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A nothing day

Sunday 12/22/19

The other day John texted and asked me what I was doing for the day, what my plans were, and I said "nothing." He reaches out to check in on me--really the only person who does. When I answered him, I thought I was being honest. I had done some things, was doing some other things, would do more, but it was a nothing day, a day that need not even exist or have been lived, a day when it felt--as so many do--like none of it matters, that I could discover the cure for cancer and that will not matter--it would probably make things worse--but, for whatever reason, my definition of "nothing" was on my mind throughout the day. I made a little list of what I had done and was doing, what a nothing day means for me.

I completed a 5500 word short story called "Push Shadow." That's one of the longer short stories of the year. Many have ended up in the 1500-2500 range, some shorter. I have become interested in a story at its purest essence, finding the purest essence of narrative. A good example would be "Jute," at 750 words, or whatever it is, and "Flurry," which is in the same ballpark area. "Push Shadow" would be on my short list for the works I most prefer from this historically unique campaign of fecundity. (By the by, this is fun: "Fitty," which is the most important short story anyone will write this century, was completed in July, and in all of that time, despite all of my efforts on its behalf, passionate arguments, despite what I am doing in my career over that span, what I do every week, not a single soul in this industry has responded to the story, not even to spite reject it; that's how extreme the blackballing is, that here is something as strong as anything I have ever composed--and I am someone who has published--which is a much smaller number than the number of things I have composed--2500 works--and this is what happens; a story that would become part of a national dialogue, infiltrate culture, and could even help make a dent in the school shooting epidemic). I wrote and put up two blogs, including one that dared to say the truth--obvious though it is--about New Yorker fiction.

I sent "Push Shadow" to One Story, where it will not be read, on account of John Freeman's campaign of hate about me. He will be the subject of an extensive blog post on here, which I am presently putting together. Patrick Ryan at One Story is his friend, and that's how these people function. One of them hates you, they tell others to hate you. As Freeman said to me in an email--the entirety of which I will put up in his blog post--I could write the Bible, and he would not publish it. He then added that he had his friends to hook up. That's what you're dealing with (from the kind of man who named a magazine after himself). I sent a letter to The Paris Review that I composed a while ago, which some friends had vetted a while ago, which I did not wish to send, but we are at the point where the rubber meets the road, and I need to do some things that must be done. The Wall Street Journal turned down two op-ed ideas, so I came up with two more, one of which was assigned, on what constitutes weakness, what William Sloane calls the one unforgivable fault, with which I agree. But only when one really understands what true weakness is.

USA Today had an op-ed of mine that had not been looked at, despite the go-ahead on the idea. That meant trying to get word back for a number of weeks, a promise that a response would be coming on a Monday. It didn't, I waited another almost two weeks, followed-up, was told to resend. I took the time to update the piece, make it end-of-the-year--or start-of-the-year--pegged. I have to find out how that turned out. I have a back-up plan in place, if need be, but it's an excellent piece. I sent "Push Shadow" to Lit Mag, but they are all about the system people (and really atrocious system people writers like Blake Butler), and I'll put their blog up soon, too, if need be. I never want to, but when there is nothing there, and I know what you are up to, and I have the full proof, and it really doesn't matter any more, I'll say how it works, I'll document it. I updated the News tab of the site. A friend, Norberg, remarked to me the other day that when he goes on the site--and we are friends going back nearly twenty-five years, and he has seen and heard more than anyone with my writing and career--that he is amazed that there is so much upon it, and yet, to him, it looks skeletal given what he's seen. It's true, the links in the categories are but a fraction of what has been published (to say nothing of the warehouses of short fiction I now have), even recent links are missing, and it's hard to keep up with all of it while doing everything else. I really need an archivist, or a team of archivists, but that will have to wait for now. It'll keep. Go to any other author's website. Note how little is there. How little they, in fact, write. How little entertainment there is to be had on their site. Note, in their news sections, that the news is not of work, but rather of blurbs and reviews, often by friends and cronies. Look how they do one simple thing, not very well, and not very often. Static sites. The contrast is as telling as it is obvious.

I sent an essay and a short story to Raritan, which I just did to do, there's really no point. The fiction they publish is so safe, and you need like thirty people to sign off on it--which is how they ensure that it's even safer, when you need thirty of these safety-inclined academics to agree--and would bring me no money, no visibility, but I just have so damn much right now. The essay stands a better chance of working, given the subjects covered in their essays. Maybe I could get a couple hundred bucks out of it. The editor is not a bad guy. I don't dislike him. But it's just the same old, same old between us for like fifteen years.

And JazzTimes published this feature piece I wrote on Bessie Smith's lone Christmas blues. I took a quick peek at it. I never read this stuff after, I never listen to the radio segments. Never. Sometimes I take a glance, though, at a published piece, which is depressing to me, because I see, in that quick glance, how good the piece is, I think about all of the other people I reach out to, what they do, who they have do stuff for them, how bad much of that is, how I lower myself, degrade myself, beg, scrape, follow-up, try again, try once more, try something else, or when I've offered them something like this, such a great piece of writing. So I don't even like to look after, on account of all of the negative associations. Instead, I move forward, I create more, and that creates more problems. That's the cycle. One of them.

And an edit for another Wall Street Journal op-ed, I learned, will be sent to me this week, for publication on New Year's Eve. This week there will be pieces in The American Interest--on a jazz concert--and The Smart Set--on a film. The one on the film is both about the film but not about the film. In the larger sense, it's about how to make the most of a shitty Christmas--even a lonely Christmas--in this performative social media age. I guess what I'll do on Downtown on Tuesday is talk about the Bessie Smith piece, the jazz concert piece, the film piece. So I have to get them to Rich. Or two of them. He's probably seen the Bessie. Don't you love Bessie Smith? So good.


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