I was not productive last week. I need to be, because a larger piece has fallen off the refrigerator and that's going to have to be replaced soon. I won't get much more time out of it, and that's with starting every day drying the floor in the kitchen, taking out the crisper tray, wiping all the water out of there. The toilet was spraying water out the top--a flow tube issue, I believe--and I couldn't fix the toilet on my own, so I have to call the plumber. I haven't been working out much either. Okay, I ran 18,000 steps last week, but that was bunched within three days. I walked three miles yesterday just to get some blood flowing.
I wouldn't say I am feeling overwhelmed, but I have created a situation where I have what is actually 300 works going at the same time. Yes, the number is real. As an artist, all is within my comfort zone, but it's also important to be cutting this list down, because I'm always adding. There are great stories here that were started that need to be finished--"Captain Enclave," "Elvis is Admirable," "Complete Set," "First Last Date," "Up the Sea," "Pre," "The Shape of the Shore," "The Hornet." So many others. New stories I've come up with that need to be done--"Birchbark," "Large Hot, Just Milk," "Aisle Seat," "Metal Bodies," "Pitch Back," "Apple Culls," "Peaceable Assembly," "Mount Edifice," "Progress Reports," "Wet on Wet," "Movie Night," "Find Us," "This, This is the Point," "Sensible Heat," "Take and Care," "Hear Fishy," "First Eye," "The Frontage Road." And again, so many others. The books. Music books, of which there are ten more. These other story collections--ghost story book, female collection two, news stories, the other one. Novels--Freeze Tag, Franklin, EU, ten others. The other Beatles book. Clean up the jazz book and the first Beatles book. Then all of the pieces I have to write. The Sam Cooke LOC piece, a Buster Keaton feature, various jazz features. The introductions for Longer and Glue God. The Billie Holiday proposal. The first memoir. I need to always be going. The hardest part of that isn't having the ability to do it. I have a mind like no other. It's doing it when in this situation, as thousands of people look to suppress it. That's so much harder than if I know it's going from farm to farm stand to table, do you know what I mean? And I can't get it there fast enough.
The only way to do this is by putting the time in. Every day, an honest day's effort. Not doing this mercurial dabbling I can do, where I get so much done. I go in these huge bursts of energy. But I need to make sure the hours are also adding up and there isn't much, if any, down time. Then there is this journal. Keeping it up to date is one thing, but there are also people and places that need to go up on here and be shown for what they are. That's what gets left behind more than anything else as I work, because the formal work takes precedence. But the formal work isn't going to get a chance unless I am putting everyone and everything up on here that needs to go up on here. Soon it seems I'm going to have to air out someone on here who thinks, in a theoretical way, that they are an ally. I wrote them again yesterday, so politely, asking them to share my work, when it's obvious what they're doing, and the different treatment they're subjecting me to. And no results. In a way, the back of the hand across my face, once more. I'll wait a bit longer, because I have reason to with another project, but in the interim, the evidence simply mounts. I also have all of these other stories to return to and fix. I'm really going to have to throw aside the clothes and dive in deep on a number of them I was glancing at today.
I'll likely be turning "The Hornet" from a first person story into a third person story. I love things like this. There's just so much you have to control. And infinite number of factors, really, and you wield such power in that control if you know what you're doing. I love the exact, highly precise reasons that are so clear to me, so inevitable to me, that would never occur to anyone else, for doing what I do, knowing what it will do. Everything about writing as art, has always made perfect sense to me. I see so much, all at once, with such ease. "The Hornet" will likely go into No Mercy When We Get There: Stories to Put You on Your Ass. I know that subtitle is forbidden, as in, "agains the rules of publishing and what is becoming!"
