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Boil my bones

Thursday 1/3/19

Going to be writing about ballet for The Daily Beast. Someone texted me tonight that Durgin Park is closing. That was where, some years ago, I got the idea for Musings with Franklin, a book that will make someone millions, I believe, at some point; a book that is an entirely new form of novel. You can't innovate more. This is a problem at the moment, because nothing is more hidebound than publishing, where everything has to be a retread of a retread, and has to have 500 other "comparables"--books that were an earlier version of it. This is totally new. It is as new, more new, than Ulysses was. It is a novel told entirely in conversation. It is a novel that one can pick up and read at any point, a novel for the text-speak age that is also a form of post-post-modernism, which is as funny as can be, as I have ever been. I've been working on it lately in my head. When Kafka was writing The Metamorphosis, he couldn't stop laughing. I have the same problem when I'm out and I come up with something new for Musings. In a recent scene, the titular Franklin--a guy from the suburbs who dresses up as Ben Franklin and sort of thinks he's him--is talking to Writer and Bartender at the bar, and in addressing Writer's plight--for Writer is certain that he is dead and in hell, or mostly certain; he's trying to ascertain the exact answer--with what might have caused his death, if he is indeed dead, Franklin starts talking about how his parents didn't want him before he was born. He does this with no lead-up, as plain as piss, just this neutral tone, like describing what you had for lunch. And he's saying how there is no way he wasn't getting out--of the womb, that is--no matter how many times he had to dodge the abortionist's fork. Just says it plain as can be, as if it's the most normal thing in the world, in the middle of something else. The abortionist's fork. Fork!

Just back from Cambridge. Saw a double bill of The Bigamist and The Hitch-Hiker at the Brattle. Both Ida Lupino films, of course, with her also playing in the former. I'm not sure I'd be a great bigamist. I'm watching Edmond O'Brien, and I'm thinking, well, he has two hot wives, so that's good, but this bigamy thing is stressful, he must have to drink a lot of cranberry juice (which reminds me...sit tight...ah...a mighty swig) for his blood pressure. A harem is better for BP than bigamy. Because with a harem, you don't have to cover tracks, you just say, "look, that was good, cool, um, I'm going to head on down the hall and see what Kate is up to, let's reconnect, well, I'm booked through luncheon tomorrow, let's reconnect some time tomorrow night for a drink." (I fear that in Franklin's mind, "drink" would be code for sodomy.) Maybe I need to be a guy with someone for this, someone for that, someone for this other thing. Just in case this amazing person--the all-in-one person--does not exist. Franklin wrote a song in the novel--he writes a bunch of songs, among other things--called "Let's Get You Penetrated," so that's been stuck in my head. Bouncy number. Not a pun. Well, I guess it kind of is a pun. But, back to The Bigamist--it's very well-written. (And it has a rare double voice-over; two, actually.) Basically, Edmond O'Brien sort of slips into bigamy. You watch it and think, "Hmmm, that could happen to anyone." It would have been easy to make the script a joke, not the good kind. The kind where people laugh at it, despite its intentions. Edmund Gwenn plays the inspector for the adoption agency. He was Santa in Miracle on 34th Street. Cleverly, he's compared to Santa early on, and then when O'Brien goes off on a homes-of-the-Hollywood stars bus tour, where he meets Lupino's character, the tour bus driver points out Gwenn's house. Intertextual!

As for The Hitch-Hiker: brilliant. First film noir directed by a woman, shot by Nicholas Musuraca, one of my three or four favorite cinematographers. He shot Out of the Past. I was trying to figure out how they did some of the shots in the car. They use next to no rear projection, so the camera is in the vehicle, or a modified vehicle. Maybe more remarkable is the lightning for some of the car shots. It must have been some trial and error to figure it out. And they must have had a car they cut in two, slicing the back half off, Gordon Matta-Clark style.

