I could have done with a Christmas album from Sam Cooke. That would have been cool, right? He'd have made a stunner of a Christmas album.
Great writing often has a geometric cleanliness (and order) to it, which is not the same as emotional cleanliness, which it usually does not have. There are exceptions, and great writing is always case by case; the work will justify itself and its methodologies by what the work achieves in its totality as an experience, which can itself be a series of experiences in the moment when the work is read, and successively in life moving forward in the reader's mind, either via memory, rereading, or both (or something else; a life event that conjures the work, for instance, and can change one's relationship with it). The justification is the pointedness of the experience. Its acuity. Its range of points of precision, which sounds oxymoronic, but is not. There can be great satisfaction in seeing highly geometric writing, especially when it remains organic, and has no sterility or the obvious factory glow of over-polish. The geometry must appear naturally, as geometry often does in nature itself.
Here's a feature I wrote on the Beatles' Get Back docu-series for The Daily Beast. And this is an op-ed I wrote on life lessons from the Let It Be film for The Wall Street Journal.
There should have been a Sun Ra feature in JazzTimes. I don't know where it is. I guess it's coming. I'll write about Louis Armstrong for them for Christmas, and also Jelly Roll Morton for another time.
Reading the Journals the other morning—various entries from late Novembers—I was glad that Thoreau didn’t have a cell phone.
Watching 1946’s Somewhere in the Night. All of those good-looking people in 1940s noir must have smelled like ashtrays.
Ran 5000 stairs Sunday. Yesterday marked 1974 days, or 282 weeks, without a drink of alcohol. As I ran the stairs I worked on "The Hornet" some more.
Have to go back into some stories and make sure they're right. Your eyes adjust sometimes in time. May have to touch up some things, change some things. These stories this week, bare minimum: "Show Me Your Knees," "Green Glass Door," "A Listener's Story," "The Space of the Moment," "Crossing Deer." I'm starting to really bear down on having the cleanest master copy of There Is No Doubt: Storied Humanness. I want something pretty much ready to go with a publisher--even if I am blackballed--and not anything requiring much adjustment later. Air tight. I will even go back through "Fitty." Some of these stories I don't need to, because I already did that in July with the likes of "Girls of the Nimbus," "Dot," "The Echo Blow," "Coffee Streaks." I probably will anyway in time, but I'll be doing this in tiers, and the above batch is this week's tier. I'm not sure if all of them are going in. I'm really starting to have a firm idea of the shape and order of the thing. But it will also help me better understand what I have. Not just for this book, but others.
There are 334 new stories here right now. Four others are likely to be completed this week. I worked hard on one of them Saturday, and it grew in length to over 3000 words. About 150 were already available. That's what's sitting here, man--about 500 stories all at the level of the best work I have out there, which these people are not letting anyone see. When it comes to literary magazines, it's not worth it. There's no point to have a "Fitty" or anything in like a Georgia Review, even if I wasn't banned by a bigot like Gerald Maa at Georgia Review. (And you know what? More people just saw me say that than people who will read Georgia Review in years.) These are too good. They're for the world. Not to collect dust in some periodical no one has heard of, let alone reads. That's for tenure, I guess, if you're a professor. It's not for what I do. It's not for why I'm here. I have to have faith that all of this is going to come out the right way, be seen in the right way, and by the right volume of readers. I'll keep sending it, whatever. That produces good fodder for this blog, and it will end careers at various points, and certainly later, when I'm where I should be. I need to be wise and focused about what goes where, books-wise. Because they slot into different books, these stories. This one, obviously, in There Is No Doubt, with all of the stories featuring female narrators and/or protagonists. Longer on the Inside. The ghost story book. The book with stories pertaining to what our world has become/super heroes/current events/PC culture/mob rule/COVID. Etc. It really is something how different all of these books are from each other. How different my works are from work to work. There Is No Doubt is just so different from Brackets and is so different from Anglerfish and so different from Sam and so different from Buried which are themselves all so different from each other.
I took an hour the other night, too, and started figuring out how many stories I have in progress simultaneously. By that I mean, I'm deep into formally writing them, or I have notes, or they are in my head. It's 100 stories, give or take. That's how many stories I'm working on or thinking through at the moment. So this has gotten kind of crazy.
Tried to watch this commentary track for Island of Lost Souls, but I couldn't do it. The guy doing the commenting can't even pronounce Bela Lugosi's name correctly. He writes books about Lugosi. And you can't say his name right? Seriously? Bay-La. Not Bell-ah. I have so little patience for incompetence and people not getting shit right. I don't mean a typo, or a flubbed word. I mean not bothering to learn and get it right in time. I have zero tolerance for that. There's no excuse. Do your job and do it well. Don't be a lazy hack.
