Search

Ask a question and you present your heart



Gray day. Another bad week. What could I do if there were not all of these bans on my work? I would wallpaper this world with it, and people would say, "how the hell is one person doing that, and at that level, again and again and again?" I have mostly stopped sending out fiction, as I said. There is no point. The hate is that extreme. You're dealing with people who view you as the ultimate pariah. The hell of the situation is that that's on account of virtues, of qualities others do not have, that they do not have. And that you refuse to be treated like complete shit for these people to further defecate upon. But I am not going to lose to these people. That is not a possibility of my life, if I can keep myself alive. I will get past them then, they will all be exposed for what they are, what their system is, and a world will look very different. And I'll get to where I'm going.


I was up until three working. It's half past eight now. I may take the train to Rockport for the harvest festival, but it pains me so to be there, love it as I do. I can't go often--it takes a toll on me. This was another week where I did nothing. My version of nothing. I'll tell you what that is. For my version of nothing, even, is someone else's ten year period. In my lowest and least productive of weeks. How many people did I pitch? Gee, that's a lot. Very strong op-ed ideas to USA Today, New York Daily News, New York Times. Strong essay idea to New York Review of Books. Looked into getting an excerpt of Buried into the BC alumni magazine in the spring or summer. I don't expect that to go well, based upon my terrible history with that school, and then I will have more to reveal here after that. Should it come to that. The op-ed, if it is assigned, will say something against publishing that not a single person alive would dare to say in public right now. But I'm going to say it. I have prepared for this moment. Put so many things in place to be able to "go there" like this. There is no sense mentioning here, right now.


I spoke on the radio on what might be the scariest program to ever air on American television, that being "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," which was broadcast on The Twilight Zone fifty-five years ago. If I say that I almost didn't go on and that I almost cancelled, I just mean I thought it, not that I was going to do that. But I could barely open my mouth with pain and had been weeping. They just hammer me and block me, and work their whisper network of hate, and it's all I deal with. It is why I don't have the things I will get, and even the most basic human requirements--a cleaning living space, for example. In later blogs I will tell you about the kind of individual that Michael Ray at Zoetrope is. I will simply say the facts. I will also be doing a blog, simply stating the facts, of how a short story of mine was accepted at The Atlantic and then unaccepted, and how a position there was presented to me, and then why people less qualified were given that position, and how that ended up. With The Atlantic, I have no deep hatred, and I expect I'll work for them in future, but I just want to put the facts out there, sans rancor, a bridge intact, just to give people an idea. So that was me on the radio when I could barely speak. A couple people knew this, and said you'd never be able to tell. I could tell.


Yesterday an essay appeared in The American Interest on an overlooked Edward Hopper painting from seventy-five years ago and its import back in the past, and its import now. I reviewed a Marquis Hill album for JazzTimes and sent that in. On Tuesday I lay in bed before the Red Sox game started. I had had many Melatonin and was hoping for an early start the next day. Maybe an early start, and I'd get on a run where I was writing downhill, as I call it--just ripping through work after work, maximizing my talent and doing what others cannot, a new push to rise above this situation and get out of it. And I said to myself, "I bet you if you get your ass out of this bed in this foul apartment and sit at that desk with things piled to the ceiling that you can have a legitimate work of art by the fifth inning." I wasn't holding myself to the fifth inning thing. I simply have an inner clock, and a kind of preternatural awareness of what I do, the level it's going to end up at, and how and what that will take, before I start. I knew I wanted to write a story that was told entirely in questions. I believe that a question is among the most powerful things in the world.


A question is a statement--statements. It takes a quantity of one and divides it into at least two. If I were to ask someone I loved, "Did you ever even love me?" that means "There was a time you may have loved me." It means, "You may have never loved me." It means, "It is possible that you loved me and stopped loving me." It means, "You perhaps lied about ever loving me." It means, "You might have no idea what love is." That further means, "Consequently, you might not know that I ever loved you." And so on and on and on. There is so much power in a question because of what a question divides down to. The statements a question makes. A question can be a like a zip file of the human heart, soul. And it all just came to me. The notes--the words, I mean. And I played them. It's like playing an instrument, through your heart, soul, and especially your mind. I've not done anything better than the resulting 2500 word work, which is called "Jesus H. Christ." It is a new mode of narrative. That should be thrilling, a triumph. But instead it is pain here, because you have nothing to do with it, nowhere to go with it, and these people, even when they don't hate you, they just want the same old shite that no one on earth derives anything from, that no one outside of this system is even aware of, has no bleeding clue it even exists. The system sells to the system, and the system is looking only for shades of puce. What happens if you actually have a vibrant, pleasing color? A hundred of them at once? What if you discovered a new color of the spectrum, and what a color it is, and that color gave off other colors, all new, and you come bearing them? These people don't want that.


