Wednesday, August 30, 2023

The Business Army, August 31/23


The Bonus March 

« Many of the war veterans had been out of work since the beginning of the Great Depression. The World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924 had awarded them bonuses in the form of certificates they could not redeem until 1945. Each certificate, issued to a qualified veteran soldier, bore a face value equal to the soldier's promised payment with compound interest. The principal demand of the Bonus Army was the immediate cash payment of their certificates. » Wikipedia 

From the manuscript:

Climate Change in Singapore 2


Climate Change in Singapore 1


Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The Business Army 1

 Occasionally I post a link to a historical novel I had published at Eclectica Magazine:

It’s entitled The Business Army, and it’s about a historically documented attempt to organize a coup d’état in the United States during the early months of Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency.

The novel exists in two forms: as a conventional manuscript and as a form of graphic novel I call the Highly Illustrated Screenplay Narrative (a mouthful, I know; I might rework the term).

I’ve decided to post a lot of the latter form of the novel. Graphic novels tend to be expanded comic books (I wrote/drew one many years ago, and know the degree of labour involved). Conventional novels, on the other hand, tend to be devoid of art, and also tend to hew to a rather  traditional concept of how narrative should be produced. Yet at the same time, our mass culture has become acutely influenced by the feature film as a vehicle of narrative. We — including literary writers — now think in a filmic manner; this is self evident. 

The Highly Illustrated Screenplay Narrative is an attempt to bring novel-making in line with the new cultural reality we find ourselves in.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Workplace drawings


From a series of drawings of workplaces in 1980s Toronto. I’d carry my sketchbook with me and do these from life without photo references. This one from a small machinery shop called GM Machinery on Richmond. Now defunct. It’s little known that medium scale machinery and garment production existed throughout downtown Toronto until the early 90s.

D’un series des dessins des locales de travail à Toronto dans les années 80s. J’ai porté mon cahier de sketch et fait ses dessins sans références photographiques.

Friday, August 11, 2023

The Canadian novel and its discontents


Am cleaning out my mom’s bookshelves. The original plan was utilitarian; get rid of all except a handful of special volumes. But finding that hard. It’s a good library, with, unsurprisingly, a strong contingent of Cdn books. 

Reading these, though, is a mixed bag. Am currently reading a novel by a prize winning author described as “beloved” on the dust jacket. He died a few yrs ago and was instantly forgotten. Why, exactly? Who knows. However, no great injustice that the novel I’m reading is not still talked abt; it’s abt first love during the 1940s, and while it has its moments, it’s generally a static read. Scenes rarely come alive. 

My mom and brother often used to discuss why CanLit struggled being as vital as Am or Brit lit. Reading this novel, two explanations come to mind: one (a point my mom liked to make): Canadian novelists (and their publishers) often fixated with being “worthy”; the novels function as moral lessons, not a mix of entertainment and art. Another is the anemic state of criticism in Canada now. @stevenwbeattie has remarked that a literature can only be as good as its criticism. The novel I’m reading now received high praise in a major news outlet and Q&Q. The two criteria intertwine; an urge toward moralizing and emotionally fake criticism lead to a static literature in which better work struggles to break through. 

What then is to be done? Cdn movies have some of the same shortcomings but not quite as noticeably. Part of the solution is to write fictional narratives for print that more closely resemble movie scripts. This would at least force Cdn writers to avoid the stylistically pedestrian introspection that sucks the life out of so many of their scenes (the point here being that timid criticism allows Cdn writers to keep doing this). At least with the format of a script, a writer is forced to bring the reader into current action. Narratives using this strategy can still be “quiet”. But they need not so often remove the reader — and the narrative — from the present. In other words, they need not privilege moralistic reflection over action. Examples of how this might work to follow. 

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Loveography: A Highly Illustrated Screenplay Narrative



A WESTERN MAN is walking down the city's main street. To his left is Haemi Fortress, a medieval Korean fort. Its wall is built of unevenly-matched stones, each lightened by age to a gentle ochre, as if the stone itself has softened.

The MAN walking beside this wall has a peaceful expression on his face. But from his body language we can tell he's lonely.

VO: Those were the days before I met you.

SFX: A light breeze.


The Western man sees a group of CHILDREN. They are giggling and playing with each other. Then one of them spots the man.

CHILD: 의국인! [Foreigner]

SECOND CHILD: [sing-songy] Hello!

MAN: [smiling] Hello.

ALL CHILDREN: [gleefully] Hello! Hello!

MAN: [speaking slowly] Can you speak English?

The CHILDREN suddenly start to giggle uproariously. But their amusement is more a symptom of shyness than a desire to carry the game any further. They run away, still laughing.

The MAN continues walking. He makes his way through small, sad, empty streets.

V.O.: Chris Marker once asked how we can remember thirst. What I want to know is, how can we remember loneliness? It penetrates not just oneself but the world. Reality itself appears changed. 
The side-streets suck themselves empty, their noise vacuumed behind shuttered store-fronts. The sky pulls itself as taut as a blue drum. The clouds starve themselves and harm themselves, like self-loathing anorexics.

And as the world seems to change, so does the self: feel lonely enough, and that juncture of soul and body that comprises what you think of as you becomes as parched as cracked soil. The lonely individual is ancient, he is dirt.


The MAN enters. He is somewhat surprised to see a CROWD OF WORSHIPPERS. They are very involved in their prayers.

The MAN walks cautiously forward.



MIDDLE-AGED KOREAN MAN: 하느님! 하느님이 자를 사랑하습니다! [God! God loves you!]

The MAN pulls back, alarmed.


The MAN is walking by himself again. He looks even sadder than before. A DIFFERENT CHILD spots him.

DIFFERENT CHILD: [especially enthusiastically] Hello!

V.O.: I don't know what it is was about that kid's voice. It went to my heart -- pierced it, like an exquisitely fine spear, the sharp end of sweetness. And it was this strange combination of sensations -- the needle's prick and the blood's sunny melt -- that suddenly transported me (there's no other word) to a different time. It was a time in the more recent past, when I still felt the residual parch of loneliness. But it was a time when I started to feel.

I mean, it was a time when I started to feel again.