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Sunday 4/12/20

Very depressing day. I have to have this F. Scott Fitzgerald This Side of Paradise/"Bernice Bobs Her Hair" piece done by tomorrow morning. Consider this: Fitzgerald drops out of Princeton. He's unpublished. He has an eighty-page fragment. It's not a book, it's not a novel. He wants to get Zelda Sayre to marry him. She won't unless, in his view, he can prove he's successful. He takes the fragment, and he jams bits of bad poetry he'd written into it, and drafts of half-cooked stories he never finishes. Calls it This Side of Paradise. Total paste-together job. He's has no agent. But he knows a guy who knows an editor at Scribner. Gives the pasted-together job to the guy, who passes it on to the editor on September 4, 1919. No one at Scribner wants the book, but the editor--Max Perkins--insists that they publish it because of his friend, the middle man, this random guy with a connection. On September 16--so it's not even two weeks later--Scribner tells Fitzgerald, fine, they'll publish it.


And Fitzgerald asks them to publish it that month. I mean, talk about brass ones and entitlement. They say no, he has to wait until the spring, which is a ridiculously fast turnaround as it is. You'd wait a year or two now, but you'd have no chance anyway of even getting that far, if you weren't a system person who was connected who had also written a shitty book that was a retread of lots of other shitty books.


Book comes out in the spring. Again, total pasted-together job. There's no plot, no cohesion, it's mostly autobiography about liking some girls, with the names changed. And the first print run sells out in four days. From a guy who had never published anything, didn't even really have a book. Who nobody has ever heard of. It was so freaking easy at the time. He makes $80K in today's dollars of the book, but the bigger thing is he can start charging like $25K in today's dollars for short stories. And then Fitzgerald gets a chance, he starts to take his work much more seriously, he gets better and better, writes amazing stuff. But he got the chance. Total gift of a chance he in no way deserved or worked towards. That doesn't happen, no one probably ever hears of him. Contrast that with what I'm going through. Here at the same age at which Fitzgerald died.


I am alone today, of course. And by alone I also mean in the sense that no one texts, phones. One person did--the editor at Tailwinds. She wrote to say that while neither she or her sister are at all religious, her sister read this op-ed that I published on Friday in the New York Daily News on what I call the Easter Challenge, and she cried. Am I surprised? No. I know it's a great piece of writing, I know it's art, I know how moving it is, and as an op-ed, too, it's great. Not a single new Twitter follower as a result, not a single visitor to this website, not a single note in my inbox. It might not as well as exist. And yet, there it is, in the ninth highest circulation newspaper in America. Brilliant and moving piece. And, of course, nothing as a result. Not even a random comment, a new follower on my FB author page either. I don't know how I am not supposed to think I'm cursed and doomed. So, I'm not surprised by this either. This is how it always is. With every single piece, in every single venue.


I cried today for about a half hour until I was dehydrated. That sucked. Thought about killing myself. Didn't. Thought about methods. Maybe a car. No seat belt, gun it into something in the middle of the night on the highway up to Rockport. Forced myself to run three miles. Sent out a dozen letters to, naturally, people who hate me. I went to Bova's and got some pizza to put in the fridge to have later this week if I work hard and maybe if something good happens. It never does. I do this from time to time. The pizza is a treat, like a reward, a little celebration. But then only bad things happen, it's a month later, there is mold on the pizza and I just eat it so it doesn't go to waste. Cry then, too. That's all life is at this point for me. I haven't even begun to describe on here what happened last week. Last week alone would give a person a lifetime of PTSD. I'm not ready to talk about it. I won't be. Later I'll just put it up so the record is complete. I feel like this journal is a suicide letter, to be honest. A suicide book, as it were. Series of books. My letter to the world. That's my frame of mind, a lot. Like I'm saying something for when I'm gone.


After working on the stories mentioned in an earlier entry this morning, I worked on revising "Skip Shack." Aaron Cohen wrote me a really nice note about it this past week--or I saw it this past week, rather--talking about it's power. Very rarely does anyone say anything about what I write. Even the people who know me, who know what I am going through, who know, even, what I am, what I do, the level. In their way. I know quite a few people who would tell you they think I'm the best artist who has ever lived and it's not close. But they don't say anything about my work to me, either. Here and there. Aaron's comment was what I meant by the little gust of wind in the sail thing yesterday. Takes so little sometimes. But I almost always get less than that. Anyway, his comments motivated me to make sure the story was right. On balance, they stories are always going to be right. But there are a lot in a short amount of time, and it can be useful to go back and put in some more time. Or see if I should. When there's that interval and I go back, I find what needs fixing very quickly, even if I'm at it for a few hours, which for someone else is a decent amount of months.


As I looked at "Skip Shack," I saw how good it was, so I really wanted to get it right. I fixed some things on the first page, made it perfect, making it a story like "Fitty" or "Six Feet Away" I can have not a single reservation about, know exactly what I have. That's part of the process of going back for me, too, seeing and understanding exactly what I have. Then I know. Nothing can part me from what I know once I know it when I honestly know it. So, in some ways, this is an important part of my process, even if I don't change a word, that gap, and then then the revisit. I don't read my work gently. I am brutal in how I assess it. So when I know it's done, there is something more than special in place. Anyway, I stopped after the first page. I want to go slowly, even with this revisit with "Skip Shack." There is something uniquely powerful here. I'll take my time.


Today is 201 weeks, or 1407 days, without a drink. I almost drank last week. I feel like any good news would be an actual miracle. Just something nice to happen that I deserve and my work deserves.


Emma and her family will not return my property to me going back to August, no matter how many times I ask. Bad, bad people, man. I should never have helped that family like I did. A one-sided, exploitative relationship. This particular thing was given to me by my sister. We are not close. So it meant a little more than maybe it ordinarily would. And I told them this. They could care less. People are just brutish.


These are pretty gross. I don't know why they've always kind of fascinated me. Starting with the tourmaline foil.