I was at the Harvard Coop on Saturday, before attending a couple film screenings. There's a large wall of magazines in a well-lit spot, abutting the popular cafe--you all but walk into it when you come up the stairs, on account of the directional flow. Until recently, there were more literary magazines stocked here than anywhere else in Boston or Cambridge, by far. We are talking Boston, Cambridge. Hotbed of intellectualism. (Right.) Now, at the Harvard Coop, there are no literary magazines. The size of the shelves remains the same, but in all of the years I looked at the literary magazines there, to see the latest giant round-up of favor trading and awful writing, never--not once--did I witness someone buy a literary magazine.
When you fill issues, from page one to the last page, with bad writing, that no one on earth could be moved by, connect with, find entertaining, compelling, when you favor trade with your similarly untalented friends, this is what happens. Maybe once every six years I would see something in a literary magazine that any normal person out in society might care about, but it was as if it did not exist, because it was buried in wall-to-wall meaninglessness that was painful to read--not in the good "I feel this so deeply way"--or boring, or, most commonly, both. The lit mag double dip. I saw thousands of examples of bad, prosaic, pretentious prose--so pretentious, but not smart, a lethal--and yet, laughable--combo; MFA-machined fiction, with no story, boring lives being adapted into so-called fiction forms that was just autobiography delivered in the safest, most lifeless, starchified--with token description--language there has ever been. A grocery list has more narrative value than almost all of this. They are also more revealing.
There you go. Even the main bookstore at Harvard won't stock the journals. Maybe constant favor trading with meaningless work was not the best way to proceed? Maybe it didn't make you better than everybody, or anyone?
I have a dilemma. I have, as I have made mention in these pages, more stories at present than I would wager anyone has ever had. There is this one place I've been trying to situate a story. My reasons are personal. But I have had to figure out a kind of deadline. I've been asking a few friends at what point I light up the person behind this venue on this blog. Almost everything in every issue--which is themed--is by a friend of theirs. Someone on their staff. Someone formerly on their staff. They don't pay. Why did I mention it was themed? Writers rarely have large amounts of diverse material (or any) lying around. And the chances that that material would fit some specific theme, issue after issue, or that they would say, "right, I will produce a brace of new works, say, 15,000 words' worth, and shoot that along for consideration," is a big old mega-laugh.
Most writers right now hardly write anything at all. They talk about writing. But they produce little. If a theme is announced, what I can do is scan through my master list of stories, which is at whatever number it is at, and because I never write the same story twice, I never write in the same style, mode, form, and I invent new modes and forms of fiction, with regularity, I'll have something for your theme, no matter how specific, probably, which these things never are. They are loose-y goose-y so that the friends can be welcomed in. Further, because I can create a work of art in very little time, simply because I decide to do so, I'll compose six, seven, eight stories for the theme. Specifically for that theme. Now, the work is by no means limited to that theme. And what this person is doing, for the most capricious reasons--we're not talking much more than "I'd rather this were blue than green"--is turning down every last one. But they're giving me a few lines, because I think they get off on this. I think they're also trying to protect themselves. But they don't want me to have any of that real estate. The idea, though, that these other writers, issue after issue, have super specific stories that always hit the most central portion of the theme issues target? Bullshit.
When I say I know exactly how everyone has their work in an issue, I am understating that. It's me. The degree of thoroughness--I don't just know; I know to the umpteenth degree, and I can give you the entire blow-by-blow provenance--is not a degree of specificity people are accustomed to. Further, I know exactly how that editor has gotten what they have gotten elsewhere. You cannot do anything to me at this point when I speak out, because I am already blackballed amidst these people, and yet, I still publish more than anyone. I am not killable that way. In instances like these, you're not taking money from me because it's negligible here, if there's any money at all. I run zero risk in a complete expose of how you act, have acted, discriminate. That then creates the hit on Google, too, as this blog surges in readers and reach, which it is doing all of the time now. And you're probably not doing too much in your life and career. And this blog is doing things every week, as I do things in my life and career ever week. And that hit moves up the Google list. And then, near the top, there we are. Hello.
So I was trying to determine a number. At what point do I say, "enough is enough?" I cannot let someone attempt to control me indefinitely this way, fob me off. Why have I let it go on here? Because they're responsive, technically. But it's very hard to think I am not being handled, that they may well be getting off on thinking they can do this to me, evening out the score, as it were, and when I show the dossier of all of this to people--and people who know my work I have offered--and I add nothing else--that is, I want their input and opinion,I don't want to influence either--they come back to me, in more animated terms, that yeah, it is clear as dawn in the desert what is going on here. Me, I want to make sure to the very final degree.
The work is superior. No unbiased third party would think there is any comparison. And the argument of, "maybe what you do is not just a fit," is a useless one, because it's always new and different, I don't have my go-to form and style, and in a single day I will create five works that strain belief that they could have come from anything but five--at minimum--different humans. What I do pushes to the final edge of credulity, and is undeniably real because it exists, you see it, experience it, feel it. You don't accept it in concept, and I'm not sure you can. You accept it because of the resulting realities. Not "how can this be?" but rather "we have to adjust now, because this is what it is, it's all here." It's all over this website. If this website did not exist, this unique battle tank of proof, I could not say these lines, or many others, because no person would believe them, because that's not how we are. But it's how I am.
My thinking is we have reached the final issue where I'm willing to play ball and pretend that nothing untoward is going on here. We are thirty works deep, all for themes, most of them written exactingly for the themes. You're not going to be smarter, you're not going to be better prepared, you're not going to be able to defend yourself, because I have the facts and the truths--and good God do I have the work, in countless forms; and a track record now in which each week is another person's career--ready to roll out into the world. We'll see. I'll give it just a little bit more time. But we're officially on the clock now.
I never want it to come to this. But as should be plain by now, I am not losing this war, I'm not even going to lose this part of it, and I'm not sitting back and just taking what's happening. And they have no earthly defense, which makes it easier. A lot of times, this is about nothing more than overturning a rock, and shining the flashlight on what is there. That makes the case. I really don't have to do much beyond that.