Friday, July 3, 2009

Short Story Authors, Levi Blues and the David Wilcoxes

First, the Novel Report
I don't think I mentioned that I headed out to the library and bookstores to get research material for my novel. I have several books on order at the library and have sussed out a line of research that will pave the way to keep me from venturing too far out of sight of the possible in my story line. While I wait for these books to arrive, I am doing some thinking. I believe that some authors let their characters tell the story and lead them through the plot. I on the other hand, at least for this particular novel, believe that the plot (and subplots) must be carefully conceived and thought through so that I can figure out which characters I need to progress my plot. Having said that, a good story must necessarily involve people who propel you through the story and who keep you interested because you care about what happens to them. So carefully constructed characters are essential.

Mavis Gallant
I listened to an interview with Mavis Gallant on CBC Radio 1 on Wednesday as I drove up to Collingwood. Mavis Gallant has been the preeminent international author of short stories since the 1950s. She is 82 and just recently published her latest book of short stories. From the interview it became clear that she still very mentally agile and writes daily.

Interestingly, if one asks about a notable Canadian author of short stories it may be that Alice Munro's name comes to mind. Actually, Gallant is the more Internationally renowned author. She has in the last 50 odd years rarely given interviews - she has made it known that she likes her privacy, which may explain why Munro is better known. Gallant was born in 1922 in Montreal, Quebec. She moved to Paris in 1950 to pursue her writing career.

You can hear the interview here on the Wed July 1st CBC Radio 2 Program called Q:

In any case, listening to Gallant talk about her characters and her immersion into the settings of her stories was very compelling. In the interview she recounts on one occasion in the 1990s, when she was writing a story set in the 1950s she went outside and was momentarily confused to see modern cars and clothes on the people in the street. Now that is focus.

I need to figure out who is in my novel and then get to know them as well as I know myself. I need to put myself into the setting sufficiently that I can experience it myself in my minds eye. This will take some imagining and doing. I have given myself to the end of August for this and then September through October to do the chapter summaries before November 1st, which is the day I start my draft. My journey there is just beginning.

Levi Blues
I am a sucker for feel good songs. There are a lot of them out there. I woke the other morning to the sounds of Dala and their new song "Levi Blues". I jumped out of bed and wrote down the song and the artist. As I was clearing up my scraps of notes from my dining room table today I came across it and it led me on a wild chase.

Firstly, let me tell you I really like the song. I like the easy laid back tune and I like the simple message and lyrics. But it isn't poetry. It is just feeling. If you read the lyrics below you will agree. Girl likes guy, girl goes traveling, girl keeps him in her heart and plans to always come back to him. Nice feel good song and lyrics. I have plans to do some extended traveling and hope when I do there is someone special to keep in my heart to "always come back to"...
Levi Blues by Dala 2008
I always come back to you

I've been waiting for a guy like you
You've been waiting to be my guy too
I'll go to Paris see the lovers in the park

Try California walk the beaches in the dark

I'll see the world in my Levi blues

But I'll always come back

I'll always come back to you

I've been waiting for a guy like you

You've been waiting to be my guy too
I'll go to China, write "I love you" on the wall
And maybe London, catch a show with Albert Hall
I'll see the world in my Levi blues

But I'll always come back

I'll always come back to you

I'll always come back to you

He loves me
He loves me not
He loves me
He loves me not
He loves me He loves me not
He loves me

Yeah yeah yeah
Yeah yeah yeah

I've been waiting for a guy like you

You've been waiting to be my guy too

In the big Apple where we both take a bite

We'll have to hurry 'cause we always miss our flight

We'll see the world in our Levi blues

We'll see the world in our Levi blues

'Cause I always come back
I always come back to you
Two Levi Blues???

When I looked on the internet there is another song called Levi Blues which is quite different. I know the raunchy style of blues that the Canadian musician David Wilcox sings so I was anxious to find what I immediately thought was his song - another titled Levi Blues - on the internet. No luck - there are only a handful of David Wilcox songs on You Tube and other internet sources came up blank.

