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Archive for the ‘Writers’ Category

Will The Real Lady Chatterley Please Stand Up?

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I picked up a copy of Roxana Shirazi’s The Last Living Slut today. I don’t know what really compelled me to do so, I usually stay away from such things, preferring my titillating literature be some crappy romance rag. But I picked it up none the less. I was reading it out in the car on my lunch break, my legs sticking out the window in a vain attempt to get some colour and munching merrily on a brie and veggie sandwich. A tomato slice fell on my white skirt.

I was going to write this post a long time ago, actually when I first wrote about D.H. Lawerence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover here. This was going to be the very next one, although it wouldn’t have been quite like this. I was going to write about how the fictional Lady Chatterley was actually a real person, who actually happened to be quite an influence on the writer’s of her time, she is immortalized as a character in no less than five works of fiction, most notoriously as Lady Constance Chatterley.

But as I was sitting in my car I found my nutty little brain drawing these imaginary parallel lines between the Last Living Slut, Roxana and Lady Ottoline Morrell. Separated by nearly a century they are not so very different, call them what you will, patron, inspiration, muse, groupie, slut.

Back in the day, say around the turn of the century or so, the bad-boys of the world were the poets, the writers and the artists. If you wanted debauchery and dirty loving, that is who you hung out with. Today it’s the rock stars, the writers take a bit of a backseat to accessibility of the rock star, there’s a certain draw I suppose, the rock stars get all the dirty loving and the writers sit there suffering to make deadline, or even get published. Maybe, I don’t really know, I’m not talented.

Lawerence’s Lady Chattereley’s Lover is allegedly based on Lady Ottoline Morrell’s love affair with a stonemason named “Tiger”. It follows of course, the good lady’s romance and growth within the relationship and how she comes to learn that one cannot be all mind, nor all body, but must strike a balance which can only be found in true love. Ottoline, an incurable romantic had many love affairs and kept a circle of writers and artists around her, offering hospitality and friendship that resulted her literary immortalization.

Ottoline Morrell is an extremely interesting person to me, because she seems as though she is the type that creative individuals were drawn to, obviously she inspired and encouraged their work,  but she was also interesting and charismatic enough to become their work.

She appears in two of D.H. Lawerence’s novels, Lady Chatterley of course, but also in Women in Love, where her character strikes her lover in the head and sends him running naked through a forest after he spurns her. She is Mrs. Bidlake in Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point, Lady Caroline Bury in Graham Greene’s It’s a Battlefield, and Lady Syballine Quarrell in Alan Bennett’s Forty Years On. It’s quite the legacy.

I haven’t finished Roxana’s The Last Living Slut yet, but I can’t help but think about Lady Morrell when I read her book, she talks about a desire to be with people which is utterly romantic, it’s there, all hidden in her stories of female ejaculation and getting peed on by Avenged Sevenfold, it’s there. The interesting thing is, Roxana’s rock stars seem to want to be around her as much as Ottoline’s writers wanted to be around her. They are similar in their appeal, their romantic qualities and magnetic personalities.

Also, a post script here, I find it incredibly serendipitous that Roxana dedicated her book to a “Tiger”.

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Your Poems Are Like A Dark City Centre

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It occured to me after I had a conversation with a friend where it was mentioned that they have only allowed one other person to read their poetry, that writing is rather like getting naked in front of a stranger. By that token is asking someone if you can read what they have written rather like asking them to stand naked in front of you? This is like asking questions in a letter, but onwards anyway.

When I read a story or a poem that I really, really like, I do tend to get a sense of the writer themselves, which often encourages me to go in search of more information about them, which pushes me more towards reading those writers that have passed.  The reason for this is two-fold. One, there is usually more information available on an individual once they have passed, and two, the information available is usually very, very interesting.

Writing is rather like standing naked in front of a stranger, in how it is very hard to write without judging yourself, feeling vulnerable and as though every flaw is being scrutinized, and not kindly at that.

There are certain writers that stay with you, Steinbeck for example with Cannery Row and East of Eden and The Pearl. Sylvia Plath and her attempts to drown herself only to be bobbed up and out of the ocean like a cork in The Bell Jar. The Tropic of Cancer and the whole “I can shoot hot bolts into you, Tania.” bit. These are the examples that come to mind for me now, without having to refer to my notes or book shelf, however there are scads of others which makes blogging about books easy, because I can always find something to ramble on about.

There is an intimacy that develops between writer and reader, a level of trust that the writer has to have to stand for all intents naked in front of their audience, and a certain tenderness required on the part of the reader. The tenderness is required because even if you didn’t love the book, there is a desire, at least for me, to not judge too harshly, to still love the writer for the effort.

I have now completely dissolved into a puddle of literary love.

