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A big range

Tuesday 5/23/23

Watched 1988's The Vanishing. Half-baked. Pretty easy way to make a movie. Hadn't seen it in some time. Also Anthony Mann's Bend of the River. His partnership with James Stewart is among the most effective director-star pairings in Hollywood.

Saw How to Blow Up a Pipeline at the Brattle. It was okay, but also a film about a bunch of dumb people doing something for the wrong reasons. Aspects of Henri-Georges Clouzot's The Wages of Fear, Robert Wise's Odds Against Tomorrow, and Jules Dassin's Rififi. Really like an ecological heist film.

Have been lax in accounting for some things I've gone to. There was a Handel and Haydn program for Easter at Symphony Hall of Bach's Easter Oratorio and Antonio Bononcini's Stabat mater.

Also saw the Cy Twombly exhibit before it closed at the MFA, as well as an exhibit of the work of Provincetown printmakers from about a century ago. I'll go back to that again soon.

Eddie House does a good job in studio for the Celtics. Gets it, tells it like it is. Has enthusiasm and candor.

Didn't encounter his comments until last night, but Charles Barkley was exactly right about the Celtics always complaining about the refs. Works against them, and says a lot about them. Play the game. Focus on that.

Downloaded quite a few Captain Beefheart, Moby Grape, and Pink Floyd bootlegs. Listened to Blue Mitchell's 1966 LP, Bring It Home to Me. Strong set. Billy Higgins is such a tasteful drummer. If he was on a session, chances are it was a good one. Sort of like if Elisha Cook is in a movie. Hard to go wrong.

Listened to quite a few episodes of Suspense: two with Ray Milland in "Chicken Feed" and "Night Cry," "A Little Piece of Rope" with Lucille Ball, "I Had an Alibi" with Keenan Wynn, and "The Barking Death" with William Powell.

Read an introduction to a volume of M.R. James's ghost stories that was solid. The volume of James's ghost stories that is the most complete--in that it contains what are essentially fragments and works not really intended for publication--features re-paragraphing. That is, longer paragraphs are broken up into smaller ones at some point. A choice by the editor for modern readers.

You need that book if you want everything, but when I read a James story I tend to read them from a different volume which is largely complete but omits those aforementioned fragments and incidental texts.

A curious choice, breaking up those paragraphs; people inclined to read James aren't going to be further encouraged to do so because of that sort of thing. They're far less likely to know that the paragraphs were shortened, and then more likely to object should they find out.

Three book proposals went out recently: one pertaining to Orson Welles and Chimes at Midnight, another about Nick Drake's music, and the third about stairs.

Recent radio interviews here about Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill, Jr. and another about the best player at each position in baseball history.

Last few days: wrote a story yesterday--don't know what I have with it yet--a sports op-ed about officiating, worked on the Dave Kingman piece, plus the essay about Hawthorne's Mosses from an Old Manse and freedom, "What the Mouse Knew," the piece on the Beatles as storytellers from the start with "I Saw Her Standing There," a piece on the Big Three, and "A Listener's Story."

Some words about the last: I had composed the work in winter 2021. It was 3400 words long. One advantage to the industry-wide discrimination right now--for I find a way to make everything into a strength of mine--such as it is, is that I can get these works exactly as they should be.

As I said earlier, I'm going back to my books and doing them all again. If they are going to be loved by millions, it's not going to be with the places that put them out in the first place. They're out there. But they will need to come out again.

Regarding "A Listener's Story": it's now at 5500 words. I don't know which of these new books I'm presently working on it will be in. It won't be in The Solution to the World's Problems. I know that. It's not in keeping with certain rules I have for that book. No swearing. No sexual content.

There is subtle sexual content in one passage of "A Listener's Story"; it's really about other things, and what those things are command all of the focus. It's a section to tear a reader apart, and it's also beautiful. As moving as writing can be.

I want Solution to be able to be read by kids as well as adults. That's one of the rules for the book. I want it to at least be open to any kid. In theory. That doesn't mean a seven-year-old is reading it. Or a ten-year-old. But they could and there are kids that will. That can take various forms. Their parent reading them "Best Present Ever" or "What the Mouse Knew" or "The Fallen Leaf" or "How Dark Does Night Get." If they read more on their own or decide to read the book I don't want them seeing something that would't be appropriate for their age. All of my books are different from each other. Understatement.

