Remember the woman from yesterday with all of her research for her novel, the years and years of research on behalf of her book about a pandemic, which she worried no one could ever like now? (I am certain that with a quick-hitter like a masterful short story on this subject right now--which gives a new perspective--in the right venue you'd have something massive on your hands that everyone would be reading.) Well, she took to Facebook last night to ask the "hivemind"--I won't associate with anyone who uses that term--how long one has coronavirus for, because she couldn't find the answer on Google. Master researcher. She is exactly what I was saying she was. I know these people so well.
I watch one person after another whine about a virus that they are scared will strike them down. They are not scared primarily for the vulnerable--which is the elderly. Or, rather, the elderly with underlying health issues. Preexisting health issues. Not the guy who is seventy-five who keeps himself in shape, goes to the gym. The person who smoked for fifty years. The person already in the ICU. And then there are people in horrible circumstances, the homeless, for instance. But these people, these whores of attention--and they are just as often men, so rent boys of attention, too--with their legs always spread wide, care about exactly two things: themselves, and people paying attention to them. If you are an able-bodied person, stop being a pussy. You might get the sniffly-whifflies. Then they will go away. You will be fine. It's what you might wreak in the lives of the vulnerable that is more the issue. Not your imminent mortality.
To be honest, I don't have a problem with people going about their days. You want to go out to eat, go to a party, have that threesome, go for it. Until you feel sick. Once you feel sick, remove yourself. If you still want to run--as I do, when I feel sick--just go early in the morning before anyone else is out. Don't lean against anything. Run, come home, shower, read Proust while listening to Beethoven's string quartets. And hand sanitizer people and whinging about that? Isn't soap just as good? So the difference is, you have your little hand sanitizer pump in your pocket or affixed to your bag, but you can just get off your lazy ass and walk into the bathroom and wash your hands every now and again if you're at the Starbucks. God we are such lazy freaking toads.
The outbreak shows just how bad we are at reading comprehension, which I have known for a long time now. Remember Hardware John? I had to get him out of my life because knowing him anymore actually would have killed me. But we used to argue about this all the time. He had no idea. He worked construction. But he thought he knew. For a quarter of a century now, I have seen how hard it is to get people to understand anything. There are people who read this journal--and I like them--who don't understand, still, what I I do in the Bunker Hill Monument. They think I go out on a really long run every day, maybe. It comes up over and over again, I've spelled it out so many times--it's not like there was that one and only post about the specifics of the routine--and people won't know. People will ask me about publishing. They'll be an ardent reader here, and it will be like, "So they don't recognize your talent, that's it?" When it's so many things, and more often than not it is on account of the talent, and I labor--believe me--to spell things out, to underline them. You might see things come up repeatedly in this blog, and maybe you think you caught me forgetting having mentioned something, but I am doing it on purpose. If you have ten people in front of you and you're holding an apple and you say, "This apple is red," seven of those people are not going to understand you. The way I write now, the choices I make, are so different than the ones I would have made twenty years ago, because I know people understand next to nothing. I need to reach that person on the other side of the table. That's what I'm here for. So my work has changed to reach them to the max level.
That doesn't mean I've dumbed anything down. It means I've had to grow so much as an artist so that I could say sometimes very complicated things and say them in a way that the most number of people in the room could get them. And I had to write for more levels, so that you would get the work on your level, someone on another level or levels, but each person was thinking they were getting everything. So the idiot could get it, and the genius could get it, and each would get more and new things each time they read it, but without ever feeling like they weren't getting it or missing anything. Do you know how hard that is? I can write for the meathead and for some mega-genius. That's how "Fitty" works, that's how Dark March works, Buried. The experience is always total, but there is always more with the next read, at a different time in your life, a different age. One of the millions of differences between me and every other writer in the world right now. It's a level of artistry and clarity that no one approaches. But you see how people cannot understand anything even when reading these basic newsy pieces on coronavirus.
Do you know how few people get flu shots? Where is the concern then? Coronavirus can help you out with something called perspective, and perspective can lengthen your life and make you a better person. For instance, maybe as one fears imminent death--irrationally--one can say, rationally, "Huh, I am a corpulent mess, look how many people die of heart disease, maybe I should eat better, exercise every now and again, drink less." What a concept, right? Maybe it would be better to tend to such matters rather than posting about living one's best life. Because are you really? You really think you're going for that Stanley Cup of human striving? That's you? Think you're thinking enough? Growing enough? Learning enough? Tending to mind, body, soul? You've taken that as far as you can? You're a Socratic ideal?
Let's say you're quarantined. You are apt to be someone who always cites how busy they are, even though nobody is actually busy and very few people alive have any clue what it means to be busy. Trust me. Look at me. If I'm busy, are you? But now you have time. What are you going to do? Many people are going to spend even more time hunting for attention on social media, thus becoming even less healthy, mentally ill, depressed. And watching a lot of Netflix. More than usual. Kind of ironic they always manage to watch so much--binge watch, in fact--despite being so busy. Why not take this opportunity, as you tend to your health with your better perspective, to also become a better, more complete person?