I did find the lyrics and you will see this version of Levis Blues has a cute idea behind it.
Levi Blues by David Wilcox 1996
I was doing my laundry baby
I thought I'd do my new jeans too

Yeah, I was doing my laundry

I threw my new blue jeans in too

And when the spin and rinse was over

Every single thing in there was blue

Well blue on my bedsheets

To wraparound like doom

Blue on my sweatshirt

Blue fruit of the loom

I went to the laundry

I did what you're never supposed to do

I washed a brand-new pair of Levi's

Every single thing in there was blue

I had the blues

You see, turned my reds to purple

Yellows gone to green
Even all the browns and greys

Got blue that can't be see

Yeah the blues got me surrounded

No matter which outfit I choose

Because I just went to the laundry

And got the brand-new pair of Levi blues

Interesting lyrics, also not poetry. LOL

Two David Wilcox???

The next double take was, having looked on Wiki for David Wilcox I discovered there are 2 David Wilcoxes who are musicians - (neither of which have many of their songs on You Tube and both of which have a dozen albums noted on Wiki). There is the Canadian David Wilcox (born 1949) who is a rock-blues musician and another who is an American Folk-blues Musician (born 1958). His Levi Blues was released on his 6th album in 1996. I found a cover of the song on You Tube and will report that it is a typical Blues style song.

Canadian David Wilcox who did not write nor record Levi Blues (as near as I can tell although he is a blues/rock musician.
The American David Wilcox who did write and record a Blues song called Levi Blues (Sorry, no tune found to give you a listen to)...


  1. It was interesting to read your words about your careful planning for the birth of a novel, Peggy. My own writing habits are more spontaneous, whether fiction or non, which probably is why you never have seen a book written by Fram. When I think of a character, I always have someone I know in mind, at minimum in the sense to serve as a model for physical description.

    Short stories and Mavis Gallant: She is ancient, yet I do not recall hearing of her. Have I missed any good stories?

    None of your singers are familiar to me. See, we tread different ground entirely in that area, it seems. Thinking more about this topic, I realized that, until recently, probably 80 percent of the music I know comes from listening to (preferably news and commercial free) rock stations on the radio while driving, 10 percent from bar bands, 5 percent from concerts and the remaining 5 from introduction via family or friends. Just another reason I consider myself provincial.

    This is a neat post.

  2. Fram, we seem to be two sides of a coin.

    Actually, as I trotted home from work tonight, I was thinking about your comment that Scorpions were a "commercially successful group" and I concluded it was because I have not much listened to any rock radio stations, where commercially successful groups might be encountered. I have not had a great deal of exposure to rock bands, except for a few brief years where a significant other was into rock music. So commercially successful or not, I had not heard of Scorpions.

    I have however had a long and loving relationship with Jazz, blues and folk and even country and classical... but in recent years I seem to be quite into what is classified here as "world music". In addition, I am exposed to new music of all genres (but seemingly less rock music) on my beloved CBC radio 2. It was on CBC Radio 2 that I found the one which I chose for today's blog and (as a preview) the one which will be featured on my next blog.

    Going back to your comment regarding the birth of my novel - I think my approach may be quite influenced by my profession. I make my living by planning and executing projects with the careful approach that a surgeon might take into an operating theatre, except my projects are completed in a year or more and of course do not have that life or death consequence of a job well done.

    The contrasting approaches to planning a novel might be analogous with method acting vs classical acting - each has its following and both have great success with individual practitioners. I tend to think this approach, which imo is more appropriate to the type of novel I am writing, is less artistic in the "touchy feely" sense and more a discipline in a planned approach to building a product.

    Glad you are enjoying watching this unfold.

    Lastly, Mavis Gallant.- Yes, 82 is ancient, but obviously not past it. I have a couple of her collections of short stories. I have just now started reading the 2nd one – a rather long (862 pages) volume of her best work – I doubt whether I will pick it up again until after my NaNoWriMo novel is written, simply no time. Both it and the other in my library – Home Truths - are supposed to be her best work. I quite enjoy her short stories. Not sure if I prefer them to Alice Munro, but she does paint great characters.


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