A guest post by Luka Pajkovic
Ron Charach is a practicing psychiatrist and author based in Toronto, Ontario. He writes poetry, with ten published collections, and is a Canadian letter-writer, with his work often published in The Toronto Star, The National Post, and The Globe and Mail, as well as American venues such as The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Atlantic.
I recently had the chance to sit down and talk with Ron about his first novel, cabana the big, which was published through Tightrope Books last year.
RON: cabana the big is a dystopic, post-nuclear novel. Billionaire harold galloway sets up his little world in an ecosphere, and he sets it up like a grade B western. Of course, the novel predicts Trump coming to power, which is kind of nice.
LUKA: That’s interesting. It’s your first novel too, right?
It’s my first novel; but I’ve actually been writing prose as long as I’ve been writing poetry.
I’m also one of Canada’s main letter-writers. My letters largely comment on gun control, and of course, cabana is an outrageous gun book. They love guns in this book, galloway loves having the big eight, his ‘one-better’ version of the magnificent seven; he loves all that kind of stuff. It keeps him alive, it keeps him hopping; he’s the kind of guy who needs a fight in order to feel real, just like Trump does.
Yeah, this story seems like a dream for the gun-obsessed, the environment is built around carrying guns; and everyone sees guns as part of a person’s identity. I noticed a lot of it felt related to compensation and ‘dick-measuring.’
Absolutely, cabana is a very genital book, and Trump is a very genital president. He’s deeply misogynistic, but also deeply homoerotic. When Trump was running against the other Republican candidates he was just grabbing at their nuts. He was criticizing their manhood left, right, and center, and they didn’t know what to do. No one had ever done that. No one had behaved in public like that.
And galloway is a very deceptive, crude man in his own way. But what intrigued me about writing cabana was henry morgan. He used to be Dr. Henry Morganstern, but now he rides with the big eight. His psychology is intriguing because he went from being a doctor and poet, to riding with the eight. And really, we are all riding with the eight; all of us are colluding with the powers that be, which are moving in a fascist direction.
I noticed that idea does come up in the story; at a town hall meeting henry basically accuses all the townspeople of wanting to be a part of the eight.
That’s right, and it’s like these people who love Trump. They love the brash power he has to do whatever the hell he wants. It’s the American outlaw tradition, adulation of the outlaw.
Being a psychiatrist, I imagine that also has an influence on how you write.
It does, I spend my whole day listening to people talk. I know how people talk. Sometimes I’ll read in other books people talking, and I know nobody talks like that. I have an ear for the colloquial, an ear for dialects and accents. I love accents.
I also have a knowledge of psychodynamics, so hopefully what happens between my characters is recognizable to people. I hope they understand why my characters act this way.
I imagine writing characters is pretty interesting when you have so much insight into how real people think and behave.
Characters are based on real people, but you always put some of yourself into every character. I’m a bit like everyone in cabana, because I wrote it, I chose how to set everything up. I like to think I have empathy with my characters, that I understand them and their insecurities.
Like galloway being jealous of the bulge in henry morgan’s pants.
I hope people get a real hoot out of this book; I think it’s hilarious. But you have to be able to get into it.
Get into that bit of crudeness that’s part of the world.
And part of everyone’s unconscious. It’s going on in all our minds. I started writing cabana when I was eighteen or nineteen, that’s why it’s so raw and sexual. As a psychiatrist, I didn’t see the need to censor any of that, because that’s what our unconscious is all about. Cognitive psychologists have lined up with the psychoanalysts, and they say most of what people do is done for emotional reasons. They agree there is such a thing as the unconscious mind.
And that’s what everyone is saying about Trump, his reasons are emotional, and based on his desire to be the best and most powerful.
Definitely. Trump lined up very quickly with the NRA, and he’s refused to criticize various paramilitary groups. He’s going where the power is. It’s very disturbing. People are saying he’s looking for a war; he needs a war, to draw attention away from his other failures.
You can find cabana the big here.
Part two of this interview is here.