Written by Lindsey

June 23, 2010 at 12:57 pm

More Kick Than Grape Kool-Aid

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At my non-interesting, non-literary day job, which sometimes runs over into evenings and weekends, I work with a group of about fifteen people. On a daily basis we send various e-mails back and forth about the usual things that happen on a daily basis at any average office.

One of these emails happened to be based around a team prize, and since we all work in an office and it is a soul crushing environment, a bottle of wine was suggested as a nice prize. Let’s be honest here, for a moment, alcohol and mind-numbing office work go hand in hand. Often you will hear at the end of any working day “I can’t wait to get home and have a glass of wine.” or “There is a cold beer in the fridge with my name on it.” We all know it’s true, any real job (read, the job that you took as a stopover to pay the bills while you waited for your golden opportunity to come by and it’s now been twenty years, and your youth and dignity are all but gone) that you know you are just doing for the pay and the benefits has its own special level of self medication that’s required to 1.) help you forget at the end of the day how awful the soul sucking, crushing weight of said employment is, and 2.) chill you the fuck out so you can get on with actually forking over a third of said soul sucking earnings to the Government. Why we do this, is a mystery left to the ages. Life is suffering, apparently.

Getting back to the email, my co-worker, was very enthusiastic about the bottle of wine, because as she so eloquently wrote to the entire team she is a “wineau”. W-I-N-E-A-U. I paused for a moment when I read that, now I knew from experience, that this was not a typo, not being the … ahem, brightest bulb at times, my co-worker had obviously never seen the word “wino” in print, and thus, typed it out phonetically, and quite cleverly. Given the geographic location of our office, and being Canadian I am sure also added to the ‘eau’ part on the end, the influence of French-Canadian speech patterns on our everyday language and the like. Did you know that poutine, for example, means mess? As in “ça va faire une maudite poutine”, which translates to “It will make a damn mess.” The more you know.

I paused because, in these cases such misspellings usually cause me to glance over and then scrap the whole conversation as I die a little inside. This one actually caused a smile, and then a laugh and then a declaration of it’s very genius. Wineau, of course, it’s like pronouncing Target with a French accent “Targe-aaay”, it just classes the whole thing up. It’s less paper bag on the corner and more, paper cup at a street festival. It’s not passing out in a puddle of your own sick, it’s declaring you have a headache and putting yourself to bed. It’s GENIUS!!! and I am appropriating it for my very own!

Dead squirrels, more emo then a bucket full of drunk writers.

This squirrel is more emo than a bucket full of drunk writers.

Now what, I am sure we are all wondering, does this have to do with books, or writers, or anything remotely on topic with the rest of this blog? Well, frankly, a lot of very good writers are drunks, or rather, wineaus.

Let’s look at the some of the better known ones:

Jack London : author of Call of the Wild and White Fang, “(…) There was no time, in all my waking time, that I didn’t want a drink. I began to anticipate the completion of my daily thousand words by taking a drink when only five hundred words were written. It was not long until I prefaced the beginning of the thousand words with a drink.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald : author of the Great Gatsby “First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.”

William Faulkner : author of The Sound and The Fury, I wrote about him here, on ikstim.

Ernest Hemingway : author of The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and The Sea, who is also tied forever in history to six-toed cats and for whom I named my perfect daiquiri. Recipe here.

Jack Kerouac : the daddy of the beat-generation, author of On the Road, The Dharma Bums and several other largely influential books, Kerouac died an early death caused by cirrhosis, after a lifetime of heavy drinking. “As I grew older I became a drunk. Why? Because I like ecstasy of the mind.”

Hunter S. Thompson : Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, do I need to write anything else? Oh here’s a quote, “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”

one more, Charles Bukowski : whom I love, to the nth degree, the Laureate of American lowlife, all of his stories involved heavy drinking, and even his live readings featured him getting bombed and having combative discussions with his audience.

Now that’s not to say that in order to become a great writer, you need to be on a bender all the time. Not at all, some of them take drugs.

The list above is only a short one and only mentioning a few American writers, I didn’t even get on the subject of the Russians, the French or the English. There are hundreds, thousands of writers, artists and performers that have substance abuse issues, for some it helps to quiet the deafening roar of the inner critic, to help them face the blank page, or simply to dull the pain of suffering for your craft. I am certainly not advocating abusing drugs and alcohol, in fact for many it was simply a short stop on the way to an early grave, either by disease caused by excessive drinking or at their own hands.

I can’t dispute however that some of the best literature, some of the most beautiful, heart-rending stories were written on liquor soaked pages, in a booze fueled haze of creativity. We all know the dangers of drinking, and for god’s sake, but more your own, don’t drink and drive. Stay home and read instead.

Written by Lindsey

June 14, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Even Amidst Fierce Flames The Golden Lotus Can Be Planted

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I have a copy of Sylvia Plath’s first and only novel The Bell Jar that I have been carrying around with me throughout my various moves since grade eleven. The copy of which I speak is a printing that was issued in the 1970’s and has a very simple, green concentric circle design and black and white block lettering. I should also mention that I totally pilfered this copy from my grade eleven English class book stacks.

