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Beach days and mindsets

Saturday 5/27/23

I have been thinking about what it would entail--and how I would go about doing--a book that is both fiction and nonfiction. I am able to do things no other writer has been able to do and part of what that means is I can create forms of work that no other writer can create. The nonfiction I write is always a form of story. Would it make for an interesting book to have fiction and nonfiction side by side? What manner of reading experience would be?

In talking about story collections--which I really do not write if one knows and reads the books that others might lazily bill as such--I've noticed that haughty, insecure gatekeeper types--and these kinds of people exist to police at all levels and in various subcultures--have this rule that such a work can't have overarching themes that are developed across the work. As a book, that is.

These gatekeepers need not even have any power to keep anyone outside of any gate. Fancying one's self an arbiter is a kind of big psychological business for people; you see it with a lot of music people, for instance--more than you do film people. And you see it with "creative writing" type of people. Those who adopt a pose of being in the know, because that's all they can do. This becomes the basis for their identity. That is to say, a non-identity. They police from a distance and police-project; like they should be in charge, they should be determining what advances and what doesn't. In addition to the actual gatekeepers. As I said, there are different kinds. Sometimes it's only, or mostly, mental, but either ways it's born of massive insecurity. They try to make taste a skill, because they can't actually do anything, and they know that.

It's kind of like when I take a photo from, say, something a museum I go to and I post it on Instagram. Now, it looks like something one's child could draw to the lay person. But you know what? That's what certain people will hit the like button for with me, and nothing else, ever. Do you know why? It's not because they think that drawing is remarkable. They're doing it for credit. To say, "See? I'm a smart person. Behold, my taste and judgment, I like this fancy artist, I get this." I could have said my nephew drew that work in question, and no one would be any the wiser. It's the artist's name--and funnily, it's sometimes a name they just had to look up.

I see through it. I know what they're doing. That doesn't make them bad people. But it means they're insincere and cowardly to some degree. But if it's me? Something I've done, achieved, created, or that in any way gives credit to me? It can even be me saying I just went another year without a drink. That wouldn't cause those same people to hit that like button. See how this works? They're hitting it in relation to the credit it thinks it bestows on them. And they realize I'm on a different level, and they don't want to play that up, because that's also them hitting them, in a way, on their level. The gap is already the gap; they're not going to highlight it.

The people who can do something as basic as hit that like button with something pertaining to me, or that they think gives me credit--even just the credit of "this guy knows this really interesting thing"--are people who are secure in themselves. And how many people are secure in themselves? Virtually no one, right? Not really. And also people who realize they're not in competition with me. They may be competing with other people (and sometimes I want to say to them, "It would be better to pander and kiss up less, and stand for things more, if you really think you're any good and would like to get anywhere"), but there is certainly one person whom they're not competing with, because that's not really a thing. It's not a viable option. It's just someone different.

Because of that, there's no need to be threatened. Not really. It's not your peer. It's just something and someone different. Which is obvious. So let it be what it is. You don't have to treat that person differently than you do anyone else--even at this most rudimentary level of indicating (slight) favor or (very slight) support--because these things are true. And definitely not a way that those people ironically--or not so ironically, perhaps--don't treat people they have no respect or regard for, or view as simpletons, with nothing interesting to share or say. They will hit that like button then. Automatically. Because they don't feel like it costs them anything or highlights a gap or puts even more wind in the sails of someone already way out there off in the distance. Even just that click of the like button. Says so much.

That's how you get a lot of fascinated people and total silence as in no outward support or commendation, again, at the lowest level. And fascinated, conflicted people. When Thoreau said that the public demands an average person, and not a person of greatness--even a person of absolute greatness--this is what he meant. This is one of the major problems to be solved in order for me to get where I'm going. I identify the problem. I state the problem. I say exactly what it is. That, for me, is part of getting to the solution.

But as for those gatekeepers, be they actual or just mental gatekeepers: It's as if they want--though not actually; different motivations are at play here--there to be ice cream served with steak served with orange soda served with kale. That's no meal. Partially the reason is that these people are either failed writers or wanna-be writers--and you can be failed writer and handed a Guggenheim you didn't deserve because that's all a backroom deal anyway and has nothing to do with merit--and they have very little material. It was hard for them to create nine stories in fifteen years, if they are in that category of this kind of person who writes at all. And bad stories, too, that were really just about them or someone like them. There's simply little to pick from. They can't think in terms of "book." They can only act on behalf of an idea of "Do I have enough to stick some things together and put my name atop the whole lot?"

