June 4, 2017 § Leave a comment

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Insight: that if you had better understanding of your own boundaries, the relationship could not have lasted for as long as it did.

To be as grateful for what was taken as for what you gave. To realize it was better to live imperfectly for as long as was possible. To feel like you helped another. To recognize, also, what you deserve.

June 4, 2017 § Leave a comment

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Today I wake up late, cancel all of my appointments, and read Josep Pla’s The Gray Notebook in bed. I feel like I’m sitting with a kind of sadness, but it’s not an unpleasant feeling. I feel emotionally spent, or perhaps not spent but raw. Emotion is returning to me.

I have been neglecting it.

Last night I went on a date at the Dundas West Street Festival. We walked up and down Dundas, talking and stopping to watch the music… The street was full of activity, completely transformed, full of patios built out to the end of sidewalks and criss-crossed with revellers. The night had an intimate, homely quality. I had a good time, talking to my date about books and writing and what it’s like for her to be a social worker. I felt pulled someplace, someplace perhaps nicer than where I currently am, but something was pulling me in the opposite direction, too, telling me that perhaps it was too soon but to do anything but float on the wind.

I don’t know what I want, but the sadness that I feel right now is strange and overwhelming, and that it is overwhelming my ability to decide anything for myself is probably all the answer I need. I keep waiting for other people to clarify my desire for me, a strange position I haven’t been in since I was teenager. But I felt desire, too, stirring somewhere deep in a pile of books and disordered bedclothes… a desk cramped with papers and tax forms and pens and tech.

I’m moving slowly this morning, fresh and unsure.

Power

June 4, 2016 § Leave a comment

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At nine o’clock someone pulls the fire alarm and fire trucks slowly pull into the square with fully dressed firemen ambling in front of them.

The fire is not real. We step inside the building to grab waters on our impromptu break while we watch one of the male dancers do a striptease in front of the flashing red lights. He pulls down the top half of his jumpsuit and leans over before the camera while his troopmates shout from the railings.

It isn’t real but it is the most real thing to happen that night.

There’s much food and the guests only seem to want a little of it, taking tiny bites and leaving containers full of steaming french fries next to overflowing drinks missing just one or two sips. When everything is free and nothing is necessary everything is excess.

One woman spits her appetizer out on another server – the server is a recent immigrant and I imagine that’s why. She is a woman and a recent immigrant. I am unscathed.

The building raises itself on its hind legs and men and women scramble to climb it, their four-hundred dollar shoes kicking off the hard surface. All of their money is going somewhere.

A train of photographers moves through the party. I imagine some of them have been hired by the event, some by media, and that some belong to specific people in attendance.

Would it be better if the lake were to swallow us all? That’s an honest question.

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I like the work but I realize I am a prideful shit (I already knew this) when I find myself thinking “I have created a work of art that is unfathomably beautiful.”

It’s just a novel and no one that I would protect myself against can read.

Guests set their drinks down on the subwoofers and they bounce and shake for a bit before tumbling to the floor. I sweep up much glass.

A woman sets her iPhone next to her purse on a subwoofer and I watch as it shakes off. Moments later the purse is gone but the iPhone is still there, lying in the space between a floor light and the subwoofer.

I imagine getting blamed or accused for the missing phone. It is only in that moment that I consider taking it, but of course I leave it where it is.

Who knows what might have happened if I had picked it up with my fingers and set it back in its place?

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Near the end of the night people start finishing their drinks. The limits imposed by time have finally introduced scarcity.

Two women come to the rescue of their drinks while I am clearing empties from a cube. “Please don’t take these,” they say.

“But it’s so hard to resist.”

They turn to each other. “He’s so cute, isn’t he?”

I’m already gone.

I am breaking in a new pair of shoes. I am in so much pain that it is like I am walking underwater. I can’t imagine moving any faster through the crowds, but I see people doing it. In any case I don’t stop. I want to make a good impression. When I change pairs at the end of the night for the clean-up I feel euphoric. I can move again.

The dance floors empty. They deflate the tent. People start to leave.

Now that there’s no one there I like doing circuits under the big white tent that howls like wind through a mountain canyon as all of the air is being let out.

