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  • Ethical Aspects of Animal Husbandry
    Ethical Aspects of Animal Husbandry
    by Craig Terlson

    A collection of short stories where the humour runs dark and the slipstream bubbles up.

     

    ...imagine if Raymond Carver called up George Saunders and Joe Lansdale, and they all went drinking with Neil Gaiman.

  • Correction Line
    Correction Line
    by Craig Terlson

    “… it's clear that Terlson is way ahead of the curve in terms of crafting an engaging premise that reaches for elevated territory and reinvents enduring archetypes of action and suspense.”  J. Schoenfelder


    "Sometimes brutal, often demanding and always complex, this novel will repay the reader who likes their assumptions challenged and is happy to walk away from a book with minor questions unanswered but the big ones definitely dealt with! It’s likely to satisfy those who enjoy Hammet and/or Philip K Dick and who like their fiction very noir indeed."   Kay Sexton

     

    "I love a novel that you can't put down, and this is one of them."  L. Cihlar

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Sunday
Nov132016

Obsession, Altman, and the Art of Story

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about a certain Robert Altman film -- there was a time when all I thought of was Altman films. Well, maybe not all, but let's just say things got a bit obsessive -- just as they did with Sam Peckinpah, Don DeLillo, and the music of a certain Chicago band, which will remain nameless (WILCO).

What can I say, I'm a bit of an obsessive guy. One of my guilty pleasures is reading film criticism. I can disappear quite deeply into the minutia of what a certain scene in an underrated Peckinpah classic means in philosophical, sociological, and all the "cals." So there was a time when Altman was "it."

The film I've been thinking about (because geeky folk like me don't say "movie"), is McCabe & Mrs. Miller. The death of Leonard Cohen sprang the memory, since that was the first time I was really struck by his music. Sure, I knew Bird on the Wire, Suzanne, and the one K.D. Lang sings the most -- but it was the music of the Altman film that nailed me. I found out recently that Cohen didn't write the songs for the film, but in a way, Altman wrote the film based on the songs. If you dig around on the net, you will see what I mean. But whichever way it was, the film is a masterpiece. Not when it came out though. It was mostly panned except for frequent Altman cheerleader, the New Yorker's Pauline Kael. And Kael was right (and as usual, she was brilliant, so fricken' brilliant.)

I haven't seen the film in a few years because I have to be in the right mood -- that mood being super melancholy, or willing to become that way. It's a very sad film, Roger Ebert says it is one of the saddest in his glowing review. I actually tried to find Kael's review, but it is seemingly impossible. If someone knows where I can find it, please send me a link.

But what I know and remember of the film, is that when McCabe wanders into the town (like some Joseph looking for a manger... as Cohen sings) the people living there are not just some people that are sitting around on a film set, waiting for their chance to say their scripted lines. Rather, these people have been there for a very long time, just waiting for a story to happen, or maybe just for life to continue in its damp, muddy, dirty, underlit way. Other reviewers, Ebert or Kael, I forget which one, have also noted this.

This opening scene of McCabe & Mrs. Miller relates to how a story is formed... in the best of ways. My favourite blurb of my favourite book also relates here. Don DeLillo's Underworld is a beast of a book (900+ pages) and also happens to be my favourite book. I don't say that to be some sort of pretentious literary sort, this novel brought together everything that I loved (okay, obsessed) about DeLillo, and the rewards of that challenging read were huge. Michael Ondaatje blurbed the book, which went something like: a great novel teaches you how to read it. But in my memory Ondaatje, also said something about trusting an author to take you into town, and explain what you see, and what you will learn and feel. This is paramount in a DeLillo book, where the reader might be somewhat fearful to tread (or just damn confused).

Walking into an Altman film, or a DeLillo book, is like that. You need to trust, that if you just go awhile, you will be okay, things will become clear... or clear enough. This is the sort of trust I need as a writer when I begin a story. I need to trust that the story will talk to me, take me by the hand and tell me what it is about. 

When I began as a writer this kind of trust was hard. Ok, it was fucking impossible. I had so much to say, and to impart, and to teach, and, and, and... It took me a long time to learn that writing this way was akin to driving up my truckload of manure and dumping my shit onto poor reader's head. There. Got it now? Aren't I clever? Next.

I stole the manure metaphor from George Saunders (current obsession). And it nailed it for me.

I digress. Often.

The art, and craft, of the story is to be able to trust where it will take you as a writer. It's actually something that is very hard to do, and it takes a long time to learn it. Ask any writer, and I think you will get a version of this process.