Maybe we need that. I have full knowledge that publishing does not put out books for people to read. To love. To be impacted by. Especially when it comes to "literary fiction." I hate that term. But one knows what I mean. But hey, publishing: no one reads it. No one cares. No one wants it. It's all bad. All of the approaches are bad, too. There is not a single good writer of so-called literary fiction in the world right now. Quote me. Everyone got caught up in some wheel of the system. Whether that's the MFA wheel, the academia wheel, the Brooklyn crony wheel. Then there's me. I'm the only chance moving forward. And I thought, well, why try to hew to bad rules of a broken, diseased system? Because some miserable, blue-blooded fossil will say, "You can't do that! Where is your propriety?" Some desiccated, toothless snake, sort of sitting there rotting in the grass, fanging itself through its lower lip, waiting on its crony snakes to come along and drop off the ass end of a rotted mouse, which is what passes for sustenance, and leave it there to be picked over, like a Bradford Morrow, would think that way. But those types are all really dead anyway, regardless of age, even if they just got their driver's license renewed. Whereas, I think people want to be knocked on their asses by something they read. Or would, if they believed that writing could do that. I like having to live up to a subtitle. "Oh yeah? This guy thinks his stories can knock me on my ass? We'll see about that." Then, boom, we will.
Stories--be they short stories, novel stories, or stories that are longer on the inside--must offer no mercy. They have to take your heart. Completely. Not a fraction of your heart. Now, they can hand your heart back to you, when it's all said and done--i.e., read--but that's not a gesture of mercy; that's part of a process of transformation. I don't think great art gives emotional quarter, intellectual quarter, or spiritual quarter. And it doesn't do that because it is for you. Because that would be to cheap out on you with the wonder you have coming. And you don't deserve that. Imagine if someone actually tried something different? If it wasn't the same old shit? And if that person was the best anyone could be at this? How about we try that?
I want to make things very easy on myself with EU as I do it. I'll react and adapt, but in the larger sense I wish to be executing a plan.
The time of the game today could help the Bruins. It's a matinee. Why would it help them? Different look. Break in the routine. These games have all been night games. Get the Caroline team out of that routine at home where they've been so dominant. Matinees can be weird. Any mix change on the road is good for the Bruins, as far as I'm concerned. I'm more invested in the Celtics because I think the Celtics are good enough to win a championship, whereas the Bruins are not. I'd bet that both of them get knocked out in their current rounds, but it should be interesting, and I also wouldn't be surprised if both advance. Bergeron has not been good in Carolina. He needs to hold his own, I think, for them to win. And for all of the talk of how wonderful Charlie McAvoy is, I've really not ever seen it. He's not dominant. Ever. Be dominant. Win your team a game. The best defensemen all do. Hedman can win you a game. Makar can win you a game. Win a game. Dominate in all three zones. I've never seen him just be the guy, the carrier. He wasn't even the Bruins' leader in ice time last game and was behind the leader by like four minutes. That is telling. No one says anything about it because people are idiots, but it tells me something.
I've noticed that since the Blue Check Mark on Twitter, people are even more intimidated by me, or there's more envy, and this need to position one's self against me. I write Twitter like it's for a book; you can put it all in a book, and I will take you on, Pascal; a fascinating, peerlessly written compendium of art, sports, film, nature, life, literature, fitness, history, literature, endurance; you could say that it's this journal in miniature. It is infinitely more fascinating than what anyone else writes on Twitter. Go look. One will see that nobody hits the like button. Prior to the Check Mark, one or two people would...sometimes. Rarely. Now, no one will. And I know what people think of the posts when they see them. I am the only person on there who gives you anything worth a damn or worth seeing or that you think or care about. But there's a game being played, that we must not openly support or show approval of Fleming, why, confound, he's smarter than I am! and besides, no one else is hitting that like button, I'm not going to be the only one.
