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Dark waters

Monday 7/1/19

Another lonely weekend. Very hard. Completely alone. As ever.


On a different lonely weekend, several years ago, I was off on one of my twenty mile walks. These walks are noted less frequently in these pages--hardly at all--because I haven't been doing nearly as many of them in the thirteen or so months I have been keeping this record, which is now the length of four full books. That is because I have been doing more straight-out cardiovascular centered rounds of fitness--the running, the Monument climbs. For the past seven years, in each year I have written more than any writer has ever written in any year of their lives. But that being the case, I have written even more than I have ever written, by a goodly gap, in the past year. Because I have gotten better yet again, significantly better, and I have still, somehow, continued to fight, even as parts of me break down. As those parts break down, this one part--the genius creative part--has, for whatever reason, risen up higher. That is not to say that if other parts recovered and happiness came to me and my torments were over and my just desserts in hand that it would not continue to rise; it would rise higher and faster because I could not wait to create, knowing that millions of people would soon see the matchless works of art and entertainment that I had composed, invented, premiered, unleashed. Such a day, when it comes, for me, will be heaven on earth, and I will know a fuller happiness, because of who I became, because of what I knew, what I had experienced, what I could do, what I became about, than anyone has. I thought yesterday how after that point, I would write a book, a memoir, another memoir, called New Job. I have been New Job for so long, but on the bad side of the ledger, and i have kept my faith, in art, in love, in God, in myself. That is borne out not just by my words, but my actions, and the actions of my words and the words of my actions. The words and actions of my art.


But my ship is being carried off course for the sake of this journal entry. I was on a long walk some years ago, which concluded at the MFA. There are many acorns upon the ground behind the museum--for some reason, I only enter at the back, like I'm slipping into the secret door of a clubhouse--which I enjoy stepping on and feeling under my feet, when I saw a family with a young child, a boy, complaining about something or other. It must have been walking too much, because his mother said, "Don't miss out on something in this life because you didn't want to walk another twenty feet." There's a metaphor in that. A profound one. Yesterday for the second day in a row, I climbed the Bunker Hill Monument ten times. That is 24,000 stairs in a weekend. And walked three miles. On climb five or six, I was nearing the top. There were some young people in front of me--say, twenty-five. They were fit. They were complaining about how hard it was to walk up all of these stairs. We were about twenty stairs, out of the 294, from the top, which has lookout points in four directions. The views are excellent, and they give you a lot to focus on, a lot to try and pick out; your eyes can really have a nice time, get their exercise in. A couple friends of these young people were coming back down the stairs, and the ones ascending, having climbed most of the way, asked if it was worth it. They were told it was not, and that was enough for them. They turned right then and there, and began the descent. That's another metaphor, and a metaphor for our age. Someone says something, and it is instantly believed, simply because it was said. Think about all of the times on social media that someone desperate for attention goes on and says that some monk at the Trader Joe's tried to abduct her for his sex vihara, and then all of the other people, the gullible toads of our society, say, "I am so sorry that happened to you," when nothing ever did, and nothing ever does, because this is how life is frittered away, at the cost of actually living one. It just made me think.


Yesterday I wrote an op-ed on Billie Holiday. July 17 is the sixtieth anniversary of her death. The op-ed is not to be confused with the Billie Holiday essay I wrote on Thursday. All different. Excerpt:


Holiday seemed incapable of failing her listeners, even as her voice broke down in the final decade of her star-crossed life, when garnet-encrusted sandpaper became the textural norm in lieu of crushed velvet. Some singers sing to dazzle, others sing to reach us; Holiday dazzled with her genius in reaching us. Call it the Lady Day chiasm.


But it seems that we listen to Holiday less and less at a time when we need her more and more, while we are using her visage for all of the wrong reasons. She is a victim of what I call posteriziation: that is, her image of the black, strong, female artist, has become a kind of symbol of empowerment, presumably, by the very same people who miss out, by their own choice, on the most salient thing Billie Holiday had to offer: her music.


Holiday would have detested this. It is, ironically, a form of objectification, and also one of tunnel-visioning in on her sex and her skin color.


I wrote McSweeney's, The Washington Post, USA Today, the LA Times. I finished my reread of The Love You Make. As a reading experience--which is what I care about--it is the best Beatles bio. You see, I am gathering info, I am taking stock, because when I do my Beatles books, I am making sure that there are no Beatles books to touch them. Not that I need to do this kind of survey for that to be the case and result, but this book is also discussed in my book, Same Band You've Ever Known, and I'm doing it right. The end part of that book is very sad. The best part of the Beatles' story, as a story, is before they made it. I don't wonder that if one were speaking to them, or their spirits, that they'd tell you the same thing from a personal standpoint. The days in vans was when they truly seemed the happiest. When they were the closest, when they were most in love with rock and roll. The first chapter about Same Band is about that, essentially.


