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Rag

Wednesday 7/29/30

Saw this on Twitter the other day: "Any time you read a novel that's good--legitimately, mindblowingly, touches-your-soul-good--the first most reasonable assumption you should make is, "Oh, it must have been really hard for the writer to find a publisher for this book."


And that is exactly correct, because the book industry is completely fucking backwards. What's bad is called good, what's not funny is called funny (Brock Clarke, for example), what would mean a lot to a lot of people is hated here, it is all about shitty writing, cliques, classism, and work that sucks, bores, and looks like other work that also sucks and bores. Suck, bore, match. That's the real book industry credo. Suck, bore, match. The book and publishing industry has done far more than anything in this world to kill off reading. Ironically. And it's gone so far as to make sure there are very few people who can write anything worth a damn, because the people who do set off to write, invest themselves in imitating--that's right!--work that sucks, bores, and matches other work that sucks, bores, and matches. There is no cavalry waiting to ride in and fix this. There's a one-person cavalry, but that's just about it. Even after this is fixed, it's going to to take a while for there to be good writers again. The people who might have been born with talent killed it, sacrificed it, to this twisted system, and if you don't take the time to develop it--and they didn't--it's like that talent never fucking existed. This is why no one reads. There is no other reason. There are other factors, but there is no other reason. Don't confuse a factor with a reason. Publishing hasn't just destroyed reading--publishing has destroyed writing.


* 270 years ago yesterday, the greatest of all composers in J.S. Bach died, though art like this never could. This is favorite recording of Bach's Art of Fugue, one of the towering achievements of all humankind. Listen and be changed. Note, too, how the the second contrapunctus is like a rag. Do you hear that? Jelly Roll Morton would know what was going on there.



* Yesterday I wrote a story called "Wallpaper Feet."


* I wrote another story yesterday called "Keyes."


* I've written four stories this week. I am not running any of them down, because I think they are all of a piece in terms of quality, power, artistry, so it can be a little confusing when I qualify things like this, but "Keyes" does some arresting things and is composed in a manner I am quite sure no one could write anything else. Not that any of this is imitable. You see the MFA crap, and the reason they pretend to like it in the MFA system, and in this diseased subculture, is because any pretentious boob with no imagination can imitate it. It's the only way for most of them to write, not that it's writing.


* Having said that, these designations make me uncomfortable. It happens regularly now--and the volume of the work is just so extreme, that there's so much to pick from--that someone says to me, "this is the best story I've ever seen," and it's not a story I thought twice about or remember that well, because it's seven stories ago and I only move forward. But I'll look at the story--examples of this happening would be with "Holds," "Jute," "Skip Shack," "Third Party Skin," "Take a Leg," "Slung Stack"--and dig in, and it's like, my goodness, look at this. Those people might be surprised to learn that, to me, they were all just things I did before doing the next thing I did. It's valuable when people share this with me because it's one of the only things that make me go back, and it can be useful as a way of taking stock and that can play a role with how that work is going to come out in the world when it does, how I will lean behind it, how I'll push it, what I'll expect for its outcome, what I won't settle for. Not really because of what something someone said to me conveyed in and of itself--I don't experience their words and then magically think, "Wow, it is that good"--but because they move me back to what I've already done and I stand there and look at it. I experience it through someone else's eyes, not the sense of purpose of an artist who is dissatisfied with himself if he does not produce multiple masterpieces a week. It's hard to give anyone a legit indication of just how hard I lash myself forward, what my expectations are for myself with my ability.


* Ran three miles yesterday and now today in what might have been highest temps. of the year. They are replacing the bridge over where the Charles and harbor meet, so the nearside is closed, and you have to make your way across to the far side, which is a pain with many lanes of cars. Once I am running I don't like to stop until I am done, so this requires running in place and generally takes longer because at the other end of the bridges you also have to cut back across the various lanes, so now you're making four crossings total, whereas before it was none. I must be alert and not get hit, because I do these sorts of improvised crossings.