Everyone thinks some version of some of that. Half of that, whatever you want. But the answer is entirely in there. Again, there is really one issue here, one problem to solve, for all of the pieces of that problem. It all comes back to that quote of Thoreau's. I don't need to type it in every time. Try the search engine on this site, if you don't know what I'm referring to. People try to compete against me. The irony is that they know they can't compete, so this becomes some petty, passive aggressive form of competing, the snivel, the sniggle, the take-the-ball-and-go-home pout. I'm smarter. It's not close, it's not measurable. We will never be close to the same level. That's not a reason to hate someone, fear them, act like a child towards them. Make a point of showing them you don't like what in fact you like more than anything else you see. I resent that idea of someone who is all "Let's see what Fleming has to say! Wow! Fascinating, fascinating, this is what I come here for, but screw him, with his being better than me, screw him hard."
That is the attitude. Do you understand what a low bar Twitter is? There is no one who says anything that anyone finds interesting, that they like reading, that they like seeing. I'm the exception.
Watched most of the Celtics game last night. Such an exciting series. Tatum was stellar.
To give an example of the screen-shotting thing. This press puts up a photo of a book of theirs on a display table at a store. Does the rah-rah: cheers, shows excitement. I send a photo of my book on the front table of a store. I didn't even want to send it, because I knew this would happen. It's the same photo. Same idea. Just a different book. They don't put it up--at all. It's that blatant. I become the bad guy when I am not okay with this, or point it out. It's also how it is everywhere, just about. With everyone I'm "with."
How do we justify this? The book isn't good enough? He's not good enough? The writing isn't good enough? The achievements of this person's career aren't good enough? No one thinks those things. So what remains? What remains are some pretty, well, let's call them not-so-great things. I am not trying to raze a bridge here. Why do you put up this meaningless selfie from one of your authors but not the awesome cover story from this one other one? Why do you share someone's piffle about how they began work on a book two years ago this very day, but not the fascinating interview with the person about their book? What am I supposed to do? I can't be more polite. This puts me in a bad position. It always does. One reason is because I have other projects. I have five books that I have to show one place that always does this to me, for example. Because where else can I take them, when someone is blackballed for greatness? Which is what this comes down to, and I think I've more than proven that. These pages more than prove it. The work more than proves it. The person's character--which is always on display here, and in the correspondence I share--always proves it. This isn't happening because of shortcomings or transgressions.
Here's another fun example of something. Last night I sent a book to someone. This is a seriously bad and crazy person. Once I had offered them a project, and they went on about what a huge fan of my writing they were, but that I didn't attach the file. Now, of course I did. But these people are often helpless. So, I apologized. I said my bad. I acted like it was my fault. I sent another email, with the file attached. Again. I knew they weren't good at managing things. Or got confused in the course of being busy. I'm not good at managing things right now, because dealing with this every day caused parts of me to break down years ago, and I'm not all the way back yet. I followed-up. This was deemed annoying. I wasn't told this, but because I had the temerity to ask after my project, I was banned. Cue the hate! So, I offered something else, in time, trying to start again, another amazing work. Again: should I ever apologize for offering you the masterpiece? Shouldn't you want to see as many as possible? Isn't that the whole point of your job at its best? Further, this person is so sick and evil, that they told one of their editors at this press, who is also an editor at the clubbiest of Brooklyn literary magazines, which publishes the most pretentious garbage, to ban me over there. And that person did, because these are spineless monsters. Coward-monsters.
But I still took it on myself. I tried to start over again. I apologized for things I didn't do. But they were rock hard at this point, because this is what these people get off on with someone who is in every way their superior. Every now and again, for years, I'd try, after being treated that way. Abused, that way. Discriminated against, that way. Slandered, that way. It had been a couple years since the last time. This person knows my work well. They see it often. How could you not? Plus, they told me they did. They are an admitted and avowed fan--or were, but it's not like the quality of the work has lessened. Do I like them? Obviously not. They're vile. But I'll still offer you the book, because I don't really care about how vile you are if the book gets the chance it should have. I sublimate everything to the work, including my feelings, my self-respect, and it's soul-crushing. It is some form of this with just about everyone. Genius Lives Matter. You have no idea how bad discrimination can be, until you're going through what I am currently going through, or you understand what is written, shown, proven, in these pages. All of that discrimination centered on one person. Not a group, but a single person. For reasons of virtues. For axiomatic reasons of virtues. For the most obvious reasons of virtues.
