Here is a photo I took today on my walk. I see this mailbox often, but I did not take a photo of it until today. Valentine's Day and all.
We are an illiterate society. "Coquers" sounds like a bastardized version of croquet. Perhaps it's akin to play that sport's version of knee-hockey? And what does that even mean, "love conquers fear?" Why must we be so vapid? Why are you a bad person if you say, "Well, that's wrong, that's not how reality works, whatever that platitudinous nonsense is trying to put across."
Love conquers fear? Can anyone explain that? How? What's the practical application? Being loved takes your fears away? That's not necessarily true. Loving someone else takes them away? Also wrong. Not as a hard and fast rule, which is what this purports to be--it's framed as a truism. An absolute. But of course you could be loved and know fear. I think people know fear more than ever. I think people are terrified. I think hardly anyone can face twenty minutes with their own thoughts, that's how scared they are. I think people are terrified of reality. Of the truth. I think they're terrified that they might have to admit they're doing things wrong and have to work hard at change. So none of those people have love in their lives? Actually, a lot of them probably don't. Love--actual love--is rare. It is rare because it requires a conscious decision of vulnerability. And people are--hmmm, what do you know--absolutely horrified by the idea of vulnerability. Not me. Then again, I have no love in my life. At present. But as we like to say here--words cribbed from my own work--"right now isn't always."
I may be sick. Breathing was awfully ragged today. Was barely able to run the Boston College steps five times. Bent over trying to catch my breath after only two climbs. That's embarrassing. Not what we're going for. But it's fine. I'll just power through. Drink cranberry juice and water and hibiscus tea today, take a bunch of Vitamin C pills. Could also be that though I've managed to at least walk most days, I haven't done a lot of cardiovascular over the last three weeks because of the grinding slog that has been all of these books and getting them out--or trying to get them out--the door and ease some pressure. One form of pressure. On the way back, though, I did find some other stairs. See:
And I ran those five times. So, altogether, I wasn't that far off with what I normally do. (2200 stairs rather than 2600.) I also walked fifteen miles. I took the subway back for the last five miles, and then when I got off, I ran the subway stairs a couple times, like a crazy person. Whatever. It all adds up. Every step, every mile, every story, every stair, every entry on here, every book, plays its role in getting me to where I am going and impacting this world as no one person ever has. Every single one matters.
Yesterday I went to Trader Joe's and stocked up on nothing but fruit, vegetables, nuts, granola, with a little grilled chicken breast. Today marks 1701 days, or 243 weeks, without a drink. Good. That's a decent amount of days. Every last one of those days matters, too.
My sister texted me today to tell me about her workout and said I'd be proud of her. I told her I was always proud of her.
A strange mix at the cafe today. Couples on dates drinking champagne for Valentine’s Day, and hardcore North End regulars saying some of the not most charming things ever. Then me tucked away in a corner, alone, working, and sometimes watching.
People like to say that words can't express a given such and such. "There are no words." There are always words. People like to say, "You can't make it up." You can always make it up. Depends whose words we are talking about, and who is doing the inventing.
I'm sure there's no one at The New Yorker who knows this, but their first editor, Harold Ross, had a policy that writers were not allowed to use the word "indescribable." Good policy. If you were to go through the thousands of works I've published, you won't find that word. To use it is to admit defeat, to say that you are not up to the challenge, that you lack in skill, that you are a failure. At doing this, anyway.
I came up with an fine new op-ed idea, and also an idea about those BC stairs--not with a national magazine, but I don't see why I couldn't pick up $500 with a quick piece for the BC alumni magazine about what I do. Well, I do see why I wouldn't be able to--incompetence. I asked this place to run an excerpt of Buried last year, and they wouldn't respond. Amazing, really. You have this author alum who has been in everything and this perfect book to excerpt and it's like, nah, let's ignore him. But they put in this awful excerpt from a complete no-talent in their English department whose entire career of thirteen publications--despite being sixty-seven-years-old--comes down to a series of easy to document favor-trades. That's all anything comes down to with these people. That, and being one of them. And writing meaningless work that sucks, bores, and matches other meaningless work that sucks and bores.
Speaking of publications: Here's another one--an essay on the 1981 film My Bloody Valentine in The Daily Beast today. It is trending on the first page of Facebook News. As the USA Today op-ed from the other day was trending on the first page of Google News.
