This is from days ago.
My friend Lisa is someone I trust implicitly and who has been integral in keeping me going of late, trying to do what I am trying to do, against all that I am facing. We became friends probably five years ago, via something as silly as Facebook, and have become closer each year. She likes baseball and art (Edward Hopper especially) and literature and Cape Ann. In fact, we intend to be neighbors there someday, with me in Rockport and she in Gloucester, and having her over to this house I fight so hard to get back will be one of the most satisfying feelings I am sure I will ever have. (The love for Cape Ann bit makes the whole things about her living in the People's Republic of Cambridge presently more permissible to me.) Last Halloween we went to Mt. Auburn Cemetery together to see/hear a man who tours the country dressing up and acting as Edgar Allan Poe do his thing, and I inscribed two of my books for her. She did not have Anglerfish on her at the time, so I will do that one soon.
When Glue God: Essays (and tips) for Repairing a Broken Self is picked up and comes out, it will be dedicated to her. Glue God is also kind of the scaffolding that will lead to the building of the straight-through memoir of these nearly seven years, documenting the beyond-the-pale, beyond Gone Girl plan put in motion and executed by a wife who taught me the true depths and unlikely form of the worst evil I have come in contact with, which was not one I ever imagined; the death of my sister, a ghosting after an engagement in which the person simply vanished, which quite nearly finished me, frankly, after what had happened with the mind-fuck that was the end of my marriage three years prior; the saga of publishing which is worse than anything else that has happened combined; the walking 3000 miles a year, the climbing of the Monument, my stroke, the poverty, the struggle to remain alive amidst all of this and the loneliness, the hundreds of works of art created in that environment, the problem of becoming more evolved, stronger, smarter, a better artist yet still, and thus becoming more removed all the time from the rest of the world as it trends towards samey-ness, mediocrity at all costs, the death of the individual; the fight to get my house back in the place I love so much; all of the times I walked thirty miles on the side of the road in country towns north of here to reassemble my soul, the giving up of the drink (after drinking twenty units daily of alcohol for many years--but never getting inebriated--I decided one Saturday that come midnight, that would be it, I would be done for good; and just like that, I quit; no fanfare, no whining, just will power; and you know what? Quitting drinking, boom, cold turkey, after drinking that much for years, was far easier than anything I do in my life, given what my life is presently), and a lot more. That will be called Many Moments More: A Story About the Art of Endurance. Why do you think this journal is called what it is called? Because I love words that start with the letter M?
I wonder how many people would have voted yesterday had they not received stickers saying they had done so which they could then affix to their person and take a selfie and post that to Facebook.
I have done a lot over the past two days, as in terms of putting things out there. Like with a fiction editor who has ignored me for sixteen months. That is where my life goes to. Begging for the response with someone like that (and sixteen months is nothing compared to some of these people; what will trigger it, often, is the major accomplishment; kind of backwards, no? If you are not one of their kind, they don't want you to succeed), when I am forking over one work that will last after another, and doing what I am doing--and I'm doing it, it's there, you can't call it a mirage, you can't call it precedented--again and again.
On the one hand, this arms me all the more for the takedown of a system once I get through and have the platform. "We offered them Rubber Soul, Revolver, Pepper, Abbey Road, and it was the could shoulder again and again." That pronounces a sentence, after the fact. When it comes out. While doing so much else. It will be a giant, insoluble case of "Explain yourself." Which will not be possible with anything that can satisfy anyone, or will be able to offer anything remotely approaching justification, and can only be an upending flow of what is tantamount to admitted guilt. They make my life harder now, they make me want to die; but they are also making it easier for me to completely end them, once I get to where I am going. This person was nice to me the sixteen months ago, which really does not matter, and they were professional, which is what matters. But then I did my thing with major story publications, and what you see with the op-eds, and it became the silent treatment. "I'll learn you for doing all of that." Right. Enjoy it while you can, I guess. Such that that is enjoyment, and not your latest tango--but one more staunchly executed--with the Green Beast.
My sister Kara sent me a very amusing kid's book, The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors, which I received and read yesterday.
My favorite character is Rock. Actually, he has a bit of my own creation and reoccurring character Padraig in him. Padraig is friends with Lorcan. They are Irish criminals, in the technical sense, with Padraig having an elevated--or artful, anyway--way of speaking (he's a touch Falstaff-ian, in terms of manner of speech and in adherence to a moral/value code, and pulls off the singular feat of being almost entirely good while also doing wrong, though for complicated reasons, with a rigorous, even Kantian vetting process in his mind), but they are moral innocents, you might say, in more important matters, such that their crimes don't compare in some measures with the crimes of most of us. Padraig is probably my character out of all of them--and I have more of them at this point in my life than Fitzgerald did--that I'd most want to go to a bar with (yes, I go to bars; I simply drink cranberry juice there, though I don't like to have too much of this, as it's the Ocean Spray kind, which has loads of sugar). He shows up a number of times in Dark March, and one could even advance the argument that he is the writer of the book, but that's like advancing the argument that it is Satan himself who writes parts of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. You know, a kind of amuse-your-friends-parlor argument that maybe you don't really believe, that sounds promising, that could be someone's dissertation topic.