Going out to run stairs now. Getting a haircut later. Will write Kimball about Tuesday. Came up with a nice summation for the second Beatles book, which can be part of a cover letter, depending on who it goes to: "The Beatles as literature, literature as the Beatles."
People write me on here, and they ask me to do things for them, and they're often bad at it. They are insulting, they come off as never having interacted with a person before, they put things awkwardly. For instance, someone will ask me to do something for them, and they'll say that they hope I'm as excited about me doing them this favor as they are. What? Why would you say that? Or, I should say, write that? It didn't just fall out of your mouth--you wrote it, could look it over. Get it right. They're not bad people. I have nothing against them. I understand that it's hard to write me. It's intimidating. I make allowances. I don't want to hut people, make them feel dumb or anything or that they screwed up. And it's not everyone, but it's common. Because that's how people are, even decent people. My point is that if you go through millions--and it's millions--of my letters--emails--to publishing people, you will see the epitome of grace, tact, and professionalism. There are no holes in that game. As is frequently remarked to me by people in my life, the letters are themselves art. And I'm writing these letters, swallowing so much abuse. Taking it relentlessly. Now, there may come a time, after many years, when I finally say to you what you are, and spell out what you've been doing, and I have you bang to rights, fully caught, fully guilty, with this lengthy case, essentially, against you, and undeniable evidence, which will cause any objective party to know exactly who is right, and exactly who is wrong.
But in almost every instance, there was years of nothing but grace, tact, and professionalism behind everything I sent. It's ironclad. It's in the emails, it's nothing but bullet-proof proof. There is no bitching, no "do your job and get back to me" effrontery, no threats, no insults, no indication of impatience. It's a saint-like record, until enough is enough, and even then, in ninety-percent of the cases--and all of them now--I simply say the truth, sans spleen, sans swearing, as if I have no problem with seventeen million people seeing it. Conversely, these people are monsters. The way they write, demand, bitch, complain, in their insanity, their neuroses, their entitlement, their impatience, it's one missive after another that is coming in form truly bad people who let you know it. As I am branded the bad guy--the worst guy ever. And I write nothing like that, save with maybe a half dozen exceptions from back in the day when I did tell someone to fuck right off, after ten years of abuse. Out of what would be about ten million emails. One wants to say, "That was the problem, the number!" No. Everything to everyone was spaced apart. I think it's quaint now when an email provider prompts me by saying, "It's been a week, follow-up?" Because I rarely have ever done that. What I used to do was send you links to my new work. My great new work. Because anyone you might do business with should want to see the great new work in the places that they'd like other people to have their work. Again, should I apologize? Sorry for the great achievements and keeping you up to date? Sorry I achieve so much? I mean, my bad? Forgive me?
Which is insane. In time, these people, they hate you, because they could never do any of it, let alone all of it, let alone honestly. By which I mean, earning it without cronyism, nepotism, or any help at all, and so much resistance from this kind of person. But there I was, and there I am. And it's not like if I sat back and did nothing, kept the achievements top secret, that things would have magically been better. Because they would have seen a bunch of it, and I'm not one of them. They only look after their own. You have to be as bad at writing as they are, as dumb as they are, as privileged as they are, as socially awkward as they are, as broken as they are, as meaningless as they are, save in this one way where they are exerting any significance of influence, in making things that much harder for the artist this world needs as much as it has ever needed anything. And other things, too--don't be athletic. Don't be a white male genius from Boston. Don't be polished, legitimate, and achieving every day. Producing every day. Doing things in quality, range, and volume, that defies the parameters of human possibility, to say nothing of expectations, and the comfort zones of others, which are based on what they can do. For people in publishing, those walls--those parameters--are that much closer than for even people out in the world. The walls are practically touching. You can't fit a mosquito into the room.