A complicated problem of life put simply: People can get themselves to believe anything on one level. Believe anything about themselves. There is another level where they are incapable of getting themselves to believe the thing that is false which they so desperately want to believe. An "under" level. Life is then about finding way to focus on the top level, and bolster what one is trying to believe on that level, and drowning out everything occurring on the lower level. But it is never blocked out entirely. One percent of the lower level ultimately counts for more than any percentage of the top level. If someone else takes that person to their lower level (which they can do by what they say, write, or simply who they are, and the contrast provided therein), causes that lower level to rise up and get closer to the top level, then that person must be avoided, attacked, ignored, shunned, at any and all costs. This is another piece of the pie with which I have to contend right now.
I think we are at least on the road now to having the site fixed. When it's updateable again, I'm going to take a weekend--or two--and just sit here and upload a thousand links to their respective categories.
There are so many pieces from the likes of Vibe, Metropolis, MOJO, ARTnews, Film Comment, DownBeat, Spin, Architectural Record, Gramophone, that I just don't have any links for. I have the issues. Somewhere. In boxes. Later, I'll have to hire someone to help me digitize all of that. There will have to be an archival/records staff at some juncture. But that will come together after I have arrived at where I'm going to get. For almost a decade I was Rolling Stone's main book critic. Dozens and dozens of pieces. But that's not up online. Lots of my other Rolling Stone pieces. But not the book stuff.
What the site does, of course, among other things, is it makes it impossible for anyone to believe that I was not good enough or qualified enough to do such and such for so and so, or that anyone else was as qualified or wrote as well. The site and the volume and quality of the work, and not only the range of subjects, but how much there is on every last specific subject, prove that it is never the work, it's never the track record. So what is it then? Why isn't someone playing ball? It can only be personal, hate, jealousy, discrimination. That's leverage for me. I can confront someone on this. I can offer them the chance to provide a reason. They will not be able to. Then I do what I have to do. If you take it there--and I give so much rope, and hang in there for so long, and provide chance after chance for someone to stop doing what they are doing and act professionally--I eventually take it here. I do not want to. It's the last thing I want. But I'm not dying in poverty and anonymity because of someone else's hate, envy, and discrimination.
That's why it's important--in one regard--for the site to be as complete as possible. Because it's an atomic tank. The larger idea--and the idea for happier times--is that it's a living museum of unique art and entertainment from a unique artist and entertainer. And the wings, as such--the galleries--are always added to. Other writers have static sites with nothing--or nearly nothing--added to them. You know what will be added? Blurbs, quotes from friends, excerpts from puff piece reviews by reviewers all but on the take who didn't read the book or care about it at all, who just fluff. That is the new content. It's all connections. It's nothing to do with ability. Who they know, who they tongued, who tongue in return.
Sometimes it's about tonguing what that person represents within this diseased class system. That will come down to things like their name, their skin color, gender, where they went to school, how they look--big props if you're sufficiently pretentious that you wear a scarf indoors--and who their agent is. If you've done something they'd love to do, gotten something they'd love to have, and you are not one of them, their hate for you will be such that I honestly believe they'd let an entire nation perish than allow you to advance, in any way, if they can help it. If the God of Reality descended to them and said, "Okay, here's the choice, wipe out this island of people or allow this person to advance with this small thing you control, you have to pick one, them's the rules," I have no doubt in my mind--and I'm not being hyperbolic--that they'd elect to blow up the island.
None of this is real as what it purports to be. It's entirely about other things. The last thing that publishing is about right now--the absolute last thing--is the quality of the work, the value of the work, the utility of the work, what other people can get from that work--as entertainment, in acquiring knowledge, for a life experience, for new perspectives, for a better understanding of one's own perspectives, for laughs, for thrills, to be moved at the core of the soul. Any or all of the above. The dots are so close together that they're all but superimposed, when one thinks about why no one reads anymore. I don't think many people can see it, connect those dots, because so few people in the world now care about writing. When no one cares, anything, no matter how deplorable, can go down. Who would stop it? People are doing other things. No one looks at what is going on here, gets to the bottom of it, as it were. Tiresius had his blinds eyes, but he had a clue. No one has a clue about any of this.
And the people of the system have no awareness, they lie to themselves constantly--that's they only way they can get through life, as such--and they're invested in keeping the status quo in place, or else what would they do then? The design of it is perfect when you think about what they've done: that in driving away readers, in making the act of reading irrelevant and something no one cares about or does, or does worse than they would have, as a skill, because all they see is slop, they were then allowed to do whatever they wanted, unchecked. We talk about defunding the police. Scale it back. Well: The people of the publishing system abolished readers. They call it others things and they blame other people (the unwashed masses), and blame other factors (the internet, short attention spans, Netflix), but it all began here with the people of the system.
