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Alter Egos - I Am Done Watching This

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rejection - the Ultimate Success

Dead Beat wants your rejection stories. Oh yes, nothing less will do. But trust old D.B. it will all come out smelling of roses.

Send them along through Comments.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Observing the Light

By now (see Inventing Constellations in the Black Emptiness) we should all be looking at our writing drafts and noticing the events, how they are threaded, and what image appears. I think you’ll find that some events are missing and that some unnecessary one are present. Think about the image that is now emerging. How can we define it better? Construct the events to thread them as they ought to be threaded.

This is the rewriting process.

What we thought were finished pieces are not in fact finished at all. They are most probably first or early drafts. They may contain the outline of the threaded events, but that’s about all.

So first thing to do is observe, on your backs in that darkness, whatever you can see and ask yourself what now is emerging.

In Another Time - The Cluster of Words

Okay Dead Beat has been stargazing, and none shines brighter than Mr Berger for getting me to think about the writing process and its place in outer realities.

Listen a while: "The problem of time is like the darkness of the sky. Every event is inscribed in its own time. Events may cluster and their times overlap, but the time in common between events does not extend as law beyond the clustering.
A famine is a tragic cluster of events. To which the Great Plough is indifferent, existing as it does in another time."

The thing is, our writing is in one time, and the world itself in another. I think it is the duty of the writer to at least attempt to merge these impossible times.

Great writing has the Great Plough lighting it up.

Inventing Constellations in the Black Emptiness

"We are both storytellers. Lying on our backs, we look up at the night sky. This is where stories began, under the aegis of that multitude of stars which at night filch certitudes and sometimes return them as faith.. Those who first invented and then named the constellations were storytellers. Tracing an imaginary line between a cluster of stars gave them an image and identity. The stars threaded on that line were like events threaded on a narrative. Imagining the constellations did not of course change the stars, nor did it change the black emptiness that surrounds them. What it changed was the way people read the night sky."

Oh John Berger, Dead Beat swoons. The man has it in spades.

Now you would be writers out there, put down your pens a moment and head into the darkness and lie a while on your backs.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Man of the Moment - Jim Harrison

Dead Beat fills you in:

Jim Harrison's quest to become a writer brings to mind the trials and romantic aspirations of a Harrison protagonist. Born in Grayling, Michigan, in 1937, he sewed his connections to the land through hunting and fishing as a child. At age seven, a friend accidentally wounded him with a piece of glass that left him blinded in his left eye. Afterward, he became increasingly attentive to nature: "I'd turn for solace to rivers, rain, trees, birds, lakes, animals," he explained.In his mid-teens, Harrison determined to be a writer, and left home at nineteen to live the artistic life: "Our family had no money—there were five children—and I accumulated ninety dollars and my dad gave me a ride out to the highway. I had my favorite books and the typewriter he'd given me for my seventeenth birthday—one of those twenty-buck used typewriters—and my clothes, all in a cardboard box tied with a rope, and I was going off to life in 'Green-witch' Village. I was going to be a Bohemian!"

Harrison resided in stints on the eastern seaboard and in Michigan, earning bachelor's and master's degrees from Michigan State in 1960 and 1965. Also in 1960, he married Linda King. Writing short stories and poems all the while, he published his first volume of poetry, Plain Song, in 1965. A year of teaching at Stony Brook in New York convinced him he was "temperamentally unsuited" to the profession, as he has put it. Harrison, his wife, and their baby daughter (they would later have a second daughter) returned to Michigan in 1966, where Harrison scratched together a living for the family through freelance journalism and hand labor. Harrison's poetry caught the attention of major reviewers, such as M.L. Rosenthal, who declared, "This is poetry worth loving, hating, and fighting over."