The money has found its home.

High-Rise

June 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

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Wolves howling in the air vents. The only actor I recognize is pregnant and I feel relieved every time I see her. Even if her character is just as empty as the others. I don’t know what anyone is thinking. In that sense it is very close to the source material—I assume, though I haven’t read the book. JG Ballard liked to maintain a clinical distance from his characters, like his protagonist Robert (D?) Laing.

The boy seems to stand for something. So too the dogs. Everything is supposed to mean something else. Utopian social commentary. Action doesn’t follow itself (making allegorical correspondance paramount) and the correspondances are impenetrable. The actors perform, but to a wall. Ballard’s seventies futurist setting is charmingly preserved. Unfortunately, so is seventies misogyny. There’s a very disturbing rape.

It’s not a bad movie. The music is very good. The photography, too, and the stylistic choices that the director makes. Somehow I was able to watch the entire thing. But I found myself wishing that the scriptwriter had taken Ballard’s book as tonal and thematic inspiration without feeling the need to be perfectly faithful to the story—something like what Ridley Scott did with the (two dimensional) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I wondered what it would be like to rewrite the movie as a novel—there can be so much life in Ballard—only having seen it once, and never reading the book.

Turn It Off 

April 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

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I think Hardcore Henry’s misogyny felt weirdly acceptable (even though it wasn’t) because it seemed to be the product both of an insane telekinetic sociopath and an emotionally stunted/split scientist?

Otherwise the movie, for all of its excess, seemed to believe in love or a kind of love that was emotional, not sexual. Even if it demonstrated that belief sexually or through sexual means and placed love of the father above all other kinds of love.

Biking home, life was more visceral after watching that movie. I was chasing “The Nose” up Beverly and down side-streets. Yevgeni Zamyatin’s We had became guns and explosions instead of mandatory calisthenics and forgotten homes in a bubble-enclosed city… The bottle glinting madly in the moonlight in Yuri Olesha’s Envy a musical performed by a series of saluting body-doubles.

In the Russian tradition they have learned how to do without exposition, which in clumsy hands often makes things worse. Instead, a flurry of unexplained signs that bleeds or leaks unreality down from the screen.

This isn’t my last post, but I am approaching my last post. Like a motorcyclist frantically trying to make up the distance between himself and a retreating convoy, frustrated to find that he can only cover half the distance at a time.

Defence of

April 9, 2016 § Leave a comment

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Initially I didn’t know what to say here. I feel in some ways ridiculous talking about [redacted] without letting the novel lead the conversation, because that’s what it’s meant to do. So I thought instead I would talk about my process, speaking about the construction of the novel in the most general terms, and to give a little background information, hopefully to partially inform the discussion that follows.

I’ve been working off-and-on on this project for the past four-to-five years, but I did the bulk of the work in the past year. I thought I had about two thirds of a book when I came into the program, but I think I really had, at most, one third or maybe even just twenty percent.

I spent a lot of time writing, and rewriting, and maybe an equal amount of time thinking about art and trying to feel things, letting the completed pages sort of percolate through me so that I could find answers to the problems that I needed to solve. Which I think is probably what most writers do. And although it makes use of the intellect, in my opinion writing fiction is not necessarily an intellectual process, which is why it is difficult for me to speak about it directly.

A lot of my life went into [redacted] – I don’t mean specifically, I don’t think there are any major events that are necessarily taken directly from my life. Mostly a lot of very minor, little things. More feelings than events. Some people. But I started writing the first part, Kent’s part, sometime after moving back to my hometown of C——, after seven years, more or less, of living in Toronto, three of those with my ex-wife. I didn’t fit in, and I didn’t try very hard to, either; maybe I didn’t have to. I was twenty-five, and I felt angry and alienated, even though in some ways moving back represented a kind of opportunity for me.

Something I noticed was that I felt much closer to the “idea” of high school than I had felt in a while, which is why I think it plays such a large role in this novel. High school was impossible for me to avoid for a number of reasons. Not just geography. One reason it was in my mind was that I looked around me and I saw a huge gap in the demographics – like any small town, there was hardly anyone between the ages of twenty and thirty-five, and the people who did seem in between that range acted like they were one or the other, not young adults, either old teenagers or the young middle-aged. I saw this in the way that teenagers, in particular, responded to me – like I was one of their peers, which I definitely was not. It was a jarring experience.