In the list of books to be written is one I will do when I have the platform--which I will have--exposing the truth about publishing, and what I had to overcome, coming from the person who has experienced more than anyone else in the system, at every level of it, in every corner of it, with just about everyone in it. Working title: Hey, Bigots: How the Evil, Corrupt Sub-Culture of 21st Century Publishing Really Works.
What's happening right now with this journal and the notifications, near as I can ascertain, is that some subscribers are getting them, and some aren't. It's not a setting thing, an email carrier thing--it's just the weird, messed up way it's working. Or not working. All of this should be fixed soon. I'm signed up myself, and I'm not getting the updates. When the fix occurs, I'll make sure to make a mention of that in these pages.
I have yet to send out an actual newsletter--another item on the to-do list--and it might be best to do that bimonthly, giving a big, old wrap-up, and I think the new webmaster will help. I did send a couple of gifts to Andrea the other day as a thank you. Hopefully she will like those. As for this journal, my intention all along was that people would just pick up on how this works, and know that if they came here, whenever they did--once a day, every other day--chances would be pretty high there'd be new entries. I've written more in this journal alone than I am sure anyone else in the world has written anything all together in the time since this record of a unique life was launched. It's a very small portion of what I've written, but it's a lot in and of itself.
Saw a woodpecker today in Chestnut Hill. I see woodpeckers around here infrequently. Would see them all the time in Rockport and I look forward to that again. But in Boston I only see maybe a half dozen woodpeckers a year, with all of the time I spend outside. What fun, fascinating animals. One of my favorite birds. This was a Hairy Woodpecker. I took a photo but I don't know how to zoom in and you could barely see it. I heard the bird pecking and once I hear that, I won't leave the spot until I've spotted the responsible party. Right near the Reservoir.
New flowers. Obviously Hallway Hermey is pumped.
This is a pitch to The Atlantic:
I had an idea for you that I've been working on. I'm also trying to ascertain who the fiction editor is presently, and finding myself stonewalled--ignored--in these attempts. I think my track record as a fiction writer speaks for itself. The Atlantic was going to try and run that story of mine a few years back, before you returned it to me without any explanation really. I know little in the way of fiction was going into the magazine at that point, and there was no web component for fiction, but obviously that's not the case now.
Here's an op-ed of mine on how we prematurely ascribe age to ourselves, and the manner in which that curtails our lives, which ran in USA Today on Monday.
It was brought to my attention this morning--via a screenshot--that this was the #1 trending piece on Google News. The op-ed gig has become big for me, with high-profile pieces coming out often now, to go along with all of my writings on arts, sports, and the fiction I do.
A lot of people know me for my Beatles writings. I had done that piece for you on Revolver years back, which you turned down, saying it said nothing new, which surprised me and others, as I'm known by Beatles people around the world as the writer on the band who always says something new. And says things no one else does. Which can get me in some trouble at times, and there are those who think of me as a polarizing figure on this subject. Now, part of that is because there are Beatles people who will broker nothing but platitudinous praise regarding the band, but I'm also known as the stylist, in terms of the actual prose, among Beatles writers. I've written about the band for both the print version of The Atlantic, and the website.
At some point this year--so we have time, and it's not a case of "well, these next two issues are spoken for"--that Peter Jackson film on Let It Be is coming out. I've seen the trailer, and some other footage has been leaked to me, given what I do. The film will try to present a cheery, festal face on these Beatles of the time, a kind of whitewashing of where they were at, as a band, which I think will do them a disservice in the name of what a Rolling Stone editor of mine used to call "pressing the nostalgia" button--especially for a reality that never truly was. Or wasn't at the juncture of January 1969.
The Beatles were highly competitive, and not nurturing people in this way, and I think everyone overlooks this now. It's part of what made them great. They were cutthroat when it came to dealing with each other, in terms of making art, and with other artists. This goes back to their earliest days. The best music the Beatles made was because of tension, of competition. Paul McCartney resented Stuart Sutcliffe in the pre-fame years, and that drove him to make the band ever-tighter. Lennon and McCartney were always trying to out-write each other, and would even race home from the studio to be the one who got the head start on writing what was hoped to be the next A-side to a single. They warred with the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, the Who. There was, for instance, a party that Mick Jagger gave, when he cranked the newly released Beggars Banquet by the Stones. Paul McCartney arrived, and asked if he could play an acetate of a little something he'd been working on. Jagger says, sure, go ahead, and McCartney drops "Hey Jude" on the stereo, and no one was talking about Beggars Banquet anymore. And then he just left.
