I need to push back from this desk, and you will know why in a moment, but first I will get this down quickly, before heading to Charlestown to climb the Monument, which I did five more times yesterday, in addition to walk five miles. Prior to yesterdays' climb, I composed 2000 more words of "Dunedin." What is very difficult is that as you are creating, say, a passage that is special, that makes work art, that is the very stuff that means that it would be loved, and it would last, you realize, in this age of what publishing has become, the complete inversion of standards, where bad is good, not funny is funny, lifeless is esteemed, safety is preferred, artifice trumps truth, pretension is sought out over substance, you are aware of how that passage, that great work, is going to be a problem for you, for this work, with these people. Even before we are getting into blacklists and all of that. Just fundamentally. That which makes work great makes its path to the people of the world who would love it that much more arduous. And you know this in that very moment that you've come up with that great part. It feels like you are working on behalf of entertainment and art, but against the success and visibility of the work, because of the system and what the system allows to have pass through it. Right now. I remind myself of that temporal qualifier. Then I remind myself that I can be the agent of change. But like I said, horrible feeling.
Then there is length. The fiction that is published risks next to nothing. There is no ambition in it. Plot-wise, emotion-wise, truth-wise. You know how sports teams sometimes play not to lose, and then they always lose? That is how fiction is written now, and, what's more, it is how fiction is selected (well, provided you are liked, have the right agent, the right gender/race industry profile, have a certain number of Twitter followers, have been dubbed as an "it" person of the manufactured moment, etc.) Under the play not to lose umbrella, it is crucial to have next to nothing happen in your stories. Do lots of stock description. You also want to have shorter works, because the longer a work is, the more opportunities people who are looking to find fault in it--like when they spot a life-imbued passage--are going to have to get what they need to dismiss the work.
So, back to "Dunedin." I conceived of it as this story, and then, later, a story called "Done Eden," with the same characters--or some of them--in a stand-alone story that had strands of the first version as parts of backstory--but again, you wouldn't have to know that other story existed--and these characters later on in life. Two of them in a different geographical place as well. Not Florida, where a lot of "Dunedin" takes place. One person tells another something that turns out to be not true. Very not true. And later, as adults, that person who was told the very untrue thing is going to believe that other person about something else. As I worked on "Dunedin," and its length grew, I thought, "Oh, damn." The sweet spot for less going wrong with these people--again, if they're not automatically turning you aside because of your name, or because you've done things they can't or won't and they don't like that--is 2500 words. Or 2200 to 2500. And I thought, "you could make his a novella, but then it's just something, great as this is, that you tuck aside until you're in a better position," because a novella is a tough sell even if you're a system person. Then I thought, "wait. You're in the position you're in anyway, and you're basically tucking this away for now to hopefully have it rule the day later no matter what it ends up as, length-wise."
There's more. When I started "Dunedin," I had a breakthrough that I documented in these pages. I discovered how to split my genius. Like split an atom, but splitting genius. That is, I could take something, four paragraphs, let us say, and rip them from one work, put them atop another, and I would scale and cut the sentences, shape them, give them different acoustics and architecture--even in terms of what they do in the planar field--and I would open up new worlds that had nothing to do with the sentence when they were somewhere else. Different tonally, different characters, different voices, different music, and shapes. You know how Charlie Parker would take the root of one chord and he could build off it endlessly? He went so far from the root of the chord. But he began with the chord's root. And that chord's root could be this, or it could be that. It was like splitting the root of the chord. Same idea. So what I did--and people in my inner circle who are about to see "Dunedin" will realize, because I've been specific about this to them in correspondence, telling them to look for it later--is I had taken a root chord from "Dunedin" and made it into an entirely different story that has absolutely nothing to do with "Dunedin" earlier this year. That story was called "That Night." It's fascinating to put the two--well, the first page of each--side by side. So I'm thinking all of this, and now a novel called Done Eden is coming to me, with the combined root chords of "Dunedin" and "Done Eden," the former being about halfway done at the time, the latter not technically started, but obviously it has existence in my mind. Now the tones are changing, the voices are changing. I have a different chord. I can build off of that root chord. See? This is really simple, in a way.
Now I'm thinking, "Okay, so you'll do that novel. In the meanwhile, do the individual stories of 'Dunedin' and 'Done Eden.' That will be the plan."
And that is the plan. Well, it's that plan. Of course I have many plans in motion all at once. That's why you see what you see here. I went to the Aquarium. I read Wilkie Collins ghost stories at the Starbucks. Then I started getting angsty. I had a couple hours before I was supposed to attend the Spiritualized show at the Wilbur. So I wrote another 2000 words yesterday. Also--I came up with an idea for an Easter op-ed yesterday, and I formally set down the first clause; once I do that, I'm done. I'll sit down later and move my fingers a bit and in ten minutes I'll have what I need. All of this means that over the weekend I ran three miles, walked eight, climbed the Monument eighteen times, came up with and completed an entire new short story in "Enib Bine," came up with a novel idea, an op-ed idea, and put 4000 words to another short story, read, talked to Kimball about what we'll do on Downtown Tuesday, wrote multiple journal entries,and attended a two-and-a-half-hour concert. Guess what I wasn't? Busy. You knew where I was going with that. In the lead-up to the weekend I had composed four essays, the week before that, an entire book and a different op-ed. Does that sound normal to you? And yet, here we are.
Also went to mass yesterday, but only to hear the readings. I'm not interested in anything else there. Stories. Stories are what I care about. I heard the stories and then I left.
This takes us to now. I formally composed the op-ed this morning, and have made an attempt to sell it, which I don't think will go well. I also did another however many words on "Dunedin"--maybe 1000?--and the story is now complete at 5300 words. I have to go back and fix something things. There are still some bits that are marble and not yet the details of statuary. But those details are in there, and I just have to clear away some marble and use my hammer and chisel. I am going to climb the Monument now.
The Spiritualized show was very good. This show here is from Colorado on April 7. Same setlist. The man makes some beautiful music.