So, I completed the work, I turned over my shoulder, and sure enough, there was one out in the top of the fifth. Then I went to bed with the game on, and awoke to see exactly one out: the final at-bat. At first I didn't know if I was watching the highlights and the game had been long over, but I quickly realized this was live. In other words, I got to miss that Craig Kimbrel shit show, and saw one of the best plays I've ever seen a first baseman make. And then the Yankees were eliminated, and I went back to bed.


That is three times now, since the spring, that I have formulated a new mode of narrative, call it the new make of color, a new entry on the spectrum, that breaks down into other new colors. Before this there was "Sequentials" and "Funny Lines TK." This doesn't mean that the other works weren't as good--it just means that these three in particular did things at the level form that have not been done in fiction. Others could try to work within those forms now. That is the hardest part. You know you are creating at a new level, you know you innovating in truly significant ways, and you know that you mostly only have people who hate you to bring this to, who only publish vapid, cliched, pretentious MFA writing by their friends and system people, and people who think like them, and look like them, and sound like them, and who, above all, keep any and all chances of you feeling a single bloody thing out of their work and the work they extol, that process of taint-licking that is the end all, be all in terms of what gets out there, because these people cannot handle feeling anything real. And so literature dies, because the converse of all of this is what keeps it alive. Gives readers a reason to come to it, and return to it, to seek out such work. Having said that, it will go with somebody, somebody good. And that will make the others hate more. And there will come a day, when all of it goes where I wish it to, and many of the same people who know only their hate and whisper networks now, will boast to people just like them that they're going to be featuring a work by this same person. Will you, though? Or will I be so far past that by then, that I'd never consider it? I have a list in my head, of course. I'll pick my spots. At some of them, even, I'll walk on from what happened in the past, and we can move forward like there were never any problems, and for all the world might know, we were boon companions just waiting to be so, and they'll not end up on this blog, they'll not end up in the book I'm writing about how publishing really works and my experiences with just about everyone in it. It's a case by case thing. For others, there will never be an iota of mercy, and I will never stop until the world knows what they are about. And when they are torn down, there will be places for others to help build up, people who are not given a voice by this system, who have something to give, who can join me and be part of something better, something that matters. More people are starting to come to this journal of mine, the numbers are going up, and I don't think it's a good place for to end up in a negative way, because I have the truth on my side. I know where the bodies are buried, I know--because I know everyone--how that story came to be in such and such a place, how that person came to be hired, I know what's said, I have the emails, and I remember everything.


What else did you do, sir? I wrote a number of these journal entries, and this piece--I think it is really good, something that, if another person had written it, it'd be anthologized--that came out late last night in The Daily Beast, on the poem "Casey at the Bat." One thing I like about it is that it presents a reading of the poem that no one previously has. It was not a reading that I thought until I read this work again and wrote this essay. It took me that long to come to it. So, in sum: radio appearance, published works on a sports poem and a mid-century painting, jazz piece written, 2500 word story composed with new mode of narrative. In a week where I did nothing. There is something called the death push, that terrifies me. If I completely go for it. If I operate at full capacity. What you will see is something like a dozen pieces composed in a week, plus two short stories, plus three book chapters, plus several thousand words of novel work. That's where I can go to. But if I go to there, they'll hate me even more, and I'll be saying to myself that there's not another level to go to, and this is not changing anything, how do we carry on? And I'm worried that it is then that I'll off myself. And I can't do that. I am here for too much of a reason. I have to keep fighting. And these people who do love me, who tell me what is awaiting, how fast the dominoes will fall once that thing sets them in motion, need to be right. Several things are my lighthouses so far, far off in the distance during this voyage through the nether regions of hell. That is one of them. Then there is everything inside of me, of course. And then there is what I do.


I have done what I could of late for the body part of this equation. My physical health, to be strong in this fight, to not break down there, to not have the heart attack. Eleven days in a row now I have climbed that Bunker Hill Monument. I do it at least the once every day. Yesterday was twice. On Wednesday, when it was very hot--in the low eighties--and humid--there was so much condensation on the Monument walls that when I bumped up against them, my shirt was soaked through--I went up and down five straight times. The first time I ran the first 100 steps, the next four times I ran the first seventy-five, and not once did I stop moving. That was a good sign. I am pretty much all of the way back now. What you want to do, on your best days, that is, is climb the five straight times, never stop, and run the first 100 steps each time, and you accomplish all of this in about twenty-eight minutes. Actually, that's better than at your best, that's like super best. When I started doing this, the top mark was an intended three climbs, with running the first 100 steps, then seventy-five, then fifty.


