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A parsonage of personage

Wednesday 5/26/21

New piece is up on the JazzTimes site on Charlie Christian at Minton's in May 1941 and his radical guitar innovations. Here are two sentences from that piece: "There’s a somatic quality to that tone, and an annunciatory one, a Klaxon horn of sustained notes spreading from top to bottom in the listener. But the sheen and viscosity is even more notable, as if honey has been drizzled over the inside of an abalone shell."


But hey--let's blackball that guy who is clearly better at the writing thing than anyone we have. Let's hate him! Let's band together!


Subculture of broken freaks.


Come one, exceptions. Let's do some things together, make some history, make a lot of money. Enjoy a richly symbiotic relationship.


How do you argue with any of these prose results? How do you argue with what is on display all the time in these pages? It's clearly all real. It's all clearly what it is.


Goodness I am listening to a lot of the Dead and the Smiths.


As I said on Twitter, no one would be interested in this, but it irks me when people who are paid to talk--and presumably to talk intelligently and well, though that rarely happens--refer to anything other than a Game 5 of a series tied 2-2 as a pivotal game. When the series is 2-1, Game Four is not pivotal. What you want to do is wring max meaning from a word when you use it. A series that is 2-2 is pivotal because of 1. The importance of that game and 2. The series pivots. 1-1 is too early for that importance. There's no pivot in 2-1 or 3-1. You wouldn't say pivotal Game 7 because that's the concluding game--so, no pivot there, because the word pivot also implies in flux, not done or complete. Changing direction, and going in a direction.


What I've noticed about people with large Twitter followings--well, one thing I've noticed, for they all have a few basic characteristics in common--is that they flog one basic, juvenile idea. Flog, flog, flog, flog. They have a single point, a single thought, a single theme. Each time you go to their page, you know what will be there, and it's there. It's the same as the thing before and will be the same as the thing after. There are no surprises. It's not so much a song on constant repeat, as it is the same note on constant repeat. No variation whatsoever. No tonal variation. No subject variation. Not really. In the few instances when it seems that way--like when political pundit hack posts a sports thing--it's actually the same. Same lens. Same rhetoric. And people come back again and again for the exact same thing where, if they saw it once, they've seen it all from that person.


This appears to be one of the keys to having a large social media following. Simplicity, stupidity, repetition, predictability. Like a mallet--the same mallet--to the head over and over. Then, people kiss this person's ass. That is another big key of social media right now, and in 21st century life in general, which I will post about separately on here later, but you need to have a kissable ass.


What constitutes a kissable ass? It's not a kindness thing. Because there are people that are so hateful, cruel, toxic, with huge social media followings--look up Matt Walsh of The Daily Wire, an incredibly stupid, narrow-minded, hateful being--who are poison in human form. The kissable ass comes when someone else is deemed no smarter, better, evolved, any of that, than the follower. The latter is not intimidated. It's a parallel move for the follower. In a way, they're kissing their own ass. I will see grown men, adults, fawn over someone like this. No shame in the tonguing of the taint. Open toadyism. A lickspittle's delight.


I do not have a kissable ass. A person doesn't think I'm a parallel move for them. They're aware of different planes. Now, I can be truly kind, in a real way unlike people one will meet, and generous of spirit and empathetic and loving. But that does not matter. People will kiss the ass of people who shit on them. Who use them. Who have no respect for them. Who disdain them. Even though they might be like them.


What the ass kisser intuits, too, is that the person who has their taint tongued liked it. That's the currency of their life. That form of lying and insincerity. Whereas, people know--they always do--that I wouldn't respect that. They pick up on this. Early with me. Even though they know I won't bash them. They're still embarrassed and ashamed. Because they actually want my respect. (And, strangely I've noticed, those who envy and hate me tend to want it, too.)


So that's another reason there's no praise, no one fawning. Almost all of the time when you do see it it's totally fake and about other things. Take that away, have legitimacy, and you have no one saying a damn word.


Someone wrote me on a dating site--though, honestly, I don't think there is anyone I'm going to meet right now who has the qualities I would require, nor anyone who'd be strong enough to have what is my life in their life at the moment--saying they could not begin to imagine how high my IQ must be. I immediately moved on. IQ means nothing. I've found that people who think in terms of IQ are usually not particularly bright and also think most restrictively. That will not work here. Imagine thinking one could measure the mind of Plato, Beethoven, Keats, Thoreau with a standardized test? Come on.


A member of the IC sent me this note that I received last night. I was grateful for the input.


"By the way, read A Gooseneck Lamp this morning. I'm just getting caught up on stuff as end of the school year, Carey's vacation, and trying to pull off a high school play have got me stretched thin. Man, I know I say this to you a lot but I was blown away. So much power and so much character development in a short story. It's criminal that more people aren't seeing these works but you know that already."


