George Bowering - Eye-Rimes
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Recently I was one of three judges for the BC Book Prizes dedicated to the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize. It all began with the arrival of 66 books in mid December, 2011. The prizes were awarded tonight May 12. Make the calculations and you might figure out that I spent quite a few sleepless nights!
What was really curious is that the other two judges did not want to discuss our choices (a short list of five books) and in spite of that the short list included three of my choice five.
One of the books that did not make the short list, but was in mine originally is how I wrote certain of my books
by George Bowering.
It blew me away with a combination of humour and erudition. But what really amazed me the most was to find out that my image of a poet sitting down to write a poem was as far off from the mark judging by Bowering procedures. The book has 26 chapters in which Bowering explains what led him to write those 26 (books and individual poems).
Bowering uses a strange technique, and variations of it, so as to be in a state of writing in which what he puts down on paper is a combination of random and a stream of conciousness to which he also imposes parameters.
Consider from Cereals for Roughage
(1976) page 62:
I had read Gertrude Stein’s (with Leon M. Solomons) Motor Automatism, a booklet published by the Phoenix Book Shop in 1969. It’s a record of experiments the two med students were conducting at Johns Hopkins University in the late 1890s. The two reports were originally published in Psychological Review.
I did not duplicate their experiments, of course, mainly because I did not want to work on subjects aside from myself. I just read the reports and made up my own procedure. I had always been less than fervid about art stuff that had to do with the so-called unconscious or subconscious. So Surrealism and Dada and so on I gave passing notice. Chance operations I found a little more interesting. But over eleven months in 1973-74, I conducted a little experiment.
I don’t remember exactly what I did, but I do remember that it seemed important to carry out the activity in the same place every time, my writing room in our big old house in Kerrisdale. I sat facing north, with daylight coming into the room for the Larch Street (west) side. I kept one of the windows open a little. This room, I should say was over-filled with books, pictures, gewgaws, manuscripts, bicycles, hats, all the detritus that the muse has to tiptoe around. I kept the radio on, dialed to the CBC. I read a book while I was writing on pages that I did not look at. And I think that I spoke aloud or sang little airs. Sounds arrived from other rooms and from Larch, which was a semi-through street.
Then after the near year had elapsed, I came to typing the results, and sometimes the efforts to make out my blind handwriting contributed to the last draft of the probable serial.
Bowering’s preface on how I wrote certain of my books begins:
In the chapter that follows this little preface I will mention OuLiPo and my admiration for writers such as Raymond Queneau and Harry Mathews who create books that show a victory over constraints set on the writing, constraints set by the writers themselves. Jacques Jouet wrote a book of love poems written in the Great Ape language presented in a 300-word Ape-French lexicon by Francis Lacassin, who claimed to have got the Ape words from a self-published book by Edgar Rice Burroughs, a book that has unfortunately become unavailable. Harry Mathews had the nerve to write a series of poems with end-line eye-rimes, even riming “zany” with “botany”…
George Bowering is like a dolphin. He has that built-in smile and it is very difficult to take him seriously. After reading this book I feel ambivalent. I do not know what is true and what isn’t. But I can record here that how I wrote certain of my books
is seriously funny.
George Bowering's Tweets.
A New & Improved Antonio Pastorelli
Friday, May 11, 2012
|Author John Lekich|
When I was a young teenager in Mexico City I don’t think that in Canada or in the United States they had a book classification called juvenile books. John Lekich’s latest, The Prisoner of Snowflake Falls
is defined (like his two previous ones, The Loser’s Club
and King of the Lost and Found
) as a young adult novel. Many call them juvenile novels and the word juvenile, is not an entirely satisfying word. It might bring to mind (to old fogies like me) a young man with a duck cut and a switch blade.
In my days when I read in Spanish they were “novelas juveniles”
and when I read in English, all those Tom Corbett Space Cadet novels were books for boys. I would have not been caught dead reading a girl’s book like those Nancy Drews.
Perhaps this problem of perception is all due to the loss of translation from Latin into English and the gain in translation from Latin into Spanish. If a person is juvenil
, it means that the person in question while old (and even wrinkled) is young at heart. One of our most famous such person was Argentine writer Julio Cortázar who suffered a rare disease we call infantilismo
. Cortázar was a friend of my father’s and he used to visit us in our Buenos Aires home in the early 50s. When I first met him, it was around 1952 and Cortázar was 38. To me he was an old man. But if you saw him on the other side of the street he looked like a teenager. It was only when you got close that you could note the wrinkles of age.
The problem may lie in the often used expression “he is a juvenile delinquent”. We may have it in Spanish but it is a term that is not really part of my memory. I would probably use the term “un joven delincuente
Whichever way you look at the word juvenile, Lekich’s latest protagonist is a juvenile and he might even be a juvenile delinquent. Read the first couple of pages of his novel and decide for yourself.
