Maggie arrived that year, the new head of curriculum planning. She loved meetings because there was food and idle chitchat. Maggie told me that she was very excited about my plan to take a group of teachers to the Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) for workshops on film and how to apply media to a variety of curriculae. I enlisted a dozen teachers and was making final arrangements when Maggie emailed me: You will have to cancel. Next time! M.
I went to her office, which could have been a good idea but was not. “You can’t cancel now, Maggie.”
“Well, I am afraid that I already have.”
“You should have spoken to me. I’ve made all of the arrangements.”
“I’ve booked our workshop. It’s done.”
“Be that as it may, the plans have changed.”
“It’s a reflection of complete incompetence, Maggie.”
She stared back, mouth open, as I left. At least I had stood my ground. That was the thought in my head. Stupid me.
My autobiographical writing on teaching practices, Fuck Pedagogy, has been a challenge to because a clear through-line is needed for the reader to follow along. The point of the book is to emphasize teaching with knowledge of content and engagement with students. The following bits didn’t make the cut: I fell from the jungle gym and my Kindergarten teacher split her head open on the same bars when she came running to help me. She was young and beautiful and they took her away in an ambulance. She never came back. An old bitter woman took her place.
I found a stack of old Playboy magazines down the block from school and was crazily delighted by that. I couldn’t look inside, fearful of the nude women I might find, and instead shoved them all into a post box, thinking the postman would like that. Principal Fair told me what I had done was a crime and made me promise to never do it again.
I skipped Grade Three. I didn’t understand why, but they told me to get my things and move to the next room. And there I was, suddenly in Grade Four, taking a spelling quiz along with all of the other Grade Four students. It all seemed fine until I couldn’t spell the word “sheep”. I think I put an ‘a’ in there somewhere. Anyway, that was the end of that. I was solemnly walked back down the hall and returned to Grade Three. It’s an experience that has confused me to this day.
Having completed the 9th (or 11th?) draft of Anori, I have no clue what I have written. Some of it flowed just as I remembered. Others parts had to be reworked…to what effect I have no clue. Dee was consistent. I think. As was the tone. On the verge of death or already dead. Something like that. Anyway, I shouldn’t be blogging about this. I am a cotton-headed ninny muggins at present.
Instead I will offer this quote from Ken McGoogan’s book Dead Reckoning on the taste of polar bear cub meat: Apart from its tenderness, the cub’s meat had a particularly piquant taste, and we greatly regretted that the old bear had not had twins.
All editors are assholes because they think they know better than everyone else. I’m editing Anori for the nth time, and I know that I am an asshole. More than usual anyway. (Meant as a joke? Needed? Find a better means.)
Editing is about honing the narrative, dumping the meaningless characters, trite dialogue and extraneous description. It’s about writing something that has truth to it. (Truth? As in? Clarity needed here.)
Editing also ruins the simple pleasure of enjoying a film. (Why simple? And why film? Have you mentioned this previously?) Before going to bed, I went through the channels and watched bits of Coppola’s The Godfather Part II and Kubrick’s Paths of Glory. I have seen both numerous times, but they now came off as dull, dominated by weak dialogue and predictable archetypes, nothing more than melodrama.
The 2005 version of King Kong was more engaging with its sentimental ape and girl in a nightgown. Even the reboot of Hawaii Five O, with its B actors and trite Chat GPT script, had more entertainment value. It wasn’t pretending to be something it wasn’t. (What? You’ve lost me here.)
Less is more. That’s the mantra of the editor. Which would leads me to believe that none is the ultimate aim. And so why write at all? (Indeed. Consider deleting this post.)
I am amidst another edit of Anori, which is been smooth and terrible, satisfyingly angst-ridden? Anyway, I have dumped another couple of bits I previously adored. This is small bit of dialogue which did nothing in the end.
“I’m the captain.”
“Hubris, Pax, That’s what gets captains killed.”
“That’s what what makes them captains.”
“What happened to Cook and Bligh?”
“They didn’t kill Bligh.”
“I think you’re missing the point.”
The second is a scene that took the narrative sideways and just didn’t even work.
Nico offered her his hand. “I’m trying to understand who I am.”
“How did you get up here?” She went past him and looked out at the empty expanse. The sky had gone dark, the clouds coming in low. Dee crossed her arms. “Where did Pax go? Seriously, where the hell is he?”
Nico walked ahead. “You know, I was on the football team in high school. Middle linebacker. We won the city championship.”
“Congratulations.” He stopped suddenly. “I raped a freshman at a party.”
“What the fuck are you telling me this for?”
“I got her totally drunk. I was drunk too, but I knew what I was doing. I just did it mechanically, like it was my right, took off her clothes, stripped her naked, and, yeah, went at it. She was so goddamn beautiful. I was King Kong. That’s’ what I thought. And I loved the girl. I think I did. Evelyn. She never looked at me again.” He zipped his jacket up and then back down again. “I never had to face what I did. And I wish I did.”
It took me ten weeks to process Tennessee’s notes, but at long last I have begun my eighth (ninth?) draft of Anori. Tennessee (my editor) made excellent suggestions related to killing characters – a terse goodbye to Valerie and Robi – as well as complete restructuring, which means sideways, headache-inducing thinking and no more scenes in Newfoundland like this precious little one:
Flagstones, newly dug, and boards bent into the red earth, led down a narrow path, following the base of a rocky ledge to a meadow. Fitz walked ahead, his windbreaker too small, pants heavy and large. The archeological site was deserted, a wheel barrow with shovels and picks lined up at its side, standing by a row of tents, the one at the far end with its front entrance unzipped and flapping in the wind.
“A bit of sloppiness that.” Fitz bent down to the tent, head-first into a man, middle-aged, as he backed out. “Watch your—Unh!”
“That’s the irony,” Eileen whispered behind Dee.
“You all right there?” The man zipped the tent shut before standing up.
“Looking about for Tommy Baines.”
The man adjusted his glasses. “He must have gone with the others, an hour or so ago.”
“Off to the pub, that it?”
“Don’t know about that.”
“We’ll just show the girl around before he makes his way back.”
“You’ll need Tommy to take you through for that.”
“We’ve been around the heath, seen the pit, the chunks of slag,” Fitz replied. “We know where not to put our feet.”
“That a leopard you got there?”
“He’s a serval. His name’s Apollo.” Dee smiled at him. “He won’t bite.”
“Aim to keep my hands intact, thanks.” He gave them a wide berth as he headed up the path. “Evening to you.”
“That’s his spot.” Eileen pointed out the yellow and blue flagging tape in the distance. “They’re saying it was an iron ore camp, set up to make their nails for the ships.”
“A lot of theories about the Vikings could be gutted with a place like this,” Fitz added. “They’ll be looking up and down the coast and across to Nova Scotia next. See what they can find.”
Dee watched the wind churn the distant water into a wash of whitecaps, each chasing after the thick grey clouds low in the early evening sky.
I am back to killing my babies. Today I had to delete a pet scene from Anori which recalled my father’s secret passion for Charlie’s Angels:
“My father’s other guilty pleasure, Tommy, along with the crackers and vodka, was Charlie’s Angels.” She turned around and smiled brightly at the others. “He would never admit it, but he loved the titillation, a knife against their throats, lovely breasts on the verge of exposure.”
“Can’t say I was ever against those girls,” Fitz admitted.
“He would fall asleep before the show was over and then wake up and snap, ‘Who put on this poppycock? What is this nonsense?’ He’d switch the channel before the crime was solved.” Lai looked back and forth between them, her eyes small and dark. “I never found out who did what.”
“Or more importantly who this Charlie fella really was,” Fitz added.
“Christ, it was that guy from Dallas, the oil guy. Everyone knows that.”
“John Forsythe,” Dee sighed.
“But that ain’t the point, is it now?” Fitz added.
“What’s the point then? The girls running about in their underwear, Farrah Fawcett and her big hair?”
“Dare to dream,” Lai replied. “Molestation will be your return.”
It’s hard easy to delete a scene that works. It can take a long time to accept. That’s why it’s called “killing the babies.” I liked this scene because it gave background to who Dee was before the novel and underscored her sense of isolation. I edited and rewrote it several times before finally realizing – and then accepting – that it just wasn’t needed.
She went back to her old club. It was an automatic thing. She gave the address to the cab driver and half expected the place to be closed. It wasn’t. She climbed three floors up, above the DJs and the stage to where the air ducts cast crucifix-like shadows against the ceiling and the giant holograms of naked dancers, and looked down at the scattered audience in the pink and green lights, the flow of heads and arms reflected in the plexiglass floor and walls, the girls, gorgeously brown, grazing their arms and breasts against the men who, clutching their drinks, leaned back and followed them up the stairs.
“Elle.” A hand came from behind, brilliant blue nails clutching her wrist. “What the fuck?”
Dee couldn’t remember the woman’s name, just that they had worked together, been naked, had orgasmed in tandem.
“I haven’t seen you in fucking years.” Her skin sparkled with rainbow translucence, like an abalone shell, her lips dark red, her green eyes highlighted by painted glowing lines.
“Here I am.”
“I heard you were with Nico, right? Didn’t you go out to Iceland or something?”
“I saw what happened. Holy shit. I mean what the fuck, right?”
“I’ve been out there for more than a year.” Dee said the words for no reason; she just wanted to leave. “I’m this kickass biologist now.”
“I did a shoot in Turks and Caicos. You been there? That sand is so fucking…”
“You look like some perfect angel.” A bull of a man arrived, a tattoo of the buildings on his bicep, and she wanted nothing else. She needed his hardness, his arms and tendons, his need, his pelvis rotating like a machine.
Killing characters in a story needs to be a random thing. As godlike as it seems, it isn’t. Unless it seems so, and then it is. Yes, killing someone is an senseless act, leading one to wonder why create them at all. A character is not flesh and blood. It’s just words, if that.
To get to the point: Tragedy occurs at the midpoint of Anori, a spaceship crash, and a personal connection is needed to Dee. Initially, I made this Saarva, the sole Greenlandic character Dee had come to know. And then I realized the stupidity of that, to kill off my only decent Greenlandic character! It was lazy and a cliché.
More powerful and relevant was the death of Val, Dee’s closest friend. They were connected as individuals and character types. Losing Val is highly affecting. But how is that random? The death I need is of someone Dee knows. No more. And I thought of Nico, the founder of the enterprise. Why not him? Impactful for sure. And random. Calculatedly so.