He wrote his first novel, Wolf (1971), while laid up from a fall off a cliff while hunting. A few years down the road, distressed by the low sales of his lovely, lyrical third novel, Farmer (1976), Harrison lapsed into a clinical depression. (In a 1990 essay, "Midrange Road Kill," Harrison courageously recalls having had five such "whoppers.") Commercial success came with his trilogy Legends of the Fall (1979) and the sale of film rights to each novella. Just when one too many critics had pigeonholed Harrison for regional male tough-mindedness, he proved his larger talent by expanding his range of voices in Dalva (1988), a story of a woman of Sioux heritage searching for the son she gave up for adoption. Harrison continued conjuring up highly resonant female characters in his next two novella collections, The Woman Lit By Fireflies (1990) and Julip (1994). Michigan roots now deeply established, Harrison and his wife live on a farm in Leelanau County in the northern part of the state. To write, he often retreats to a remote cabin on the Upper Peninsula.

Both Jim and Linda Harrison share a passion for fine cooking, a subject he has written about for publications such as Esquire. Of the link between his art and cooking, Harrison explains: "I think it's all one piece. When you bear down that hard on one thing—on your fiction or your poetry—then you have to have something like cooking, bird hunting, or fishing that offers a commensurate and restorative joy."

This is the current man. Jim Harrison. Reading his novel True North at the moment. It's all over the place. Shame. I was looking forward to it. Finally writing about his home the UP. Mitchigan. But the truth is he needs a good editor. He, to my mind, imposes 'himself' upon the novel. Disappointing.

Yes you know him, Legends of the Fall and all that. Anyway, I had the great pleasure of hearing him read for the first time in thirteen years in Missoula, Montana. A cult following. An electrifying reading. But damn it, Ture North, is the ultimate title and he blows it by over indulgence.

My friend at Lake of the Woods, Ed, questions why I would finish it when it bothers me so much.

I'll tell you why, Ed, because he is a damn good writer and deserves my attention even when he is slack.

Back from Lunch

Lunch was good. Pickerel In the Lake of the Woods. My little Dead Beat caught , filleted & cooked it. Fishing, cooking, writing. It's all the same business.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Out To Lunch

Dead Beat will be back in a jiffy. In the meantime he sends you this slice of self-revelation.

Bringing Words Home
(Winnipeg International Writers Festival 2000)

Before I could speak,
before I could see my way into this world
I was already leaving.
Before I was born
the journey had already begun.
For what else is there to do in this life but leave
leave every moment of it behind?
“What else am I to do?” I ask my family.
Together they answer, “Stay,
you could always stay.”
But still I go.

How can I ever explain that I am already at home,
at home in the language of living?
How can I ever explain that I have never been away,
have never been further than my words,
have never been as far as my words can take me?
“Bring something home,” my family intone.
“Bring yourself home.”
But instead I bring home words.


If it’s words you’re after,
I’m your man.
I have more words than you could shake a stick at,
more words than I could ever write,
more words than I could ever speak.
I have words of all shapes and sizes,
long words and short words,
thin words and plump words,
words anorexic and words obese.

Words that can stretch
and words that fold up neat.
Words bulging with intent
and words with holes
where meaning leaks.
* * *
I have words dressed up to the nines
and words that are naked, by times.
* * *
I have Irish words and English words,
Chinese words and Cree words,
words that have no language
and words you can never translate.
Bog words and prairie words,
mountain words and sea words,
frozen words from the icy North
and fiery words with equatorial heat.
I have words beaten out on drums,
and words which strike like machetes cleaving limbs,
words with blood on their hands.
* * *
I have so many words I could never give them all away,
so many words I share them indiscriminately
whether people want to hear them or not.
Words I have borrowed
and words I will never give back.
Words that have never been spoken
and words that have yet to be heard.
If it’s words you’re after,
I’m your man.


No matter where I go I find new words,
new ways of saying hello
and new ways of saying goodbye.
For what are words
but ways of leaving?
Which one of us could say
we have always stayed in one place?
Which one of us could say
we have never left anything behind?
Whose words have you forgotten?
“Stay,” my family implore,
“You could always stay.”
While I am already out the door.
“Well then,” they intone,
“bring something home.
Bring yourself home.”
But instead I bring home words.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Stiffling Failures

Dead Beat's old acquaintance makes a welcome and wise return.

Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.

Flannery O'Connor

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Poets Agree To be Quiet By The Swamp

One of Dead Beat's all time favourite poems (from a good old Pacific Northwest poet) - read and take heed.


They hold their hands over their mouths
And stare at the stretch of water.
What can be said has been said before:
Strokes of light like herons' legs in the cattails,
Mud underneath, frogs lying even deeper.
Therefore, the poets may keep quiet.
But the corners of their mouths grin past their hands.
They stick their elbows out into the evening,
Stoop, and begin the ancient croaking.

David Wagoner

Organic Writing - It Tastes Better

I think it’s time to back off.

You’ve got the point have you not? Your writing reflects the larger society you live in, and as such puts a huge onus on you to take your craft as seriously as you can. Form and intent are organic. You cannot impose a particular form on a piece of writing. It must grow from the writing itself. Nevertheless, there is a definite logic to the form involved. You need to appreciate and understand the form you are working within to allow the writing reveal the truths it is seeking to reveal.

Now this of course is for literary work. Works of entertainment are something entirely different. Here plot is all, and nothing of real consequence is revealed. Or what is revealed is a ‘lie’. But in works of entertainment we suspend our beliefs and flitter away our hours in a different form of pleasure.

At least that’s the theory. Some works (or perhaps some authors) of entertainment take themselves a little too seriously and confuse their intentions which in turn can confuse the reader. But that’s another day’s work.

For now be glad that Dead Beat is going to chill out a little and not be so much on your case.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Fragmentary Thoughts and Feelings

Back for a moment to stream of consciousness and spontaneous prose. The forms respond to social and historical change. So Joyce who would be considered a Modernist employs techniques such as interior monologue. The writing is characterized by associative, and sometimes dissociative, leaps in syntax and punctuation that can make the prose apparently difficult to follow. The point is of course that this reflects the character's fragmentary thoughts and sensory feelings.

Big intake of breath!

Now Dead Beat knows a lot of you knows this already. He also knows that you know Sigmund Freud and psychoanalytic thought had a great influence here. And Joyce was not the first. Indeed some would say Ovid employed a stream of consciousness technique and where was old Siggy then?

Anyways, I don't think that we should deliberately look around us and try to construct a new form, but we do need to be aware of the events occurring in our world. If we absorb them within, they can influence our writing in a relevant and important way.

Writing is not just about the act of writing. Too many writers, it seems, forget this - they write too much for the market or for egotistical return.

Forget the book signings, the autographs, the advances, the Oprah shananigans. Sit down at your desk and get a quill and ink. Dip it in and stain the page with caution and care.

Bricklayers and Surgeons Need Not Apply

So of course it would be downright rude not to include William Faulkner. Although let it be known that he can be a bit prickly when it comes to interviews or publicity. Anyway Dead Beat has a way with him and managed to squeeze from him these few words of advice.

"Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, be wants to beat him."

Finnegan's Wake - A Lousy Plot

Now while Dead Beat defends Ulysses as being quite conventional Jimmy and Jackie - A Quiet Natter, let it be known he did not say the same thing for Finnegan’s Wake.

To paraphrase Joyce Carol Oates - Finnegan’s Wake may be a masterpiece of writing, but it has a lousy plot. Or as Joyce himself put it, “"I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's immortality."

Dead Beat admission: he has not even attempted to read it yet - (Joyce suggested it would be better sung, but he had a grand baritone voice) - despite this Dead Beat suspects that even in Finnegan’s Wake there is great order if we could only figure it out.

Jimmy and Jackie - A Quiet natter on Stream of Consciousness and Spontaneous Prose

It had to happen. Dead Beat being a proud Irishman would sooner or later have to invite his old pal Jimmy Joyce along. And Dead Beat’s invitations being more desirable than Gerty Stein’s, how could he not fail to turn up?

