Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Peter Kocan

I don't have any idea about who Peter Kocan is.

I just hope he's not a cricket player....

He's not.

And this is a good one.

Kocan is the guy who tried to assassinate Arthur Calwell.

I mean not that assassins are good. And of course, it's better to be a cricket player than an assassin. I just mean this will be more interesting to me. That's a bit selfish, I suppose.

Lord Wiki says that baby Peter was born on 4 May 1947. He's about a year older than my mom.

He was born in Newcastle, and then later moved to Melbourne.

Kocan's father had died in a car accident three months before Kocan was born. That's really sad. I think pregnancy is probably one of the worst times to have your husband die.

Kocan's mom moved to Melbourne. She remarried. The marriage didn't work out. The family moved to Sydney. There was a younger brother now added to the mix. I guess he came from that second marriage.

Lord Wiki says that Kocan had a rough life. There was loneliness and violence.

When Kocan was fourteen he left school. He went off into the country to work as a station hand. Then he returned to Sydney to work in a dye factory.

Okay, and now Lord Wiki jumps ahead to the assassination attempt.

It happened on 21 June 1966. Kocan would have been only nineteen.

It happened at the Mosman Town Hall. Calwell spoke at an anti-conscription rally. Now I've forgotten if he himself was pro-conscription or anti? I'm guessing he was pro. He was probably speaking as an oppositional voice. I could be wrong.

When Calwell got into his car, Kocan approached the passenger side of the vehicle and shot from the window. Was Calwell on the passenger side. Did he have a driver? Or was he driving himself? I guess I'm wondering if the gun was close to him, or VERY close to him.

Well, Lord Wiki says, After Calwell left the meeting, just as his car was about to drive off, Kocan approached the passenger side of the vehicle, aimed a sawn-off rifle at Calwell's head and fired at point-blank range. So I think there was another driver. Otherwise, Lord Wiki would probably say, Just as Calwell was driving away......

Calwell was lucky. The bullet didn't hit him. It landed in Calwell's coat. He just had minor facial injuries from broken glass.

Calwell later visited Kocan in the mental hospital, and forgave him. When I read all of this during my Calwell research, I thought Calwell was amazingly wonderful for his forgiveness. Now I'm having second thoughts. I mean I still think it's great that he forgave Kocan. A lot of people would refuse to do so. But I do think it's easier to forgive when you haven't had horrific injuries. Would Calwell have been so forgiving if he ended up being horribly disfigured? What if he was paralyzed or something?

I'm not saying he wouldn't have forgiven Calwell if the injuries had been more dramatic. Some people do manage to forgive stuff like that. I just can't know if Calwell would have done so.

Kocan was sentenced to life imprisonment. First he went to Long Bay Correctional Centre in Sydney. That's located in the suburb of Malabar. Malabar....that sounds like a candy bar. It's about twenty minutes east of the airport.

Kocan didn't spend much time in the candy bar suburb. He was soon transferred to Morisset Psychiatric Hospital. Morisset is about an hour north of Sydney.

While in prison, and in the hospital, Kocan started doing poetry. He struck up a penpal friendship with a poet named Michael Dransfield. That probably helped him a bit....maybe gave him some inspiration and motivation.

Kocan published two books of poetry while hospitalized.

Despite his sentence, Kocan didn't spend his life imprisoned. He got out in 1976. He published two autobiographical books about his experiences in the asylum. Amazon.com has the books. I think both short books have been combined into one. One is called The Treatment, and the next is called The Cure.

The books sound fairly interesting. A review quoted on Amazon says it's like One Flew Over the Cuckoos Next.

The Cure won the NSW Premier's Literary Award for Fiction in 1983. That's pretty cool. Although wasn't it nonfiction?

Kocan has also written a science fiction novel called Flies of a Summer. This one isn't as easy for me to find online.

It sounds like this ex-assassin has done quite well for himself. In 1998, he graduated from the University of New South Wales.

He moved to Brisbane in 2003. I'm guessing he still lives there.

