It would be a challenge to say how difficult it is to keep going. To remain alive, even. But then to get up each day, knowing what there is, what there isn't, and to just do it again is more than a human can face or endure, more than a human can do. I may not be human. I am evidently something else. But it borders on the impossible for me. It's close. It is a challenge to describe not because of an issue with words but the energy it takes. I awake, and I know what the deal is. I know that whatever I do, create, it's not going to matter, it won't have a chance, it will be the same as if I didn't create it. But then I have to create it.
On Friday I wrote another 4000 words. Yesterday another 3000.
Three Saturdays ago I was at a cafe on Hanover Street. It's a cafe that gets a lot of tourists, but local tourists, if you will. When the couple comes in from Medford--a few miles outside of the city--it's where they like to go. I guess they're not tourists, but they're not residents, and Boston is a night out for them a few times a year. If it's crowded, they seat you, if it's not, you seat yourself. This was the third cafe I'd been in on this Saturday. I sat there, alone, as always, and I made notes for a book I am writing, that can be the best book ever written--it will be, because that's an automatic with where I am at as an artist right now--which will have no chance, and I looked around. Everyone was with someone. Happy, smiling, talking, laughing. Couples, groups. And it hit me in a way that was new. Even at this point, it was new. For more than ten years now, I've spent every single day of my life alone. Ever meal, alone. I imagine what my life looks like to another, with a camera on me. There is the filth and squalor in which I life, an apartment that would be condemned if anyone saw the inside. The camera would see me at the desk, on the stairs, at the cafes, alone. I have not known human touch in more than ten years. I picture an overhead shot. "There he is." I go to the movies alone. I go to concerts alone. The museum alone. Hockey games alone, football games alone.
No one is alone at any of these things. Here you have the mega-genius, the greatest artist of all-time, a good looking guy, a deeply kind and giving and loving man, and he is alone always. I have evolved past the human race. And people don't want the things that I am. They want things and people like themselves. I was thinking about these books, for instance, that I know no one actually likes. I use the example of Emma Straub. She's as bad, as basic at writing as you can be. This isn't some clarity thing, some easy to read thing, a "Well, she doesn't go over your head" thing. It's not that. I am aware of what happens, and I can explain it in the simplest terms. People look at something, and they determine that it's either for them, or not for them. Designed for them. By which I mean, people on their level. Then there's this conversion that happens. Think of it like a device that purifies dirty water. How much that individual is entertained ceases to matter. If they're not entertained at all, that's no problem. The book--or whatever the product is--is for them. People on their level. If I write anything--it can be a single sentence on Twitter--everyone thinks that it's not for them, because it's on a different level. Not their level. It is for them. It's entirely for them. But my "for" has a different meaning. It would entertain them more. It does. There are people who race to read what I write in these pages, for instance, who will read this entry two minutes after it goes up, who would never, or very rarely, say a kind word to me about my work, because of the different levels, and that means commenting on it is not for them, and giving me outward credit is not for them. It takes anything I do or say for someone to think, "This guy is above me," and then they can have respect for what I do and am, hang on each word, but they will not cross that line. They see all that I am and all that I do as not for them. Though they may understand what it is, in terms of quality.
I don't know what to do about this. It's everything. I have no chance and might as well be dead later today if I can't solve this, or it goes away and becomes something else. I was talking to someone about it the other day, and they said "You're not just going to be loved, you will be worshiped when you break through." I think that's delusional. Then I try to determine if I think that because I am in this hell, and maybe I can't see this one thing, because it would mean something favorable, and all I've known or felt for many, many, many years, when it comes to anything pertaining to myself, is pain and suffering and injustice.
There are people who are aware of these days of mine. Intimately aware. That's why it bothers me so much when someone says to me, "You're one of the strongest people I know," which is one of the dumbest things a person can say. I'm not a "one of." They don't even think it. I've detailed how things are in these days again and again. To the hypothetical you, I ask, "Can you even imagine that being your life?" Then we get into the reality that you have an industry that wants you dead, though you've done nothing wrong, nothing to anyone, with thousands of people working against you to suppress your work because it is the best there has been. This journal in all that it has shown, revealed, and the excerpts of the work, coupled with everything else I do, write, say, publish, has proven that beyond any possible doubt or argument. That is part of the reason why this journal exists. Why I make sure it does, when I really don't want to be writing in its pages, like right now, on this Sunday morning. There is nothing I want to be doing, to be fair, because I have not known a single moment's joy--a tiny joy--in over ten years. "I can't wait to kiss her." I haven't known that. "I can't wait to get home." I haven't known that. "I can't wait to watch this game." I haven't known that. I've known only pain.
My response has been to create. The better I get as the best artist there has ever been, the worse it gets. It was already so bad that no one could really tell the difference, but living it, I can. I see how the hate in these people for me continues to deepen, and the envy, the fear of all that I am. But the problem with this person who remarks to me, "You're one of the strongest people I know," is that they're deliberately saying something false to me, scaling something back, because of who I am. I mentioned being a prisoner of greatness to a friend in a text which appeared in these pages yesterday. This is what I mean. People can't directly say to me--or anywhere--what they think about what I do or am. They feel like they must scale it back. Because of the extremity of what I am and do. And it would just be so intimate and naked to say to me what they really thought, more naked and intimate than what they've ever said to a spouse, even, because it would be words they've never said to anyone and no one has ever said to them.