I’d like to sit him in a corner with Mr. Kerouac and let them natter on about stream of consciousness and spontaneous prose. Jimmy being older and wiser would soundly rap his knuckles for a lack of revision. He would surely tell him that his stream of consciousness writing was not chaotic but full of order. Jackie Boy would argue that his spontaneous prose was no less connected.

“The object is set before the mind, either in reality. as in sketching (before a landscape or teacup or old face) or is set in the memory wherein it becomes the sketching from memory of a definite image-object…Not "selectivity' of expression but following free deviation (association) of mind into limitless blow-on-subject seas of thought, swimming in sea of English with no discipline other than rhythms of rhetorical exhalation and expostulated statement, like a fist coming down on a table with each complete utterance, bang! (the space dash)-Blow as deep as you want-write as deeply, fish as far down as you want, satisfy yourself first, then reader cannot fail to receive telepathic shock and meaning-excitement by same laws operating in his own human mind.”

Jimmy to reply:” 'Why all this fuss and bother about the mystery of the unconscious? . . . What about the mystery of the conscious?'

Anyway, we need to recognise that Joyce and Kerouac were each striving to create a form which could accurately reflect the shifts in the world around them, just as the Dadaists were seeking a form to reflect the apparent chaos after the war. Ulysses and On The Road on close reading are not as unconventional as is often represented. On The Road was written in the spring of 1951, in a three-week burst of writing on a scroll of paper three inches thick made up of one single-spaced, unbroken 120 feet long paragraph. But let the myth die here, it underwent many revisions before publication. These are pivotal works by extraordinary writers. Most importantly they recognised As Ms. Eliott put it such a long time before them, that the form of a book was organic and grew from its intent.

This is the thing. Even Kerouac wrote an article on the ‘Essentials of Spontaneous Prose’. How spontaneous can that be! Underlying the apparent formal randomness is a very well developed ordered form. There is no getting away from it. And why would you want to?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Kerouac Abstract or What is Dead Beat Up To?

Okay, I'm nearly done the Beat stuff. I know you're wondering, Dadaism, Beat, where is this leading to?

Ain't it obvious? - the Modernists or Meta-Fiction (in no particular chronological order).

Dead Beat asks you to bear with him. There's method in his madness.

Singular Angel

Singular angel.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Remarkable Collection of Angels

It's McClures' words I care about (The Land Without Poetry) but it got me thinking about the event too. So Dead Beat could not resist showing you this. Please read very carefully.

This was the promo postcard:

6 POETS AT 6 GALLERY --------------------Philip Lamantia reading mss. of late JohnHoffman-- Mike McClure, Allen Ginsberg,Gary Snyder & Phil Whalen--all sharp newstraightforward writing-- remarkable collection of angels on one stage reading their poetry. No charge, small collection for wine, and postcards. Charming event.Kenneth Rexroth, M.C. 8 PM Friday Night October 7,19556 Gallery 3119 Fillmore St.San Fran

A Loafer on the Road

Fellow Quixotes, there is a singular point here, but let us leave it to the man himself -

From the original road novel the Don himself, heed him well:

"I'm a loafer by nature, I'm too lazy to go hunting for authors who say what I already know how to say without their help."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tilting At Windmills

So we are living in The Land Without Poetry. Don't you know it.

"We admire Don Quixote because he doesn't accept the world as it is. Well, I think that is the function of literature: to make us desire a different kind of world and to create in us a kind of dissatisfaction with the world as it is. I think this is a very important function, because this gives you a kind of motivation to act for changing things, for transforming not only the society but moral values, cultural values."
- Mario Vargas Llosa

Dead Beat could not have put it better himself. Okay so Dead Beat wishes he could have put it so well. Let's all be don Quixote's for a while.