I had a buddy who used to tell me to go to NYC to meet these people. He said, "You are the most charming person, and genuine, hilarious, they'll love you." I knew they were wrong. But at the time--this stopped back in 2010 or so--I didn't know all that I now know, to the degree--that 100% degree--that I know it, because of all of the evidence over another dozen years. I'd get a bus to NYC, and I'd go around meeting with these people, vile sub-humans like Brigid Hughes at A Public Space. You know what she did? She had me wait for ten minutes at their offices in Brooklyn, sitting on a ratty couch in what seemed like an abandoned garage, as she enacted this routine, this piece of tosser-performance art, with a man with a ponytail who was every pretentious publishing person cliche you could imagine. You know what the routine was? They were going to play tennis the next day, and she said, "You better prepare yourself for a besting." And then he'd say, "You best prepare thyself for a besting, m'lady." And she'd go, "It is you who will be bested." And so on.
And I'm thinking, "wow, these absolute losers, and rude losers, too...if the people I know could see this...just wow." And the work they publish is a kind of on-the-page version of this same vapid meaninglessness by people just like them. It is people like this in fiction form, prose form. That's what literary fiction now is. And it's why no one is ever going to truly want any of it.
You think someone like that was going to like me or ever let me in? Of course not. Unless they have to. Unless. They. Have. To. They can put that to me any way they want, when they think that time has come; they can pretend that they finally have the right book ("Yes, There Is No Doubt is a real departure for you, would you be amenable to this offer, we'd love to get this out") or story ("I especially admired how 'Desilva' foregrounds narrative utility") from me, or it's time to let bygones be bygones, like I'm in on the bad behavior, and if it's worth it to the work, I will play along, and let you say whatever you think you need to say. I just care about the work and the reach of the work.
So I'd meet these people, and sure, there were some exceptions--James Marcus, for instance, who is a good guy, stand-up guy, smart guy, good writer, self-assured guy, knowledgeable guy, and even still, that took eight years--and because I was not the awkward kind of freak-show they were, they'd detest me a different way. My friend was totally wrong--in a way. He wasn't wrong in the sense--one that he didn't even know he was speaking to--that when you're dealing with people like this, and you're not just not one of them, but the extreme opposite of them, there's nothing you can do via pressing the flesh, your publication record, the quality of your work, that will help; but it also won't hurt because that's irrelevant; you're fate is determined by not being one of them; it's that simple; in truth, all of those things make it worse, insofar as deepening the envy and insecurity. The more extreme those good things are, the worse it becomes. It's like if I put you up on here. It doesn't change anything, in terms of "Oh no, now they won't let you in." You were already doing what you were doing because you're that kind of person, and I am what I am. You were that way without us ever having interacted. Without me even reaching out and offering something. But it certainly can change things, because now this is public, and you are caught and exposed. And once you're caught and exposed, that can always get worse, and impact you more, cost you your job, the rickety, temporary structure that is your reputation, until you decide that this isn't what you want, and it's time to stop doing the thing you've been caught doing, so that the problem will go away, and you have to make it right by, perish the thought, putting forward the best work that there is. And no one is going to look at "Fitty" vs. something in A Public Space--or pick what you want; The New Yorker--and say, yeah, that other thing is better than the story about the kid and the teacher. Subjectivity has been entirely removed from this equation. That is one of the most salient truths I've learned in doing this--underline that one. Something else has to happen. To force the hands. Or a combination of things. This journal can be one of them. The truth being made to out can be one of them. But something is going to set off the chain reaction, in which those others things are involved--like this journal and the undeniable quality of the work--and culminate in the explosion where it all changes. People talk about getting on the right side of history. I'd say that'd be a wise course here. But I'd also say to get on the right side of the explosion. I am too much for something not to give eventually. And the work is too, too much.
Look: I don't want to be anyone's friend here. I just want it to be professional and fair. I want to reach a lot of people, I want to make a lot of money, I want to make others a lot of money because they allowed the work to be the work, and we just kept it at that, and nothing else. The work is everything, because it is everything. That statement is not as simple as it seems.