At the time I didn’t think my of actions as stealing so much as liberating this book from its endlessly dreary shelf-life, sitting on the stacks passed over for brighter, newer paperback books. I devoured the Bell Jar, over and over again. There was quite literally a period of my life that I would read it from start to finish and then start all over again. I read it in this fashion to my count eight times, it was likely more, before I moved onto something else. Undoubtedly however, The Bell Jar is one of the novels that defined the utter cliché of my teenaged ennui and shaped my earliest attempts to be “a writer.” As we know now however, I am not “a writer”, and it’s all Marcel Proust’s fault.

I read The Bell Jar frequently even today, often in the bath, coining my phrase “I’m reading Plath in the bath”, which is ironic with the whole suicide thing. Not to worry though, Sylvia didn’t do herself in by opening her veins in a warm bath, she did it by sticking her head in the oven a month after the first publication of her only novel. The stigma attached to The Bell Jar Aside, it’s actually a funny, personal and rather uplifting tale. At least to me.

Semi-autobiographical, The Bell Jar follows the protagonist Esther Greenwood as she works through her internship at a woman’s magazine, return to her mother’s house, attempted suicide, hospitalization and eventual recovery with some flashbacks recalling her lame boyfriend Buddy and his weird underwear. I expect eventually, since my blog here has become a virtual graveyard for the writers themselves I will write more in another entry about Plath herself, her suicide and the destruction of her last journal after her death by Ted Hughes, but that requires a trip to the library and some pant-free research.

Written by Lindsey

June 9, 2010 at 9:21 am

I Am Only Blogging About Sexual Proclivities From Now On.

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I was looking through my bookcases earlier this week in search of something new and interesting to share with you here on ikstim. I have noticed a trend with the books that I choose in that the authors are all long dead. I think this is largely subconscious on my part as so often in my pants-free googling and what I often end up writing about is the person who wrote the book rather than the book itself. I am like the Perez Hilton of dead writers. Get your dirty literary gossip here!

So in my search when I pulled out James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the first thing I thought of was not the work, nor even various classics that Joyce has contributed to the vast “literary rainbow of books you should read to make people think you are smart” (patent pending).  I did not even think of my grad student friend Pat, who is slavishly devoted enough to Joyce to write a whole bloody dissertation on him. I thought of instead, James Joyce’s dirty letters to his wife. Of course I did, because I am nothing if not obscenely curious as to how great writers conducted themselves in the bedroom.

There are a few things you should know about James Joyce before I drop the whole “I like my wife to fart while I fuck her” bomb on you.

1.) Joyce wrote some of the most interesting and challenging books, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and  Finnegans Wake. His experimental style has given him a reputation as one of the one of the most influential writers in the 20th Century and he is often cited as a key contributor to the development of the Modernist Novel.

2.) He was a bad-ass. A heavy drinker, and completely impious, he refused to kneel and confess at the wish of his dying mother. He was also shot at one night by his room-mate, who may or may not have been aiming for a kettle that hung above Joyce’s bed. That’s some street cred right there.

3.) His wife, Nora Barnacle, was a terrifically supportive and loyal spouse. In 1941 When Joyce died and it was suggested to her that a Mass be held for his immortal soul she responded, “I couldn’t do that to him.”.

4.) His influence and legacy is impacting how people read and write today. In 1999 Joyce was listed as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century by Time Magazine, and three of his novels appear on the 100 Best English Language Novels according to Modern Library. Ulysses is ranked number one.

So one would think, with all this other interesting, influential and fascinating information and creativity that surrounds him, that I would be able to write a lengthy and lovely entry or a few dedicated to this. Instead I want to tell you about how much he loved his wife’s farts, and it was a lot. James Joyce, wrote letter upon erotic and detailed letter to his wife about how hot and dirty he thought she was. An example written in 1909:

“My sweet little whorish Nora I did as you told me, you dirty little girl, and pulled myself off twice when I read your letter. I am delighted to see that you do like being fucked arseways. Yes, now I can remember that night when I fucked you for so long backwards. It was the dirtiest fucking I ever gave you, darling. My prick was stuck in you for hours, fucking in and out under your upturned rump. I felt your fat sweaty buttocks under my belly and saw your flushed face and mad eyes. At every fuck I gave you your shameless tongue came bursting out through your lips and if a gave you a bigger stronger fuck than usual, fat dirty farts came spluttering out of your backside. You had an arse full of farts that night, darling, and I fucked them out of you, big fat fellows, long windy ones, quick little merry cracks and a lot of tiny little naughty farties ending in a long gush from your hole. It is wonderful to fuck a farting woman when every fuck drives one out of her. I think I would know Nora’s fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women. It is a rather girlish noise not like the wet windy fart which I imagine fat wives have. It is sudden and dry and dirty like what a bold girl would let off in fun in a school dormitory at night. I hope Nora will let off no end of her farts in my face so that I may know their smell also.”