So you end up with people saying nothing, people saying little, people making half-assed comments that are not what they think. Whereas, those same people are lauding other people, because they don't actually think anything about those people, and it's very easy when you don't just to lie, to praise, to be hyperbolic, to dish out generic compliments writ large. They're empty and meaningless, but writ large. Then you get the following. Then you get support. Then you get awards. Then you get book deals. Hyped. And there are no exceptions. The key? Being nothing. Then people talk to you and about you a certain way.
I was looking for something yesterday on Facebook. I have taken to posting things I write, publish, entries from here, on my personal page, which hadn't been updated since 2019. Because these bigots see it. I am putting what I am in their faces. I am not here to play grab-ass with friends I don't have. I came across a post an editor at a magazine had made about this excellent piece I wrote on Billie Holiday. It was masterful. This is not a bad person. This is not a typical publishing person, or even a publishing person. They were affiliated with this magazine--and are now to a degree--but it's a magazine outside of the world of these cliques, run by normal people. And they said that here's a pretty cool piece by Colin Fleming. It's that--the need to scale it back when talking about me. One thinks certain terms that are extreme. Has a reaction that is extreme. Then when they talk about it, they self-edit. They scale those terms back so as not to look like they're worshiping this guy. Or kissing up to this guy they think is on a different level. In the same post, this person talks about the photographer who supplied pictures for the piece. You already know where this is going, to no surprise. That photographer gets the praise without diminishing qualifiers. They are "great"--there's no "pretty" about it. That is always how it works with me, and other people. And that person who posted this didn't even think these things. Anyone could have taken those photographs. One person could have written that piece.
Take the 33 1/3 book and the people mentioned in the acknowledgements. I didn't just cite people. I said really kind and thoughtful things about them. Things that were touching, which they could be proud of. Those people all know the situation I'm in. A number of them are copied on emails and see most of what I write, if not all of it. Out of those people, exactly one of them said anything about the book in what is now almost a year. The others didn't even say they read it, it was good. Nothing. Even when I asked. That is typical. If it was anyone else, and it was a bad book, they would have behaved differently. "Just read it! Loved it!"
There is someone else who has seen let's just say a lot of what I've written. They've probably read more by me than anyone else they've ever read, and it's not close. They know what I am. And only two times have they said anything about my stories. Twice. That's it. In many years. One time it was pertaining to a story called "Six Feet Away," and they said, "You don't need me to tell you how good this is," etc.--and then lived up to their word--and the other time it was to remark that they didn't know, at first, that the first person narrator of a story was a woman and not a man. That's it. People can often make the mistake of seeing "I" or "me" and attributing that writer's gender to that character's gender. A mistake with my work, especially as so much of it features female protagonists and narrators in hundreds upon hundreds of examples over the last four plus years. This person, though, despite never saying anything about the best work ever made, would point out the occasional typo. Or if I wrote some op-ed that was not of the consequence of the fiction, might say something about that, ironically when the op-ed extolled a quality that this person doesn't have. The op-ed was "lesser"--you know what I mean--and so it was easier for them to do this. But the typos made me think of like if you had someone who all of a sudden stood up, and began flying around the room, then flying around the sky, then returned back to their chair opposite you. And instead of saying, "Wow, you just flew, that was amazing," this person said, "You have a hair out of place" or "You have a loose button."
As I've said, I want to write a book about William Sloane's To Walk the Night, which is my favorite book, and beyond celebrating that book, using it to look at how poorly everyone writes right now, and why. It's not my favorite book because I identity with any character. I'm not like that. There's no one like me, anyway. I could do that when I was sixteen, listening to "Strawberry Fields Forever," but not now. So take that for what it is. But there is a character named Selena, and it turns out she's not human. She's beyond everyone. She's an alien with an intelligence that the other characters don't possess, and she's come to be in our world, and is trying to make do. The narrator, Bark, doesn't know she's an alien for most of the book. He just knows how different she is. He is surprised to find out that she has human needs, because--and this is crucial--he thought she was someone who didn't need friends. Because she's so beyond everyone. She is unique. She is more than human. He does know that. But even this alien has to try and find what humans all need. Even this higher form. I always think about that moment when he catches himself, when he realizes that all along he had this assumption that she just didn't need anyone. That's what people think about me. Everyone thinks it, because of what they know me to be and what they see me do. Even the people who "care about" me are contributing to this hell. Obviously the thousands who want me dead are. But there isn't really anyone who isn't, because of what I am, and what I do.
