It's time to start making a new series in these pages, the title of which you see above. Let's call this the first entry. We'll do it for as long as it takes, until there is change.
Today is Patriots' Day here in Massachusetts. On Wednesday, two days after the bombs went off on Boylston Street in 2013, I wrote a short story called "First Responder." "First Responder" is not qualitatively different than any story I have written in all of those years since, of which there are more than 600. It's not more meritorious as a work of art. It is stylistically, tonally different, because all of my works are different from each other. I am not an artist capable of repeating himself. But the story is no better or worse than any of those other works. It's a story that is better than any work of fiction than a venue like The New Yorker has ever published. I will back that up by showing it to you, in full, and inviting you to compare it to any story The New Yorker has ran in its history.
Having composed the story--which is about so much more than the events of that tragic day in Boston--less than forty-eight hours after Marathon Monday, I offered the story to Deborah Treisman, The New Yorker's fiction editor. Treisman is a bigot, who will only publish her kind of person. The story is about two brothers. It's worth noting that The New Yorker is a weekly magazine. To publish a story that is tied to the news, which transcends the news, and is a story for all time as well, is an advantage The New Yorker potentially has over other venues. To lead that way. To make it such that someone--and the world--can say, "How on earth did they have this amazing work of art tied to to this event so fast?" The story could have come out the next week, and we would have been--to borrow a phrase--the talk of the town and so much more. No one in America would have even understood how it was possible this work was made that fast, and came out that fast.
Recognizing that you have such a work is a matter of 1. Competence and 2. Not being a bigot. A bigot can be defined as "A person who is obstinately or unreasonably attached to a belief, opinion, or faction, especially one who is prejudiced against or antagonistic toward a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group."
That definition fits so many people in publishing, who look after their own kind--the people of their sinecure. The self-made, athletic-looking Boston white male genius who didn't go to their schools, isn't their friend, isn't from money, is the expert on all of the things they are not, and has proven it thousands of times over, and proves it every week, is precisely who a Deborah Treisman discriminates against.
A cowardly, bigoted weasel like David Remnick, who stole an idea from me for a piece he then wrote, and once tried to threaten me in an email I'll put up later--which led to me standing up for myself, causing him to tuck tail and run, and then blackball me as hard as he could--already had gone around the offices of The New Yorker--to people who had been a friend, like a David Haglund, whom I worked with at PEN America and Slate--and more on that to come--and said that no one was to let me in. Under no circumstances. Fleming was the ultimate enemy. Why? Because of what I am and what I can do. I am everything a David Remnick is not. I am the realest of real deals. And he is a fraud in every last scummed over corner of his being.
But back to that Wednesday. "First Responder" happened to be about two brothers, but it wasn't until Thursday of that week that the FBI even had two brothers as suspects in the bombing. The story posited two brothers from the other side of the brothers coin, we might say. In all of the years I did what I did offering The New Yorker what I offered, knowing what was happening, and gathering inconvertible, locked-down, bulletproof proof of what was happening, only once did Deborah Treisman respond to a story of mine. What she'd normally do is farm it out to a professional lackey named David Wallace, whose title is Fiction Coordinator, which is both Kafkan and comical. His job was to handle me. Nothing had a real chance, or was read, despite every last story--and you're going to love when you see the likes of a "Fitty" in full--destroying in quality every last story this publication runs. That one time was with "First Responder," when Treisman boilerplated me in less than ten words. And that was that.
Before the likes of another mega-bigot in Christopher Beha rose to power to become editor in chief at Harper's, an editor there very much wanted "First Responder." We did an edit. Minor. The tweaking of several words. The then editor in chief, Ellen Rosenbush, a miserable, toxic crab of a human, had to sign off on the story, which had been vetted, approved, worked on, loved, by her deputy/fiction editor. But it was from Fleming. And there was no way she was going to let something from Fleming, who is not one of these people--who are all bad people, sans any talent--into the magazine. She would have to leave for that to happen. When she did depart, the former deputy/fiction editor became the editor in chief, who then published a story of mine called "Find the Edges." Again, a story better than any work in any of these magazines, but no better, no worse, than the 600 I've written since then, which no one will put out in any form, because they are by me. That editor was forced out shortly thereafter.
The story is the first story in Cheer Pack: Stories. "Find the Edges" is also in the book. A book that no one, at any level of publishing, will put out, because of who it is by. And what has that person done? They have been the best. In everything. They have proven it. Every single week. In their unprecedented publishing track record, with an entire system and industry locked in concert against them. They have still proven it. In piece after piece after piece. In page after page after page in this journal. In excerpt after excerpt after excerpt from these same pages. This is not a bad person, but rather the converse. The complete converse. And they have shown that, too. They have lived it, and you have watched them live and be all of it, if you read these pages. Their crimes, their sins, are all crimes and sins of actual virtues and incomparable abilities. And the proving of these virtues and abilities. That is the publishing system that is currently in place.
The BAA--the Boston Athletic Association--the group that is responsible for the mounting of the Boston Marathon, saw "First Responder." They were so moved that they reached out to me, and asked me to compose an essay on behalf of the city of Boston for the Marathon program in 2014, the first year after the tragedy, which of course I did, with a piece called "The Forever Beyond." I served my city.
"First Responder" itself is a story set in Boston that is by no means meant solely, or exclusively, or even mostly for Bostonians. It is universal and it stands outside of time, despite being set on a fixed day within it.
Here's a thing to remember. People often want what I call Chatty Kathy. The above is Chatty Kathy. It's first person, it's from a life, it's gossip-y. It's not actually gossip-y, but one knows what I mean. It's not "official reading." But the publishing system has so completely put people off of reading that they see or hear terms like "literature," or "fiction," and they don't want that. They think it will be cold and distant, and it's not Chatty Kathy. They presume that it will be like reading for homework, and it won't have life and realness, immediacy, it will be a slog and a chore, hard work to get through. I see it reflected in these pages. Someone thinks, "It's this guy dishing from his life, I'll read that." They won't look at the real work, because they don't even know what it is and they haven't seen it. It's been tarred in advance with the assumptions people make about "real work" because of this wretched industry and what they've encountered elsewhere. You're not unwise to tar these other people. They have jack shit for you to read. But don't tar me. Read me. It is not the same. I am not the same, and the work sure as hell is not the same.
Here is proof. This is "First Responder," in full. I ask and invite you to have a read.