The book, which I will read before I hand it to my 14-year-old granddaughter from Hades, Rebecca, has me in a quandary. Everybody knows that novelists, even when they say that their novels are not in the least autobiographical, must insert something of themselves. After having known Lekich for 30 years, I can assert here that I have always seen him as an ethical man with a moral code that is beyond reproach. And yet he writes about a little thief with such a believable accuracy that I can only wonder. The next time I see him I think I will demand to see his driver’s license. Meanwhile I will enjoy being bamboozled by my good friend's young adult novel. It just might make me feel more juvenil.
I am writing the story of my life in a notebook I stole from a drugstore. Come to think of it, I stole the pen too. Given this information, there is no particular reason for you to believe that I’m especially honest. But I figure writing things down might be a good start in the trust department. I’m hoping that when you know a few things about me, you might begin to understand how I ended up where I did.
I’ve decided to try a little experiment. While writing my story, I’m going to be one-hundred-percent honest. You never know. I might even get to like it.
With this in mind, I think it’s only fair to let you know my real name fight off the bat. It is Henry Thelonius Holloway. Feel free to call me Henry anytime you like. You may think, what’s the big deal? Everyone has a name. Actually, in my case, I have a bunch of different names. I have a student ID card that says my name is Horace Latimer. I have a library card that claims I am Marvin O’Hara. And I have a driver’s license that swears I am a legally bonafide driver named Antonio Pastorelli.
I first came across the late Mr. Pastorelli’s license while making an unauthorized visit to his former home. With the addition of a few borrowed tools, including and X-Acto knife, a laminating kit and a small picture of yours truly, I was able to make some handy changes to Antonio’s former ID. By the time I was finished, the Motor Vehicle Department version of Mr. Pastorelli went from being a seventy-seven-year-old senior citizen to someone who happened to look just like me.
It’s not that I’m some big-time forger or anything like that. But with a little knowhow and determination, I was able to alter the original license so that it looks close to genuine if you are casually inspecting it in a reasonably dark place.
Even though I may look a few years older than my age, I am only fifteen. That’s one of the good things about being the new and improved Antonio Pastorelli. Thanks to my handiwork, it is a documented fact that Antonio has just turned seventeen and can operate a motor vehicle all the livelong day.
From The Prisoner of Snowflake Falls
by John Lekich, Orca Book Publishers 2012
excerpt with permission from author.
Paul Watson - The Maverick
Thursday, May 10, 2012
|Paul Watson, 29, with wife Starlet and baby Lilliolani|
In June 1980 Bob Hunter (one of the original members of Greenpeace) wrote about the young Paul Watson for Malcolm Parry’s Vancouver Magazine
. That issue also had in depth article on the situation in Afghanistan and an essay by Les Wiseman on how Torontonians perceived laid back Vancouverites.
By 1980 it wasn’t only Bob Hunter
who would sit to chat and pitch stories to Parry but also another founder of Greenpeace, Ben Metcalfe
. In my years at Vancouver Magazine
I had the pleasure of working with both.
All I remember about Paul Watson is that I drove to his Kitsilano home and I photographed him with his then wife, Starlet and their new baby Lilliolani. Both parents were warm to me and I had no trouble taking 36 pictures with my Pentax Spotmatic-F equipped with a 35mm lens and Kodak Technical Pan film. Art director Rick Staehling chose, frame 36, the last one. I believe I may have used an umbrella with an Ascor flash as I was yet to become keen on soft boxes.
Of Watson Hunter wrote:
No one questioned Watson’s courage. It was just that he was the antithesis of an organization man. Quite uncontrollable. Even Greenpeace saw him as a maverick.
And there is this beautiful paragraph where Hunter describes how Watson’s 206 ft Sea Shepherd rammed the Japanese-owned whaler Sierra which had until then (February 1980) killed 25,000 whales illegally:
When, at the end of Melville’s novel, the great white whale turned and attacked the men who had relentlessly pursued him, Moby Dick was supposed to have “smote the ship’s starboard bow, until men and timbers reeled.” Under Watson’s command, the Sea Shepherd came up on the port side, like a mirror image, but otherwise smashed the Sierra just exactly where the mythical cetacean had creamed Ahab’s “melancholy” Pequod.
Jane Lang's Undergarments
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
Since I arrived in Vancouver I have never held a 9 to 5 job except that first year when I worked at Tilden-Rent-A-Car on Alberni Street. After that I have been a freelancer. But between 1978 and around 1989 I was so regular an item at the offices of Vancouver Magazine
that many believed I had an office there. Slowly but surely my presence in the place (I have no idea if it was my persistence at all) made me the de facto photographer of the magazine and I did everything from covers to photographs of sewing machines for articles on them.