I discussed with Kimball what we will discuss on Tuesday. That will be two-fold, which is kind of one-fold: Fourth of July literature, as I have a piece coming out in The Washington Post looking at some of the best selections for the day, and my novel-in-progress, Musings with Franklin. Twice I have invented a new kind of novel. This was the first time. (Meatheads Say the Realest Things was the second.) It is told entirely in conversation between Writer--who thinks he is dead and in hell--Bartender, and the pervy guy from the suburbs who dresses up as Ben Franklin. It's set in a bar. But they tell stories, which ropes in other characters, within their conversations. It's hilarious, gutting. If you wanted to write your dissertation on it, you could call it a novel for the text-speak age, a sort of post-post-modernism, or if you just loved to laugh your ass off, you could pick it up at any point and get that from it. Of course, no one will put it out, because it's by me--Hello, I'm Colin Fleming--and because--and this is even worse in this case--it's completely new. It's fresh. It's exciting. It could be very popular, but there is no comparison point. When you are largely dealing with humorless, visionless people, who always check their files to see what they can compare the latest mediocre book to, it's tough. You're looking for the exception. I am not sure that even one exists. I don't think one does.


With backing and support, it could be everywhere and beloved. Even without backing and support, it's so different that it would stand some kind of a chance in the interim before backing and support do come, however they come. Maybe backing and support come via a radio show I host, or who knows what. It doesn't matter. The coming of them matters. Not the make or the means. The sheer novelty would invite curiosity. It's also a great book about friendship. With the Franklin aspect, we'll discuss it in connection with the actual Ben Franklin's writings, and also the baseball fiction writings of Ring Lardner, who was doing, what do you know, his version of what I am doing; something new, something conversationally driven, and this only resulted in the best sports novel in history with You Know Me Al, which I wrote about for The Atlantic, before they did to me what they did, which, as I've said, I've been writing about, documenting deed by deed, person by person, which is saved in drafts here; it's not an entry I want to have to post, but you take all my options from me, iniquitously, you take everything from me, and I'm not just going to stay down on the mat for you.


I realized I have not posted some recent things on here, as is my wont, so I will do that now. I did post a link for the last Downtown appearance, in which we discussed Orson Welles and the Beatles and what the best artists have in common, which is also gets into the gist of Same Band You've Never Known. This is a discussion of my first book, Dark March: Stories for When the Rest of the World is Asleep. I have four books that have been published thus far. I have half a dozen other completed titles of all stripes sitting here with me in this hell I am locked into. Even purgatory seems a long ways off. They are all listed in the Books tab, and if you like reading along with this, i suggest you read along with the books, for a different kind of mind-blowing. They are not like any books you've ever read. Just like this journal is not like any journal you've ever read. I discussed hockey, too. Also, the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and how friendship is a lost art--dying art--here in 2019. And we discussed my new book, Buried on the Beaches: Cape Stories for Hooked Hearts and Driftwood Souls--or, rather, the first three stories in it. We'll discuss the rest later on two other segments. I cover a lot in this particular talk. I get into the methodology of what I am trying to do when I talk on the radio, and also what I was thinking--I was thinking about people in San Jose--when I wrote this Cape Cod-set book.


What is killing me is that this book should be a bestseller even if it just had New England support. It's the ultimate beach read. It's also art. The art does not infringe upon the beach read-ness of it, nor does the beach read-ness limit the art. It's harder to put down than that first slice of pizza you have when you get back from a nice long day at the beach and you have some good beer, too. And from what would have happened locally, it would have gone on to do things nationally. But that's not how it goes when an entire industry has an embargo on coverage of your work. Think I'm lying? Have a look around. Do you see anyone else in any of the places I'm in--do you think people have fiction in Harper's only to have that be the last story they can move, who then get zero coverage for their next book--with no reviews, no mentions, no inclusion on any lists? Of course not. You'd have to be me and have them doing this to you. I'm not making it up. You can verify it as easily as I can. That's the reality, that's the proof. That's how it is right now. And I could be in every single magazine and newspaper in this country with my work this week, and they'll make me pay, and it will get harder. Envy, fear, hate. I'm obviously a good person. I obviously work my ass off. I obviously possess the talent I do. I have done nothing to these people. This is the Pat Metheny review that I wrote for JazzTimes that day I went up to Rockport and had the panic attack there. This is another piece I wrote for JazzTimes on the relationship between cinema and jazz and the ten best jazz films. This is a piece I wrote for The American Interest on Howard Hawks' The Thing from Another World and its relevance in our echo-chamber age. I need to write on Melville's poetry for The Washington Post and a brace of Booth Tarkington novels for the TLS and Roma for Salmagundi swiftly. And also finish the Joan Harrison essay.


I listened to a T-Bone Walker album yesterday, T. Rex's The Slider, Radiohead's Amnesiac, an LP of BBC recordings by the Swinging Blue Jeans. I was going to go to the Brattle to see Antonioni's L'Avventura on 35mm, but I did not, though I did screen 1944's Dark Waters, which Joan Harrison wrote. What does it look like to have days like this:? You don't stop. You don't even stop to eat. You don't eat. It's simply constant work and motion. Until you are done at night, then you are still thinking, inventing, planning, sending out letters. There is not a second of watching TV, lightness, anything like that. That's how it is presently. It is ten of eleven in the morning right now--I have composed the first 2500 words of a new personal essay that is awesome and quite funny, about my great aunt Dot and what makes a person a good person--which is certainly more complex than we think in the snap-reaction age--and which I will post--that section, that is--in another entry on here in a bit. You'll like it. Truly like it. Writers are usually boring, reading is usually boring--this is something else entirely by someone else entirely. But now I need to walk and do some climbs.