It is cold and nautical today, by which I mean, you smell the salt when you are even a couple hundred yards from the water, the fog drifts in over the coast. It is a day like this, in autumn, where I wish as much as ever to be back in my Rockport house, which I will not even be able to look at today, should I go up there, for the very real chance that I'll cry and throw up on the ground simultaneously--which is not a good look; the ladies don't find that sexy; ah, we make a little joke. When I am there, I literally have to put my hand up across the side of my face not to look down School Street. But days like this. I imagine waking up and kissing the person I am with, who is not evil, who is brilliant, talented, a truly good person, on her forehead, for it is very early in the morning, and then making the coffee downstairs in a kitchen where vintage movie one-sheet posters hang on the walls with various maritime antiques to make the coffee, checking out the bird bath and the feeders through the back window to see whom has come for breakfast, with Mr. Cardinal being in regular attendance, with Ms. Goldfinch sometimes alongside, and then shuffling back upstairs, to my beloved front room, that Hard Day's Night poster on one side of my desk, a tide clock and a lobby card from Scrooge on the right, to read what I had composed the night before, looking towards the sea, sipping my coffee, knowing that someone who loved me was nearby, Mozart's early piano sonatas playing lowly on the stereo, or perhaps Otis Redding's Otis Blue.


Eventually, I'd throw on the sweats, and walk back towards the ball field--which I wrote into a story once called "Anaerobic Mud," about a man who digs things up in the earth in search of hope--where the Dunkin' Donuts is, the only one where the signage outside is altered to match the town--the twin lighthouses of Rockport's Thacher Island are carved into it--to gather up some treats, or perhaps stay put and make breakfast, which is the lone form of cooking I can do, three massive bookcases, completely filled with books along two of the kitchen walls. Carrying the tray upstairs, the words of "I thought you might want a little lie-in" about to emit from lips, or else turning around to see that a be-robed person is ready to start her day, can I get you some coffee or tea? What to do with the day? The night before had seen the celebration of the fancy award, or the huge advance, bestseller number ten, or the contract arrived for the new movie, the new series to be written and directed, an offer to host a radio program. A concert back in Boston at Symphony Hall, some hiking in the woods, antiquing over in Essex, the picnic lunch in the old graveyard of the church up around the bend, on the hill down-shadow from the steeple were there hung a bell cast, again, back in Boston, by Paul Revere. Listening to someone who actually fascinated me--and I get so bored so fast with almost everyone--tell me about the end of her week, the terms of the acting part she got, her out-of-town schedule for her spring concert appearances, something about a new patient at the hospital, whatever it may be, whatever she may do, but something that, I have no doubt, further indicates, like the person she is, and all she brought to my life, what a world beater she is. And then, of course, the attendant debauchery, etc. Another little joke. Something of a joke. The night at home on the couch watching some film noir, or Katharine Hepburn bust out the laughs, wrapped up ball-style beneath the over-large blanket--lighthouses on that, too--and wrapped up as well in the knowledge that another and better day awaits; the excited sharing of the new story the next morning, reading it aloud in bed, skating on the beaver pond a mile away, the Patriots game on the television as art and life and ideas and family and what other friends are up to and what to do next are discussed and sex and an impromptu game of Crazy Eights is played after to make the point that it really isn't that daft at all and shall we check the Bruins score and oh-you-have-to-hear-this-Beatles-outtake-I-was-listening-to-last night--which was done in that front room, before wrapping up in bed, back down the other side of the house--with that fascinating person it took so long to meet, who made any struggle--even those that could have killed--worth it for what was there, and what would always be following. But all of that is there, as in awaits, just for a start, the most basic of starts, with so much to happen after, so much life to had, if I can get past these people and out of this situation. And, of course, I meet that person of persons, whom I know must be out there. Maybe she's forty-four and married right now, maybe she's twenty-seven, maybe she's in NYC, maybe she's down the road in Boston, maybe she's in San Jose, maybe she's in London, maybe she's as tall as I am, maybe she's a foot shorter, maybe she has red hair, maybe is a marathoner, maybe she speaks four languages, maybe she's a Yankees fan (ugh; though I am reasonably confident I could get around this). I have no idea. Our time has not come yet; but when it does, when the time of all of it comes, well...


So I allow myself, very occasionally, to have a little daydream on a morning like this, to remind myself to keep fighting, to redouble efforts, to have faith. I tell myself that there is too much at stake for the world for me not to. But I also remind myself that there is too much at stake for me, too.


So we keep trying to find a way to keep trying so that we can keep trying.