Deadbeatism #2

In works of literature, plot has little value other than to hold the reader's attention while some human truth is being revealed. But by God you better be able to write a good plot!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Land Without Poetry

Don't just take my word for it

(The Unbearable Lightness). Here's Michael McLure from "'Scratching The Beat Surface' in reference to Ginsberg's
reading of Howl, on Oct. 7, 1955, at the Six Gallery on Fillmore Street -- that has gone down in history as the moment of conception of the Beat movement.

"In all of our memories no one had been so outspoken in poetry before -- we had gone beyond a point of no return. None of us wanted to go back to the grey, chill, militaristic silence, to the intellective void -- to the land without poetry -- to the spiritual drabness. We wanted to make it new and we wanted to invent it and the process of it as we went into it. We wanted voice and we wanted vision."

Voice and vision. Simple really.

The Unbearable Lightness

Okay, got my Dadaist rant out of my system for a while(see
The Glockenspiel of Hell). Truth is Dead Beat sees a lot more logic in writing than my old Dadaist buddies ever did, but I like the seriousness with which they went about their work even when it was deliberately absurd. In fact ironically there was a great logic to their dismissal of logic.

I just think we sometimes take our act of writing too lightly which at its most extreme form results in people talking about writing as a ‘vocation’ or invoking the ‘Muse’. This may seem a contradiction, but that it is not. To call writing a vocation is superficial and to rely on the ’Muse’ downright foolish. Oh believe me, writing can be a spiritual act but let us not confuse that with the very down to earth process involved. Here’s a revelation: The Muse is a shoddy poet, and writers who are destined to their call frequently mistake first drafts as the final thing.

The Glockenspiel of Hell

Recognise the picture? Of course you do. An old friend of Dead Beat from his Dadaist days. Tristan Tzara. He has called in to quote from his Manifesto. And there’s a point, which one of you writers out there has a manifesto written or even thought about? It ought to be a required tool of the trade. At the risk of repeating myself: This writing is a serious occupation.

Anyway let the man speak: “There is a literature that does not reach the voracious mass. It is the work of creators, issued from a real necessity in the author, produced for himself. It expresses the knowledge of a supreme egoism, in which laws wither away. Every page must explode, either by profound heavy seriousness, the whirlwind, poetic frenzy, the new, the eternal, the crushing joke, enthusiasm for principles, or by the way in which it is printed. On the one hand a tottering world in flight, betrothed to the glockenspiel of hell, on the other hand: new men. Rough, bouncing, riding on hiccups. Behind them a crippled world and literary quacks with a mania for improvement.

I say unto you: there is no beginning and we do not tremble, we are not sentimental. We are a furious Wind, tearing the dirty linen of clouds and prayers, preparing the great spectacle of disaster, fire, decomposition. We will put an end to mourning and replace tears by sirens screeching from one continent to another. Pavilions of intense joy and widowers with the sadness of poison. Dada is the signboard of abstraction; advertising and business are also elements of poetry.”

Dead Beat says unto you, that you shall listen to the wise one and leave the literary quacks behind.

Writing: A Serious Occupation

Okay, okay. We are getting pretty serious here at Dead Beat since writing is a serious occupation. I mean this. It is not enough to dash off a few words, tinker around with it briefly and try to tell me you have written something of significance. If you think otherwise, the wrath of this man will fall upon you.

Poems Remembered Only By Heart

With all this discourse on poetry I thought maybe it was time to read a poem. This was written in 1956 by Anna Akhmatova.

Again we need to consider silence here since Soviet officialdom’s distaste with her poetry forced her into long periods of silence.

"I've had everything - poverty, prison lines, fear, poems remembered only by heart, and burnt poems. And humiliation and grief. And you don't know anything about this and wouldn't be able to understand it if I told you..."

You Who Was Born For Poetry…

You, who was born for poetry’s creation,
Do not repeat the sayings of the ancients.
Though, maybe, our Poetry, itself,
Is just a single beautiful citation.