Because I had no office I would visit Malcolm Parry in his and just sit or I would do the same in the art room. I chatted with the receptionists and brought Belgian chocolates to the women in accounting. This meant that I was paid regularly. Other freelancers who did not know how the magazine operated would wait for weeks and sometimes months to get paid. The culprit was usually Parry’s factotum (Assistant to the Editor) Judith Hogan who would keep invoices inside her desk drawer for week on end in a process she called requisition. My Belgian chocolates brought in at lunchtime (when Hogan was out to lunch) meant that on of my friendly accountants would go to Hogan’s desk and retrieve my invoice. My 12& Cambie
columnist buddy, Sean Rossiter waited and waited for his monthly cheque. I never had the heart to tell him about the protocol for getting paid.
Being in my virtual office at Vancouver Magazine was more fun that being at a circus. All of Vancouver seemed to parade by. It could be Max Wyman one day or Bob Hunter in another. Gene Kiniski was another. Because associate editor Les Wiseman wrote a monthly rock column, In One Ear, some of the visitors might be Randy Rampage (who would scare the living daylights of the demure receptionist) or a floating Tim Ray.
It was most fun to sit in Parry’s office who would greet me with a “Good morning old cock (sometimes the term used was wanker).” Sometime in February 1982 freelance writer Judi Lees showed up with an idea to write about “corrective” underwear of the feminine kind. Parry thought this was a grand idea but pointed at me and said something like this, “This is a good idea but if you are to write about the subject with authority you are going to have to try the underwear on. And “old cock” here will take your photographs in his Burnaby studio.” Lees looked at me and because she was willing to go along with it (perhaps she like most of us needed the money) agreed.
For years I have been unable to find the negatives. I have looked under underwear in my files and under authors have found nothing in Lees. But it was only yesterday that in looking for some 12th & Cambie
columns to scan and project for the presentation of Sean Rossiter’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the Western Magazine Awards on June 15th I found the article in the March 1982 issue. The writer of the article as you can see here is one Jane Lang. But we know who she really is!
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
"Cyclops, you ask my honorable name? Remember the gift you promised me, and I shall tell you.
my name is Nohbdy: mother father and friends,everyone calls me Nohbdy."
A Keen Sense Of What Is Worth Reading
Monday, May 07, 2012
Guest Blog by Ray Spaxman former City Planner
Over the years one develops a keen sense of what is worth reading and what isn't.
During the 30's, as a small boy I would wait on that special morning each week for my favourite comic to be delivered to our door. I would grab it before it touched the ground, run to my special place and devour it. Much later, during the 70's and 80's, I responded with similar enthusiasm to the arrival of the Vancouver Magazine. The colourful cover and feature headline was always remarkable but Sean Rossiter's back page "12th and Cambie" was the place I would check out first. Like most of Sean's writing it was easy to read, full of real information and wrapped in a creative and thoughtful opinion. He was able to capture the reader's interest immediately and guide us through intriguing interpretations and ideas to the punch line. Despite the complexities of the multitude of interweaving forces at play in civic affairs, Sean was able to describe what was going on in City Hall without destructive oversimplification. He became a reliable and essential resource for people who really wanted to know about their city. People looked forward to what Sean had to say. As readers we could sense his passion for the place and discover what made it tick.
I should acknowledge my own personal interest in Sean's work. For most of the 70's and 80's I was Director of planning for the City. I had to deal with numerous contentious issues. They ranged from decisions about subdivision of property, to decisions about major and minor development projects, to where the city would be in 20 years time and how to get there in the most liveable way, to how high and what shape and density buildings ought to be, how to work with communities on local area plans, to my favourite, that is what really constitutes good neighbourliness. These issues were frequently contentious and garnered the attention of the media. There is no policy, however well intentioned or crafted, that will please everyone. The media often only has the time and resources to pick up the story of the day and tell its observers what people might be saying about the issue. It seems that conflict and disagreement may be more attractive than what may be conceived as the public interest.
Oversimplification continues to be the bane of journalism. The issues are often very complex and involve balancing economic, environmental and social matters. It takes a great deal of research, knowledge, intelligence, intuition and some risk to handle these issues. Then it takes another degree of skill to report on these issues accurately, clearly and in a way that is informative and rewarding to the reader and proposes a positive outcome.
Sean is one of those rare journalists. He was always thorough in his research, careful in his analysis of the issues, always produced his findings in an attractive way and told the truth as he saw it. His regular columns provided the public with objective descriptions and assessments about the work going on at City Hall. People looked forward to what Sean had to say. He could be relied upon to expand our understanding of the city.
Thank You Sean
Ray Spaxman Consulting Ltd.
Planning and Urban Design Services
Addendum: The Western Magazine Awards Foundation is pleased to announce the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Sean Rossiter.
