Past, present, pater
12 September 2012 | BRUCE DENNILL
Love Sex Fleas God – some of which is about being a retrenched, stay-at-home dad, some of which is about being raised by a Scientology-obsessed mother and some of which is about a lean period in between there somewhere where he was a hobo – is not the book Bruce Clark planned to write, but it became one of which he’s rightfully proud.
“It stemmed from me being aware that my kids and I were on divergent paths,” he says.
“There are times that you need to impart whatever wisdom you have. I’m 55 and I didn’t want to leave it too late.
“I also feel strongly about certain aspects of parenthood, and wanted to verbalise that. Losing my job hit me hard and my kids really saved me.”
How has this somewhat brutal catharsis shaped Clark’s potential career as an author?
“It was a tough learning experience,” he says, “and if I had to do it again now, I’d do it 50% quicker.
I didn’t realise how much of the process was just sitting down and writing.
About a third of the time, I just expected the muse to arrive, and I’d sit there and read news online and check out Youtube.
“Eventually, my publisher gave me a deadline of 60 000 words by a certain date.
I have a programme on my computer that works out word count schedules, and it told me that I needed to complete 908 words a day. So I started getting up at 2am to work. And if I knew I was writingrubbish, the editing process was still coming. That was like a long day at the proctologist...”
Clark’s difficult childhood – moved around from school to school and never settling, before leaving at Grade Ten level – means he doesn’t have an impressive education in the traditional sense. Yet Love Sex Fleas God is full of wisdom – a very different animal to school smarts.
“Wisdom comes from getting hurt,” smiles Clark, ruefully.
“If everything falls into place your whole life, you won’t learn anything.”
Scientology as it’s described here is a long way from excitable short men jumping on couches. Clark’s not the sort to pick on a single set of beliefs – he’s generally anti-religion, not specifically so – but it’s hard to read this book and not feel vehemently anti-Scientology.
“There are Scientologists and there are Scientology staff members,” says Clark, whose mother fell into the second category.
“The latter are paid nothing, and abused. And there’s no gradient for children. The thinking is that any Scientologist may be part of an alien race, and a couple of billion years old, so they’re treated the same as adults.
“I think, though, that the Internet is killing things like Scientology.
Where before, people could be controlled by keeping certain aspects of the religion top secret, you can now just check the answers to your questions online. It’s tougher to brainwash people now.”
Clark’s views on religion seem justified by his experiences.
“Sure,” he grins, “but sometimes, when I self-analyse, I suspect I’m more religious than I admit.
“I probably fit into the vision of what most faiths want from their followers – love, kindness and compassion are hugely important to me.”
Which all feeds back into Clark’s role as a stay-at-home father.
“True,” he says.
“As an older dad, I’m more at peace with mortality and I don’t feel like I always have to achieve something. I think that when men are at peace with themselves, they make better parents.
“As for the success or otherwise of this book and what the next one will be like, I’m not sure.
But I have faith – ha, that word again! – that what I’ve written here will take me somewhere.”
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