The New Yorker had been interested in a story with the duo, called "The Effect of Gravity Upon the Tub," which involves them hiding out in a safe house by the sea, and receiving a visitor late at night who might not be who they think it is, and a toe being left behind in an upstairs bathroom, and a desperate exodus to a sea cave that fills up with the waters of the incoming tide. But I think that editor was only interested because of the elevated style of how Padraig talks. Often times, if you write dialogue the way someone would talk, they don't like that. They want you to work in words like "sinecure," as though everyone spoke that way, or anyone did. Now, Padraig happens to. But they want the taxi driver to talk that way, the hospital intern, the kid. Do that, and people don't want it, they roll the eyes. You're getting standard "literary fiction" elitism and pretentiousness. These people equate being pretentious with being smart. Look at my interests. Look at my command of the language. Look at my depth of expertise. And nothing is ever pretentious, is it? It's for the "regular" person, it's for a reader like me if I wasn't me and I was out there, it's for someone to study, someone to kick back with on the subway, someone to be entertained by, to learn from, grow with, see anew, see for first times. But that aforementioned pretension is part of the reason that you have this huge disconnect between what is published and what someone might want to read, where you end up with a system where it's only the people in that system, who can't even tell what's good any more, or sane, or based in reality that people know and deal in, who are the intended audience for that kind of writing. Or if they're not outright intended, they end up being the only audience.
And you know what? Even they only pretend to like this stuff. It's a form of citing works as a status symbol thing. "Oh, yes, I did denote how Diane Williams modulated to the second person, thus foregrounding the semiotics of privilege." Diane Williams is terrible at writing. When I say that nobody reads, in terms of the general public, that's because there is no reason to, based on what publishing tells you is great, which never is; but there's another wrinkle there--publishing people don't read this crap either. They just talk about it in status symbol ways, in an attempt to gift themselves an intellectual performance trophy. Then, taking care of these talentless people, talking about them, imitating their work--which is easy--and sometimes becoming one of them, being on the lookout for people like themselves, hiring them, "mentoring"--ha--them, teaching them to look for the same old, same old in the submissions, telling them to solicit their friends, teaching this bilge at colleges that are becoming ever more ridiculous and harmful to art and free speech, fosters their community.
It's not real community, and it's not healthy community, and it hates truth and self-awareness (anything to avoid self-awareness here, which is commandment number one). But that becomes the people of the system. Then, they enforce a policy of scouting for people like themselves (and shunning all others), who write like they do, who imitate what they do, and that's all that you're told is great, and that's what is solicited, that's what wins the awards, that's what gets the genius grant. And none of it has any legs. They blame the world, like everyone is too stupid to read and doesn't have the attention span, but this has nothing to do with why people do not read.
How do you reach the world if you're actually any good and you're not one of them? The way any work reaches the world here is they decided to make you a star. To try to. They give you the awards, they accept your stories site unseen, you have the agent, the publicists, the "plants" at the various blogs, people all but paid to review your work favorably at various venues, you have your students buying your work, your friends put your shitty work on their syllabi, and everyone--a village--makes a push. For a certain number of these authors, momentum will be gathered--even though it's a fake, made-up kind of momentum--such that people out in the world, on account of some forced, disingenuous review in The New York Times Book Review (which will be written by someone exactly like the author being touted; if she's a misandrist who writes micro fiction, the reviewer will also be a misandrist who writes micro fiction; NB: You shouldn't be a misandrist, and you shouldn't write micro fiction, and you sure as hell should not do both) will hear about it. Some will buy the book. Because they are normal people with some degree of a bullshit detector, they will hate the book, and read less going forward. That book may become a bestseller, but it will do so by only being bought by the members and desperate-to-be-a-member people of the publishing community.
Ever see gay porn where the guy sucks his own dick? It's like that. So this is what I'm dealing with. How to reach that public, because the people of this system, I mean, hell, there aren't two of them who are going to try to do anything on behalf of my cause. Now, they might all later, so that they can try and glom on to things, once I get to where I'm going and become what I am going to be, with that kind of reach, recognition, leverage, money behind my name, but until then? The world at large is only going to check out something it is being told by a group of people to check out.