But it is as strong as anything I've ever done. A needless characterization, in one way, because everything is at that level now when I am working as I should, with all that goes into that. It's not possible to take the likes of "Rosa," "Fitty," "Best Present Ever," and "Finder of Views," to cite just four works, and say, "That is better than that," different though they all are from each other.

"A Listener's Story" is a story inside of a story. It's told by a woman who is telling this story her mother told her not long ago about when the mother was a baby and then a child and then a young woman. A story about where she came from and the role that played in parts of the rest of her life. The premise of the story itself is that stories most belong to the people to whom they're told. Because they're for those people. That's the point of story. And as this woman relays the story that her mom told her, her own story emerges.

The power is unreal because it is so real.

I can take any of these stories and say, "Show me something better than that. Bring it out. Put it next to what I've done. Let's see them side by side." Put anything next to something like this, and the difference in quality is obvious, no matter what that other thing is. I welcome it. Put them right next to each other.

There's no separation with other writers right now. Some might be a little better than others, but they're all in that same scrum-y blob. They're all in there. Not a one is that far removed from any of the others, and most are exactly the same. There is no one else who can do the whole, "Go ahead, put this next to that" thing and have light years of separation. Unquantifiable separation.

But I can. And that's part of how I can expose these bigots for exactly what they are. That's one level of it. Then there is the track record. Even with an industry against one person, that person's track record is unlike anyone else's. They've been in everything, near about, with thousands of work out there, in all of its range. And they're a good person, too. A truly good person. They didn't do anything to anyone, and we can see these other people raping, stealing, plagiarizing, doing all of their quid pro quos, in all of their rage and hate and anger, like what we saw evidence of on here the other day.

So you get through those three things, and what is left? It's not the work. It's not the track record. It's nothing he's done to you. What remains?


Then what happens? Exposure on here. Then what happens? More exposure on here. Because there's always more to expose with each and every person who's like this and who acts this way. And we'll just keep going until the problem is solved.

There's exactly one way--and only one way--to avoid it. Treat that person's work as it so obviously deserves to be treated.

Before I got the 8:30 AM train to Rockport on Saturday, I ran 3000 stairs. Worked on one of the Beatles books on the train. Also ran that many stairs on Friday and Thursday, and walked three miles on Friday, too. Walked five miles on Saturday. On Wednesday, I did three circuits in the Monument and walked another three miles. Ran 3000 stairs on Sunday and Monday.

Have done my push-ups every day, too. I saved some of the push-up allotment for Rockport, because I wanted to be near to the ground of that place. I did push-ups there in a meadow and in a cemetery--a photo of which is below--overlooking the sea and is made up for graves of people from the 1700 and 1800s. Quite a number of men who served in the Revolutionary War. The spot remains me of Whitby, as Stoker describes it in Dracula, minus the bones sticking out of the earth that Mr. Swales goes on about.

For all of the pain of a trip to Rockport right now, this was the most at home I have felt there in some time. It's just right that I return to this place. It is as much my home as Boston is. Home to me is more than it is to most people. It's who I am. What is a part of me and what I am a part of.

Sunday marked 2506 days, or 358 weeks, without a drink. My counting has to be off--it must be more weeks than that. I'm pretty sure I stopped drinking in May 2016, not June. But whatever--this is how I do it. If I count wrong, or may have counted wrong, I penalize myself.

Like when I'm running stairs. If I am uncertain about what number I'm on, though I'm also pretty much certain, I don't give myself credit and do it again, just in case. I think that's what has happened with my non-drinking tally. There's absolutely no way I stopped drinking in July 2016. I had a few months of a drink-free streak going before I got the pneumonia in August, or that might have killed me.


Later now. Only ran 1000 stairs today. Got out there late. Did my push-ups. Worked on that story from yesterday. It doubled in length--all in the guts. That is, the story was there, the beginning and the end and everything in between, and then I expand from within. Worked over all of it for five or six hours. I know what I have now. It's very good. Have an idea, too, what it will become a part of. Listened to Sonny Clark's My Conception as well.


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