teacher meetings—but I am resentful of such “trivialities”. When I’m focused on a project, my solipsism becomes downright scary. I forget to eat, wear the same clothes, grow a beard, drift through the house like a blind cat (present, but unseeing). Hour after hour up in my office, leaving only to use the washroom or grab something (anything!) to eat. I suffer withdrawal symptoms when away from my imaginary creations for even short periods of time. I pine for my characters. I miss their voices. Often find it difficult to follow dinner table conversations, occasionally forced to feign an interest in what my wife and sons are saying. A hard admission to make.

I am utterly immersed in this novella. For eight to ten hours a day I walk around in it and breathe the same air as its inhabitants. When I’m not working, I get the feeling that my characters remain in limbo, awaiting my return. There are divided loyalties, a sense of being stuck between two realities, the disorientation that results from that, confusion, my office door opening to a hallway I don’t recognize at first…

apollojpeg.jpgDuring these times, I have no interest in interacting with the outside world. I care little for consensual reality, ordinary rules and conventions; sometimes I go days without leaving the house. That is my entire universe and, believe me, it’s a whole lot bigger than it looks from the outside. My office is maybe 10 X 12 but its physical specifications are irrelevant. It is a cramped space capsule and time machine all rolled into one.

Viewed dispassionately, I lead a pretty dull and ritualized existence. I do nothing outside of reading and writing and hanging out with my family. I have no social life and a limited circle of friends and acquaintances, most of whom I’ve known for a long time. I challenge any future biographer to scrape up enough worthwhile material to fill a short article, let alone a fucking book. Good luck concocting something of interest with daybook entries like this:

Slept poorly (siege dreams again)

Into office immediately–Coffee

Work

Break for lunch

No decent mail

Good progress today

Boys home/ Sher home

Supper (shepherd’s pie)

Few more edits

Crash with book/ in bed 11:00 p.m.

And that goes on for pages and pages and pages

That’s my life. And that’s why I need that ability to project myself into the worlds I fashion one word at a time. Because my daily routine is so unbelievably fucking tedious and boring, it would kill a sane man. Retreating into fantasy is coping behavior, plain and simple. If I didn’t have this crazy, vivid imagination of mine I would’ve gone off my nut ages ago. I’d have never made it out of childhood.

flaubertjpeg.jpgBe regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” (Gustave Flaubert)

Thanks, G.F., and I appreciate that, but I also recall writers like Lawrence (T.E. and D.H.) and Isherwood and Graves and Grahame Greene and Anthony Burgess, world travelers and brilliant diarists, leading fascinating lives and growing vast reputations. Their long shadows still touch us today.

Is this it for me? Sitting in this room day after day, composing sentences, stringing them into stories or novels, producing vast reams of paperwork to little actual effect? A recent journal entry touches a sore point, my terror of being a man of no consequence. Making no mark, leaving nothing noteworthy or commendable behind me. As faceless and anonymous as a body tangled in a mass grave.

There’s a sense now that I’ve got to break out of this rut, seek new experiences, engage with the big, wide world and see what that inspires. Inevitably this brings up thoughts of travel. Are my fictional settings becoming too constricted and too familiar? Would some exotic backdrops lend a little something extra to my tales? Is this cloistered, claustrophobic existence I’m leading stunting my growth as an author and artist?

mertonjpeg.jpgThe clouds change. The seasons pass over our woods and fields in their slow and regular procession, and time is gone before you are aware of it. In one sense, we are always traveling and traveling as if we did not know where we were going. In another sense, we have already arrived.” (Thomas Merton)

I need change. I crave it. A door opening. Opportunity knocking. A thrown bone. A crumb of praise. Signs of hope. A phone call out of the blue. Something completely unexpected and scary and exciting. To make my heart race. To break this terrible thrall