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I had also completely forgotten how emptied and hostile it can feel in a small town, in direct contrast I think to the way that they are often represented in popular media, where they stand for a kind of “innocence” or “purity.” To me C—— felt backwards and malevolent, too aware of my presence, too eager to slot me into categories that I didn’t feel I belonged to. I realized that when I was in high school there hadn’t really been any models of the kind of person I wanted to be or of the life I wanted to live. I don’t know if I had any idea that either of those things were missing at the time, but it makes a lot of sense to me now. There was a sort of confusion hanging over everything then that I couldn’t see around.

It seemed to me that there was something vital missing, both looking back and in my new life in C——. I started writing the first pieces of what became [redacted], and a lot of that writing was angry. More angry than I think could have been sustained, especially for me (I am not an angry writer).

Some of that first impulse survives in the book, although very much tempered. Over time I realized the extent to which I was projecting my own feelings on my surroundings, even though I think many of the things I felt were true. I also realized how difficult it was to change or alter those feelings. My ex-wife and I separated, and I entered into what eventually became an abusive relationship with someone who had been in a position of authority relative to me, both of which I mention only to give context to my life then. I lived in a way that was so profoundly alone that I think it took me a while to return to myself again after I finally moved back to Toronto.

All of those experiences enriched and complicated the book. But not in a direct way. I can’t talk about that and I don’t know how I would. They gave me conditions to work through, feelings to try and parse and understand; they gave me an urgency, a desire to find answers—even though I also know that answers are often misleading or limited or false. Often or maybe always. Above all what I wanted to do was to think associatively about life and art and loneliness, and to create something that felt true, and perhaps more vital than what I had felt around me, what I was incapable of expressing in the moment, not in high school or as a frustrated adult. That’s what [redacted] is and what it eventually became: an attempt to capture that vitality without trivializing the confusion and unrest that I felt.

My Dream

March 28, 2016 § Leave a comment

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Last night I dreamed that I was connected with a woman I once secretly loved. Or thought I did. She was moving to the city and had enrolled in the Master’s in Creative Writing program that I am just completing now. She was single and she confessed to loving me too.

I was at first surpised to hear that she wrote, because she hadn’t before – not in a serious way, anyway – but I reasoned that she must be good at it and thought I could see some proof of it in our previous interactions, some of which involved writing and some of which did not.

I defended her against a crowd that was ill-defined and vaguely accusatory: I told them they had no idea who she had been and what she had done, that on that basis alone they had no right to judge her. This was in private. I think she was visiting the research library at the time. There was some uncertainty about whether she was going to accept the program’s offer – but she couldn’t deny the obvious merits of the library and made visiting it her top priority.

A network of concrete offices and arboretums built into a hill that would prove at times difficult to scale. The library – its huge, menacing exterior – was somewhere within that compound which does not at all resemble the actual university. My apartment, too.

I’m not sure if she actually confessed to loving me. It might have been only that she missed me, and that I missed her too – a different kind of love. It might have actually been that she felt relieved to see me, which is another thing altogether. In any case I invited her to come back with me to my apartment. She accepted. I was forced to walk or carry my bicycle, instead of riding it, which proved difficult while navigating the concrete labyrinth that was the university grounds. I think there was also an elevator.

She’d written a beautiful skit about two Irish children that was somehow also about black leather, single buckle shoes. That’s what I remembered her writing and what I thought of as proof of her skill. She wanted to come with me to my apartment and I had wanted that too but I felt suddenly uncertain or hesitant because I realised my partner would be home.

We weren’t dating any longer but we still lived together and I realized it would be awkward to explain. I no longer wanted my friend to visit and tried to think of ways in which I could tactfully put it off, while still ensuring that I be able to see her again sometime in the future when things were more clear. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been able to figure it out and was still wondering what to do when I woke up that morning, to an empty bed and a cat nipping my chin.