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All that you can be

Thursday 3/16/23

Watched Skinamarink. There's a movie to be made there, but that's not it.

Was thinking today--I think it a lot: I have a lot of experience with cowards. They show themselves in so much of everything. I have a lot of experience with people who cause me to wonder how they live with themselves. I also know that they know that I know exactly what they're about and what's going on and why. They know I know it better than anyone. Better than their family. Their spouse. They hide it everywhere else.

You can't hide anything from me. I'm going to know. Just like they know I'm not wrong. But they won't change. I even see it on social media. If I post something truthful and significant, I'll watch people not hit that like button that I know. If I post something about, I don't know, a cat, they'll hit the like button for that. It's kind actually kind of funny. Depressing, but funny. Say something more intelligent, braver, necessary = avoidance. Say something whatever, blah--I mean, still interesting, still well done--and then the different response.

Now, they will agree completely with that significant and truthful thing. They'll marvel at how it's wrought and presented, by the only person who could come up with it in the first place and then put it forward that way in the second. But because it's real, and because they are as they are, they're not going to let on to anyone that they support that. Because it is real and truthful. (There's also agenda, passive aggressiveness, weasel-ness, but I'm leaving that kind of person aside right now.) People could, I suppose, be angry for me writing that, but can they really be? It's true. Funny, too, how truth works. People hate it. They can't deny it. But they hate it. Because they can't deny it.

Why not just be better? Grow? Improve? If you're not a person of honor, are you a person at all? Are you really, though? Are you really in the important ways? And aren't those the only ways? Ultimately, I mean.

You know what else I've learned? People in publishing--and people not even in publishing, but at the perimeters of it--can think people are terrible at writing. But if they know those people, or they carry water for them, or once had this vague association with them from a distance--even a digital distance--they have this desperate need--it's like they'd die if they didn't do this--to enable those people and lie to them, or--and this is telling--act this way preemptively. Even when they're not directly lying to them, if they see something that says something about another author as some superlative, they won't support that, because it makes it possible that one of these shitty writers--who this person knows is godawful at writing--could say, "What, you don't think I'm the best?" So they'll stand down. Sit that one out. I mean, Jesus. That's sad. I'll feel like saying, "You don't have to be that way. You can be better. And if you can be better, why not just be better?"

I have to believe it will change because it has to. And because I am here and I am what I am and I am working towards something with all that that is. This is no way for anything to keep going. It's how we get lower and lower and lower and lower. As individuals, as communities, as societies, a hemispheric culture. It's why we talk like idiots. And why no one is out there who can write well, because to write well, you have to get better.

You don't get better with lies. Not the lies like the kind I just referenced--and those are lies--or the lies to self. You get better by openness and working hard and trying to get better every day. You get better with talent, yes, and mastering it, expanding it. But also with honesty and courage. And that's how you help things get better, too, in the world, your corner of it.

Honesty, courage, honor. Improvement. Not being a cowardly bitch.

I'm not going to act like it isn't what's happening. Why would I do that? I'm not an enabler. For me to enable someone is to treat them like a bitch. I'm not going to treat you like a bitch.

I also know people who think, "Well, that's me, he's got me bang to rights," and some then think, 1. "I hate him, I wish he would die, how can I stop him, to whom can I bad mouth him, how do I get him blocked, what can I do to stand against him but in a cowardly behind-the-scenes way befitting what I am" or 2. "Yes, sadly, that's all true. I wish it wasn't. Still pulling for Colin, though. He's the only real chance for something better. But I'm going to be very careful with what I say, because of these other people, who really don't mean anything, don't do anything, until it's official and everyone knows he's done it. And knowing him, he'll probably still be kind and not act like he holds anything against me, because that's who he is."

I'd imagine there's a goodly amount of guilt involved.

And those people just keep going along, checking in, seeing what I've said, doing nothing but living with what is their shame. Most of the time in life, it doesn't get brought out, because most people are that way. Look: People ask very little of other people. That's not a good thing. Don't read that as me saying people should ask other people to do tons of stuff for them. I'm not saying that. But people have no standards for other people because they don't have standards for themselves. When you don't have standards for someone, you don't respect them. You're not doing them right. You're insulting them. You're really saying two things: "This is all I think you are." Which is bad. But it's the second thing you're saying that is much worse: "This is all I think you can be." If you're following along here, you also understand that that's in essence what people say to themselves. This is the root of why we're so unhealthy and unstable. It's why people keep going down. I refuse to facilitate that.

