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Extra points

Tuesday 6/14/22

My guiding thought in everything I write is the reader. The reader is never out of my mind. Everything is done for the reader. This does not mean one brings the reader what the reader expects or ordered. But everything is executed with the reader in mind. This would sound like a given, but I am a zealot in this matter. I also don't think it's how writers of so-called literary fiction think. I don't think they ever think this way. They write from a deep pocket of insecurity to justify themselves and to people like themselves who do the same thing. They turn their back on the reader, because they are scared of readers. They're not going to be able to offer the reader anything. This does not mean anything is dumbed down. I can challenge a reader. But when I do so, I'm thinking of them, and I'm making sure they have what they need. I put everything in there, if you will. If something is left open, it's left open so that it can be any of several things, and the reader can insert themselves--and assert themselves--into the determination of what that is. There are stories, for instance, to make the hands go flying up in class, with the students raring to weigh in, to debate. They will each feel equally validated in their responses and conclusions, though.


The best writers write equally from both sides of the table--the writer side, and the reader side. The reader or readerly expectations never dictate what I do. I do what I do, but as I am doing it, I'm thinking about the reader, lighting ways for the reader--of varying degrees of light. I'm theorizing about the reader. I'm accounting for what he or she is likely to know, would know, could intuit, would feel good about realizing, what they are likely or not likely to remember from earlier in the work. Sometimes I know it's likely they'll forget something, and I want them to, because something else is going to hit harder as a result, and it's also going to remind them of what was, so the effect is two-fold. I will not make any reader feel stupid. I won't leave any reader behind. I will not try to show how smart I am as a kind of subjugation. If you want people to know how smart you are, move them at the level of their soul.


This is what all of the so-called literary fiction writers will never understand. They could never put this into practice. It's utterly foreign to them. They would recognize it as true, with me saying it. But that is why they hate themselves, and they hate me. Because that is what I do, and nothing would ever allow for them to do it. The same goes for nonfiction. The things I talk about on the radio. You will get no better education in any university, if you enrolled for centuries, than you will just listening to those radio segments. But I never talk down to anyone. With all of those subjects, in their unique intellectual range. I make it fun, I bring people along. That is another reason why I am hated by an industry--they don't want Fonzi to be the smartest person, if you will. That's not how it's supposed to go.


I began a story today after getting up very late--half past six, because I stayed up to watch the Celtics, and then couldn't sleep after, being annoyed by their performance--called "Wrongo." It's very good. I'm going to slow down just a touch for today with it. So much work lately, and so much fiction. So much of everything. And a lot of things in progress. You know what I can do? I can say to myself, "Okay, we have 300 masterpieces in progress, pretty far along, almost done a bunch of them, what would you like to work on or finalize now?" They're all just waiting. As I close in on 400 new short stories since June 2018, I despair. I was talking to my closest friend yesterday about this, saying what could I even do with 400 stories, plus the 100 I already had kicking around from the past few years prior, and that's leaving out everything else, like the thirty books I have sitting here, or will. Even if you were beloved, and everyone knew you, and lionized you, and couldn't wait for more, and you were supported, hyped, constantly awarded, as well known as anyone could be, what could you practically do with this much material? How could anyone read all of it? How could lots of people read lots of it?


I said it's pointless. This person always says the same thing. They say all of it has a great role in this world, and all of it will be known, and all of it will change the world. They say that they understand why I feel like I do. This isn't helped when I see the people on a dating site, the sheer imbecility which is practically all that is out there. Because I need those people--who border on illiterate--to being going mad for Anglerfish and There Is No Doubt and Glue God, and so forth. This person says they will. That you can't compare anything I write to anything anyone else has ever written. Because I always counter with how no one reads, no one can read, reading is a skill, and people don't have it. Less people than ever do. And no one wants to read. It's not 1843. And again they tell me you can't compare. And they add that it is so clear-cut to them what is happening. With publishing. And with everything else. They say that every Downtown segment, every blog is going to matter. That it's all going to be there, in place. I think about this person, who I count on and who is smarter than other people, and who knows me as well as anyone. I think that it will be a long time before they even read what I wrote last week. Or last week and so far this week. It's so much. Throw in the radio, and in eight, nine days, I've produced eight, nine hours of material.


I haven't even checked in a long time to see what I've written that has come out. I just create.