* Here is yesterday's Downtown segment, on the Red Sox, foodies, cats, dating. I guess you are supposed to pretend that something you did or do is not very good when it is very good and in fact better than anything of its kind out there, but that also presupposes you will have people spreading the news about what you do and what you deserve to have coming back to you will be coming back to you, but I have nothing right now like that and I think anyone who listens to this will also think that it's the absolute best someone can be on the radio. No one else's mind can work this way, let alone in real time, and no one else can talk this way. And it's hilarious. The number of stumbling, inarticulate fools I hear with lucrative radio contracts and not a jot of intelligence in their head gets me endlessly, deeply down. That no one says, "heard this, heard that, heard you a lot, so, you know what, dude, have a show, please, this is what we'd like to offer you." And it seems like a pretty fucking obvious thing to me for someone to do in a sane world where merit and ability mean anything at all. Anything.


Merit and talent is completely irrelevant in the world in 2020. Everything happens for other reasons. And sometimes those reasons are not even reasons. It's just because someone is there and someone has to be the thing, whatever the thing is. Random selection. Someone actually said to me the other day, after starting to listen to one of the Songs of Note podcasts, to let them know if I wanted tips. Right. Give me your tips on how to talk about things and be entertaining with words. But that's how it would be for them. And how something would be for someone else is how they're going to try and make it for you. It's a projection-based world. All is projection. And if you are not unique, that's not a problem as much. There's relevance there. If you are unique, it's just soul-crushingly alienating. Until you get where you want to be, then it's ceaseless lauding, and people celebrating you for the same stuff that no one said a damn about before because now other people are saying it, which is the basis for everything.


But any time you read a biography, it almost always goes the same way--an actor is in some random performance in front of seven people and this guy whose neighbor is a producer is watching, says later on to the neighbor, "I saw this guy, he was great, you should check him out," and then the producer does, sitting in another audience of seven people, comes up to the guy after and says, "My boy, you have great talent, I'm casting you for the lead in my picture." It just always went that way in the past. That would never happen now. You can be in front of nine million people in 2020 doing something better than anyone else in the world has ever done it, and absolutely no one is going to care if a lot of people are not telling them to care about you. No one is going to think, "This person has an amazing ability, I should work with them, I should put them forward, I should hire them if I can." That just never, ever happens. Everything is prefab engineered for certain people, and there's nothing more to it. No one is going to say, "I heard you on the radio, I need you on my air!" Or, "I read your genius short story, please tell me you have something you might let me look at. Do you have a book? Because we could go places." Doesn't work like that.


* Think of all the MFA people who bought a book like There, There, simply because it was the book to buy in their twisted little system, never mind that it is awful, and not one of them would have bought it if the rest of them weren't saying to buy it, if it was not cachet within the system. None of them out in their lives would have bought that book on their own, they would have had no interest in it if they met the person who wrote it who said, um, yeah, I have a book, you should check it out--no one would, not a single damn one of them, if it wasn't the thing to do in the peer group--and they also had no interest in it--no real interest--after they bought it for the reasons they did and stuck it in their New Yorker tote bag. None of this is real. None of this is ever real.


* But I am going to make it real. And what a sea change that will be.


* Have seen or re-seen many films lately. John Sturges' 1949 picture The Walking Hills is a Western-noir with a sandstorm as a main character. The premise that hills are constantly changing their location on account of wind is a strong one. Josh White sings a lot, but I don't think he gets a line of dialogue, and if he's not singing, the camera doesn't pick him up.



* Black and white Westerns with cars always interest me. The modern Western, when there are wilds and the scenes can look like they are out of Ford, but with trucks and phones.


* Watched The Last House on the Left. Has this strange horror-comedy vibe, excepting, certainly, with the rape scene. When the rape is over and the girl knows they are going to kill her, and they know, and they're even uncomfortable with it, and everyone is sort of milling around, giving her some time, is incredibly disturbing. One of the most horrifying passages I've seen in all of cinema. You feel awful after you're done watching the film and will probably feel awful each time you think about that scene going forward.



It was forty-nine years ago today that the Who played the first of two shows in Forest Hills. The Who in 1971 were tough to beat as a live band. Strangely, there is little in the way of soundboards from that era. A gig in San Francisco from December was recorded, which, if released, would be just about the finest live album anyone ever put out, but it doesn't get released.