You could be the Beatles right now, and if you just have your genius music, but a sizable group is not talking about it, trying to push it forward, you don't get to be seen and heard by the masses. This, more than anything, is the number one problem to solve in my life. If I get to the masses, what I am, what I do, the various things I do, the range, the level it's all done at, will mean that I can do things in terms of impact that an artist has not done previously, and I don't think you can cap what the possible impact and affects will be. I am not just an artist in my work, but I have lived my life as a kind of art form, and what I have in talent is nearly matched by what I have in strength. I have the stories I create, and I have my own story, the story of this life, someone who knows so much about so much to the point that if there was not the body of work, you'd be deeply suspicious that anyone like that was out there, who will also push back against dangerous societal trends where others will not, who is also fundamentally an entertainer.
It will be go time. That's when my life will really begin, but I will have not just an enormous body of work ready to roll, I will have abilities--my rate of production, for instance, so if you want to do a novel, story collection, children's book, music book, in a year and a half, and do a Netflix show and a speaking, that's easy peasy--that I did not have at the ready, or close to developed, seven years ago. The years in this hell have made me something I was not previously. What would you say if I told you that seven years ago I was scared of public speaking? My entire sense and definitions of fear completely, radically changed, so that what frightened me before became something that gave me no pause, after what I had been plunged into. Listen to the radio clips. I could be trotted out at a stadium full of people now and I could just whip something up to talk for an hour, and my heartbeat would not even quicken at this juncture. I would also be writing something else in my head as I talked. I'm ready to roll. I'm an author, and I don't want to say I'm also so much more--because it will always come back to that formally composed book, fiction, and nonfiction work, at some point--but I am so many other things as well. There are many horses in many stalls upon which to make money here, once the horses are freed from the barn.
Put me in those pages with one of my unique creations, and watch what happens. It will be different, by far. I'm the lighting in the sky, not the dim star behind the dirty night cloud the color of mucus. Lightning in the sky. Padraig in particular takes on different hues from story to story. It's a little like if you see the Frasier Crane character in season three of Cheers, which is when he debuts, and then you look at him in season one of Frasier. Same guy, same character, but he's totally different. Talks differently, thinks differently, but he's under the same umbrella. Padraig can be like that. Sometimes he's a character-symbol, but still three-dimensional, still flesh and blood. Sometimes he's like a ghost. Sometimes he's like a one person Greek chorus. There's nothing like him in fiction, but I think he'd get along with Rock from this kid's book. Rock's problem is he's a great warrior who is too great at being a warrior. He finds nothing up to his level. He goes around challenging his little peers to contests of greatness and strength. Like, for instance, he goes out into the back garden, and with everyone standing around--like Plant, Bucket, Hose--he challenges Apricot to a duel, literally crushes him so that his insides splatter out, then leaps off of the flattened fruit demanding of this audience, "Are you not entertained?!" It is awesome. But he is not fulfilled. That is, not until he meets Paper and Scissors.
Yesterday I climbed the Monument thrice. I have been screening Chimes at Midnight, They'll Love Me When I'm Dead, and The Other Side of the Wind. On Downtown we talked about the Wall Street Journal op-ed, but as with everything I talk on, the tight focus also means--paradoxically, again--that many more things will be flown into that eye of the storm, you might say. My words and arguments always come tightly packed, like the cork center of a baseball; there is always a lot worked in, but I will fit it all in the palm of your hand so that you can easily carry it about. As I lay in bed last night I wrote the beginning to two pieces I must get my ass in gear and do post-haste, one on Louisa May Alcott, the other on The Outer Limits. And advance copy of the Hendrix Electric Ladyland box turned up. I finished reading "Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk," which is a successful ghost story in part because it makes so much of its environment and how scary the woods can be--or a marsh, in this case.
A man is visiting his friend for the holidays, the friend has to work, so he takes his gun and walks down to the marsh, to hunt for ducks. There is always something unnatural about a duck being in salt water, right? Like when you see a mallard in the ocean. It's like, hey, Mallard, that's not where you're supposed to be! This little note of discomfit. Anyway, he has a duck-punt, and he eventually paddles up to this rotted out old hulk of a ship. He's never far from shore. So he ties the punt up to this wreck, climbs up it, and the line keeping the punt tethered becomes abraded with the incoming tide, and off it floats. He's stuck on the wreck. As he says, it's absurd, because it's not like he's in the middle of the sea or even that far from town, such as the little village is a town. And things go from there.
Lately I have been at Symphony Hall for a BSO performance of Elgar's Enigma Variations, and also a Pops accompaniment to Hitchcock's Psycho; and then there were two Lucinda Williams concerts out at the Paradise, and I have also been wandering the MFA again a lot recently, thinking about many things, working on many things, and also stopping in to once more visit the new Winnie-the-Pooh exhibit, which is huge. I began rereading those books; they are hilarious. For adults. As funny as Wodehouse. I have a nice edition that I will hope to take down in my house in Rockport someday, reading into November nights like these.