Some people would see themselves in here. I guess they could get angry, but I doubt they would. Not the people, again, theoretically on my side. Because they know it's all true. They know it's true as pertain to them. I know what some might think. "What can I say if I even wanted to? I don't know how to speak about work beyond anything else I've ever experienced. There's just so damn much of it, too. Which ones would I even pick?" But underneath those remarks and expostulations--excuses--there is this ugly truth, this massive problem that is keeping me from getting anywhere. One might think, "I've shared his work around, at least, that's more than anyone else did." Ah--but did you scale back the terms and talk about me and my work in conservative ways that you knew were false? Did you ever really say what you know me to be, what you know the work to be? Did you ever really take a stand when you could have exerted some pull? Did you ever really say what you thought and felt? The answer is no. I am not some hack, I am not some pretender. I am not Emma Straub. I am not Salman Rushdie. I am not the flavor of the month. I don't play the trans card, the queer card, the POC card, the bullshit activist card, though my stories and my works deal in these subjects better and also more often than the work of writers playing those cards because it's all they have. I beat you every single way. Whatever you do, I do it, too, but I do it infinitely better, and I do exponentially more of it. I don't suck, bore, and match other writers and works that suck, bore, and match other writers and works that suck, bore, and match. I am this artist. Unlike any artist ever. Clearly. Inarguably. Everyone may know it. But no one saying it means that no one else will either. Not in plain view. Then you have a guy with a blue checkmark on Twitter and 200 followers which is unlike anyone else in the history of that site, because of his abilities, not because of a lack of them. Then you have a guy with the best books that no one covers, that even people on his side, in theory, and in business with him, in theory, also push away from, or act as if they don't exist, because of his abilities. Then you have a guy who is the best ever on the radio who is not considered for jobs that people who suck on the radio are given when no one thinks they're in the same universe as the person who is never considered, and even a situation in which the people who are given the jobs are guest on a show with the person who isn't given those lucrative jobs, where it is laughably, overwhelmingly, even embarrassingly obvious who has all of the ability and who has none at all. Then you have a guy with 600 available stories--every one of which is better than any out there--and nothing he can do with them right now, because all of this is true. You have someone who makes the best art every damn day. Endless invention. In every style and voice possible. Every form. Newly invented styles and forms. And there is a journal--this one--where the proof is furnished. And no one looks at any of it, in any form of it, and thinks, "I could do better than that." Because it's impossible to think. And that is also part of the problem. Amazingly enough, that is a huge part of the problem, which makes this the nightmare that it is, the nightmare beyond nightmares. "For me" means "designed by someone on my level." "Not for me" means "designed by someone not on my level." These terms don't really mean these things--the writings of an Emma Straub, a Laura van den Berg, aren't really for anyone. They hold no purpose. They have no intrinsic value. They don't provide anything. Not entertainment, not fun, not meaning, not new ways of thinking, not even a good distraction. But remember what I said about "for me" and then that conversion that happens, where it doesn't even matter that someone isn't getting anything from the product. The end all be all is that "for me," and the very idea of what it means to be entertained--just entertained, not inspired or transformed--becomes irrelevant and one will accept anything so long as the levels line up. Standards do not exist now. "For me" does, which doesn't mean for you, truly, but made with you in mind solely on the basis of having no standards, no value, no need to look up, and your knowledge that you don't have to look up. For you. The museum isn't for you. That's high class. Above you. That's how you're supposed to think. For you. Great stuff? Brilliant stuff? That's for other folks. Who are the other folks? This shadow army of intellectuals that doesn't really exist. But not you. That work isn't for you. Get it? That's the thinking at play here. If I make a comment on Twitter about the Red Sox, John Coltrane, John Keats, immediately one thinks I am not for them, fascinated though they are by it, because in anything I do, say, or write, it's obvious there is a different level. Some moron writer makes a comment that anyone could make, and someone thinks they are for them, because of this reason, not because they liked what was said, laughed, thought it was smart, because they didn't. Then they will follow that person, and buy their book. They will not do either with me. Do you understand? People don't do anything now for entertainment--they do it to find that common ground of parallelism. That is the entertainment, this non-form of it. And a "Fitty" or "Dead Thomas" or Buried on the Beaches are for everyone. For them. Truly for them. That's why they exist. But one sees what I mean. I live this. I know how it works.
I didn't want to write this. But it had to be written and go into this record. Yesterday I ran 5000 stairs and did 100 push-ups. I'll head out now for more of the same. There was a woman yesterday teetering at the top of one of the sections of stairs. She was completely gone. Asleep as she walked, bottom of her ass hanging out of her shorts, about to fall and hurt herself any second. Below is a photo of my stairs from 1978, and that's actually the landing where she was. I kept trying to get her to come away so she wouldn't fall down the stairs. She couldn't even see me. I watched her try and fix her eyes on me through what might as well have been an enormous bank of fog. Finally I just took her by the arm and led her to somewhere where she couldn't fall down stairs, at least. I didn't know what else to do. She didn't want anything else. I don't think she wanted that. I went to the Dunkin' Donuts to get her a bottle of water at least, but when I got back she was gone. I don't know how she managed that. She could barely walk with all of her weight against me.