Yesterday marked 1400 days/200 weeks without a drop of alcohol. I ran three miles and walked five on Saturday, walked six miles yesterday. Today I wrote a 1500 word story called "Cooks For You All." My sister sent me a razor. It was here a few weeks ago but I only opened the box today because I am also scared of my physical mail since my breakdown. I have had a lot of bad things happen with the mail. I am also scared of the post office at present, where I have received a lot of bad news that fundamentally changed me. In some ways. Fundamental Colin is still in there and in certain aspects stronger than ever and a better artist by the day, but with the kind of collapse I had, this is how it is. For the time being. This is the Songs of Note podcast on Sam Cooke and "Bring It On Home to Me" I was interviewed for, which also talks about the upcoming 33 1/3 book I need to finish.
I have seen how weak people are with this pandemic, how any adversity all but destroys them, how they can't spend two days on their own without coming apart. If those people had to try and endure and live through (and it's ironic that the same people falling apart had no problem putting me in the position they have put me in) what I have had to try and endure and live through, they'd view what is happening right now as their tropical island vacation. In some ways, this is leveling the playing field with me and my enemies. It would be better if I was more intact right now, to do things I am going to have find a way to do, because now is the time, a good time, to lance. The story I wrote today is as good as anything I have ever composed. It's as good as "Jetés." It's a story about an escort, Christmas, God, hope, connection, coming apart, Rimbaud, Schubert, hand jobs, Johnny Bench, pizza, birds. The title plays off of the call that barred owls make, which sounds like the words "cooks for you all." But those words become something very different in the story.
Someone I know in the D.C. area has two little girls, and we are going to do a book club via Skype, starting with Frog and Toad Are Friends. Toad is a fat asshole. No, I'm kidding. He's a good dude. That joke won't feature in our book club.
This was a reader's take on "Jetés":
"Just read 'Jetés'. I don't know how you do it. You're able to convey so much power, so much truth into such a short piece, and make those characters so real that in the space of a couple of pages, you feel you know them. Perfection."
I mean, honestly, put it out in the right place, and people are going to love it and it's going to hit them so hard and resonate so much right now. Do the right thing, publishing. And get out of your own way. The manufactured grudges and hate is not worth it. Because it will be too costly in the end, which some of these places are getting close to. This pandemic is making it clearer and clearer what matters and what does not. This is work that matters. The awful, MFA-by-numbers writing which almost all of these people do does not.
On Friday morning I went through the revised version of my short story "That Night" and sent it back to London Magazine, where it will run. They had wanted some changes; they had not specified what they were, but I got back into the work and saw what there was for me to do. This is a story that grew out of "Dunedin," a much longer work of fiction, and unsold at present. An excellent long-form story; I would say it's almost a cousin to something like "Last Light Out," which Glimmer Train ran. "Dunedin" is a pun signifying a fall--as in, done with Eden. I took the beginning of that story, and I realized I could do this kind of split-atom thing, where I open up some lines, peel them back, and what I can do--and I can do this with anything--is create an entirely new story in that splitting.
Not a different story with the same characters; all of the characters become new people. It was a pretty big discovery for me. At the same time, "Dunedin" the story is the basis of what will be Done Eden the novel. "That Night" was an important work for me--and it's a fine piece of writing--because for some time since its completion I have been creating works in which I strip narrative back to its ultimate essence. Nuclei of narrative. These are the longest very short stories that there could be, in terms of their depth, in terms of what happens, the narrative and emotional stakes. "Jute," "Jetés." And it's getting to the point where I am closing in on having a full book's worth of them. I'm doing more with 600 words than someone else could do with six million. This has been a great challenge as an artist--by which I mean, not a hard one for me to master as there is nothing I cannot write, but one I have found provocative, which has produced a lot of timeless works and, I think, an entirely new form of fiction. This isn't that short-short Lydia Davis shit that people in publishing pretend isn't awful. It's not what Chekhov did either. It's how much emotion and connectivity I'm getting in so few words. So much life-length, if you will--different from word-count length. Of course, as I have written all of these stories, all of the different forms and lengths, they separate out into groups, and there are so many that you have a book of this kind, a book of that kind, a book of this other kind. They've just all been created during this period. There could be a book of unsettling, odd, edgy, horror and horror-ish stories. A book of the longest form of very short short stories which I detailed above. A volume in which all of the narrators and/or main characters are female. A volume pertaining to childhood. A volume in which nature is central.
I spent almost all of Friday pitching. Just like fifteen straight hours. There must be 100 letters. So much work, so many ideas. And also working on this Joan Harrison piece I need to change a lot for The Smart Set, which is a pain in the ass, but I'm happy to change it. It'll be good when it's done in this version. She was one of the first Hollywood female producers (after having been Hitchcock's secretary), responsible for 1944's Phantom Lady.
Spoke to The Smart Set editor. Good to go on Ernest Renan, it's just going to come out a few days after Easter. That was a lot of work that piece, stretching back more than a year. I'll take about it on Downtown tomorrow, plus a bunch of other Easter things, whatever Rich wants to bring up--a Disney animated Easter film from 1934, the ghost story at the heart of Easter--which I think influenced Shakespeare; Easter candies. Easter means a lot to me, as you might figure it would, with the whole resurrection bit and rising again. In 2013 I was dating this woman whose job it was to get the kids of rich people into top colleges, as though such a thing matters in the world. She told me she didn't have the courage to do anything else. Anyway, I remember she told me way back when that I would rise again, and it kind of stuck with me. I don't know why. It was a long time ago. This hell was just getting started.