At about three in the morning on Saturday, I started thinking about a thriller series, which I'll eventually do. I had this idiot of an agent once--the guy that Ladette Randolph of Ploughshares kept creepily referring to as a gun ("Congrats, you have a gun!"; "It's so great that you got a gun!"; what the fuck)--who wanted me to write thrillers. But he changed it every time I spoke to him. He wanted me to do the novel The Freeze Tag Sessions about the genius piano prodigy who doesn't want to be a genius, he wanted me to do a Beatles book, then the thriller. I don't think he remembered what he said from the time before. Speaking of hacks: once this guy actually said to me, "Okay, this time I'm going to be transparent..." Impressively simple and dumb and I didn't trust him as far as my dick can pitch an anvil. And he was the best agent I've had, whatever the fuck that means, which ultimately means that I am the agent and I always will be the agent going forward. No matter what. And Christ was he lazy. I saw this note he sent to an editor about something I'd done, and it was just so damn sloppy, his presentation and his "pitch." Like this one lazy ass sentence with two words spelled wrong and four extra spaces. So I moved on. He represents Ha Jin, and it's hard for me to respect anyone who pretends that Ha Jin isn't as boring a writer as there is.
But this guy said I could learn to write anything in a couple weeks if I put my mind to it. Which is true. Just because you think someone is a boob doesn't mean that they can't say something to you that you find useful or put to use. So since that day, that's stuck in my head. And I've come to know how to do a thriller. I've thought about it over the last few years, because I want to have the best book of every kind. The best funny novel, the best weird book of fiction, the darkest (emotionally) book of fiction, the best music book, best film book, best Beatles book, the best horror book, best sports book, best essay collection, best children's book, best memoir, best historical novel, and so forth. What I came up with today was a main character, and part of his story, origins. His characteristics. His history. His name. Started thinking about some story possibilities, too, for novels, because he wouldn't be in shorter stories. I don't think I'd ever write a thriller shorter work, and I don't think the thriller genre pairs well with that length. There are a few things I won't go into here which I think are the tricks to writing a good thriller. Certain head spaces you have have to be in, too. And I know how to get myself in them. I mean, what else was I going to do? I was awake, I made use of the time. You might as well. I wrote everything down, and it's all in my head of course, where it will continue to germinate.
I saw on Twitter where people were trying to determine the best Christmas song of all-time, which is different than a carol. Naturally this devolved into the stupidity of people just saying their favorite things, which don't emerge from a life of searching and curiosity, but rather just what they happened to come across at a certain age. These things are always predictable. It's like the people who say Elf is a great Christmas movie. Really? Maybe expand those horizons a bit? Check out some other stuff? Think you'll probably find that things get a bit better, a touch more rewarding, than Elf or Christmas with the Cranks. There was this one woman who writes music books for a living, with 125K followers, who said "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire." There's no song with that title. Get the fucking title right. Personally, I would say it's Judy Garland's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." The live version from the radio is among the most moving of all mid-century airshots. What a moment in history, too--she doesn't even know the title yet. Or is she nervous and that's why she says it incorrectly? A commanding vocal artist.
NB: It is hard for me when hearing "The Trolley Song" not to change the lyrics to "clang clang clang went the clitty," which I sing aloud with much vigor. It's just something I do. These things happen. (Maybe it's a "Ring My Bell" thing?)
The comments I see about Get Back only reconfirm to me that people don't know much about the Beatles or human nature. Not really. Not in important ways. I find it very easy for me to be illuminating about the Beatles in different, more substantial ways because I'm not seeing any of it on the level that most other people do. I know we've watched or heard the same thing, but really, it's like we didn't at all. Now, when I write what I write, and say that I say, then I think they see what I see. And considering, too, how that's put. But that creates a market for me--it allows me to provide goods, or a service. Allows me to fill a need. I think I deepen someone's experience and relationship with that band and their music. And I think that is much more valuable than Mark Lewisohn saying, in awkward prose, that here's something they called themselves for nine days in 1959. That's just a little factoid, and I don't think there's a lot of value in it. It's academic. And it's fine to know it. And obviously I know all of it. But there's more. Even now, after all of these years. Especially now. I think Same Band can be big, if it goes with the right place. That's something else I really need to be buckling down on right now before this year is out.
Two strangers wrote me Sunday and told me I gave them hope in life. That was nice.