Read Chekhov's short stories. Listen to Billie Holiday's catalog. Watch all of Orson Welles' films. Organize an ad hoc drawing class with your kid. Read a history of the Civil War. Read a history of the French Revolution. Most museums have a large part of their collections online. Hop on the website of MoMA, the MFA, the baseball Hall of Fame. Gather up the family, shut off the lights in the family room, get under blankets, play some scary old radio broadcasts. Have a discussion after. Talk to your kids about fear. There is good fear, and bad fear. Learn to be with yourself. With your own thoughts. You know what would be fun if you love the Beatles? Listen to their complete BBC sessions. I don't mean the limited official products that were put out a few years back, I mean the whole enchilada. Find it online. It's my all-time favorite album, if you can call it an album, being more like a big box. Watch a Buster Keaton film. Try The General. Watch some of the greatest games in the history of sport. They're online. The 1987 Canada Cup final in hockey. Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Intimidated by poetry? Don't be! Find some short poems that are easy to ease into, by the likes of John Keats, or maybe John Clare, poet of nature. Look at Audubon's drawings and writings of birds. See how he was able to bring these beautiful creatures even more to life with his wit and eye.
The end of days in the Bible is actually very exciting writing. I find it uplifting. A call to arms, of sorts, of truth. (Remember John Freeman? A full blog is coming about him soon. He was the editor of Granta, who stole $200 from me at LitHub. LitHub represents everything wrong with publishing. John Freeman hated me so much personally--because after years of awful treatment from him, I had the nerve to say, "There's nothing real about you, John"--that he said that he disliked so much personally that no matter what I wrote, if I wrote the greatest thing ever--he put this in an email I'll share with you--like the Bible, he would not allow it to be published. Actually said that. Plus, he had his friends, as he added, to hook up. Actually said that, too. That's how many of them are, but he actually wrote it in an email. His wife, incidentally, reps Junot Diaz. Remember the Junot Diaz post on here? But I'll put that all together later.) If the apocalypse were triggered, I can't say I'd really blame the universe, the fates, God, whom or whatever is in charge of these things. Look at this world, look at the vapidity, look at how horrible we often are to each other, what we focus on, what we reward. I'd have a regret in that I think I'm an apocalypse-offsetter. I think I'm a tide-turner. And I want a chance to show what I can do, to show how I might impact this world and humanity.
People want your clicks, people want your attention. There is a pandemic of fear and irrationality, and this is how that spreads. If this were 1987, it'd be in newspapers, but it wouldn't be the end all be all, there wouldn't be the paranoia and paranoia-spreading. There wouldn't be the hits to businesses and the economy. It would be a thing, not the only thing. Maybe have a throwback day at your house with your family. No devices. Read, talk, play records, tell stories, make up games, build some forts, play board games. Be humans with other humans. It is amazing how salutary something like that is.
I also recommend listening to Primal Scream as I am right now and their LP Give Out, But Don't Give Up, which is also good advice.
I think on Downtown this week I will discuss the above, as well as pandemic-related art--Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year, Pepys' diaries (incidentally, this journal/blog destroys Pepys' life work as art and a record of the times), and how the music parties during the Black Plague changed musical history. Good thing those people didn't stay home.
The Dixie-Narco EP is also excellent. As I listen to it I am working out more of one of these two new virus stories. Unity of time, place, action. With both of these stories. Unity of time, place, action. I must keep thinking.
Okay. This is a developing major work. I have composed the first 2000 words. I am going so slowly. Now, I know to anyone else, given that it is 1 PM now and I began around 11 AM, this will seem anything but moving slowly, but this has been very slow, very methodical for me. I am writing this story as though--and this is my methodology with this one--I am isolating a strain of a virus. I am writing it medically, you might say. I have removed a number of strains, and the one strain that matters is beginning to come clear. I'm going to have to work hard at this one, but it is going to be worth it. There will be a major masterpiece on my hands here in a few days, that will be as timely as art gets. I don't want this being a lot over 4000 words is my sense. It deals with homelessness, the economy, the vulnerable population, a Michael Jordan rookie card worth $14,000, a man who has lost his teaching gig and come back from Italy having spent the last of his money to go there, an ex-husband and wife and their kid, and the first virus-carrier in Boston. The story is called "Shed."
I did peek back on Facebook to see that the fool I mentioned at the start of this post--same woman from yesterday with her research--has posted half a dozen other similar things on Facebook since. Hey, genius--maybe stop looking for attention and do something productive or write something great? I just wrote something great. And now I'm going to run three miles, walk five, pick up the new issue of The New Criterion, hit up Trader Joe's, and come home and screen some films.