There is so much footage of the Beatles at Twickenham Film Studios, so of course you can find plenty of examples of people smiling and what not. When a loved one is dying and we're camped out in the ICU for a vigil, people still laugh. Someone makes a joke. That's the nature of being human. The interviews that the Beatles gave spoke to what an awful time this was, but it fueled them, as conflict always had. As competition always had. There are eighty hours of unreleased music from this period. I have, of course, heard and studied it all. It's gotten a bum rap as music over the years, but these were also not happy campers. What happens is a version of that release we feel in A Hard Day's Night when the fictionalized version of the Beatles escape from the TV studio, and run out into that field. Only here the field is the rooftop of the Apple studio, where the bubbled-over tension and conflict leads to what I think might be the greatest concert--or "concert"--in rock and roll history, the Beatles re-posited as a bar band that could take your head off.
Whitewashing the Beatles does their art no good. I saw this debate on Facebook yesterday, where someone bemoaned how they don't like to see someone else say that Buster Keaton was better than Charlie Chaplin (never mind that it's not particularly close). They added that artists aren't in competition with each other, and I thought, of course they are. The best ones are. We want to protect the "feelings" at all costs now, but the Beatles were absolute motherf---ers of competition. The Beach Boys dropped Pet Sounds on the world, so the Beatles had to try and top it with Sgt. Pepper. I watch something like The Last Dance, and then everyone talks about how competitive Michael Jordan was--and I wrote on the docu-series, too--and it's like, no, doesn't compare to the Beatles, to Beethoven, Dylan. And that's awesome.
This will be a complete different take, from this person (there was also an op-ed on John Lennon in The Wall Street Journal that isn't listed here)
and we'd do well with it. I think it'd explode.
And if you could let me know who is handling fiction, I'd appreciate it. I have some of the best material I've ever done in my life in a few stories like "Girls of the Nimbus," "Fitty," "A Listener's Story," and this new one on race called "Mr. Ogilvie," that are flooring the people who see them. It's the best stuff I can do. And what I put out there keeps doing more and more.
Hope you're well.
This is part of a letter to Rolling Stone. They don't publish fiction, but I had something awesome, special, cutting-edge, fresh, shareable, and I thought, you can make some hay--and rack up the shares, get people talking--with this particular one-off. Because it's an amazing work. I don't know who could have anything at all like it. So I took a shot.
Something crazy here, but hear me out? Been mulling mentioning this to you for a couple weeks, and finally just thought, "eh, f--- it, can't hurt to bring up."
This fall will mark the 50th anniversary of "Stairway to Heaven." I think it's now somewhat unfairly neglected because of how much its ubiquity has been lampooned. That is, it's not as ubiquitous as tired old saws would have us believe.
I wrote a short story about it. But hold on--there's more. I wrote a short story about new ways to hear a song like this, and how that's actually facilitated by the internet--which can often symbolize the death of culture, thought, and identity, but there's this wild, wonderful place where I encounter some of the truest, most real, most human writing there is: in the comments on YouTube. I read a lot of these comments, amazed by the genuineness, the art in the writing at times, the naked humanness on display. And also the stories that emerge--sometimes accidentally.
So I wrote this piece which takes the form of a comments section in following from "Stairway to Heaven," complete with internet trolls, COVID, a few people who care, and a whole new kind of insight into the song.
I know this is different for RS, obviously, that someone would even have something like this. Maybe it could be a web thing, or get tucked away in the magazine. Or nothing at all. But it's a thought, and I think it's a damn good one.
It's also not long, word count-wise. Doesn't eat up a lot of real estate. I had attention spans in mind, and didn't want this to be some 3000 word deal. More like a page or two.
No one else will have anything like this. It is unique. You probably have a "Stairway" or Led Zeppelin IV piece in mind, so this could buttress that. It is in a Rolling Stone spirit, it's timely, it's ballsy, it's moving as hell, and legit good.