One may have a book where each work within the book is in a totally different style. And goes beyond mere notions of style. Invents forms. And yet, between those works, in all of their variety, certain themes and ideas are worked over and developed. They're the ideas of that book. Another book has different ideas. There has to be a reason for one page to be next to another page. Each page has to flow into the next as the one before flowed into it.

I could take a work from The Solution and put it in a book alongside a work from Become Your Own Superhero, but why would I want "What the Mouse Knew" next to "Master of Romance" other than to say, "Wow! Do you believe that the same guy wrote both of those?!"

I don't need to do that. It's unwise and undoing. It would break the book. I look at the books. As books. My range is axiomatic and so extreme as to almost be impossible to believe save that thousands of examples of proof--that is, the works--exist. A book isn't about attesting to that as often as one can. The duty of a book--among other things--is to be a book. To be a work and the work.

The irony with these gatekeepers--and, again, you have a lot of people who are failures who use this policing as revenge and of course one sees maximum projection--is that for everyone who jams a bunch of stories together that aren't even really stories and calls it a story collection, all of the works are the same.

I don't mean thematically. They don't even have themes. For themes, there must be ideas. I mean they can only write one way. All characters sound the same, are the same. There is no tonal variation. There is no depth of field. So when you don't even have themes, ideas, concerns, none of the policing people can say, "I hate this book because it deals with this set of ideas." The ideas aren't even there to object to or even just identify. Do you see how that works? All of these books by these literary writers and literary citizens and all of that garbage have less meaning than a blank page, but because they also have the qualities of that same blankness, that gatekeeper--be it an actual gatekeeper or a mental one--can project anything they want on the blankness. So you'll have someone who wants to say, "Oh, (pick a name--they're all the same) is amazing! He does this and this and this!" (Which will be a jargon, double-talk, or stock descriptors that could also be applied to a meatball sub or a kind of paper towel.) They can say anything, because there's nothing there. It's just meaninglessness being thrown at meaninglessness. So then people like this just bullshit based on if they have a personal relationship with that writer or are themselves like that writer and as limited and bad at writing, thinking, or ever managing to be a tiny bit genuine.

Fake intellectuals with nothing else in their lives or anything of substance that constitutes a personality let alone a personage love this kind of thing. It's how they try to desperately cling to the need they have to think of themselves as significant because of their intellectual acumen, by which I mean, as not being totally worthless, which in reality they know themselves to be (and one reason why so many of them self-medicate as they do--to keep that knowledge at some distance if possible, or at least quiet down that still-unavoidable voice of truth). It's why they're in the subculture they're in, with people like them.

Yesterday I found myself lacking the energy I needed. But a new week has started, and it is summer, too, or at least unofficially. I detest summer, preferring cooler temperature--the crisper the better--and gray, ruminative days, and rain, mist, snow. I like to sweat in summer running my stairs, because workout sweat is good sweat, and the more of it the better, but not drip just because I took a walk to the museum. I'm someone who looks at a beach as something you explore, and where you walk and ponder, and not something you sit on and fry. Why would you wish to do that when you can go to the tidal pool and see hermit crabs, starfish, and sea urchins?

You can tell a lot about a person and how they are in the rest of their lives--and in their character--by what they prefer to do on a beach. And when they go. I will cast no aspersions. I wrote a book for beach reading, though one can read it anywhere, of course. But it does suit a day at the beach. I will say this: a person who walks a beach in winter is apt to be a wise person, who knows themselves better than most people do, who is open, has some strength, and is likely a good person to know.

The start of something new, though--be it a season, a year, a week, a day--means I have a new chance to also start anew and begin to build, fight, and create all over again from that point. Thus, a start for me is a challenge and an opportunity insofar as I have opportunities in my life right now. I don't have the kind I should have, because those have been denied to me by the bigots of the publishing system. But I will end up making those opportunities on my own, by removing their say-so from the mix. Hence, the fight. And the consistency. The daily battling, the constant creating. The faith.