Something occurred to me today with greater bearing than maybe at any time past: Writing is more geometry, at the assembly level, than it is anything else. It is more fundamentally about geometry in how it is made than anything else. It is all about shapes, planar forms, spheres and spheres inside spheres inside planes, both of the seen and unseen varieties, the sonic varieties, and how they fit together. It is all about how things fit together, angles, directions, how perception is directed, misdirection. Emotional geometry. Geometry of story. Geometry of action. Geometry of visual language. It's all about fitting things in the right order, like doing a series of puzzles, with endless variables, stacked atop each other, and making a geometry of synchronicity. What Wayne Gretzky saw when he played hockey, what Mozart fashioned in the sonic shapes of his piano sonatas, how Buster Keaton balanced frame, how Singer Sargent distributed shapes--it's all the same. Exact same thing as writing at the deepest portion of its root. The confluence of geometries. This is not new knowledge to me, but I felt it more acutely today as I worked at the Starbucks, working hard on one of the new stories, "Dunedin," in my head. Sometimes I work while I'm reading something else, other times I put my hands on my forehead and just sit there and compose, assemble, arrange. I look like I am doing nothing, but I am expending so much energy. I have some words on a piece of paper, and if you looked at the paper, you would think these are random words scattered about, but what it is to me, what I see there, is the entire story, I see the geometry that each of these words, what they suggest, the frameworks they build in their suggestions, come together to make as a whole. Composition at its most accomplished level is an irruption of orchestrated, perfectly engineered geometries, which are then launched outward in sustaining explosion. A kind of status orgasmus of self, soul, new knowledge, that which makes us most human and helps us understand what that is at the same time. But: You can learn far more about writing in high school math than you can as an English major. I learned absolutely nothing as one. Not a single thing, except what not to do, who not to listen to, how not to think--or, how not to not think.

Someone wrote me an expletive-laden note--alas, with half the words misspelled--alleging that I was the worst person in the world, on account of the recent entry about preferring adults to communicate in words rather than acronyms. Because that is so very outrageous and evil of me, apparently. This is good--more people are seeing this journal. I engaged with this person, as an experiment. Normally, I don't do that. With whatever it is. But I was curious. I asked them why they were so angry, as surely my remarks had no bearing on their life--which, obviously, they chose not to have be the case--and did they not see the irony of attempting to lambast a person who did no lambasting themselves by saying they were a dick, asshole, bastard (which, technically, I am, in the birth rather than pejorative sense) etc.? Well, this person, who sported those resplendent breast tattoos you sometimes see--I'll not use the term most people use for them--then kicked the swearing up a notch, tossing in some racism this time, too (for the record, I'm barely Irish--I'm adopted; I'm a Portuguese!--and I don't drink alcohol at all). Everything I write at this point, I write it assuming the world is going to see it, or could see it. Whether that's here, whether that's in my formal work, whether that's in a text to my friend who wants me to cuckold him. (Thing of his.) That's my policy. I will say the truth. That is also my policy. If I say the truth, and I say it as well as I can say it, there is nothing anyone can do, no matter what that truth is. That is both the reality, and the governing maxim here in what is, to take a line from a character in Between Cloud and Horizon, anything but a house of mercy. Not at this point.

Bruins played well. Could have been a letdown game coming off of the Winter Classic. A baseball history site I follow has been having people do their Top 10 lists for all the teams--top ten players in each team's history, that is. I have been assembling a Red Sox list. It's nuts the players you have to leave off of it. I'm still working on it. But the recent Twilight Zone marathon got me thinking about a list of the best episodes. So I made one. As it goes a little further along, I'm less sure about the order. But the first two I'm confident of in those positions:

"Walking Distance"

"The Monsters are Due on Maple Street"

"Mirror Image"

"Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?"

"Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"


"Nick of Time"

"The Grave"

"A Stop at Willoughby"

This is a better-sounding tape compared to what had long circulated of the Stone Roses' set at Spike Island in 1990. Ready for something? Not only do I think they were the second best band ever, I think they had moments when they were better than the first. Listen to all of it, but listen to "Elizabeth My Dear"--a song about overthrowing tyranny--segue into the closer. Squire's last guitar note becomes Reni's first drum note, within one condensed note. Most places render the lyrics of the chorus as "I am the resurrection and I am the life/I could never bring myself to hate you as I like." Those aren't the words. It's "as I fly." Bit different, isn't it? Want to hear something? Listen to the sustained feedback note at 1:10:30 and then that massive, and insanely swiftly executed, fill by Reni. I love people who are better at what they do than anyone else is at it. God that is exciting art-making. Listen to that coda. Are you fucking kidding me?


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