…I’m preparing for Word Vancouver, Sun, Sept 27 at 1:30 at Library Square and SFU’s Early Punk Rock Scene Discussion, with Bloodied But Unbowed director, Susanne Tabata, Oct 13 at Special Collections, SFU Library in Burnaby
FREE TO IMAGINE (Redux)
“Honesty is not synonymous with truth.”-Vera Parmiga, The Departed
This book took a long time to write and the road to publication, arduous. I can’t recall exactly when I started but my son was around 6 or 7 and he is now 20. If I hadn’t been homeschooling a child with special needs, no doubt it would have taken less time but I often got discouraged and shelved it for years at a time. Finally in 2010 I went to Sage Hill Writing Experience to be mentored by award winning playwright and novelist Terry Jordan. I completed the manuscript. Then spent a couple of years, or wasted a couple of years, dealing with an agent who seemed to think the story was YA, and a publishing company in utter tumult until finally I got fed up and in punk fashion, went DIY. In feminist fashion, I will not be denied, set up Howe Sound Publishing and released The Town Slut’s Daughter on Amazon.
Seems to be a dirty word these days but this dialogue is an example of some of the book’s feminist ideals:
Fiona threw down three tickets to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre emblazoned with Hit Someone You Love.
“Great!” said Rita. “What’s with all the misogyny? I thought the scene was supposed to be so egalitarian.” She grabbed the kettle. “Well, I suppose it is if you happen to be young, white and male.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t go.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t. Who is Transformer Productions, anyway?”
“I don’t know. Never heard of them. But it’s a great bill. Rabid, Pointed Sticks, SubHumans, K-Tels.” Angus was a hero for digging up a new venue, O’Hara’s, a derelict nightclub on the pier at the foot of Main. Fiona’s dad remembered it from when he was a young buck roaming the streets. “I wanna go. We gotta see the K-Tels.”
“Okay. Okay. We’re doing our bit to fight sexism, right? We play electric guitars.”
Rock-including punk rock- is a boys club.
A lot of the discussion around my book concerns whether it’s autobiographical or not, which I find irritating. Isn’t that inferring that I’m not capable of using my imagination? To invent? Well, writing is vexing on many levels but I don’t understand all this post modern fuss over genre. As hot as memoir is, I didn’t write a memoir because honestly, my life is not that exciting. And I maintain there is more truth in fiction. It grants one freedom. Maybe I’m a coward, for I do hide behind fiction, wear it like a veil, but it is also liberating. Though the The Town Slut’s Daughter is based on my life experiences-which grants it authenticity-the majority of the story is feigned. I can say unequivocally that I am not Fiona and Fiona is not I. (I fear she is smarter than I am. ) If you want reality, read my blog, One Life, at heatherhaley.com wherein I stated, “Our hunger for realism, hence the reality show phenomenon, and rise of the documentary fuel such expectations, pressure, to write a memoir. I never doubted my instincts, knew I was framing narrative within a novel. Works for me. Autobiographical novel also seems a contradiction in terms. Truth is relative and “honesty is not synonymous with truth.” Let the critics and pundits postulate ad nauseum, I need to focus on process.
I’ve taken an approach similar to EL Doctorow in Ragtime by blending real people and events with characters and things I’ve made up. As I told writer friend Justine Brown the other day, I chose to keep many of the band names because it would be difficult to conjure up better ones. DOA, Dead Kennedys, Dishrags, Subhumans, Devices, Rabid, Pointed Sticks, Young Canadians, and the Zellots, which was my first and all-female group-are portrayed along with various real life events. This scene is based upon the first time the Clash played Vancouver, at the Commodore. I idolized them and so did most of my punk rock comrades. We were thrilled to say the least. By the way, though the novel is in third person, we often we hear directly from Fiona, eves dropping in on her thoughts and feelings in first person. From part one-Girls With Guitars-it could have been titled Punk Rockers in Love. Not!
Does he do this she wondered? Conjure up last night, the things we did, feel an after-shudder? Waiting to see Emmett Hayes, was . . . agony! Fiona couldn’t eat. Think straight. Gawd I hate this! Half an hour late. Again. She diddled her guitar, scanned a book, traipsed back and forth to the fridge, swinging wildly between anger and anxiety. Why doesn’t he call? That dink! She could have gone with Rita and Shannon. She could have spent her hard earned cash on something besides a new silk bra and panties. That bastard. Then, still cursing, Fiona heard his obnoxious Porsche engine out front and relief coursed through her limbs. She barely resisted the urge to run to the car.
“Sorry I’m late,” he mouthed, the Clash’s I Fought the Law blasting from his Blaupaunkts. “Did you hear? The Clash came out and played soccer with us!”
“Yeah! Who won?”
“They did, of course. My shins are covered in bruises.”
Emmett yarded on the gears pinball wizard style. Soon they were pelted with fat raindrops. He pulled over immediately to put the top up. They cruised the block repeatedly in search of the safest parking spot for his precious steed of steel. At last they entered the fading art deco grandeur of the Commodore Ballroom, Emmett waving tickets at the doorman, breezing by security like a diplomat. Christ. He must have been left under a cabbage by mistake.Emmett surveyed the room, refusing Fiona’s hand.