There are these bog witches on a dating site who get wine buzzed every night in their (self-created) loneliness and finger their cats who actually condescend to me by saying, "Extra points for correct grammar and spelling." These narcissistic, delusional, self-vaporized, self-medicating, walking cliches give me a little pat on the head. For my grammar. And spelling. And then they are baffled why I have zero interest in knowing them in any capacity, because they have no awareness of anything in life. What a way to live. How do you live like that? You don't live. You're just there. Technically, I guess. I will not humor anyone and pretend that their language skills are not deplorable if they are indeed so--I usually won't say anything, and go about my business (often with my standard, "Great, good luck")--but never, ever, would I give someone a condescending pat on the head for grammar and spelling, and let me tell you, you're going to go a year, two years, three years, before you encounter a single profile of more than five words in which the spelling and grammar are correct. Or how about this--anywhere close to correct. It's like a miracle. That's how dumb people are. I don't mean brilliant writing. I mean if it was second grade, the teacher would pass you. You will not see anything at that level, and it's not a dating site thing--it's a how the world now is thing. I'm talking doctors, lawyers, all of these people with advanced degrees, as well as the hillbilly with her Confederate flag--seriously--and her ravings about the Bible she's never read, and her photograph of a stack of freshly shot squirrels by the rusted out pick-up truck with the Trump bumper sticker up on cinder blocks in the backyard by a soiled diaper and a couple empty forties on the ground. Advanced degrees? All of these people with advanced degrees and not one of them knows the difference between "compliment" and "complement" or that it's "an honest," not "a honest." What did you pay your money for? You have all of this debt, and you are a bloody idiot. Why did you go to school at all, let alone for that long, for all of that expense? Why on earth? How is it possible to be dumber than a dog if you're a human? But most are. And still I have never said "points for grammar and spelling" to anyone, nor would I. It's a loathsome, pathetic person who feels a need to condescend to other people. Saying the truth is something else.


I created a second, longer version of the Fourth of July op-ed this AM. This is from it:


We’re apt to limit our own individual freedoms. Fear does it—that we’ll stand out. We mold our speech on the speech we hear around us, as if the national bird wasn’t good old Mr. Piebald—the eagle—but rather a parrot. We typically go along to get along in our views, but we’ll complain with the best of them when there isn’t the kind of reform—or basic sanity—we’d like to see. We number ourselves as a member of a political party, espousing the broadest strokes, living our lives in concomitant blotches of red and blue that are as wide as a time zone. Often enough, it’s the first thing we’ll let someone else know about us, depending on whether or not they’re aware if we’re vaccinated.


What about the party of you? Conformity for conformity’s sake—love of country, as it’s so often put, like that’s the ultimate marching order to be a good American, whatever that means—or contrarianism for contrarianism's sake obscure the individual. There’s a different manner of Declaration of Independence we’d be wise to focus on, and this Declaration of Independence doubles as a note to self. I think about that on my private Fourth of July mornings.


I also went back into the piece on the Rolling Stones' "Tumbling Dice" and made it about 500 words longer. This is from that:


We slide into “Tumbling Dice” via the riff; it’s an ambulatory device, a preface that we don’t even know is happening. The song is nominally about gambling—rolling the dice—but, of course, it’s not about gambling at all, and rather throwing the dice of life. Going for that which matters. Anything that matters requires vulnerability on our parts. And here are the Stones with a song for that very subject, a musical example put in rolling—tumbling—practice.


“Tumbling Dice” is bluesy, but it’s not a blues. Fittingly, the Beatles’ best song—as a piece of writing—in “She Loves You” could wear the same hat. Bluesiness sans outright blues was a Stones hallmark. It’s when they sounded their wisest. There is a Cream bootleg titled Blues Ancient and Modern—which also works as a pithy definition for life if we had to have one—and the Stones loved their blues heroes, but there’s a push towards the future within their bluesiness, which still retains—and benefits from—the experiential knowledge of that ancient and modern blues. The Stones’ bluesiness—as heard on “Tumbling Dice”—was akin to a New Testament, the up-to-date word in these matters, a practical message about the need to advance, keep it rolling; don’t just rock in the rut.


There’s a lot of movement in this song, from the associative imagery of the title on out. Constant flow. No stasis. The Stones are grooving, because they’re moving. This is their version of Duke Ellington’s “Take the ‘A’ Train,” which was also bluesy without being the blues. The blues can lock into place. That’s the nature of the medium. Slim Harpo sounded as radical as he did with his swamp blues constructions because he added the shuffle. “Tumbling Dice” swings. It’s the closest the Stones get to jazz, unless we count the coda to “Can You Hear Me Knocking?” which feels more like an add-on than part of that song proper, whereas “Tumbling Dice” is a study in cohesion in which we all feel like we’re equal participants.


An early version of the song was called “Good Time Women,” the title meant as a placeholder, a verbal riff for Jagger to toy around with, but again, suggestive of flow, even at the larval state. It’s not like these good time women were locked in the poses of models for a couple hours. I picture a blur of bottles and appendages, among other accoutrements. This version is skeletal, but it has one of rock and roll’s ultimate new dawn moments, when we first encounter the riff. It’s not the full-blown riff—call it the seed of the riff. That riff is as elemental as fog rising off a river in the morning. Joy in its discovery is palpable; to hear this nascent version is to hear the Stones enjoying their own pleasure with this find, which is also a birthing—and a means forward.


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Addendum: Also went through and got the op-ed on the word "literally" into final form. Longer one--900 words.