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Epistle

Thursday 2/14/19

You were on my mind over the last weekend, by the way. I hadn't checked my email in a bit. It's just blood, you know? There's never anything good. It's ugly, this is an awful, awful period--it's worse than that, but just take my word for it--and then, of course, there is the silence. Nothing coming back. Which is their current tactic. Today, I've sat here since eight in the morning, and I've just sent things out. You know how fast I type/write. It must be sixty things. Do you know how hard it was today to get two assignments? Blacklisted guy is still publishing more than anyone else, and even more than he ever has. How does the average person even begin to wrap their head around that, let alone what you and a few others know at this juncture? If others ever get to know it. I pray to God, here as new Job, that they do.


Increasingly, as I get older, I measure people's decency by if they like sports, nature, if you could get a beer with them and talk about a book or a ballgame, you can disagree with them politically, and you're still mates. Those are the better people. With those people, if they were spread throughout publishing, and you were that kind of person, it would be easy, if you were any good. But those people basically are not here. I mean, you're here. But you don't come from the background of these people. You're a normal person. I don't mean that you're not smarter than everyone. I'm a normal person. We behave normally, we have values, we don't have to put on airs, we're not insecure. But we both come from outside this system. And I meet some people like that, but they're practically nonexistent here. You have these anxiety-ridden, entitled, monsters. Petty monsters. You saw what publishing in Harper's did. That was the last fiction I moved. I can't give it away for free. And I'm writing more of it and writing it better than ever. I get so much better all the time. They can't see that they're killing off reading, and it's such a simple fix. Look at these places dropping. Tin House. Boston Review dropped fiction. The Atlantic has dropped fiction almost entirely. Commentary dropped fiction. I was near death, in a sense, after all of the honestly-earned--earned against great odds and resistance--success over the past half dozen years, but being in Harper's killed me last year. Which I made worse by publishing in Glimmer Train simultaneously, and Rolling Stone, and the LA Times, and seven other places. All at once. And did they hate that. The rest of these people took that out of my ass. They made me pay for that. But to have something like "Pillow Drift," which is my favorite thing I've ever written, and know that, for now, it can't be seen, is a nightmare. I am certain it would be a film. I don't know anyone at Netflix or anything, though, or someone who deals in screenplays. Believe it or not, I watch everything on Netflix. I study it all. That story would do so well there. I know horror. I know film. I know how to write the screenplay. And I know that's just a sterling work as a story. You cannot find me a better short story, period, than that. What happened at The Atlantic was very bad. To have a fiction publication taken from me, a Beatles feature taken from me, and a six figure job taken from me by people who gave out a lot of these jobs to very average writers, a job which was dangled repeatedly in my face, and which I was infinitely more qualified for, is a joint form of searing pain and anger I deal with daily. That association would have helped me, and made my life far easier. And I know that one person is responsible for two of those, maybe all three, and you know who I think--a wolf in sheep's clothing--played a big part, too. I don't want to go scorched earth out in public on these people. I am a nice person. I'm a good person. I am not a confrontational person. But I cannot sit here indefinitely and just let them get away with everything and have me die in poverty and anonymity. I cannot let that happen. And so I am faced with doing things I really do not wish to do. It is already taking a huge toll on me. Spiritually, emotionally, physically. But this is what I am here to do. I am here to change this world through my art and what I am. I can't not try everything possible to make sure that happens.


As it is, I'm trying to do everything at once--write books, beg people for money, pitch, do so much magazine work, take down an industry, do the blog, which is part of taking down an industry. And the problem is, the better I do all of that, the worse the situation gets, because of the hate, envy, and subsequent pushback/blacklisting. Sometimes I say, okay, okay, get the money you're owed, take half a year, don't deal with these people at all, write no short stories, write no op-eds, no magazine pieces, don't pitch, complete The Freeze Tag Sessions. But the problem with that is, at the end of those six months, God could rubber stamp that novel as the best ever written, he could proclaim that he had done so from the mount--which, right now, I suppose would take the form of something trending on Twitter--and I know what's going to happen. The people who have born witness to this, those of you who have seen thousands, or, in Norberg's case, millions of emails, know. And if someone did put it out, in two years, there would, of course, be no coverage, no support, no reviews, let alone hype and drum-banging. There is no one--and certainly not enough people in any kind of numbers--who is not going to try and stand in the way of this happening, within this industry. I am going to have to do it with almost 100% opposition. John thinks hands will be forced later, that they will have no choice. I am not sure. These people are so pathologically hateful, I think they would take a pumpkin knife to their own noses before they gave up the ghost of not trying to hold me back. I think you could offer them the cure to cancer and a billion dollars, and they couldn't help themselves with the opposition. This is something John and I disagree on. I value what John says, so far as his input goes, more than anyone else. More than I did my dad. I allow that he could be correct, whereas normally, I wouldn't with someone with something like this, which I have such a strong sense of. Then again, I am right in the face of it, and maybe, just maybe, this one time, when it comes to being able to imagine this hell abetting, I can't see it, because I've had the absolute fucking shit pounded and stabbed and kicked and bled out of me for so many years now and all I know is what it is like to take a beating. It's all about doing everything at once, to create something...some controversy, some notoriety, something. I don't know what. That puts a spotlight on me. A spotlight I can run with. Everything is against me right now. These people flat out hate self-made athletic-looking straight white males, just for easy starters. I see editors say that they will not include any in their pages. Throw in the constant publication, the effort, the production, the genius, the expertise, the confidence, the self-awareness, that you don't write this MFA treacle they force-venerate--I swear, it's like they assault common sense and simply having a clue, like some hate crime--and it's not going to go over well. Then they see the blog, they see all of that production on top of production--I mean, you know me decently well, and it's insane, still, isn't it?--and they contrast that with who they are, and here we are. I'm on the clock. I can't be in this situation at forty-seven. I won't make it. But if I can get more out there right now, when something does happen to make this shift--and it has to; I have too much talent in too many areas for it to always be this way--then I make up for the lost time of how long this has taken, by having so much available at once, with more quickly coming.