“Fuck! Look at all the poseurs.”
Fiona spied Dennis across the room, stomach tilting at the reproach in his face. A young woman in a booth flanking the stage sat sneering.
“Emmett, who’s that girl glaring at us?”
He ignored the question, wandered off, Fiona following.
The Clash had an excellent DJ spinning a killer mix of ska, punk, reggae and dub. Fiona waved to Shannon and friends. The place was jammed with every die-hard in the city, slam dancing on its famous ballroom floor, originally designed to make any clodhopper hoof it like Fred Astaire. The Commodore had character all right and it was the perfect size. Fiona hated arena shows. The Dishrags opened. It was inspiring to watch fellow females wailing on guitar. They finished with a blazing rendition of London’s Burning. Next up, Bo Diddley. Emmett said the Clash brought the old guy along as a way to pay homage to one of rock and roll’s originators. Fiona shrugged.
“I’m too young for nostalgia.”
Unfortunately, the Powder Blues were his pickup band, old fart-guitar god wannabes and though playing with a legend, forced everyone to sit through a long, boring wank session.
“Fuck this. I wanna see the Clash!” Fiona was not alone in her sentiments.
Shannon walked over and pulled her aside. “See that girl? That’s Electra. One of Emmett’s girlfriends. He told her he was bringing her tonight.”
“Electra! Sounds like an Italian scooter.”
“She’s weird. Really mad, says she’s gonna beat the crap out of you.”
Laughing, they walked over to Emmett. He lowered his drink, deigned to look at them, insisting he hadn’t invited anyone but Fiona. Clouds of tension were gathering on the dance floor as well, burly security guards manning the barriers. Finally, the Clash emerged, a tidal wave of bodies surging forward, the band opening with I’m So Bored With the U.S.A, Emmett off the hook. For now.
Beer. You only rent it. Fiona ran to the bathroom between songs, in and out of a stall quickly. Electra appeared, strutted over and squinted up into Fiona’s face like a Pekinese.
“Hey bitch! Keep your paws off Emmett or I will kill you.”
Looking around, Fiona laughed. “Where’s the hidden camera? Hey, Eeeelectraaaa. I think you’d better stay away from Emmett.”
“Wanna fight about it?”
“Hah! I could squish you like a bug. Fuck off! This ain’t junior high, you know.”
What Electra lacked in size, she made up for in attitude, fueled by four-inch stilettos, garters, fishnets, black leather mini skirt, all of which had nothing to do with punk and everything to do with Emmett.
Electra spit at her. Missing her target—Fiona’s face—the gob splatted onto her clavicle. Fiona looked down. Nearly blind with fury, she handily hoisted Electra up by the lapels. Shannon barged in. Fiona slammed Electra into the wall, back of her head banging the paper towel dispenser. Electra yelped.
“You bitch. You fucking whore!”
Shannon grabbed Fiona by the arm. They walked out dogged by the undaunted Lilliputian. Fiona barreled over to Emmett.
“What were you thinking?”
“I told you! I didn’t ask her. She just assumed.”
Wee Electra was at the bar again, glowering.
“Get lost, you skanky broad!” Emmett hollered at her.
Snotty pose pierced like a balloon, Electra flumped away, people laughing in her wake.
“God Emmett you’re an asshole!”
“Hey, I brought you. What do you care?”
“I care because it’s the same way you treat me. Like shit!”
“Fuck this!” He walked away in a huff.
Fuck this all right! Fighting tears, determined to revel in this night to remember, Fiona formed two fists and shoved her way through the crowd, jabbing, elbowing, bashing. She glanced back. Emmett gone. Naturally. Though the faces on the floor were familiar, the horde formed one huge alien, reeking of stewed leather and body heat, Clash so loud they cloaked the clamor of thumping heart, roaring blood. Fiona was rammed. Hard. She heard the wind go out of her lungs, body boxed about as if by bulls. She slipped, nearly going down, floored by the vision of her fractured skull ground into the boards by dozens of tightly laced combat boots.I am too black in the heart to fall! She carved a line out of the crush to the foot of the stage, stared up at Simonon. He was perfect—angled cheekbones, mouth gaping open like a Lego-focused kid, long, lean muscles. An art student apparently, before hitching up with the Clash, couldn’t play a note till Mick Jones taught him. Like John Lennon. Must be a British thing, that link between art school and rock. So why did I let Trent talk me out of art school? Oh my God. Simonon! He’s looking right at me! Got a girlfriend, according to Shannon, some tart who writes for NME. Strummer strained against his Telly, snaking the mike stand with his body. Tossing his guitar onto his back, he leaned over the crowd, ranting, railing.Loose-kneed Mick Jones was running, leaping, boinging all over the stage, carving out notes with an axe, his golden Gibson Les Paul. Goofy booster Dennis vaulted onto the stage during Career Opportunities, ricocheting off amps and various Clash members, security goons giving Keystone Cops chase. Strummer even let Dennis commandeer the mike and bray out the chorus with him, Fiona feeling a twinge of envy.