So while I think about John McCabe (Pudgy McCabe!) wandering into that barely built, greasy, wet town, full of people who have inhabited the place for so long... I think of my own work-in-progress, and how I need to trust that it will eventually speak to me about where it's going. Um, please... just a hint, a nudge, would really help.

Here's some more Saunders on the relationship between the writer and the reader.

 

 

 

Thursday
Nov102016

Time to get at it...

Okay, I've been a slacker, it's true. And this post may be met with cynicism. As in... oh yeah, you're going to blog more, like you always say.

I mean, damn, even your daughter is even more regular at this!

See:  Anthems of a 20Something - no really do, it's a damn fine blog.

But as mentioned, big news and such is afoot. I do in fact have a novel coming out next year. And my publisher will be launching me on their site on Monday, Nov. 14. So I want to do my part, and get back to blogging. I do enjoy writing the blog, though my digressive brain (regressive?) tends to take trips down paths of non-writing. Even the clunkiness of that sentence screams at me— you're outta practice boy!

So here is where you come in. 

What would you like to see from me in the next weeks and months? I can give more background on some LSD folks (as seen in posts below), but I am not sure it will catch interest. More likely some stories of my dancing with the publishing industry... but even moreover, talking about the craft itself. I am an absolute pig for interviews on craft and storytelling. Pig? Hmm, devourer? Obsessive eater?

I digress. Often. You know what I mean.

I'd love to talk shop, like where I get my ideas (drugstore down the street), what I read (everything), what I eat (same), and the finer points of the narrative distance between different forms of Third-Person POV (say wha?)

But let me know, I am Craig, I am your blogger. The regular posting begins now. No really, don't look at me like that.

And as I started, I end with one of my biggest heroes talking shop:
In Defense of Darkness

 

 

Sunday
Sep252016

Through the doors of perception

One of the figures I continually bumped against while researching my novel, was Aldous Huxley. I'd of course heard of him - I tried Brave New World, but never finished it (unlike my son, who I believe this was a significant book.)

I can't recall when I first heard the story of his correspondence and friendship with Dr. Humphrey Osmond (Weyburn), but I do remember going, um, "no way." This of course had to do with the coining of the word "psychedelic."

Osmond's letter to Huxley:

Later, when discussing his flight of hallucinogenic fancy, Huxley, writing to Osmond, penned this bit of verse:

To make this mundane world sublime, / take half a gram of phanerothyme.

The word phanerothyme, cobbled together from the Greek, translates roughly to “manifest spirit.”

In response Osmond wrote some poetry of his own, in the process coining a term that soon spread around the world:

To fathom Hell or soar Angelic, / just take a pinch of psychedelic.


Soon after finding this out, I would often ask people if they knew the word, psychedelic, was coined in Weyburn, Sask., Canada. And when no one believed me, my defense was, "but it's on Wikipedia!" I also recall this was in the beginnings of writing the book, around 2008 maybe. And Wiki was new (need to fact check that.) Anyway, no one believed it - and I doubted it myself.

But back to Huxley. The English writer wove through the story of early LSD testing, and I did end up reading his Doors of Perception.  A book, that with some help from William Blake, gave the band The Doors their name.

Only recently, I found out that Huxley's nephew worked at the Weyburn hospital, and administered LSD to Kay Parley. Ms. Parley, now in her 90's, wrote a book on her experience at the mental hospital, and devotes a chapter to LSD. Her book was published just this March (link below).

Inside the Mental
SILENCE, STIGMA, PSYCHIATRY, AND LSD

 

More on Huxley in my next post.  

Sunday
Sep112016

Let's talk about the Bear

 

"There's nothing wrong with Bear that a few billion less brain cells wouldn't cure."

Here is another in my series on some fascinating LSD Pioneers that I came across in the research for my novel, Fall In One Day.

When I first came across the person either named Owsley Stanley, or Stanley Owsley, I never could figure it out,... he seemed almost mythical. Here was a character linked to Kesey and his Electric Kool-Aid tests, the Grateful Dead, and then overlaps with Aldous Huxley, Leary, and Dr. Osmond back in Saskatchewan - and then the kicker for me, the subject of a Steely Dan tune?

The deeper I went, the weirder it got - provider of the purest LSD in North America in the 60's, probably supplier from everyone in the Dead to Cary Grant (!), inventor of a monitor system that was at least a decade ahead of it time, and and and... my point is not to do an exhaustive treatment of him, more just a flavour of a brilliant, and probably very troubled man, that saw the power of LSD, and the possible goodness in it;

Hard to know where to start with the Bear (his nickname because of a preponderance of chest hair as a teenager). His full name was Augustus Owsley Stanley - often known just as Owsley, or to some friends August. I came across that last bit when deciding how to put him into the novel - but of course, now I can't find that piece of research.