As I had mentioned, I had sent that Letter of Recommendation pitch about Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar to the guy at The New York Times Magazine who ignores me for years, but assigns my ideas when I give them to other writers. I sent him an additional one yesterday, pertaining to the BBC documentary, A Passion For Churches, which is from 1973. You can watch it on YouTube. Fascinating, addictive documentary about the imagination-stirring history of rural English churches, perfect for a stay-at-home COVID getaway, and you need not be religious in the slightest to get sucked into this world. The point of this column is to highlight cool ideas, activities, TV shows, films, records, etc., that are overlooked, which have also made an impact on the author's life. I've published 2500 works. How many of them fit that bill? Quite a few, right? But anyone knows it's not my work, it's not my track record. It's other things. So I'm trying these last two ideas with this person, and then the rubber meets the road, and I do what I have do, and I document the discrimination in specificity. None of it is defensible, and no one will be able to say it was anything else but discrimination. And then we will see where that leaves everyone. I have a bunch of these sort of entries to get up here in the near future. I hang in with these people for years. For often a decade. Or more. But there comes a time when it goes no further, and it's time to expose someone for what they are, what they do, how they operate. Then they can deal with the fallout. They can tell their friends to hate me, but they already do, because of what I do, and what they can't do. What I am, and what they are not. What I prove every single bloody week of my career. Even now. With all of these people against me. Someone opined to me today that what I'm doing, with the biggest body of work there ever has been, and the best work there is, of all kinds, is somehow keeping going as if I had Stage IV cancer of every organ and I was fixing my myself with home remedies, and strength of will. Refusing to die. Because that's how much I have stacked against me with these people. The eight balls I am put behind. The stacked decks. When I confront them in email, as I have been doing of late, you should see them backtrack. Because they know. They know. God do they know what they are doing. No one has been in this position with them, and no one has my unique track record in quality or volume or range. If you had ten of my things, and you represented the kind of person they like to put forward, you'd have endless riches and acclaim and the frauds of this system fawning over you. If you defecated on a piece of paper, they'd give it an award and you a lucrative book deal. And they don't want anyone publicly to know what they've done here with me because, again, there is no defense. It's not the work, it's not the kind of work being offered, it's not the track record. It's envy, it's fear, it's discrimination. It's sick, twisted, evil. I didn't take it here. They did.
There's a new Yardbirds compilation that has come out, themed around the band's appearances in France over a few years, with both the Beck and Page versions of the group. Everything of this nature I filter through my dream of the return to Rockport, to my house, with another house on Cape Cod. I think of playing an album like this at high volume on a snowy, February morning, my house all organized, knowing that my work is reaching the world as I wish it to, and there I am, in this clean, beautiful space, my film posters on the balls, bookcases everywhere, the ocean and Motif #1 mere paces away. That's happiness to me. Then I write and I know it will go where it deserves to go because it's the best, it's here to impact the world, and it goes where the most people will see it, and I know that, I just have to deliver. Make and deliver the best work. None of anything else that I deal with right now. I write "Eede Upstairs" and it gets to all of the people it should be getting to. Give the interview on TV. Sign the agreement to adapt the novel to the screen. Talk about sports on air before the big game. All of it. And there I am--I can be alone--and this Yardbirds album is playing. I can be alone until I meet that amazing person whom I not sure exists. It's just one album I do this with. That's how I think about new records, Blu-ray releases, books like these autobiographical writings of Arthur Machen that someone just sent me. I think about experiencing them in those places, when that is my reality.
Items to add to Athena's Annex: Notes on Overlooked, Life-Changing Masterpieces. Duke Ellington's January 1943 Carnegie Hall concert, Ornette Coleman's Hillcrest Club recording, the Who's performance of "A Quick One (While He's Away)" from The Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, E.M. Delafield's Diary of a Provincial Lady, 1945's Le Vampire. The book is 1/10th of the way written. Straightforward premise: 100 such works of art, each given a 600-word entry.
I still don't really know what the Sam Cooke book looks like--the text--but I spoke to Bloomsbury about the possibility of doing an index. I decided against it. My aim was to create a narrative. A story. For the book to be its own journey. I felt an index was counter to this idea, moved the book into reference territory. Plus, what would have been in that index, when divorced from context, would look strange. I mean, why the hell is Nevin Markwart of all people coming up several times in this book about a Sam Cooke concert from February 1963? But within the context of the story, it makes organic, lived-in sense. My books are unlike any other books. All of my books. Each of the kinds. They will have different rules. Or, rather, different ways they function.
Have a couple essays I think I can sell. One's a personal essay pertaining in part to this second grade teacher I had--she sucked--and the other is about publishing, via George Gissing's 1891 novel, New Grub Street, regarding which Johnny Diamond and John Freeman combined to steal money from me over at Lit Hub. The Freeman entry on here will be extensive. Not only is this man a thief, he is sufficiently bigoted that he actually emailed me to say that if I wrote the Bible, he would not allow it to be published. But I will treat him in full. Not doing that in this entry. I want everyone like him to have their own stand-alone page.
I watched Hellraiser (1987), Come and See (1985), I See a Dark Stranger (1946), March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934).
I have now heard and reheard just about every second of the fifty-plus five-part episodes of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. I'll put the best of them up there with almost anything. The most important artistic discovery I've made in half a dozen years. In one episode from 1956, Dollar says something to the effect that very few people actually care about justice, or want it--what they really want is to win. To get theirs. Those words from sixty-five years ago could not be more true for our own age. And some of the other lines, as writing--"I left him there in the cantina with his love and his hate"--nail the perfect note.
Hair is fairly long.