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Christmas for Christmases

Friday 12/25/20

Today is my ninth consecutive Christmas in which I have been completely alone and talk with no one. That's how it will be until I have my house back in Rockport and I am in it. I worked until eleven last night, and arose at three and began work again, but that is misleading, because as I sleep, I compose. There is literally not a second of my life at this point in which I am not creating story. I remind myself, as I am here friendless, unloved, dealing with what I am dealing with in this industry, a historically unique situation and set of obstacles, that a Christmas such as this is not about this Christmas. It is about my future Christmases, when I get where I am going. When I have had the impact I will have and be having, and there are good people who are a real part of my life, or at least one very good--and rare--person. Every step, every mile, every stair, every story, every piece, every journal entry, every book is a part of getting me to where I am going. That's what I tell myself.

The verdict from Bloomsbury regarding the Sam Cooke book was: "Amazing." I know it's a major work of art. I know there's nothing like it. I'm proud of it. I'm underway on the Scrooge book, too, which will be done in short order. So, what that will mean is that after having a novel come out this past October in Meatheads Say the Realest Things, and with another under contract in Musings with Franklin, I'll have a story collection out in July, the film book in August, the Sam Cooke book in September. I am sure that no one in history has ever had a novel, story collection, film book, and music book come out in one year. How many people have ever even had one of each? Ten? And it's such a small fraction of what I'm doing and what I have. How much longer can this go on before even the people who want me dead cannot do a damn thing about my advance?

This is the Downtown segment from the other day. I think it was a strong one. A mid-century Christmas-related work of art was discussed, plus Duke Ellington and The Nutcracker, Elvis' "Merry Christmas Baby," and a John Clare poem, which I read over the air, too. Here is a piece in The Smart Set from yesterday on Seabury Quinn's 1948 novel Roads for Arkham House, which I think is the best Christmas novel ever written in this country, a work of weird fiction involving Santa Claus as a soldier, Christ, Pilate, and elves. I wrote a very powerful Christmas short story the other day, for Longer on the Inside, called either "Winter Stairs" or "Scala Sancta." I like both titles. The latter translates to "holy stairs." It's about a man going down some city stairs outside of a government building, while three men come up the other, and marriage, mentoring, Hall and Oates, heroin, the Clash, and it is utterly unlike anything ever written. And it's less than 800 bloody words. I wrote another story called "My Anime," which is about a young girl's interest in anime and an alligator in a cartoon, with that then taking a form in her actual life. A devastating work.

I sent Longer on the Inside to somebody last night, and also made further studies into paraphrase and parody masses of the sixteenth century, as I've been doing for some time now. I listened to the December 22, 1947 radio broadcast of Miracle on 34th Street (the film came out in May, strangely enough) which features the original cast. I wanted to study the script. Saw some of Meet Me in St. Louis again. Someone asked Orson Welles once about Vincente Minnelli who directed that particular film, and Welles said, "I thought we were talking about serious directors?" I understand why he thought as he did. If one looks at the scene, for instance, when Judy Garland sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to Margaret O'Brien, it's clumsily done. The business with that bulky toy is awkward and it's obvious that Garland didn't know what to do with it. And the way O'Brien is positioned, her face scrunched up, makes for a weird composition. The scene works despite itself and because of Garland. O'Brien is excellent in the film, too--also quite funny. The verb "muddle" in "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" is the most powerful verb in any Christmas song, and Garland knew this, because she uses that verb as a springboard to hit a note that is akin in that song to the crucial high note in "O Holy Night."

I wrote two dozen letters to people over the course of yesterday and today. Came up with two new op-ed ideas, a hockey one and a Dostoevsky one, the former being for the start of the year, the latter for the end of it. Pitched features on a thirty-minute song Jelly Roll Morton cut for Alan Lomax in 1938 that might be the quintessential work of American jazz, and also John Coltrane's Ascension as his actual masterwork, breaking down that record, how it came to be. Looks like I'll be doing that particular piece. Morton doesn't look so promising right now.

I walked three miles today. It was supposed to be more but it was pouring. Took the T back, actually. In what was one of the more depressing Christmas scenes I’ve personally been a part of, they stopped the T to tell the one other person on it to stop clipping their fingernails. “Because that’s fucking nasty.” King Wenceslas this fellow was not. One of the times I've been torn between vomiting and crying.

I don't think a person can understand how difficult any of this, let alone all of it. Someone might say, "You could be dead," and I'd take that, because it'd be far easier. I don't take it because of what I have to give this world, which no one has previously had to give this world. So I try to keep going. This is no life, no quality of life. This is just hell. It's actual hell. Consign a god or representative of the fates to design hell for me, and they could come up with nothing better designed to wring maximum suffering. What is happening to me is the antithesis of condign. Someone did text me today and say that they were thinking about me, that I deserve so much more, and they hope that 2021 is the year for me. We'll see. This has to give at some point.

I listened to BBC Sounds' three-part adaptation of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (2006) and the four-part The Woman in Black (1993) from the Susan Hill novel. I sat at Caffe Vittoria this afternoon reading Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White. The original property once housed a baby farm in the 1800s, with the owner of the farm having killed several of the children. There was long talk of supernatural activity. I had a cocoa and listened to Darlene Love belt "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." Does she ever shout that song--it's kind of feral. Also heard Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," the spunkiest, most spitfire-y of all Christmas songs, with Hank Garland simultaneously shredding on his guitar and making it chime.

The most erotic, intimate scene in movies is when George and Mary are both on the phone with Sam Wainwright in It’s a Wonderful Life. One almost feels as if one should look away.


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