I also recall not finding a lot of articles online about him when I first started researching - but since his death in 2011, there seems to have been an explosion of material written about him.

Here is an excerpt from the start of a piece the NY Times wrote about him after his death.

***

Mr. Stanley, the Dead’s former financial backer, pharmaceutical supplier and sound engineer, was in recent decades a reclusive, almost mythically enigmatic figure. He moved to Australia in the 1980s, as he explained in his rare interviews, so he might survive what he believed to be a coming Ice Age that would annihilate the Northern Hemisphere.

Once renowned as an artisan of acid, Mr. Stanley turned out LSD said to be purer and finer than any other. He was also among the first individuals (in many accounts, the very first) to mass-produce the drug; its resulting wide availability provided the chemical underpinnings of an era of love, music, grooviness and much else. Conservatively tallied, Mr. Stanley’s career output was more than a million doses, in some estimates more than five million.

His was the acid behind the Acid Tests conducted by the novelist Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, the group of psychedelic adherents whose exploits were chronicled by Tom Wolfe in his 1968 book “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” The music world immortalized Mr. Stanley in a host of songs, including the Dead’s “Alice D. Millionaire” (a play on a newspaper headline, describing one of his several arrests, that called him an “LSD Millionaire”) and Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne.”

***

Yes, that was the Steely Dan tune. And I love how it took a while for Donald Fagen (or maybe it was Becker) to admit that's who they were singing about.

Here's a link to the rest of the NYT article:

And here, of course, is the Dan.

(oh, and a great article that does a close read of the lyrics)

 

Some more about Owsley in my next post. 

 


Wednesday
Aug312016

More Trippy Al

I wanted to continue the story on Al Hubbard - this guy just really interests me.

Here is from the wikipedia entry (which I am fairly sure did not exist when I first started to research Fall in One Day and early LSD history - so is Al becoming more known?)

Motion was said to be among Hubbard's passions. His identity as "Captain" came from his Master of Sea Vessels certification and a stint in the US Merchant Marine.

According to some accounts, Hubbard worked at various times for the Canadian Special Services, the United States Justice Department, the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS.[1]

Having read in a scientific journal about the then-obscure drug LSD-25, Hubbard felt this was something that he was destined to learn more about and to be involved with. Hubbard found a researcher who was conducting reported experiments on LSD with rats. He was able to obtain some LSD for himself. He believed in its utility for opening the human mind to deeper, broader vistas.

The confident and connected Al Hubbard requested Dr. Humphry Osmond's company for lunch at the Vancouver Yacht Club. Osmond and his colleagues were using the drug, as well as the similar substance, mescaline, in psychiatric research and treatment at Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Osmond later recalled that the Yacht Club "was a very dignified place, and I was rather awed by it. [Hubbard] was a powerfully-built man...with a broad face and a firm hand-grip. He was also very genial, an excellent host."[4] "Captain Hubbard" was interested in acquiring some mescaline, which was then still legal, and Dr. Osmond supplied him with some.

By the time Timothy Leary and his colleagues were experimenting with psychedelic drugs in the psychology department of Harvard in the early 1960s, Hubbard had obtained a supply of Sandoz LSD. Hubbard went there to meet Leary and wanted to swap some LSD for some psilocybin, the synthesized constituent of magic mushrooms identified, and then produced, by Switzerland's Sandoz Laboratories.

The Central Intelligence Agency grew out of the post-War OSS, which was reputed to be one of Hubbard's employers. Under the auspices of MK-ULTRA the CIA regularly dosed its agents and associates with powerful hallucinogens as a preemptive measure against what was alleged to be the Soviets' own chemical technology, sometimes with disastrous results. It is possible that Hubbard had some links with the CIA. But Humphry Osmond doubts that Hubbard would have been associated with a project like MK-ULTRA, "not particularly on humanitarian grounds, but on the grounds that it was bad technique."[4]

"I was convinced that he was the man to bring LSD to planet Earth,"[4] remarked Myron Stolaroff, who was assistant to the president of long-range planning at Ampex Corporation when he met the Captain. Stolaroff learned of Hubbard through a mentor, philosopher Gerald Heard, a friend and spiritual mentor to Aldous Huxley.

According to Todd Brendan Fahey, Hubbard introduced more than 6,000 people to LSD, including scientists, politicians, intelligence officials, diplomats, and church figures.[5]

 

So fascinating - and yes, of course MK Ultra is mentioned - all you conspirator folks, but on your aluminum hats. I'll be posting something about that too.