Today I've pitched on the Pittsburgh Crawfords--Negro League team--Jesus, the film noir Detour and the novel it's based on, Nat King Cole, Dostoevksy, John Adams and trial law, Master and Commander, Cape Cod literature, Skrunk and White. Among other things. It's just so much. I've tried to move into radio, but everything there goes to people, of course, who are connected. They're not good on the radio. I'll tell you, Sarah, from the first time I did radio, it felt so natural to me. I talk like I write. There are no ums and you knows. It's easy for me. I am getting blown off by the Coolidge Corner Theatre person that was having me do the Keaton class. That's two grand I needed. I had to confront him today. And he blew me off some more, saying "well, we have professors we have to take care of first, they've done it longer," and he's not being close to consistent in what he says. We were all set to go. He had me come out there, he had me plan the course, it was a lot of time and energy. There was a start date. Then he's like, "oh, there's a licensing issue with KINO, we'll try and do it in January." So I'm talking to KINO, yes? You know I would be, right? I do so many kinds of business, this wasn't even about the Coolidge. But I back-doored it in there, and I got my answer. And there is no licensing problem. And I'm being polite with this Coolidge guy, and he's handling me. He's saying "well, someday, if things ever change." Complete tone and meaning change from him, from everything else he had told me and led me to believe and had been set up. Like I'm some moron who won't, of course, instantly notice this? And some random BU professor? I mean, come on. I see their schedule, too, at the Coolidge. We are talking morning classes--one a week--with some of the elderly residents (I mean, God love them) of Brookline, for the most part. In a video room. Not even in the theatre. On Tuesdays. Only five. I was at this cafe yesterday at BU. And I was reading a book called Life with Picasso. It was written by a woman who was with him when she was in her early twenties, and he was in his early sixties. And it's a great book. She's a great writer. Zola, Balzac, Maupassant wrote fine books on art, but this is better than theirs. Picasso was someone I could hang out with. That's my competition. Picasso, Dylan. Not these talentless frauds and identity and race traders of so-called literary fiction. Their writing will be no more remembered by history than someone right now who will never write a single word. And I left my book on the table--it's community seating--when I went to the restroom to vomit because of stress. I came back and this professor asks me whose class came to assign that book, it must be a very important new book, a discovery! that will turn heads (it was an advance copy, so the publication date of June 2019 is on the cover). He says that he "works across the street, teaching in the philosophy department." I told him I wasn't a student. I said it was for work. You can imagine how I hate these conversations. He starts talking about what a revelation the book will be. And I'm like, well, it came out decades ago. (I read it when I was fifteen, a bloody kid, after hockey practices. I didn't say this, but if a kid was aware of this, maybe you should have been aware of it at some point in your sixty-five years?) It was out of print. It's coming back in. He tells me he writes about art. He's trying to curry favor with me, to impress me. I know the type. Naturally, I ask him who he writes about art for. "I write for myself." Ah. Of course you do.


Now, that's the kind of guy who has that gig at the Coolidge talking about films that he DVR'ed from TCM. He's just a simpleton. These people don't know anything. Did you know that in four years of college, I learned not one thing? All of these things that I'm an expert on--and it probably took you a long time to accept that someone could be an expert on all of that--was not something taught to me. None of it. No one taught me about literature or film or music or painting or writing fiction. So how am I the leading expert on Keats and Dylan and Orson Welles and on and on? Academia. It's a scam. It's institutionalized laziness and ignorance. It's living in a sinecure. Hence its close relationship to publishing. Neither are policed. The inmates run the set-up. It's not just that these people don't care about merit. They hate it. They can't let it be a meritocracy. And they live in echo chambers, of course. Like MS, whom we spoke of earlier--it's an echo chamber. Surround yourself with people like that, that barrage of noise, and it becomes your music. Your ambient sounds. You don't notice it. So they cease being able to tell that Tim Tebow is not better than Tom Brady, to put it in football terms. Their rational sense and unbiased insight are gone. In a way, it's brilliant, if they can be self-funded. Because they got rid of what would have been the system of checks and balances--the free world. The readers with a vested interest. Those readers are gone. They're not readers now. They moved on to other product. So now publishing has no prying eyes. They can commit all the crimes they want behind their closed doors. Like academia. If you are independently wealthy--as many of these people are--you have no financial concerns about audience and moving product and creating anything that anyone could actually care about. So you hunker down and set up your ego games. It's dollhouse living. It's not a financial business, it's an ego business.