The Boon of Language - John Berger

All went quiet after Mr. Berger left the room (see The History of Reason - John Berger). A silence, as he might say, like that after a felled tree has fallen. His words have that effect. Mr. Berger wants you to think very seriously about the way you are using words. And with all seriousness I do too. For this reason I have held some of his words back. So let me invite him back into the room, back into the silence of the felled tree.

“The boon of language is not tenderness. All that it holds, it holds with exactitude and without pity, even a term of endearment: the word is impartial: the usage is all. The boon of language is that potentially it is complete, it has the potential of holding with words the totality of human experience - everything that has occurred and everything that may occur. It even allows space for the unspeakable. In this sense one can say of language that it is potentially the only human home, the only dwelling place that cannot be hostile to man. For prose this home is a vast territory, a country which it crosses through a network of tracks, paths, highways: for poetry this home is concentrated on a single center, a single voice, and this voice is simultaneously that of an announcement and a response to it.”

Monday, August 14, 2006

The History of Reason - John Berger

Another package to be opened with care.

Allow me to invite in one of the great minds of writing, John Berger. Let us show him some respect, let us call him Mr. Berger. Turn off your mobile and listen to him as he quotes from "And Our Faces,, My Heart, Brief as Photos" -

"During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries most direct protests against social injustice were in prose. They were reasoned arguements written in the belief that, given time, people would come to see reason, and that, finally; history was on the side of reason. Today this is by no means clear. The outcome is by no means guaranteed.... The future cannot be trusted. The moment of truth is now. And more and more it will be poetry, rather than prose, that receives this truth. Prose is far more trusting than poetry; poetry speaks to the immediate wound."

Small packages

Just a quick post, but don't be fooled. Big goods come in small packages.

I'm partial to the writings of Barry Lopez. This comes from one of his essays, Landscape and Narrative: "The opposite of a story is a lie."

Live or die on that one.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Literary Sticky Note #2 - Dear Dead Beat - Literary Agony Column

Dead Beat has been asked a lot of questions recently and feels he has an onus to respond to them in a responsible manner. The limitations of this blog site refuses to deal with this situation. This is quite reprehensible and thus Dead Beat has taken the unusual step of creating a sister site to deal with these problems. Please refer all literary queries to Dear Dead Beat for a timely response

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Road to a Good Story

Okay, so we understand that a story is a road. And obviously therefore it can take us on a journey. But the most interesting roads are not the man made highways but the ones created by clouds passing over mountain tops. The water falls and finds its natural route downwards, always downwards across the Great Divide.

The road grows organically, carves out its path and seeks out other water. The road leads back to itself. The road has fallen from the sky. The land accepted it, and we since our existence have followed it. We would want to be damn stupid to think we as writers can do it any other way. Unfortunately we often do.

I think we fail to recognise that the road is fluid and must ascend back into the skies to reform. The road shapes the land and is shaped by the land. The sky is filled with it.

Deadbeatism #1

There is no such thing as good or bad writing. There is just writing at different stages in the process.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cranky Meets The Mad Trapper

Somewhere en route I bought The Mad Trapper by Rudy Wiebe - a fictionalised account of Albert Johnson who in the early 1930s became the object of the largest manhunt in Royal Canadian Mounted Police history. For fifty days in the bitter cold of an Arctic Circle winter he avoided capture becoming the first man to cross the Richardson Mountains in a blizzard along the way. Fascinating story and of course another part of the myth of the North.

This myth intrigues me no end. Once Robert Kroetsch wrote something along the lines that North Americans when they want to write the great novel go North whereas Europeans go West. I told him once that there was a strange breed of Irish men who like to go both North and West. And so I have done. Still waiting on the great novel though. Another case of bad timing (like Upbeat Deadbeat I probably missed it by two days).