There is another irony in that once this second variety of opportunities are at hand--because I found these other opportunities and maxed out on them in what I created from each of those beginnings--there will be a corpus of work--there already is--that dwarfs the bodies of work of many hundreds of artists added together across the whole of their lives. One can pick any names one wants from all artists that have come before. And that won't be the work of 500 artists, but just the one. I worry constantly about having too many masterpieces, which is a hell of a thing to worry about. How would someone have the time to partake of even 1/100th of that output? 1/1000th?

A friend says that people will make the time because they'll want to and I don't need to worry about this, that it is a good thing, not a bad one. But I do not know. I also try to think that being in the chamber of torture, with no relief, that there are some things because of that toll, no matter the extent of my strength and the quality of my mind, that I don't see as perhaps exactly they are, and would see if there was anything at all going in the positive direction, let alone going as it all should be going. I try to include that caveat in my thinking at least as a caveat, even if I do not necessarily credit it.

On Thursday I worked on four things: short story, meditative essay, music piece, literature piece. I walked six miles and did my push-ups. Wednesday I did the push-ups as well, walked three miles, and took three turns inside the Monument. Today I've worked on two stories and an essay. Did my push-ups, ran 3000 stairs, walked three miles. Went to Haymarket for peppers (vitamin C) and also Trader's Joe's.

Waiting on a phone call from a friend right now and listening to the Dead. Going to read a couple things aloud and hash over some next moves/strategies and what must be done, however unpleasant.


Later now. Spoke to my nephew and niece. Don't get to talk to them much. Talked to him about his baseball and her about a puzzle she was doing.

Got some flowers and put on a vase on the shoe rack in the hallway.

Listened to the Yardbirds' Little Games, an album that is frequently derided in every rock history book and reference guide when it comes up, which is silly. It's a damn fine record. I think of it like the Yardbirds' version of the Beatles' Let It Be. That record is supposed to be weak, but it hangs together really well. Both do. I loved "Glimpses" as a teenager--I still do--when it blew my mind. J.S. Bach would dig what is going on with the bass.

Also spent some time with the Dead's "Ripple." It's a perfect song. Perfect performance. One of those songs that makes one think that music just doesn't get any better than that. The Lesh harmony vocal with the Garcia lead vocal is Lennon and McCartney type of stuff. I don't think there's an American band close to the Dead. They are so much better than everyone else. I'm including jazz units, too. So, yes, Ellington's orchestra.

Watched a documentary on the 2013 Red Sox. As I was discussing sports prognosticating earlier: the two times I was most confident in an outcome was with the Bruins going into Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. In that Vancouver team I saw weakness and team that wanted to curl up and be beat. The other instance was a lot different. Around the middle of the 2013 season, I felt certain the Red Sox would win the World Series. I had never seen a team--in any sport--that relentless, that mentally strong, that difficult to put down. They could be down 8-1 in the ninth, and they'd lose, but they'd make it 8-6 first. The sports team I respect the most from a life perspective.

Listened to a couple more of the Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar five-parters: "The Fathom-Five Matter" and "The Midas Touch Matter." Had talked about the latter on the radio before. Also listened to Tommy James and the Shondelles' I Think We're Alone Now.

Looked at the blog of a former editor. Guy was a jerk. One time he complained about my ideas, saying that each of them was interesting enough to be a book. Whereas he wanted pieces that told people what they already knew, or what they could know from Wikipedia. (To be fair, this is how it goes with most newspaper and magazine writing, and it's one more reason why no on reads because there's really no need to if this is all you're ever getting.) So what? My bad? Sorry for the awesome ideas. He quit to freelance. Which ended up meaning that every now and again some friend hooks him up. Which is exactly all that it is.

People say it's really boring to watch paint dry. I don't know. I feel like it could be interesting. To note just how the paint hardens. And how the texture changes. Exactly when the liquid state has been left behind. To note the texture of freshly formed impasto. Anyway, it's more interesting than reading this guy's writing. I tried to understand who it could possibly be for. It's just so tedious and dry. No ideas, no emotion, no life. Nothing in the sentences. No wit, no surprises. His blog was the same. Half a dozen entries a year or whatever. Going on about his favorite music releases of the year, but just listing stuff in this drier-than-chalk-dust fashion. I could do an entry on here about who hooks him up and why, and how those editors go about their business and why they do everything they do, none of which is for any reason pertaining to merit. I can't say that I have less respect for this guy than I had, but I can say that what I saw was exactly what I expected to find. Unlike sports, nothing is easier than prognosticating things with these people.

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