Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Writing Week: Issue 17, Year 5.

Bryce Courtenay's Embellished Life.

Yesterday I read a large article in the Age Good Weekend magazine from March 17 titled The World According to Bryce Courtenay.  It details many questionable claims Bryce has made about his life. For example, recently I heard that Courtenay invented the mascot Louie the Fly for Morten, not so according to the article, Louie the Fly was around in 1957before Courtenay started in the advertising industry. 

Courtenay, according to the article, claims to have taught English to black South Africans servants in a hall that was burnt down by police. But according to the church that owned the hall it was never burnt down.  Probably Courtenay’s most amazing claim is that while he was running the Boston Marathon he struck up a conversation with another runner who said he too was a writer. When Courtenay asked the writer his name, he told him it was Stephen King.  Stephen King’s executive assistant says King has never run the Boston marathon. 

Bryce Courtenay’s sister says that The Power of One, “wasn’t at all what our childhood had been”.  I read The Power of One years ago, and I thought it was based on fact.  The article also details many more instances where Courtenay seems to have fudged or embellished the truth about his life.

Which brings me to the question:  does it matter if Bryce Courtenay’s seems to have invented a more interesting background for himself? After all most of his novels are fiction. It shouldn’t matter, but it does to me, especially if I am reading a novel, such as The Power of One, and believe the writer is writing from experience and has based the world they have created on fact.

My Embellished Life.

Reading about Courtenay’s embellishments had me thinking how I could embellish my life to make it more marketable to publishers and readers.  I write science fiction, so the first thing I should do is award myself a science degree, but not just any science degree, let’s make it a multi-disciplinary PHD in cutting edge science like nanotechnology or genetics.

Readers seem to enjoy reading writers who have really struggled to make it. So I will tell the world my mother died in childbirth, which my father always blamed on me. He became a drunk after her death and I was left to pretty much raise myself. My drunken father drifted from one job to another, reluctantly dragging me along.  At one stage working as a cleaner at the Parkes’ radio telescope.  

I will always remember him coming home really late one night. I expected he had been drinking, as usual, so when he opened my bedroom door  I pretended to be asleep. He came over to the bed, and muttered something about “they’re  coming,” and then kissed me on the forehead. He had never done that before and it freaked me out.  For a moment I thought I was going to be part of a murder suicide.  But he then went back out of the room and closed the door.

I went to the door to listen for the rattle of the cutlery drawer as he searched for a butcher’s knife.  But then the phone rang, and he rushed outside. I heard the car start up and the tyres screech as he sped off.  I thought he might have forgotten to turn off the security alarm at the radio telescope again. But when his bed was unslept in the next morning, and he wasn’t crashed out of the couch, I thought he might have had an accident. He had. The police said he was drunk, but when I thought about it later, his breath had not smelt of beer or mints.

I was then raised by an Aunty, a catholic missionary, who lived in the jungles in New Guinea. I filled my days exploring and hunting with the local tribe and my nights reading and writing by candlelight. I wrote my first novel when I was ten, it was a three-hundred-thousand word epic about the destruction of an alien homeland by mining companies in search of obtainium.  I sent it off to publishers, including one in the US, but never heard back from them.  Years later the movie Avatar seemed really similar.

On my sixteenth birthday, Indonesian troops came into our village. They accused the tribe of hiding rebels.  At the time I was out in the jungle taking part in an initiation ceremony.  When I returned the soldiers had burnt the village to the ground. There were bodies everywhere. My Aunty’s body was eventually found in the burnt out church. The police came and were suspicious of my white skin. I told them I was  Australian and they put me back on a boat to Australia. Upon arrival, the government authorities didn’t believe I was Australian, so they kept in a detention centre at Villawood until I turned eighteen, when they threw me out onto the streets.

With nowhere to go, and no money, I had little choice but to turn to crime. I lived on the streets, shoplifting, stealing from cars, picking people’s pockets, breaking and entering.  One night I was picked up by this blond haired guy who said he was a social worker. He took me back to this rundown looking terrace house, but inside it was full of all this technical equipment, including a computer, one of the first in Australia. He tried to come on to me, and I ran. The next night I came back with a mate and we ransacked his house.  We took everything we could carry, including the computer.

I taught myself to use the computer, and became a computer whiz. I got into hacking into police databases and intelligence agencies, like ASIO, to see if I could find any information about what really happened to my father and who he thought was coming. My work was noticed by other hackers and a few of us got together and co-founded  Annoymous, which I recently quit after  my girlfriend Caitlin became pregnant. I then used my computer skills to create apps like Doggie Alert. It causes your mobile to bark and remind you to take your dog for a walk. I donate half the proceeds from the app to the RSPCA.

Caitlin literally fell into my arms. I was at a Jimmy Barnes concert, up front near the stage. At the end of the concert one of his back-up singers got her stilettos caught up in a microphone cable and fell off stage. I caught her. She thought I was cute. I thought she was too. So we went out. Had a few drinks, found out we were both into base jumping and we have been together ever since.  

A lot of my ideas for writing come from when I am walking our two golden retrievers, Barnsey and Mossey, in the local forest near Byron Bay.  I have no doubt that I will become a mega selling author whose books change the world for the better. That may sound arrogant, but it is not, I have proof. Recently I converted a police box into a time machine, I call it a Tardis, and it took me into the future.  I discovered that I had written a 666 volume novel called “One Second in the Life of a Single Celled Organism”. The volumes had sold billions of copies and won numerous Booker prizes and even the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The philosophy of the books which included things like eating baked beans and inhaling with only the mouth was followed with religious fever by many.  Singleism, as it became known, eventually supplanted Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Zuckerbergism and Hinduism, even Scientology.  I am eventually elected unanimously the leader of the Earth and the Universe. And yes, aliens did eventually arrive and were repelled by me in…


Helen V. said...

Good one, Graham.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Haha Annoymous - love it..

Yes that's a good one... I was reading an article yesterday in the Sydney magazine about the backstage antics of writers in past Sydney festival's with their huge ego's. I've no doubt many of them make up stories to become successful. Look at that fake book, A million little pieces by James Frey-an asshole.. . I read it before it was discovered as a crock, and being an ex drinker, came across as total bullshit.. yet people lapped it up.

or Helen Demidenko - remember her? and yet, despite being caught out, these people have still been a success. I've no doubt Courtney told some porky pies.. The Power of One was too well constructed to be anything other than fiction...

A good degree or two seems to help also. Might invent a couple too.

Graham Clements said...

Anthony, when I was reading about Courtenay, I kept on thinking about Helen Darville (Demidenko), I always wondered what the fuss was about, so she was not Ukrainian, her novel, The Hand that Signed the Paper, was fiction. But when I read The Power of One, probably twenty years ago at least, I read it expecting to find out what it was like growing up in South Africa. Bryce fooled me a bit, I feel.

Anonymous said...

As someone who was raised in Southern Artica, I found it difficult to believe Bryce Courney's story (The Power of One).

Today he avoids questions about the authenticity of his stories, preferring instead to say "I have learned it is best not to comment".

Perhaps in time he will be remembered more for "The bullshit of one"?

Graham Clements said...

I heard on the radio that Bryce made an appearance on ABC TV to explain himself. I have not watched the interview yet, but will before my next post.