I mean, it's depressing, of course. There is nothing close to any of these works in terms of quality. There is no one writing right now doing anything close to this level. And it's hundreds of works. Day in, day out. Even look at the op-eds I'm putting up. Dashed out in ten minutes. There are no op-eds in this country that approach those. But none of that matters right now.


I reread "A Gooseneck Lamp" myself this morning. When did I write it? It's probably accounted for in these pages. But a week, week and a half ago. What did I remember about it? That the design was perfect. I move on pretty fast, though. Also depressing to reread it, seeing if I needed to change anything. One could strike the last sentence, and turn the two sentences that precede it into a single sentence. The only aesthetic matter to mull. It's just perfect. And it's so imaginative and moving. Then I reread another one called "Water Bottle," and was shocked and stunned by how good that was. Must have also been from the spring, since it's in my spring writings folder. The form of this one is radical. There's more invention in what that form is, in this story, than in everything else by everyone else right now added together. No one would have the level of invention or balls to even begin to come up with a story designed as "Water Bottle" is.


"A Gooseneck Lamp" is less than 900 words long. The people who have read it, who now read that sentence here, will do a double take of surprise. But yes, that is the actual ballpark number. They will think it is thousands of words, because of all that is in it. But it's not jammed-up; it's properly aerated. That is not something anyone else can do with works of this word-count length. Hence, Longer on the Inside.


"A Gooseneck Lamp" is about a man, in his study, who, once a year, believes he sees/experiences the gooseneck lamp that had been his father's flicker in a most specific way. He also believes--or has gotten himself to believe--that he can feel a hint of breath coming from the lamp.


It's a low-light lamp. So low that unless one is working under it or near it, one could be in the room with it and barely notice it's on. This is an anniversary day for the man, and each year it plays out in similar fashion. He has the experience, then he goes to the bedroom to fetch his wife. To show her. Or have her bear witness. She doesn't exactly humor him, but she doesn't lie to him or undercut him either. She knows how to handle the situation.


We find out what happened to the man's parents on this night however many years ago it was. And it's just horrible and tragic on multiple fronts. And his father had done something that he hadn't done before, or that the man--who was a boy then--didn't recognize. And the man, when he was a boy, did something to rebuff this gesture in a way that has stayed with him. Let's put it this way: there is a lot of action in what we learn is the kind of source event for this evening. The man and the wife have a busy day the next day. It's obviously a weekend day coming up. They have a son themselves, and he has a soccer, there's a 5K to run for breast cancer, and maybe this sleepover that they've been promising the boy.


She wants him to come from this room because, well, she wants him to come from this room, because this isn't good for him, and she also wants him to do something. He's coming a kind of full circle, and she presents--she's guiding him, Beatrice-style--another way of coming full circle. A healthier way of life and moving forward. Of family in the present, and trust, and man and wife, and father and son. It is a ghost story and you will find none better, and it's also not, perhaps, a ghost story at all. A few lines:


“Is the boy asleep?” he asked.

“Yes. I just checked on him.

“Did you really?”

He was ashamed he had suggested she lied.

“Really. I promise.”

They sat on opposite sides of the desk in the darkness of his study. His father’s gooseneck lamp was a curious thing. Its light proved minimal. One could be in a room and almost fail to notice the lamp was on unless working right under it. The neck itself was coated in a kind of leather resembling skin. Dirty skin. The way skin becomes when it’s unwashed and then tans, and the sun bakes in that tawny color of shale in a barely submerged river bed.

“We have to wait for it to do it.”

“I know,” his wife replied.

“Same as when he died. The same rhythm. You can’t think I could ever forget that rhythm?”

It was a rhetorical question, but she answered.

“No.”


***

A bit later. I have started a Halloween essay--again, same drill as yesterday, thousands of words for maybe a couple hundred bucks--on a short French film from 1945 that is horror without having formally set out to be horror, and a British Public Information Film from 1973 that is but two minutes long but terrifying. They are linked around the themes of the unlikely, the perhaps unintended, and the compact. Tenets, in a way--or they can be--of the best horror.


I just sent back the final-final version of the Sam Cooke book to Bloomsbury. It was due Monday, but as per usual, I screwed up. There was really nothing to do, though, save change "Dr." to "Doctor" in one case. There is no better music book. Period. Am I supposed to pretend otherwise? Not say the truth? Why? What is the point? What does it hurt at this point to say what is true and what I know to be true about my work and which I think is axiomatic to someone without bias or motive? This is just something here from the book that my eye fell on today:


Cooke the writer was a master of eidetic recall. The song will also feature on his concept album of the same name. The Twist itself was in part popular because any boob could do it—you needn’t be Fred Astaire to cut a twist-based rug. For most popular musicians, Chubby Checker and his dance craze represented a curse. Everyone had to twist for a spell, just as in 1999 writers had to pen Doomsday Y2K stories. Cooke turned what ought to have been a musical limitation into a songwriting challenge and, ultimately, a skill. He excelled at stacking details in a way so that what might have been a little added up to a lot. Again, he’s a Chekhovian fellow.

