301 Moved Permanently

301 Moved Permanently


Last Word: The Biography Channel


Morrissey once wrote, “All men have secrets and here is mine so let it be known . . .” and he hasn’t shut up since. So, lesson learned: sometimes secrets that are no longer secrets become one long, bemoaning, male-entitlement, decade-spanning ego trip. Catch Jack Lowden portraying gloomy early 1980s Morrissey in the upcoming biopic called Steven. It’s no secret why the film is called such. Have you read Morrissey’s novel List of the Lost? It was published last year and won an award for bad sex writing. I’m sure there is something about it on the Internet. His previous book Autobiography was much better and full of secrets and a great tool of agitation to bring out your inner misanthrope.

As usual I’m waiting to sink my teeth into the new Mark Leyner novel, Gone With The Mind, which deals a lot with his life and his mother who he has recently dragged to the offices of Little Brown Co. in New York.

Did you know that back in the day, straight outta Verona, Catullus ditched his upper-class domesticity and scampered around Rome with other lousy twenty-one-year-old poets of the day and wrote lurid filth to married women? Most famously, Catullus wrote about Lesbia, making her, as Propertius would remark in 25 B.C., “more famous than Helen of Troy.” Catullus disguised the real-life Clodia Metelli by calling her Lesbia, a same-syllabled first name but also an homage to Sappho who was from the island of Lesbos. This secret worked for a time, but not for all time.

We as Canadian writers and Internet users live in a community in which everything is constantly shared and lobbed back and forth over nets. You’d expect with such transparency that secrets would be the last thing on anyone’s mind. With so much apparent, it’s the unknown that perhaps keeps all of us on our toes. Like the secret jury member that may loom at the next cocktail-poetry-hour-bitch-fest, or the Starbucks novelist who is drafts away from signing a $300 deal with [INSERT RESPECTED SMALL PRESS PUBLISHER HERE].

Kyp Harness is a Toronto musician who is releasing his debut novel Wigford Rememberies (Nightwood Editions) this season. The novel takes place in a fictional small town in Ontario called Wigford and is chock full of cerebral caverns of odd secrecy. Closer by Sarah Barmak (Coach House) examines our culture’s view of female sexuality and how women are “reshaping their sexuality today in wild, irrepressible ways—participating in mindfulness, vulva massage, nude meetings, hour-long orgasms, masturbation circles, and live demonstrations at Burning Man—and redefining female sexuality on its own terms.” The book will reveal some secrets so that everyone can have a better time both spiritually and sexually.

Beloved big-house-published fiction writer Zsuzsi Gartner has some secrets for us, here’s a snippet not culled from the cutting-room floor but from a Microsoft Word document, “At a film festival party for Madonna’s W.E. the head caterer came up behind me and whispered that she had squirted her own breast milk into the cold, mint-pea-soup shooters. She was just that tired of it all. (I could’ve said, Aren’t we all?)” Gartner reveals in a candid interview with this journalist that if pressed, her secret ingredient remains nutmeg.

In the far east, the energetic golden retriever (but vegan) of small press publishing in Toronto, that Spencer Gordon guy gets all Pinkie Brown and Catholic tongues on us, confessing starkly, “For me, fiction is the great repository of personal secrets. Like a secular confession booth, or like a rambling diary sharpened into art, stories are where I own up, and plead guilty. In even the most outlandish fiction, my incriminating, obscene secrets find their new and disgusting life.” Gordon’s last book was Cosmo, a collection of short fiction.

Says Toronto novelist, poet and playwright Evie Christie, “This probably isn’t a secret but when I say or when we say our writing is not about us it is actually tf about us. But if anyone even suggests this possibility I/we angrily dismiss deferring to metaphor, literary devices and other nonsense.”

I’ve been reading Catherine Owen’s non-fiction title The Other 23 1/2 Hours and can honestly say it should be read by anyone working in publishing or who has heard of publishing in Canada. Her book is a sort of secret guide to the ins and outs of Canadian small press publishing; a book that would possibly fare well in the mental academic institutions. What does Catherine think? “Academia is notoriously self conflicted. It desires leakages and fissures as hushed tunnels into deeper knowledge but when faced with these passageways it often backs up and dekes out of such alternate channels. I hope my secret guide will be found by those who ache for other ways of thinking about being a writer in the world.” Owen has a new book coming out with award-winning Caitlin Press this fall which, up to now, has been a bit of a secret. “Rife with the secret life of the body and its torments and pleasures, The Day of the Dead is unashamed to say that it lives on multiple levels of existence and that there is no direct way of knowing another.”

It’s no secret that we’ll see you here next time, on The Biography Channel. »


from subTerrain #73

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