If those are not the words of a man who desperately loves the shit (that works on both levels – ha!) out of his wife, then I don’t know what is. There are a whole host of these letters that run the gamut from sweet and romantic, to begging for a caning, to odd masturbatory and scatological references. The shocking nature of these letters aside, they are really rather sweet, and I find it endearing that these two found each other and despite the rather icky and windy nature of their couplings were devoted and desirous of each other right up until Joyce’s death.

It is easy to get caught up in the scandalous nature of Joyce’s private life, easier than making your way through Finnegans Wake for sure, but to me it provides another layer to his writing. A glimpse of the faithful relationship he had with his wife, which putting aside the rather unappetizing things which these two consenting adults did together, inspired his work and nourished his life. Nora was his soul-mate, his muse and perhaps what he valued most, a safe-harbour, a place that he could be himself and be farted on lovingly.

Written by Lindsey

June 6, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Cookies You Can Believe In, In Bed.

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I was Marcel Proust in another life.  I have proof.  See, I am never going to be a great writer, I will never, and not through lack of trying, write a great novel and I will never see myself published. How’s that for positive thought? You can take your quantum physics and shove them up your ass.

The reason that none of these things will ever happen for me is because when I was Marcel Proust I used up all my writerly mojo and will never be able to write again. Being Marcel Proust has sucked my creative juices dry, so now you are left with pants-free googling anecdotes and semi-coherant rambling in my attempt to emulate having talent.

Looking at pictures of myself and Marcel Proust, you can see the resemblance, he looks all pasty and thoughtful, see? I am also pasty, and while not terribly thoughtful any more, I do like cookies.

And boy-howdy here comes more proof, when I was Marcel Proust in my former life, I also liked cookies. I liked cookies enough that I was able to write a novel in seven volumes about cookies. I wonder how many more times I can write cookies into this paragraph? Cookies.

Also, guess what I am reading? That’s right! The novel in seven parts that I wrote in French between 1913 and 1927, In Search of Lost Time, or Remembrance of Things Past, depending on the translation. Except, now I am reading it in English, because the ability to read this in French did not reincarnate with the rest of me.

His Hour Upon The Stage

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I like to know things about people who write the books I read. I like to know things about people in general, but I particularly like to know things about writers. I like to picture the writer at his desk, hunched over and hunting and pecking at a typewriter, clicking out lovely things. So, I google. I used to go old school and visit the library, then I discovered this thing called the internet, now I research from bed, often without pants on.

Even though I can’t say that I especially enjoyed The Sound and The Fury, I found my curiosity piqued about the man who wrote it.

For the sake of not blogging about things that are boring and can easily found elsewhere, I thought it best to focus on the parts of William Faulkner’s life that most interested me. Mainly, his love life.  I often wonder if what authors write about is largely shaped by what happens in their own lives. I like to entertain thoughts of loves lost and roads not taken being explored in their craft and played out on the printed page. Writing stories with endings that are happy or tragic, depending on how the writer reflects on those very individuals or defining moments.

William Faulkner lived, for all intents and purposes as the leading man in his own soap opera. In love with a woman who had married someone else first, Faulkner waited ten years for his chance with his teenaged sweetheart. They were married when her first marriage fell apart. A true romantic, that didn’t stop him from conducting several extra-marital affairs, many which lasted several years.

There are some imaginative types that will tell you that to be able to create something, to write, or to paint,or to act, that you have to be able to fall in love with anything that crosses your path, be it for ten minutes or for ten years. Faulkner strikes me as the sort that worked like that, photos of him even now carry a certain weight, the portrait of the artist as an amorous poet. Despite his extra curricular activities outside the marriage bed and a heavy dependancy on alcohol, his relationship with his wife endured until the time of his death.

Faulkner, in addition to his dalliances had a generous tendency towards alcoholism. He claimed to not be able to face the blank page without a bottle of Jack Daniels. He felt, and stated several times that the drink helped him fuel his process. Others, upon speculation would suggest that it was a method of escape from the doldrums of daily life. Faulkner faced several financial woes up until his commercial success and subsequent Noble Peace Prize, and may have found some deliverance at the bottom of a bottle.

There is a picture of William Faulkner where he is seen lounging in the sun, smoking a pipe. Both elbows are casually propped on the arms of his beach chair, his typewriter before him. Here he looks very much a man not at all aware of the way his works would shape others, here he looks like a man that wrote for himself, for the joy of seeing the words spread out on the page before him.

Written by Lindsey

March 2, 2010 at 10:22 am