Absinthe has the reputation all bad boys and girls dream of.
Fawned over by the elite and artistic, banned a hundred years ago, potent and delicious. Have you tried!? Have you? It is the stuff of legends, hallucinogenic, hyper-potent and most dangerous, all because a few poets and artists indulged excessively in Paris back in the day.
But how is it any different than other alcohol? Or is it? Don’t they say the same about tequila? Or the mixture of Guinness & cider known as a Snakebite? I do admit to being coerced into doing an Aguirre, Wrath of God rap after a Snakebite or two in my ill-gotten days, but I expect that spell could have been induced by many things. I did try Absinthe recently, and it was fine. But there was nothing remarkable about it. And there were certainly no green fairies.
My aspirations as a writer began in Grade Five, although I must admit that my series on the Secret Spitball Society didn’t impress Mr. Bacon, nor did my extra-terrestrial cat-being proclaiming See the USA in your Chevrolet!Mr. Bacon had us listen to John McIntyre’s clever, metaphoric prose instead, a story set in Niagara Falls, someone going over in a barrel. My words weren’t as adroit as John McIntyre’s, but I did have stories in my head; I just had to learn how to let them come out in a pure kind of form. I continued to write – more superficial stuff, including the closing pages to a confused epic (Vile Illuminations), and some awful poems in high school, and then angsty plays (Alleluia & Bare Cage) and awkward screenplays (Ferges in Newfoundland& Beyond the Sand of Virginia) in university – before starting my first novel in Paris.I had a few moments of my hoped-for purity in The Sacred Whore, characters speaking for themselves, images flowing out, but it was more me just doing my five pages a day, gleaning along the way, until I had arrived at page 718. Something seemed to be working. I shared my progress with Ben, a fellow writer I met at a party in Toronto. He stared back. “I’m re-inventing the novel. It’s time to shed the artifice of the narrative and create something more pure.” Purity? Oh no. Was I as stupid and inane? I resolved to avoid writers from that moment on. I wrote in silence. I would think and read and write alone. That was all. I would send the work out and someone, somewhere would understand. And I did just that, stayed away from other writers, from everyone in the business, and wrote in London, Cordoba, Sardinia, Vancouver and New York. The isolation helped me find my sense and direction. And even if I didn’t re-invent the novel, I found a voice and only need the patience for it to be heard.
I wrote a short story many years ago (1989) in Spain and called it Toro Muerte. Before coming to Spain, I saw it only as flamenco dancers, bullfights and Hemingway, drunk. The only flamenco dancers I saw were little girls in small towns, both eager to grow, the bullfights I couldn’t distinguish from the game shows, and Hemingway was nowhere to be found. “Are you a writer?” I stutter, never thinking the muse – braces, roses and tennis shoes – could come from such an innocent throng. Spring didn’t come this year; there wasn’t any room between the dry air and tired sun, no time for blossoms and birds, nothing outside the thoroughfare. Cars plunging horizon to horizon, rubber and olive branches left on the shoulder with the sod clumps and rusted bones, waste piled at grates. The gap widens. I don’t know how well the narrative holds – four little stories intertwining in Central Spain – but I remember the writing of it well, the heavy table, the bars on the window, the congestion in the winding street, watching a football match with my hosts at the pensione, not speaking a word of Spanish, walking late at night, the plaza full of vespas, and writing every day until it was done.
There is no disputing that Pat Metheny is a virtuoso on the guitar. His latest group, The Unity Band, recently in New York (Town Hall, Friday, October 12), featured not only Metheny’s signature solos on a wide assortment of guitars, including the ostentatious-looking 42-string Pikasso…but also a wall of Lemur musical robots and a series of duets, each featuring a Unity Band member and Metheny, all of which established not only how musically gifted he is, but more to the point, how he is really into himself.I don’t know Pat Metheny as a person nor do I question his focus as a musician, but his on-stage persona and the narrative he established both point to megalomania…which made me think that he has the right personality to be a writer.
Hemingway explaining a literary device
Writing is a singular, selfish act. It’s all about the author. It’s my world. As much as I might pretend to care about all of the wonderful people and places in my story, it’s mine and I’ll do what I want. It’s a straight dictatorship, hubris well done.The trick is disguising that for the audience, and coming across as empathetic and magnanimous. Metheny is a master of all of this, a back-handed compliment to be sure, but I think he (we) can take it.