Charles Tidler was born in Ohio in 1946. He studied literature and philosophy at Purdue University. His two connected one-act plays, Straight Ahead and Blind Dancer, premiered in Vancouver and were later published, as was his next play in 1983, Farewell Heart. His collaboration on Make Me Laugh for the Edmonton Fringe Festival was followed by The Butcher's Apron for Theatre Passe Muraille in 1990, the same year he adapted Jack Hodgins' Spit Delaney's Island in Victoria. Previous poetry titles include North of Indianapolis, published in Indiana, and Flight, The Last American Poem.

Tidler came to B.C. in 1969. In 1977 he began a long stint teaching playwriting at UVic. Red Mango: a blues (Anvil, 2001) is a monologue about Charlie who follows the 'large carrot' between his legs. That carrot goes anywhere there's music, sweat, and the possibility of getting laid. His novel about a jazz trumpeter entitled Going to New Orleans (Anvil 2004) has been described as a post-Beat neo-bebop gumbo. This first person narrative and sexual odyssey is about the music, history and literature of New Orleans--and a murder.

Tortoise Boy (Anvil 2008) is a concert of four monologues from disparate people brought together in the emergency ward of a hospital after a teenager has undergone a psychiatric crisis.

Hard Hed: The Hoosier Chapman Papers (Anvil 2011), is described as a 'contemporary retelling of the Johnny Appleseed story', and follows an apple orchardist - also a historian - who has just been released from an Ohio jail after serving two years for planting wild apple trees in a city park.

Theatre Inconnu in Victoria on Fernwood Street, across from the Belfry Theatre, produced Charles Tidler's adaptation of a short story by Jack Hodgins for Spit Delaney's Island in 2015, directed by Karen Lee Pickett. Spit Delaney is a steam locomotive operator at a pulp mill. After decades of rising at 4 am to fire up his beloved steam engine, Spit finds himself without this job when the pulp mill replaces "Old Number One"; with a modern diesel engine. Spit declares that he is: "Not sure of where or how I belong."; Spit's relationship with his family and the world around him is thrown in turmoil as he doggedly tries to hang onto an identity that is no longer relevant. This is the stuff of comedy, and yet it is also the stuff of the human condition. As we laugh at Spit's misguided struggle to stay the same, we empathize with his loneliness at being left behind while others move on - more readily adapting to a changing world. But there are magical forces at work here, guiding Spit - kicking and screaming - towards a deeper understanding of himself and an unexpected outcome.

REVIEW (2017) by John Moore:
Useless Things (REDACTED) A novella. By Charles Tidler (Ekstasis Editions $19.95)

Last seen nine years ago in Charles Tidler's novel, Going to New Orleans (Anvil Press, 2004), the itinerant, deranged horn-player named Lewis King is now pursuing a comically perverse love affair with the lubricious Ms Sugarlicq in Useless Things (REDACTED). Now on the cooler shores of Victoria, the passions of our protagonist still run hot as a W.C. Handy riff.
Into his late sixties, Lewis is trying to acquire the sage-like calm supposedly conferred by age and wisdom, but his mojo ain't workin.' His current squeeze, Lostlove, has dumped him for a pedal-jock he refers to as Bicycle Boy. He is one of those obnoxiously athletic dudes who roll on European racing bikes and show off their junk in tight black spandex shorts that a guy Lewis's age would describe as 'panty-girdles.'

Despite her sexual treachery, Lostlove still wants to "be friends."; Lewis reacts the way most of us do when mustered to that leaky lifeboat.
Much of this story explores the way phone answering machines, caller ID and building access control systems are used as tools of power in relationships. Lewis employs them all as a way of punishing Lostlove by controlling and reducing her access to him.

The title? Well, achieving serenity by refusing to be distracted by useless things is a basic teaching of Lewis' chosen spiritual master, the 13th century Chinese sage, Wumen Huikai, compiler of zen koans and author of The Gateless Gate, who once wrote, "If useless things do not hang in your mind, any season is a good season for you.";

Ironically, it is "things,"; techno-gadgets, that initially appear to give Lewis more control of his life, eliminating distraction created by emotions, the ultimate "useless things."; It's a nicer irony of the novel that the virtual armour of our social-media-saturated society turns out to be tinfoil when human beings confront each other in the flesh.

The redactions embedded in the text are more than just a gaff to make the pages visually interesting. Crude horizontal blots of black ink are familiar to readers used to perusing redacted documents, from the Pentagon Papers to files accessed under freedom of information acts and Wikileaks.

Employed as a narrative tool in fiction, the blackouts reflect Lewis's struggle to reduce his emotional suffering by redaction. The redactions in Useless Things subtly but significantly progress from truly irrelevant brand and place names at the beginning of the novel to emotionally-loaded words and phrases by the end.

A short novel, Useless Things is a card-cut challenge to writers to prove that less is more. Sixty thousand words is a verbal straight-jacket that leaves little wiggle-room for the leisurely plot and character development too often indulged in by contemporary novelists obsessed with narrative style, psychology or point of view; 19th century concepts that still seem to be the stock in trade of many creative writing programs.

Charles Tidler's strength as a novelist is that he is a dramatist by trade, a working playwright whose tools are dialogue and action, a small but effective kit marked show, don't tell in non-redacting high-lighter. 978-1-77171-200-2

John Moore writes from Garibaldi Highlands.

PLAYS & BOOKS:

Hard Hed: The Hoosier Chapman Papers (Anvil 2011) 978-1-897535-69-1 $20
Tortoise Boy: A Chamber Play (Anvil, 2008) - play
Going to New Orleans (Anvil, 2001) - novel
Red Mango: a blues (Anvil, 2001)
The Sex Change Artist, Intrepid Theatre. Playwrights Union of Canada.
Fabulous Yellow Roman Candle. Playwrights Union of Canada.
The Butcher's Apron. Playwrights Union of Canada.
Spit Delaney's Island, Adaptation of two stories by Jack Hodgins. Playwrights Union of Canada.
The Farewell Heart. Playwrights Union of Canada.
Straight Ahead. Playwrights Union of Canada.
Blind Dancers. Playwrights Union of Canada.
Dinosaurs. Powell River: Ramseed House Press, 1982.
Straight Ahead & Blind Dancers. PLCN, 1981; CTR No. 34, Spring 1982.
Broken Branches. Vancouver: Orphan Press, 1977.
Anonymous Stone. Pulp Press, 1977.
Flight: The Last American Poem. Pulp Press, 1976.
Whetstone Almanac. Pulp Press, 1975.
Straw Things. New York: The Crossing Press, 1972.
North of Indianapolis. Indiana: Aesop's Feast Press, 1969.

[BCBW 2008] "Theatre" "Music"