Posted on | October 9, 2015 | No Comments
I once gave a girl named Rachel Denkers a rock.
I told her that if she threw it away I would die. I assume she has kept it.
Weirdly enough I have heard numerous confirmations in the decade since I picked up a rock and passed it to her that she still has it. I gave it to her through whimsy. Rachel was cute. Intelligent and interesting. She had a boyfriend. I later became friends with said boyfriend and years passed and lives changed.
But there is magic in moments where you act totally insane. And there is magic in objects with story.
I was writing a fantasy book at the time. I spent seven years writing it. For a long time it was total garbage. I remember passing it to numerous people throughout the years and them reading it. Or trying to. And writing various amount of replies about part 1 and then eventually being unable to go any further. Think of it as their crappy version of Infinite Jest. It was called For Four and it was about those strange moments where life lines up and synchronicity sings. Where life makes sense and if you’re like me you collect those moments. You have a few of them and sometimes the sense bends and breaks and you are on a new journey.
One of the people who read a snippet of the book was a very odd man named Professor John Barnstead. He taught a science fiction class in his spare time. At a very young age he made a picture of a bus which explained the theory of relativity. He was head of the Russian department at Dalhouise University and pretty much any student whoever had him remembers his eccentric brilliance. He is in the Dalhousie Hall of Fame and he has changed a couple of my friends lives with his intelligence and encouragement.
I loved his class. He got me to read Canticle of Lebowitz and I have gotten dozens of others to read it as a result. I decided he should read For Four or at least a segment of the complicated mythology I had come up with. He told me it was good. That I had something. That he believed I could be a writer.
It was years later that he confessed he had been lying at the time. The book was a mess. But I seemed so hopeful. And psychotically determined.
Sometimes lies mean something. A lie can be hope to a writer looking for a sign that he hasn’t wasted his life. A few years later my friend Phil agreed to edit it. Over 13 months I rewrote the book entirely and we met every week to go over it. Until it was something I was really proud of.
I can remember the moment someone I didn’t know read it and told me he thought I was a good writer. That he made it through all 150,000 words and loved it. And that feeling of overwhelming relief. I cried on the floor of my room. Knowing that I was doing the right thing. That I was going to be that big thing. A writer.
The book didn’t get published but I can read it and enjoy it. And that moment wouldn’t have happened without that well placed lie.
After a lot of tinkering I brought it back to Professor Barnstead and he read the whole thing again and he confessed his lie. He said it was true now and he was proud of me. He also gave me two fourleaf clovers that he found while reading it. In honor of For Four. I left the two four leaf clovers in a box when I moved to Toronto. And found them on my last somewhat ill fated trip to Halifax.
And they’ve been good luck.
Writing has always been a method for me to convert pain to beauty.
And after my last trip to Halifax I was ready to write again.
Sometimes objects are as magic as the people who gave them to you.
And Professor John Barnstead is a lot of magic. And I realized I wrote things for him to read but I never wrote about what his reading my work meant to me.