Novel Father

Remington, William

Neil Remington Abramson has started a novel about the life of his father, William Walter Remington, murdered in prison at the age of 37, when Neil was barely a year old. Neil has reflected on his father’s circumstances on a number of occasions, including here, here, here and here.

The writing is not going as well as expected, as Neil recounts (reproduced with permission):

I was thinking that perhaps I should let him go. Perhaps he best deserves to be allowed to slip away, unnoticed, into the dustbin of history. Doing all the research to write the story, I have come to certain conclusions about him. And my understanding of the “complete” story includes aspects of surmise that seem inevitably likely, but not part of any official record.

Maybe I should be writing it with a different perspective: mine, for example, instead of his. Or maybe what I am writing would be one chapter in a bigger story of a man (me) finding his father and who he really was.

Or maybe it should be a detective story set in 1950 USA rather like those Bernie Gunther stories set in Nazi Germany. My detective could be employed by my hot-shot mother to try to prove his innocence but then, Raymond Chandler-like, the hired detective proves my father’s his guilt instead.

But then again, it’s my father’s guilt that, in some respects, rehabilitates the meaning of the story for me. If I were the detective and found what I suspect I would find, then would I run to the FBI or would I let it go, out of greater respect and sensitivity for WWR? And that’s the joy of reading Chandler: his detective is not chained to society’s expectations of normative behavior.

But I was thinking that if I just let WWR go, then what would I write instead? I know the answer and have known it for some time. I even know the plot line and setting because it’s been coming to me for years, already. But it would be an entirely different genre.

Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? Do I have an authentic obligation to myself or WWR to pursue his story? And what if my story about his story blackens him further, in unanticipated ways, at least by others?

Or what if, as Kierkegaard and Heidegger argue, what appears to blacken actually lightens in an existential way what is a pretty black story of betrayal and self-betrayal?

It is the betrayal that represents existential authenticity, and the subsequent camouflage, trying to prove that it was never the case, that then becomes the self-betrayal slipping back into self-interest, from authenticity to inauthenticity, denying the validity of the choices made freely. Simply put, my father could be seen as a man of bad faith.

If I can write this novel, the trick is to find ways to bring my father’s character to fruition through the development of the plot, rather than the naming of theories and the argumentation of their application in the case. It’s a difficult transition between scientific writing and literature, as Soseki observes.

Maybe I should be sticking with the autobiographical, though instead of trying to compress the story into a short story (20,000 words max), maybe I should make it more introspective and allow the character to emerge from the considerations he makes, and those that surround him, trying to understand how he is finally facing prison. A bit like Augustine’s Confessions. but without the constant prayers and appeals to God.

I can see why it takes 3 years to write a novel. I may not be up to one yet. I like the detective novel scenario. It would be easier for me to be the protagonist detective, uncovering the apparent truth about my father, rather than trying to understand what WWR might really have thought of his past, his present, and himself, with no future.

Remington, William 2

Posted in Politics - United States | Leave a comment

Devil’s Anvil

Devil’s Anvil. One album, 1967.

John Berberian cover:

Don’t understand the song and don’t quite get the cover. Still, something particularly innovative in west-east fusion, at that particular time.

Lead singer Kareem Issaq had another release, or a repackaged release:

Sends you sort of somewhere…

Posted in Music | Leave a comment


If U.S. air strikes can’t wipe out Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons, what can they achieve?

Washington’s rationale for resorting to force, should diplomacy fail, is that Iraq is a “threat to its neighbours” because it continues to develop banned weapons and the missiles capable of delivering them, and because of Mr. Hussein’s demonstrated history of attacking adjacent countries.

But the neighbours, with only Kuwait as an exception, apparently don’t feel threatened. None of them, not Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia or Syria, has shown any overt support for U.S. air strikes. On the contrary, most oppose military action and have agreed only to convoluted wording, despite intense pressure from Washington, to the effect that Baghdad bears responsibility for the “grave consequences”, should air strikes be launched.

For them, the consequences of any military action–further suffering for the Iraqi people–outweigh the temporary limiting of Iraq’s arsenals.

…May, 1996: UN allows Iraq to sell $2 billion worth of oil, in order to buy food.

Paul Koring, “The perilous case for going to war”. Globe and Mail, February 14, 1998: A7.

Posted in Iraq | Leave a comment

Jimmy Giuffre

Opening sequence to Jazz on a Summer’s Day, a film about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival:

Jimmy Giuffre on sax, with Bob Brookmeyer on trombone and Jim Hall on guitar.

Piece is “The Train and The River”. Original studio version, 1957:

Another live version, 1957:

Pure, simple, complex and timeless.

Posted in Music | Leave a comment

Sometimes a line, or two…

…says more than a book. Came across a couple like that:

I write plays because writing dialogue is the only respectable way of contradicting yourself.

Tom Stoppard, as quoted by Keith Garebian in “A lifetime of roles”. Review of Ira Nadel, Tom Stoppard: A Life. Globe and Mail, September 14, 2002: D6.

The road of excess may lead to the palace of wisdom, but it can be as much about falling in the gutter as staring up at the stars.

James Adams, “The Dead keep on truckin'”. Review of Dennis McNally, A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead. Globe and Mail, September 14, 2002: D3.

Posted in Biography, Music, Theatre | Leave a comment

Jane Vasey

Out of the blue, a friend sent me a link to Jane Vasey, as follows:

Here’s one for you…

She was sadly taken far too soon.

Agreed. Dead from leukemia at 32 or 33. Dead for 32 years now.

Found someone had started a Wikpedia page on her, stating “I don’t have a lot of detail, but she deserves a page. I’m hoping other fans will add more detail”. So added to it.

She died in Toronto, on July 7, 1982. She was at the funeral home near home of first year of married life (mine, not hers). Wanted to go up the street to pay respects, but didn’t. Didn’t feel I was close enough to be other than a mourning pretender. One of a number of life experiences missed, with later regret.

Hopefully a compilation of her recordings will find release in some form.

Here she is…

Posted in Music, Toronto Reflections | Leave a comment

(Un)likely News


Have written about arrest, trial and acquittal, 1969. Also referenced the fact that, to the best of recollection, it was news in the third page of the Ottawa Citizen. There is a link to it being on page 52 of the Ottawa Journal of Tuesday, September 20, 1969. This would have followed the court appearance on Monday. And the arrest, jailing and bailing on Sunday morning.

Don’t recall saving this clipping. At least one person did. My former high school classmate, Michael Toth, who taught me how to play guitar, became a high school teacher of music, Teaching others, since his early teens. Also a professional musician for some 45 years now. Recently told me he was going through some boxes, in preparation for a family move to a new house, and found his old high school yearbooks. This clipping was saved in one of them. Sent a copy of it to me.

When one considers how things once were. Adult criminal responsibility at 16. RCMP responsibility for local drug arrests. Newspaper publication that included the address of the accused. A requirement to enter a plea at the first appearance, or shortly thereafter. Development of greater fairness, over the years.

Was also quite the way to make an impression in the first month of the new school year. Part of the reason to look for a means to a fast exit. Shame and label. And as for the change of name

Posted in Criminal Justice Issues, Ottawa Reflections | Leave a comment