"Lay on" technically means, "after you." It's a courtesy. What it really means, though, in the Shakespearean context, is you swing first. Then we will go from there.
I signed a contract to do a book with Dzanc called If You [ ]: Fantasy, Fabula, Fuckery, Hope. It will come out in early 2021, after the Sam Cooke 33 1/3 book and the Scrooge horror film book, and, with a little more of a push, another book or two. Like Chads Say What. Cheer Pack: Stories. Glue God: Essays for Repairing a Broken Self.
I sold a short story called "Post-Fletcher" to F(r)iction to go along with the recent sale of "Read the Ice" to Salmagundi. I'll be writing an op-ed for USA Today on the number one form of discrimination in this country. It's not what one might think. Well, it might be what you think, if you read this journal. More and more people are coming to these pages, signing up, commenting in letters to me. I see it coming to mean more and more. Something is happening. I published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on Monday on the lost art of being a good grouch, and how respect ought not to be doled out like the latest performance trophy. Many nice letters.
Yesterday, I published an op-ed in the New York Daily News which was ultimately about how the people who delight in castigating other groups of people for one thing have their own version of that thing in a world where true decency--which requires effort--is rarely evinced. Constant sententiousness, a sort of verdant valley of glibness and holier-than-thou posturing. Men do it. Women do it. The vogue is such that we are not allowed to say this, that we must act as though the just is on one side, the daemons the other, and that is not how humanity functions. Never has been, never will be, no matter the degree to which we collectively devolve. Our devolution is evenly distributed, more or less. I don't think people are often that different from person to person. When they are, when they task soul, conscience, mind, heart with steadfast, dogged improvement--often in darkness, to be witnessed by no other breathing being--those are the people around whom we build our lives, extend our trust, learn from and grow with; and, in turn, we do the same things for them. The connection of true fealty and morality. The piece is nominally about men taking up excess space and women doing the same, but it's the larger notion of putting another first, making sure they're good, accounted for, have what they need--a glass of water, a boundary, a seat, a kiss on the lips before dying, whatever it may be--even in small matters. Like when an elderly person comes on the subway. You know who's popping out of their seat fast? It's not many men, it's not many women.
Talked about this on Downtown yesterday, too. There is a moment of unbridled openness and emotion one will not get, I do not believe, anywhere else in radio or podcasting. I think Kimball was even taken aback by it when I spoke of the nature of our relationship. I wrote a 2500 word story yesterday called "The Brittle Star"--same title as the story about animals, post-humanity, but now with humans, but only two; a man, a fourteen-year-old girl. I worked more today on a short story called "Evening Day," which is about two grade school girls who are abiding friends, who become trapped in their school when a kind of perpetual night locks everyone in, as the world seems to be launching itself against the building, from which no one, for now, can depart. Ostensibly.
Tonight I made my television debut, talking about the New York Daily News op-ed. A Fox station out of New York. Emma helped me figure out the Skype. After she showed me a drawing she did, which was really good. She improves quickly. News segment will be on tonight. Pre-taped.
On Monday I walked three miles and climbed the Bunker Hill Monument five times, after walking four miles, running nine, and climbing ten times on Sunday, during which I wrote stories in my head and also started putting together another book, which will be called Slide Into My DMs: (Connection) Stories (in a Disconnected Age). The book will open with "Fitty," "Take a Leg," "Jute." Boom, boom, boom. Also, I counted today: forty short stories since the composition of "Fitty" in July. Forty. "Fitty" changed me. It even changed me as an artist. It moved me deeper down and also freed me even more, which I would not have thought was possible, save that I have accepted that more is always possible with me. It's not probable; it's coming.
The next few days will be an epic push on the 33 1/3 Sam Cooke book. I feel strong. I have no more hope than before, with everything and prospects, but I feel my strength surging once again. I feel like I am beginning to leave behind what remains of the breakdown, that I am new again, something that even I did not know could be. To paraphrase E.F. Benson, fear is departing the long gallery. Fight is surging.
A radio station in Chicago asked me to come on to discuss the latest Wall Street Journal op-ed, but I am not sure I saw their invitation in time.
On Saturday I went to a double bill at the Brattle of E.T. and Gremlins. Invited Emma, but she had a memorial mass for her uncle. She invited me to tacos with her and Susan, but I was already in Charlestown for a quick climb. On Sunday I attended the Handel and Haydn concert of C.P.E. Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart at Symphony Hall. I wept at the close of the Jupiter, when Mozart does what no one would have done, and uncorks that fugue. I felt close to him. In a moment I felt less alone, like I had some form of a sibling. Kindredness. Different, but his structural DNA--by which I am indicating something far beyond the bounds of body--would not reject mine, and vice versa; there could be absorbing. I mean a core sibling. Not a sibling sibling. Someone made from the same heartwood.
I bought a couple orders of hash browns for a woman outside the Dunkin' Donuts and she offered to share them with me. We talked for a bit. I don't know why, exactly--she was older--but she made me think of my late sister. On Tuesday on Downtown, I'll discuss Ella Fitzgerald, particularly her handling of the Gershwin songbook. It's good for me right now with this Sam Cooke immersion to be thinking vocally.
I sent the last of my materials to the Guggenheim competition today. By which I mean, the actual books. I sent them Buried, and Anglerfish. I'll roll the dice on them and me. No matter what else goes on, no matter what I don't have in terms of string-pullers, even if, right now, I am taking all on on my own, I will still roll the dice on the likes of work like that. Roll it until my hand falls off. Pick them up with my teeth and roll them some fucking more.
And of course I wrote dozens and dozens of people who will not respond because they hate me because these are the weeks here, despite all they have tried to keep me from. And they have kept me from so much. But the future, I feel, I still do, in some holdout corner of me, is mine, and the future eventually becomes the present, and until then, we gird, we gird some more, we grow, we grow stronger. And we create. Like no one has.
Going first, ultimately, does not matter, and it's not going to matter here save as part of the narrative of what this artist overcame. Finishing does.
And I am not sure that everything that matters most in this world, and always will, does not come from a holdout corner.