Think of how this plays out in Miami. The people dancing at this club are living the life of the song. A well-dressed man asks a comely woman to dance, and the narrator—the singer—watches, just as Cooke narrates and watches now.

He’s dancin’ with the chick in slacks

She’s a’movin’ up and back Oh man, they’re ain’t nothin’ like

Twistin’ the night away

Cooke was a virtuoso of the demotic (e.g., “chick in slacks,” which additionally sounds a lot like “chicken slats,” a bit of hip slang) while also imbuing it with the regality of what F. Scott Fitzgerald called “the practiced eye of the commander.” He is whole as an artist because he is dyadic, much like Descartes spoke of the human unit as a blend of mind and body, but the components are symbiotic. They inform each other. He’s the self-sender because the mind understands that the body can capitalize on will. A parsonage of personage. The single human unit is also a team. We are each of us “one” and more than one. Nor is it hard to feel that one is on Team Cooke.


What I will do is write a nice thank you letter to everyone at Bloomsbury who helped with this book. There is a lot to be done--if someone else wrote this book, in this age, on this subject, they'd be flogging it everywhere, it'd be covered everywhere, they'd be solicited for interviews. It's Sam Cooke. Who would have turned ninety this year. It's a book about the Civil Rights Movement. And the birth of the most important song of that Movement, and what I would say this country's most significant song. That's a stacked deck. Then again, it's me. Therein is the problem. Ironic that this book about equality and justice is written by someone who knows neither in his own life. But Christ I hope it gets some kind of a chance, and I get to do my thing, too, talking about it. Because it's a magical, magical book that is so powerful. I wrote it in fifteen days. That's true. But I don't think many people are capable of believing that, or they won't be when they see it, unless they know me quite well. Because it looks like someone spent their life writing it. When I wrote Meatheads, I couldn't have been prouder of what it was. I knew what it was. I knew how different it was and special and how much it had in it to give to humanity, if it had a chance, which, of course, it's not had to date. I knew how far I had gone. I knew I had done something no one else could do. I knew I had done something that would truly be good for the world and in a work both so innovative and inclusionary--but which also pulled no punches, and could have stepped into the ring with Candide and secured the first round knockout. I feel the same way about this book, which, of course, hardly anyone could believe was written by the same person unless they knew me and they knew my work. If one knew the work, they'd know the artist, they'd know the level, they'd know the bottomless well of range and invention, and then it'd make total sense. I'm moving away from dedications, but the book is dedicated to the commissioning editor. She helped me a lot. So, Sam Cooke and Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963--I will see you September 9, 2021.


I listened to that radio segment last night. It depressed me so much. Covered literature, music, film, sports. In one person you have the person who knows the most in the world about those subjects, and they just go from one to the other with grace, humor, wit, and they have a great radio voice, they speak more articulately than anyone ever has, and they're shunned. As people who can barely talk, who know nothing, who are louts, who are totally unfunny, make millions of dollars in radio. It depresses me like one wouldn't believe to listen to these segments I do. I don't know why I torture myself with it. God people are so fucking boring and predictable when they talk. I would say that it astounds me that people who cannot form a single coherent sentence get to rise to the top of the radio industry, but the worst writers in the world are celebrated by the publishing industry.


Nothing has to do with how well you do something. Nothing nothing nothing. Well, nothing positive. Unless you get that position/platform. Then what you have can matter. But what you have that should get you that position and platform will not get you anything positive in and of itself. No one is going to think, "this person is fucking better at this than anyone I've ever heard"--or "this person writes better than anyone I've ever read"--and reach out and say, "Hey, do you want this, we'd love to have you, we'd love to do this, love to hire you, love to put this out." When that's largely how it was, once upon a time. But not anymore. Entirely about other things, and whether you suck at what you do is irrelevant, except insofar as it is far more likely to help you if you suck than if you're any good. It must be great to suck and know the right people and have the right substance-free things going for one's self.


***

Walked three miles. Had not done anything for a couple days, just sat here at the desk. I need to revise the piece, but came up with a title for the essay from yesterday: "Solving Stories: The Timeless Adult Appeal of the Three Investigators YA Series."


***

Bit later now. Finished revising the Three Investigators piece. It's excellent. Sent it to The New Yorker. They'll ignore it. They hate me. Pretty sure Remnick told everyone there to block me. Don't know for certain yet. But I'll find out. And if I have to, I'll document various things on here that I already know which are shocking. Like I said, I am not sitting back and dying in poverty and anonymity willingly, and I will not be complicit in anyone's discrimination against me.