Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The First Battle

Remember the old advice to a bride, on choosing her trousseau?

"Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

I'm rewriting some of the words, in the name of inspiration.

"Something old, something new, something far, something near."

I've written enough doggerel to realize that this variation doesn't rhyme, but it does possess the virtue of alliteration, so we'll use it because it defines the process of inspiration in about as few words as this can safely be done. It's short, and yet it encompasses the extremes I not only had to sort through in the designing of my first novel, but also the extremes I have to sort through now as I work at getting out the message that the novel is becoming available on the Net.
I probably haven't really settled into the magnificent matter-of-factness of the situation of all this magnificent technology, but I'm trying. Maybe by Christmas.
As for the near, that started last week when I asked the Valley Voice to run an ad. As for the far, since then I've been emailing some rather major dailies, finding out along the way that out of four papers so far, two do not have, as far as I could see, a regular religion editor or columnist. As just any new author looking for readers, this made me grateful for Vancouver and London, England, but as any old mystic and prophet pondering the decline of civilization, this made me fearful for Toronto and New York.
It might be argued that I should have searched for the literary people, and perhaps I will, once I've swung out on the inspiration I picked up this morning as I paid some detailed attention to the editor's note in a magazine that happens to be part of the near.

This was "Kootenay Mountain Culture", published out of Nelson for a few years now, carrying all sorts of ads dealing with the outdoor life in all its forms - from kayaking and mountain biking in the summer to skiing in the winter - but also running nicely to some very thoughtful prose about what it should mean to live in these parts, or to visit them for a mental as well as physical experience.
Summer 2008 is the Design issue, and because we have begun to put Contemplatives on the blog, I have quite naturally been moved to talk about the design of the story. Mitchell Scott's words coming to me at such a time indicated that I should get on with it immediately, even before I took on the pleasant task of what used to be known as editing the galley proofs, in the days of hot lead and ink. Imagine, half-a-milennium of technology now history wherever the computer can function. In the Ubyssey days I put in hundreds of hours with galleys, and throughout the years of writing Contemplatives I assumed it would be galleys I would be poring over once I'd landed a publisher.
When I started the final version, in March of 1980, I was using a typewriter, which meant that when I decided to start printing copies for sale, two months later, because I could only afford photocopy, I had much less than a text that looked like book print. This bugged me no end, so you can imagine how nice it is to see how the text looks now. Thank you, Mr Gates and others. The reader may find the material or the style challenging, but at least he can't turn away on the excuse that it doesn't look as if it were worth bothering with. Mind you, the loyal few did plod through the readers' copies that we made, and offered all sorts of encouraging comments that helped keep me going.
And of course photocopying, in 1982, made it entirely possible to send the text to John Paul II, which, to some degree, made November of that year the first month of the rest of my life. His own writings on John of the Cross may not have been perfect, but he had the humility and the wisdom to recognize what had come across the transom, and that too helped with the novel's progress. Talk about design. God lays it down, always shrouded in mystery, and we wait to watch it decipher itself.
What is deciphering now is the fact that I am about to put the more or less final editing process to the first three chapters that Marianne sent to Rome on November 22. It should be quite the spiritual adventure to go through those anniversaries again, in the process of a final edit. An edit, by the way, made as efficient as it could possibly be by the people at Google and Blogger.
Oh my. Chuckle chuckle. They sound like pair of characters designed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz.
What was Tim Berners Lee doing at Easter of 1973? That's when the Muse spoke to me about the Web, although I didn't understand it at the time.
But that's part of the design, is it not?
The battle?
Right. It was the day after I had taken Shawn Harold home from the first party we had shared where we actually talked to each other. Singing back and forth is one thing, conversation is another. It's Monday, at lunch time, on the campus, or rather on its very western edge, at the top of a sandy cliff, backed by fir trees, looking down on the mouth of the Fraser River. I'm exulting inwardly about being so finally, properly, proportionally, absolutely, in love, and she's wondering what the hell she's gotten into. And of course we're playing academic poker, because we are, after all, students, and if students don't use that time primarily for their intellects they're wasting their own valuable time and abusing the tax payer.
I have no idea what started the post-lunch bag conversation, on a relatively gray day, but all of a sudden the question of symbols in literature came up and I decreed to the firs and the ravens and English Bay that symbols, as explained by the academics, were bullshit.
Shawn, in third year and pondering an honours English degree, was not only horrified, but immediately got bloody angry. She had been reading a variety of quite excellent critics, among them Allen Tate, who in the post-80 years of Contemplatives I was to rely on continually, and couldn't imagine why I was suddenly so pig-headed and ungrateful for honest labour over the classics. I actually was, in all honesty, protecting an incredibly valuable childhood experience against the stupidity of certain critics as I understood them, but I had no words then to defend myself, and came off as a first class Philistine, as Matthew Arnold used to call them. (Later, Gerald Vann, OP, did the same thing.)
You note, I hope, that we were not arguing over religion, sex, money, politics, or opinions of friends or artistic objects, but simply symbols in general.
She left for a two-hour English class. Late Victorian authors and poets. With Dr Hunter-Lewis, the man who shut down the Georgia pub with Dylan Thomas. There were some great lads in the class as well, including Desmond Fitzgerald, of the landed Irish Fitzgeralds. He also recognized Shawn's enormous literary sensibility, and had met her before I did. But, he had explained to her, because his grandfather - I think it was - had gambled off a good part of the family property, it was up to him to marry money and restore the family fortune. Shawn's Dad had a good and responsible job, and even belonged to the Terminal City club, but he was not wealthy.

I went back to the Ubyssey offices, to work on the novel from the spring, which I had recently taken up again. (We had actually had a conversation as I bashed at it on the morning before the play.) But no words came. Had a woman ever done this to me before? Not a bloody word. Nothing but a blank stare.
I killed time, somehow, until 3:30, and then marched over to the war-time huts where classes were held before the erection of the Buchanan building. I met her at the door and said we were going for coffee in the auditorium's basement cafeteria. She complied.
We got the coffee and sat at a table in the presence of two of our dearest friends. I was still steaming, and rather quickly into the fourfold conversation announced, "One of these days you'll marry me."
She grinned, and the brown eyes flashed again. "Probably I will," she said.

Mitch Scott grew up, in part, a couple of blocks from the property those brown eyes ruled over, full of our children and other people's, for almost five years.
That's probably symbol enough, and I'm very happy to chronicle it.

No comments: