felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
As usual, poking my head up for a rare update.

The death of Jack has been the big unhappy event lately. I didn't know him well - I had the pleasure of working with him a handful of times briefly, and I really admired his work.

Jack Layton really was as nice in real life as he was on camera. He only saw me a handful of times across the years, but - in spite of the thousands he met - he always remembered me, and remembered I was bad with crowds. Four months before he was dead, he was checking up on me. Funny, isn't it?

They used to say that Robert Stanfield was the best prime minister Canada never had. That title's been officially ceded.

Other than that, my own life has been going quite well. I increased my writing input, and I'm prepping myself mentally for a massive send-out to pretty much any Canadian publishing house I think might accept. That'll likely happen in October.

I've had a social life lately, too. Most recently at [profile] jenjoou's wonderful party on Saturday.

A lot of friends have been going through bad times, but because my own life's been going well I think I've been able to be there for most of them.

Anyway, for today's review, The King Must Die by Mary Renault.

Review continues, with some spoilers )
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
At long last, I have the first of my sections on early gay poets on my blog. This is the first of a few articles, and deals with two poets who might have been gay. There won't be any might in the next article, which'll deal with Elsa Gidlow.

Wow, I'm a real post-bunny this week. Three posts in three days. I'm still not on speaking terms with FaceBook, however.

I'm learning a lot about formating cover letters and manuscripts - I bought a book on the subject put out by editors and publishers on what they want to see and not see. A lot of the information seems slanted toward working through an agent and houses that only accept solicited manuscripts, but I think it's adaptable.

But my chosen publishing house also wants a "marketing analysis," presumably how to sell it. None of my references are any help. I might just ask the salespeople at work.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I've been gone from cyberspace for the most part for weeks, though occasionally I've been checking up on friends' journals -- skimming mostly. It's been a stressful few weeks, what with a financial report to be prepared through a haze of a flu, and the two contributing to a serious case of writer's block that's held me back to about two pages a day.

I had to mostly sit out a party on Sunday, and Monday after turning in my report I collapsed and slept for eleven hours. Yesterday and today I've been taking it very easy.

Other than that, there's not much to say. Scott Symons just died. He wrote the most influential work of Canadian lit you've never heard of, Combat Journal: Place d'Armes. It was an experimental, very autobiographical novel narrated by a man who's clearly had some sort of break reality because he can't deal with his homosexuality, or with the cultural change around him in the 1960s.

Malcolm Ross, who pretty much invented the study of Canadian literature, once said that every book he'd read after 1967 was influenced by either Place d'Armes or Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers. Both came out in the same year, and are similar in being experimental, stream-of-consciousness novels by men who've lost touch with reality and which deal heavily and explicitly with sex, but Place d'Armes is far superior and more readable.

But Place d'Armes got forgotten while Beautiful Losers is remembered. Partly that's because of Cohen's fame as a singer, but also because Canada wasn't really ready for a gay novel outside the bohemian set of up-and-coming writers.

(Homosexuality was not only still illegal in Canada in 1967, and not only was the law still enforced, but it was probably the must brutal in the Western world. A man in 1967 was arrested for consensual gay sex, and sentenced to spend his natural life in jail without any chance of parole as a "dangerous offender.")

Symons eventually left the country, and continued to write about his two favourite subjects -- gay sex and antiques. He was largely forgotten, and still not remembered now the literary establishment of the country is eager to make the Canadian canon more diverse.

I'd say rest in peace, but if there's one thing hit home hard in Place d'Armes, it's that the ancestors and the past are always present. So I doubt he'll be far.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
It's been a quiet few days. All I've wanted to do is sleep, and I haven't done much besides sleep, read, edit, and see Sean. Yeasterday and today, I've gotten caught up on LJ, which is why half your inboxes are flooded.

I've finished Un Coeur découvert by Michel Tremblay since I got out, and I've nearly finished another novel, Skinny Legs and All.

A review of Un Coeur découvert )

I guess the short of it was that it was a good novel overall, though flawed in many respects -- largely by the narrator's personality defects. I guess its lack of a real plot isn't a bad thing, as long as the reader's prepared for something more episodic than most novels.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
The weird recent assaults on red-headed kids because some morons thought it'd be great to invent a new hate crime got me thinking about the old A. E. Houseman poem. Houseman was gay, and it was reportedly inspired by Oscar Wilde's trial.

Of course, the force of the conceit -- how absurd it would be to attack someone just based on hair colour -- is somewhat lost in the wake of recent news:

THE COLOUR OF HIS HAIR

Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?
And what has he been after, that they groan and shake their fists?
And wherefore is he wearing such a conscience-stricken air?
Oh they’re taking him to prison for the colour of his hair.

'Tis a shame to human nature, such a head of hair as his;
In the good old time 'twas hanging for the colour that it is;
Though hanging isn't bad enough and flaying would be fair
For the nameless and abominable colour of his hair.

Oh a deal of pains he's taken and a pretty price he's paid
To hide his poll or dye it of a mentionable shade;
But they've pulled the beggar's hat off for the world to see and stare,
And they’re taking him to justice for the colour of his hair.

Now 'tis oakum for his fingers and the treadmill for his feet,
And the quarry-gang on portland in the cold and in the heat,
And between his spells of labour in the time he has to spare
He can curse the god that made him for the colour of his hair.
Other than that, I'm nearly done my fifth edit of the novel. The sixth and last will take maybe three or four days. I expect to have it done by Sunday.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Malcolm Ross -- the man who almost single-handedly invented Canadian literary studies -- said that after 1967, every novel he'd read was influenced by either Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers or Scott Symon's Combat Journal Place d'Armes.

They're similar books. Both feature a member of the Canadian respectable classes who descends into into a kind of schizophrenic animism to deal with all the things he'd held back about himself -- largely sexual. Both books are written in stream-of-consciousness.

And Ross was right -- for about five years after, Canadians wrote nothing but this style. Margaret Atwood wrote this kind of novel twice -- her Surfacing is the only actually enjoyable book in the genre.

(Her Journal of Susanna Moodie is to be avoided -- it's a narrative whose speaker purports to be Susanna Moodie's subconscious, though it sounds suspiciously like Margaret Atwood.)

Cohen's book had managed to survive Canadians tendency to forget everything Canadian, mostly piggybacking on his fame as a musician. Even Cohen fans, though, wince when the book is mentioned.

Combat Journal Place d'Armes was just as influential at the time, and it was the first explicitly gay novel written in this country -- but it's been largely forgotten.

Well, I've read it now, and let me say, it's a very strange book.

Review Continues: Spoilers for a book you'll never read. )
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Things have been quiet. I've been slowly going over my novel, excising this, re-writing that in preparation for the big re-write when I get feedback.

I've also been doing a fair bit of research for the website, which has involved reading up on a number of fairly obscure political figures, such as British Radical Henry Du Pré Labouchère, and Canadian Prime Minister Sir John Sparrow David Thompson, who served two years before he died at lunch with Queen Victoria.

(For some reason, the ice cream shop around the corner from my house has a very random counterfeit bill on display, with Thompson's face on it.)

I also finished The Farthest Shore -- the last of the original Earthsea trilogy. It's gorgeous -- LeGuin writes the best fantasy I've ever read in English. She gets that sense of beautiful longing that Tolkien is always trying for.

There was a brief kerfuffle awhile back when she said that she didn't think J.K. Rowling was that good a writer. I like Rowling a lot, but it is clear that LeGuin is the better of the two -- she manages to pull off the same themes way back in 1972 that Rowling explores in the Potter series with much better grace and poetry and psychological realism, and does it in 600 rather than 3000+ pages.

'Course, I'm biased toward LeGuin because her gay character wanders in on page six of her third book, where he's announced in plain English. No subtext, no interviews after the book was written -- right there, a newly-introduced character falls in love with another man.

Funny how she was able to do that without the controversy Dumbledore aroused. Was it because fantasy novels weren't yet on the mainstream radar, or because the religious right was not as well-organized back in the pre-Reagan days?
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
"Hurrah for gold cup of sperm, my boys!"
...
"So, so, so, then;--softly, softly! That's it--that's it! long and strong."
...
"There's a hogshead of sperm ahead, Mr. Stubb, and that's what ye came for. (Pull, my boys!) Sperm, sperm's the play! This at least is duty; duty and profit hand in hand!"

--- from "The First Lowering," Chapter 48 of Moby Dick
I bet very few of you knew that Moby Dick was America's first great work of gay porn, did you? ^_^

Actually, given the intense homoeroticism between Ishmael and Queequeg, and given that Melville actually did write a short story entirely about homosexuality on the high seas ("Billy Budd"), and given that ships in those days were seen as floating San Franciscos, to the point that many sailors' bars around the world doubled as gay bars -- given all that, I'm not so sure it's unintentional.

Now I'm reading Chapter 54, entitled, "The Town-Ho's Story." I kid you not.

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September 2011

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