Maybe those other people deserve it. They don't have standards themselves for themselves. This isn't good. None of this is good. This is how life becomes a morass. It's what the entire publishing industry became, but so, so, so much worse, because of other factors, too. But this was a big one. Not the biggest, not nearly--that speaks to how twisted and dysfunctional the industry is. There are no standards of quality, though. It's like that entry I put up the other day, about the basic questions that writers never ask. How do I know they never ask them? Because I see what is out there. All that is out there. If anyone asked themselves, "What is the point of me writing this?" and had to have a viable answer, do you think there'd be fiction in something like that horrible Baffler fiction section? It wouldn't exist, right? Not as presently constituted, with that bigot J.W. McCormack in charge.

Want to do one of those live look-ins where I do that thing where I click on a site, pick the first short story I see, which I've never seen before, and share it here and it's guaranteed to be awful, every single time? Okay. Let's go. This is "Inanimate Objects with Party Hats" by Christa Romanosky. Look at the first sentence:

"The town holds a flashlight vigil for Melissa six months after she died—and our entire high school is clumped and sweated and reciting prayers led by the church beneath a milky, leaking moon, and afterwards Cody and I break into the abandoned Curry Nursing Home."

Do you see how right from that very first sentence we're doing Creative Writing 101, with the stock descriptors and that kind of stock descriptor rhythm? You are hyper-conscious that you're reading. Anything that says, "This is a writing exercise that has produced a reading exercise" is not a reading experience and not good writing. It's like you're reading a creative writing assignment, and this is exactly what you think. And that's the exact opposite of how writing is supposed to work. There is no one who is reading any further because they are drawn in. Now, one of their counted-on enablers might read it so they can do some bullshit compliments--lies--about it, but that's just bullshit and likely so that when the time comes the other way, this first bad writer can provide a soft landing of bullshit for the other bad writer. But in reality, a reader merely made it through a single sentence. That's it. They knew all they needed to. Why lie about this? So we can have more shit like this until that's all there is? This already is all there is.

You almost have to marvel at the ineptitude of the writing. How can you call yourself a writer when you haven't progressed beyond this? Look at the next few sentences of the piece. That stock CW101 rhythm only becomes more obvious; there's no flow--it's all creakiness. If you had a contest to see who could write in that hackneyed creative writing class kind of way, like you were trying to create a prop-text in a play for a character who was really bad at writing but called themselves a writer, you'd have a strong entry with this piece. You see those rhythms, right? Where things fall? That kind of subject-verb cadence. The whole "insert-adjective-here" formula-routine? It's the prose version of the shave-and-a-haircut/two-bits thing, but stilted. See what I mean, though? How it repeats that rhythm?

There is no value here. There is no point. There isn't for anyone. It's not for readers. Those questions that ought to be asked cannot be answered with viable answers that justify the endeavor as one that has purpose. So why do it? So you can call yourself something? Why? Because that's your identity? It's not real. Obviously that's not healthy. Ah, but we also have the rub: the pre-condition of this industry is that these people all lie to each other. In assorted forms. But it's all lies. Nothing is real. Does that sound healthy to you? Does that sound like a system capable of producing real work of real value and real entertainment and artistic quality for real purposes and to foster real reading experiences that can also be termed life experiences? Of course not.

Bruins: Blah. Poor showing in Chicago the other night. They just aren't playing well. They've been lax with the puck for a while, developed some bad habits. Turnovers lead to odd man rushes, and that's what you're seeing. They also aren't playing with a lot of energy. Energy is a lot in both hockey and life. And in art, too. I listened to a little of Jim Montgomery's press conference after the game and agreed with everything he said. Work out your issues now, I say. Better to have the chance to do so at this juncture of the season rather than in the playoffs. Allowing that you can work them out. Zacha was back on the second/Czech line, so that was better--and he scored--and I think he should stay there.