Thing is. writers are terribly cranky readers (you better check out Upbeat Deadbeat again). I may be one of the crankiest. So while the narrative of The Mad Trapper was strong it was hard to know what the story really was and whose story it was. Most often the third person narration directs us into Spike Millen’s point of view - the officer who was chasing him, but despite being in his point of view we learned very little about his character. There were other lesser characters who came across almost as much as him. If he was the main character, and it sure seemed that way, what is the story? The plot is clear. He is chasing this individual, almost obsessively in the end. Now it raises great questions. Is his obsession any different than the fugitive? Also we know he wishes to understand what is making this man run in the way he does. Johnson’s effort is almost superhuman. This is really interesting since the other officers just want him caught, aren’t really thinking of him as a person. Yet none of this is evidently the ‘story’. In fact, the story is quite simply unclear.

You know what Cranky Dead Beat thinks. The point of view is wrong. It should have been told in first person, Spike Millen’s. Then we would have known more directly what drove him. We would have had more access to his thoughts and emotions. Now I know Third Person can do this too but not as effectively. To quote Kroetsch again - a man walks into the wilderness, that’s the only story. So what is Millen’s wilderness, and how does this reveal for us the unknown story - the story of Albert Johnson (who was not Albert Johnson at all but a man who has never been identified)? We can learn about ‘Johnson’ from understanding Millen.

Now this could all be a nonsense on my part. Fancy Cranky thinking he has anything to teach Mr Wiebe, a writer whose shoes Cranky would dearly love to fit (the best I could hope to do is play him at pool - gosh darn it just go and read Upbeat Deadbeat would you!). But the point is not about being right or wrong. The point is about thinking about the craft of the writing process. And The Mad Trapper got me thinking.

Another writer who taught me so much, Mr. John Keeble (see Writer’s Workshops - or How Do We Cope With Gerry?) proposed that point of view was the single most important element in fiction. Being as cranky as ever I thought that maybe Time was (our treatment of it), but that was then.

Upbeat Deadbeat

After his 5000 km road trip Dead Beat returns deadbeat but upbeat. Revisited the White Cat Bookstore in Saskatoon after an eight year break and found it hard to stop buying. Inventory to come.

Had finally got around to reading The Perfection of the Morning - An Apprenticeship in Nature by Sharon Butula (you didn’t need me to tell you that) and ended up beside her ranch. This was not planned. It coincided. But it was great to be in the landscape I had been reading so much about. Now, I have to tell you I have great reservations about this book. I know, I know, sacrilegious, but that’s how it is. More about that some other time. Anyway remember, I am the one who couldn’t finish The Life of Pi, through lack of interest and was quoted as such in in a Canadian newspaper - it was more a case of What’s Not on My Bedside Table although I was desperately trying to tell what was - Sherman Alexie actually - The Toughest Indian in the World. Anyways I lived through that.

In fact I had hoped that the dates of my trip might allow for a visit to Sage Hill Writer’s Retreat in the Qu’Appelle Valley. Took part in it some years ago on a Robert Kroetsch novel colloquium which was quite remarkable. Well let’s put it another way, Robert Kroetsch is quite remarkable. You didn’t have to be sitting down at the colloquium table to learn about the craft of writing. You could as easily be playing pool with him. Which in fact I did. I won the pool but lost hands down on the literary side. They have some great public readings there by the visiting writers, so I thought I might get the opportunity to call in on some old faces (not literally) and catch a reading. But I was out by a few days. The retreat had not yet begun. If I could have swung by a few days later, guess who’s reading I would have caught, yup the lady herself. Ms Butula.

Now wait for it. I arrived in Moose Jaw to discover that the Festival of Words was opening the day after I was to depart and guess who was to read there. Oh yes.

I know that Sharon would say this was not a coincidence and undoubtedly it was deigned to avoid the darkness of my spirit, but the fact is, despite my reservations, I liked a lot of the book and would dearly have loved to hear her read.

But read on there’s more.

Spent some time later in the Badlands, both the Saskatchewan ones and the Alberta ones. I love this landscape too. I am sure I am built from some of its dust. Anyway on the way home guess what springs from the shelves of the White Cat - Robert Kroetsch’s Badlands. This one I caught up with. My spirit shone brightly.