The Phoner & Journalistic Ethics
Sunday, May 06, 2012
Increasingly in these days when Oldsmobile Achievas become extinct or I have to point out to the people that I photograph that I use Fujiroids (some of us call the Fuji instant film by that affectionate name) and my yellow boxes with Kodak on them are becoming rarer, if find that I openly say, “I am not long for this world and I am glad of it.”
In a nutshell I feel like I am standing bare foot on a beach with the surf coming under my feet and I am imbalanced as the sand becomes soft and shifty.
While I am not sure how I would feel if someone would point a gun at my forehead and then cock it, any other form of death (as long as it is tomorrow and not today!) seems reasonable and not all that fearsome or distasteful.
In general some things are better now than then. My granddaughter’s Sony clock radio sounds better when you stick a CD in it than an expensive middle-range stereo of a recent past. Being able to start my Malibu from my kitchen on a cold winter morning is for me a bonus of our modernity.
But where I despair is in the erosion of standards. It seems that any politician can call another a liar and get away with it. It seems that these same politicians tell us that one plus one Is not two.
My despair is at its most intense when I think of what is happening to journalism.
I believe that like jazz (if you have to ask what it is then you cannot possibly grasp what it is) most out there have no idea what journalism is and much less the ethics that journalism used to abide by.
I asked my friend former Straight
editor and Vancouver Sun
Editorial Page Editor, Charles Campbell, if the NY Times had paid the Colombian prostitute for their exclusive interview with her in the wake of the scandal involving President Obama’s Secret Service Agents. Campbell’s answer was immediate, “There is no possibility that they would have paid her a cent.”
Now how many in this day and age would have been concerned about this or suspected anything on the matter?
Many now complain of the decline in our dailies. My argument is that few would notice. As an example my 14 year-old granddaughter sort of knows what a newspaper is. She has been around my house on Saturday nights when next day’s NY Times comes crashing to my door. For a while (when she was younger) she could not figure out why the paper, with next day’s Sunday as its date, could possibly be delivered on a Saturday. My Rebecca, as well as her family do not read newspapers or watch the news. If I were to tell her that our local Vancouver Sun
is but a shadow of the good paper it once was she would not understand because she would not be able to compare the former with the present day paper.
I believe that it is not only my 14 year-old who does not understand or care about the decline in newspapers. Many in their 20s and even 30s have no custom in reading a paper every day. You cannot miss what you never had.
From a personal point of view there was a time when articles (to be published) for magazines or newspapers would be couriered to me. Later these manuscripts were faxed and ultimately sent to me as email attachments. At the very least responsible editors like Charles Campbell would call me and tell me as much as possible of my subject to be photographed.
Quite a few years ago the Globe & Mail’s Report on Business
hired me to photograph a gentleman in Vancouver who had an unusual relationship with General Motors’s Pontiac Division. Gm would ship Pontiac chassis to Vancouver and our local entrepreneur would bolt on a sporty fiber glass body. I was given a phone number. The phone was disconnected. I called the phone company and I was told that the phone was not in service for non-payment. I tried another number and the man did answer. But I felt something fishy and called up the writer in Toronto and told him, “Perhaps this man is bankrupt and he feels that an article in a national business magazine will save him.” That was indeed the case and the story was killed.
With the exception of good magazines, good newspapers and the Vancouver Sun
, (most of the time) the photographs in these publications are taken by staff photographers or free-lance photographers who have been hired for the job.
The norm now, and in particular in our fair city is that those who are profiled are now under the obligation (gently suggested, I suppose) to provide their own picture. This means that no photographer will ever go to the premises of the one-to-be-profiled and perhaps not be able to note a possible movie set storefront with no depth. The subject to be profiled is able to manufacture an image and “force” ever so gently that image to the publication that will be happy to save the money by not sending a photographer, without realizing, the loss in journalistic credibility and standard.
Another shocking fact is one that I tried on my Focal Point class where I asked them, “What does this mean. As I talked to Clint Eastwood from his home I could hear the food cooking on Eastwood’s stove.” None suspected that “from his home” is journalistic lingo for doing an interview on the phone. I cannot imagine how many of these now usually unannounced “from the home” interviews are really email interviews.
Many local publications interview local actors, politicians, singers, etc on the phone. How exclusive can these exclusive interviews be? If you ask a hard question, how important is it to look at someone in the eye as they answer it?
Meanwhile our facebook friends tell us to link to the serious publications that do produce, with journalistic ethics of sorts, what they put in print. As these publications disappear with Oldsmobiles, Kodak, spark plug gap adjusting tools, what will we link to?
Luckily it does not worry me as I am not long for this world and my Rebecca will never know what she is missing because she might never know what existed.
And Walter Cronkite would not understand, as neither do I, how someone like Anderson Cooper can possibly be a journalist and at the same time have something called the RedicuList.