Marchand and Bergeron have really fallen off. Bergeron--not a lot of production this year. Marchand hasn't produced for a chunk now. Age? Something to be concerned about--you're not winning the Cup if these guys aren't highly effective.

Watched the Celtics squeak out a victory last night in Minnesota. Their games have all been close for a while now--they come right down to it, no matter the lead they might have or the quality of the opposition. They went from being the favorite, I'd say, to around four, five, six as the team to win it all. Which means nothing, of course--it's just perception. The best thing about sports is you get to go out there and prove what you are. It is the last level playing field in the world.

If you were in Boston right now you'd barely know the Red Sox exist. The Patriots are talked about the most, despite being as bland a team as you can be and as mediocre as you can be, with no signs that any of that will improve soon. They are officially boring. But football is king, and the Patriots were something historic for a long time; it's a history hangover effect at work, too. But the NFL is just king. As a friend of mine said to me some time back, it really is the ultimate meathead sport.

Not surprised Virginia got bounced from the tournament. Watched that game against BC a few weeks back and thought that wasn't close to the number six team--which is what they were at the time--in the nation. BC--not a good team--had that game in control from close to the start to the finish.

Worked more on "Coffee @Night." The work goes on and on for these stories and various books. What is it like presiding over so many different books of totally different kinds of fiction at once and moving from one to another throughout the day? It is not a big deal for me. Which does not diminish the truth of just how different these books are. I think someone else, looking at the work in the aggregate, would struggle to get their mind around the idea of how an artist could be creating in so many totally disparate places at once, both in terms of subject matter and style, kinds of characters, kinds of stories, ranges of voices, divergent approaches and contrasting ends, but it's just who--and what--I've become.

Listened to Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances (Maazel; Berlin Philharmoniker; 1984) and All-Night Vigil (Sveshnikov; USSR State Academic Russian Choir; 1965).

Communiques to various people I know in various areas:


Hey there. Learned about your grandmother's passing on Sunday. (I tend to be away from things and deep in my work.) I just wanted you to say I was sorry for your loss. I know how much she means to you and what a special persons she was. I didn't know her tremendously well, of course, but I thought about her a lot; the amazing union she had with your grandfather, her commitment to living well, the clarity of her mind which she made a point of maintaining. Many don't. Most don't--at any age. I hope you are hanging in and celebrating her life and doing as well as possible.


So: did the Monument today, walked, did my push-ups. Wasn't feeling quite right tonight, and so I downed 5000 mg of vitamin C, which is really the only medical approach I take to health. And I pound water. In other words, my entire approach to medicine comes from what you did freshman year, at least on the vitamin C side of things. Oddly--or not?--it seems to serve me very well. Do you know what I call this procedure? A scurvy-in-reverse. Next time you're getting sick, start pounding that vitamin C, and when Grace or David or Chiara asks you what on earth you're doing, tell them you're pulling an old scurvy-in-reverse.


Hello to you both! I am very sorry for the delay! Head has been down, as I try to finish a number of things, including several pieces to send your way. Those are nearly done, but I figured it would be better to not let this linger any longer.

First off: Congratulations to you both on your new positions. That's really cool, (blank); I figure I've probably written for (blank) more and longer than anyone else in its history, and it's one of the few--and best--places that does what I think of as a real service in the world; puts ideas first and foremost, and gives people work worth reading and thinking about. Being the editor is an important, impressive job. I'm excited for you and to work with you.

(Blank): It's always been a pleasure to work with you, correspond with you, know you. I have a lot of respect for you. I can't believe it has been that long since that midshipman piece, probably because I always looked forward to our interactions. (I'm also adapting that very piece for inclusion in a book as we speak!) I'm sure we'll touch base from time to time, but I wish you nothing but the best in the meanwhile. You are one of the good ones, and I say that from both my heart and my head.

These are the pieces that you currently have which need to come out: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Arthur Alexander, baseball catchers, Rolling Stones/"Tumbling Dice."

As I said, I'm finishing some others, as it's important to me to keep to this one-a-month routine/schedule. I just want to make sure they're as they should be before sending them along.

Apologies again for the delay, and long live (blank)!


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