Got some Triscuits. Woven wheat, bitches!
The other day, when I went into the hall, Hallway Hermey was not there. Immediately I thought maybe he'd been abducted, or else had lit off for other parts without so much as a farewell. But then I located him on the ground behind a boot.
The three best duos as Holmes and Watson: 1. Jeremy Brett + Edward Hardwicke 2. Clive Merrison + Michael Williams 3. Basil Rathbone + Nigel Bruce. This is also worth experiencing, and recordings I return to quite a bit: John Gielgud as Holmes and Ralph Richardson as Watson on the BBC in 1954. Orson Welles would play Moriariy in "The Final Problem" for the series.
Saw where someone whose job is to talk about hockey say on Twitter that Brad Marchand is the Bruins' MVP this year. Dumb. Marchand has been the Bruins' MVP for about a half dozen years in a row and has been far and away their best player in that time. Year in, year out, he is the best player on that team, and it's not close.
This is Mike Palmateer punching Steve Shutt, presumably for sticking him in the balls.
Good Patriots win, but man that’s a lot of rushing yards to allow. Nearly 300. Needs shoring up.
This is what I looked like on Thanksgiving 2021 as I worked at the cafe:
Had a hot chocolate yesterday at the cafe that was terrible. I think they made it wrong. Was just steamed milk, pretty much. But low fat milk is good for blood pressure--though normally I buy no fat milk for that--so I drank it anyway. They had originally made it with whip cream, though I always order it without, but they took that off for me. On Thanksgiving, there was this dog outside by himself that I could see from where I was walking. They have those posts so that you can throw the loop of the dog leash over the top. He had this stuffed animal bird that he obviously loved a lot. This was a big dog, which made it funnier. He held his bird in his mouth, then he put it on the ground and laid himself on the ground and looked at it lovingly. Clearly he was thankful for this bird. His owner came out and she had a cup of something and this dog knew exactly what it was--whip cream. It must have been his favorite, judging by his reaction. And the dog with the bird went to town on this cup of whip cream.
I suppose I should be grateful for my characters. How they always come to me and tell me their stories. That I can always count on them for that. That's why I never have anything forced or jammed into place in a story. I am receiving someone else's experience. They just happen not to exist, though at the same time, they are more real than I am, or anyone else.
My solitary Thanksgivings are comprised of moments like these. I was talking to someone the other day, wondering aloud if I'd ever have people in my life whose company I could enjoy. I spoke of how I wanted to sit around on Thanksgiving and have talks about what Mozart's best opera was, and what F. Scott Fitzgerald's best short stories were, and what label did Billie Holiday make her most rewarding recordings for, and who has the top wrist shots in hockey history. And I could tell that they don't think I'll ever have that, because no one is out there like that. But maybe I could get one of those things? My own company is on such a different level than the company could be with anyone else, about anything. That is one reason I'm always alone. There are many other reasons, too. But I always hope that when I am in a better situation and I naturally meet more people, and have means and mobility and people funneling into my life, that I will meet some people who offer me more of what I need, because I don't have a single person right now, really, outside of perhaps one person, who does, in a day out, day out capacity (I don't want to offend people I just don't talk to that much or know in the same way). And they don't offer me anything in these ways--they're just smarter than most people. I will talk about best wrist shots on the radio on Tuesday, among other things. People in the conversation: Joe Sakic, of course, Mike Bossy, Brett Hull, Mark Messier (especially coming down the off-wing), Vladimir Krutov, and I think Ray Bourque must be brought up in the discussion, though defensemen are always thought of as slap shot guys.
Thinking of writing an op-ed for Christmas on Dickens' "The Haunted Man" and one for New Year's on The Thin Man, though I doubt I'll be able to sell either. I have a Christmas op-ed that is the priority right now pertaining to Donna Reed, but that's not going well.
I listened to Green Day's American Idiot, The Andy Williams Christmas Album (he actually had another one, called Merry Christmas), and the whole of the Grateful Dead's show in Veneta, Oregon 8/27/72, which is one of the best things I've ever heard by anyone. It reminds me of Handel's Messiah, in some ways, even as a gig--how it is structured, the scope, the sense of a meshing narrative, the text painting, the moments of pain and the moments of celebration and thankfulness. Also downloaded the Dead in Cleveland on December 6, 1973, which has one of their longest versions of "Dark Star." It occurred to me the other day that I could write an entire book about "Dark Star." The Dead had shows in 1974 that have the best recording quality of anything I've ever heard for a live rock and roll performance. This '73 Cleveland show has that type of sound.