He fairly recently published another novel....Fresh Fields. Amazon.com has excepts from a Publisher's Weekly review. The review is very positive. It says, Nevertheless, Kocan indulges in neither sentimentality nor rage.... And it also says, Here and throughout, Kocan writes clearly and beautifully.


Lord Wiki says the novel was shortlisted for the Queensland Premier's Literary Prize. I like the look of these awards. There are so many categories. There's a lot of places for a writer to fit in. Well, unless they're not from Queensland.

This book review website has some information about The Cure and The Treatment. They have a picture of Kocan. He looks different from what I expected. I guess I expected him to still look like a wild nineteen-year-old.

Okay. The books ARE fiction. They're not purely autobiographical. They're inspired by Kocan's experiences.

The novel is told with second-person narration. This is the type of narration used in the Choose Your Own Adventure books, and The Bride Stripped Bare.

The reviewer on the site also gives the book very positive reviews. I think the basic idea of the book is that the asylum was NOT better than the maximum security prison. The reviewer says, With sadistic, resentful and possibly bored prison employees ready and eager to trigger a trip to Electric Ned, Len realizes that the path to avoiding shock treatment is fraught with traps and rules he doesn’t yet understand.

There's an excerpt from the book itself:

You go down into the garden with the others and start digging. You work steadily, not daring to take a breather much. You want to show what a good inmate, a model inmate, you are. Dedicated. Eager to please. Then you get afraid you might be giving a wrong impression. You might be overdoing it. Showing “Obsessional Tendencies.” Digging too much might be like cleaning windows too much.

In my times of emotional turmoil, I often consider getting psychological treatment. One of the things that makes me hesitate is I know too much. I have a psychology degree. But besides that, I've read too much (via books and the Internet). I know I'd constantly second guess every little thing I said. Oh, I wonder what she's writing in her notes now? Does she think I have a border-line personality disorder? Oh. Wait. Does that make me sound like I'm obsessive-compulsive? Does she think I'm delusional?


In the end, I've decided I much prefer self-therapy. And this blog is it for me. I think I'm doing pretty well. I haven't suicided myself, nor have I attempted to kill anyone else. I'm relatively happy the majority of the time. Yeah. I'm very delusional, but I like my delusions. I have some self-esteem issues, but that prevents me from being a conceited bitch.

I think psychology might be more useful for people who are NOT self-reflective. They might need someone to drag stuff out of them. I'm very good at dragging my shit out all by myself.

I think I'd like to read Kocan's books.

I'm dealing with a book issue right now. I've been reading pretty fast lately, and have gone through most of my books. I have seven and a half books left to read. My birthday isn't until late November. Then I'll ask my family for bookstore gift certificates, and I'll buy a ton of books then. I might buy one or two books before then, but I feel kind of guilty because I've bought so many books already.

I guess I could go back to the library. Yeah. That's probably what I should do. I got a bunch of library books a few weeks ago. That slowed down my bookshelf depletion a bit.

Anyway, I'm whining for nothing. Really. See, I don't need a psychologist to point that out to me.

I do want to read the Kocan books though. Actually, I'm going to go to Powell's site now and see if they have them. I'll add them to my wish list.

Oh good. I just checked out my account. I've been meaning to do that. I ordered a bunch of books a few months ago. Weeks after I got the order, I realized I didn't remember seeing the Germaine Greer book. I thought maybe I had lost the book somewhere....I don't know. Dropped it? Left it in the box? Maybe it got buried under all the crap in our house? But anyway, my account says the book was never shipped. That's a relief.

Well, Powell's has the Kocan book. I added it, and I shall buy it in November. I look forward to reading it. I think Kocan's story is inspiring. It shows that people can sometimes overcome their troubled pasts, and that writing is probably one of the best therapies out there.



EDITED TO ADD: It's several months later, and I've just finished reading Kocan's The Treatment and The Cure. AMAZING WORK. I highly recommend it. I don't know why this book isn't more famous. It should be a classic. Seriously.