I awoke this morning at 5, and in several minutes four complete stories had come to me. I just formally composed the first one, called "House Set." Someone asked me a while back what it is like to create like this. "Do you just have stories ripping through you?" I wasn't quite sure how to answer them at the time, but I could do a better job now. It's less like having something go through you, than it is being something. Being the actual story. Being stories.
Yesterday I wrote an op-ed on John Lennon for The Wall Street Journal. I don't know if they are going to use it. The piece would do well, I think, if it comes out. There will be all kinds of weepy vigils in commemoration of Lennon's assassination on December 8, with people singing "Imagine," which has become his unofficial anthem. I think "Imagine" is an awful song--jejune, insincere, naif, half-assed. Albeit tuneful. Whereas, there is the best song Lennon ever wrote, which does him a much greater amount of justice as an artist and a human than "Imagine," and which is of far more value, and perhaps more value than ever in these times. What song is that? I think I'll keep that a secret for now.
I wrote the introduction for Longer on the Inside: Very Short Fictions of Infinitely Human Lives. It's very good. Spot on. Funny. Wise. I have invented a new form of fiction with this book, so I thought it best to touch on some of that in an introduction. Otherwise, people will often just take something unlike anything they've never seen before--in publishing, certainly--and mislabel it. They're conditioned to never think in terms of newness. They're conditioned to never think. It will offend the bigots and drones and class system lovers of publishing, but fuck 'em. I have a special book. A true work of art. Which can also entertain the masses. And how many of these people can say that? Fiction authors used to write a kind of introduction for their books, so I thought, right, I'll do that. A truism of human nature, though, is that very few people will term something a given thing--even if that's exactly what the thing is--on their own. They don't have that confidence. Sometimes, a little nudge to start a ball rolling is necessary. And it's not like anyone is going to say anything on my behalf in this industry, even if these people could think with any ingenuity or even an open mind. But they are vision-less. They can only look back at crap there was; they can never look forward on behalf of that which has never been, and see what can be. How they can market that. Ride that horse. Profit.
I cleaned up the feature on Art Tatum's V-Discs and sent that to JazzTimes. I had a 3300 word essay from last year on Seabury Quinn's novel Roads, which is an origin tale--via weird fiction--of Santa Claus, from Arkham House that came out in 1948. I wasn't able to sell it for last Christmas, so I pulled it out, shortened it, made it more streamlined, sent it to The Smart Set. We'll see.
I told someone yesterday that 80% of my life is given over to one thing. It's not the writing of these books, the fiction, the many pieces, this journal--it's writing letters to people, most of whom will never write back, even if I had the cure for cancer, because of who I am. To give one an idea: Yesterday I wrote The New Yorker (3 people), The Atlantic (2 people), London Magazine, Tailwinds, Rolling Stone, The Daily Beast (2 people), LA Times (2 people), Henry Holt (2 people), Quillette, Vulture, Auteur, Gettysburg Review, McSweeney's, University of Illinois Press, The Wall Street Journal (2 people), Salmagundi, Harper's, The New Republic, Boulevard, Aethlon, Kenyon Review, Mississippi Review.
Some of these people are good people. Some of them are so corrupt and I have all of the information. I can come on here and show you what they do and how they do it, how something goes in, what the relationship is, the nature of the quid pro quo. I can show this with great specificity. I don't want to be doing this with my life. Or any of my time. But I will if I have to. I feel sometimes like I'm not just begging to be treated fairly, but I'm begging, in a way, not to have to expose someone on here. Not to have to expose the person who sees my name and says, "nope, never," but puts in their boyfriend, or the editor at some other venue who then puts them in. I do not want to do that. Because I will be thorough. There will be no doubt as to how that person operates and the kind of person they are. And that will be ugly.
Auteur needs the Scrooge book by the end of the year. I don't anticipate a problem. My first film book. That will be good--they'll list it in their fall catalog next August. That means there will be a minimum of three books from me in 2021--story collection, music book, film book. I'd like to get that number up to five. Granted, that will make me more hated, as each of these books do. But I have to put my faith in this idea of creating a body of work unlike any ever created, and then people, when this turns, being able to look at that body of work and say, "holy fuck." And also: "Please justify yourself, publishing system, in why this man was suppressed? Why were you making sure I did not hear about him?"
Two of the last three checks I have coming to me from The American Interest finally arrived--they were dated from July. I cashed them immediately so I could pay the electricity, which was overdue back to August.
I wrote a formal proposal, more or less, for the Billie Holiday book. The very simple next phase book plan right now: lock down the Holiday book, the volume on The Office, place Cheer Pack: Stories, place Glue God: Essays (and Tips) for Repairing a Broken Self, place Longer on the Inside, sell the Beatles book. I have five books in print right now. Three coming next year. The second novel (Musings with Franklin) is under contract. Get all of this done, we'll be up to fourteen available books. Which will be a low total compared to how much I will still have here on hand afterwards.
I saw some artwork that was done for a short story of mine that is coming out soon. I don't want to name the venue in this context, because these people were excellent to work with--the entire editorial staff. They were professional, smart, courteous, kind. And their edits were actually very good. I appreciated them. But this art really was not. The story involves this craggy, coastal setting, and for whatever reason, their artist went with some bootleg Great Gatsby type Art Deco design of a shadowy figure sitting at a sleek, silver desk in like the Chrysler Building. You'd think it was the Silver Surfer. Really unsure why that happened. Couldn't have been much more incongruous.
Looks like I erred with that birthday present for my seven-year-old nephew with the graphic novel of Stoker's Dracula. Thought it'd be okay, but I guess it wasn't. He read it for ten minutes in the car, then said it was too scary, and gave it to his four-year-old sister (brothers, right?). I was reading things like that at that age, but I was also a pussy who was scared of the dark. Kind of a weird split I had going on there. Maybe he'll like it better when he's a little older. I feel bad about this.
Walked a quick three miles. Sat in the Public Garden and thought.
"House Set" is about a guy--presumably a transient--who walks around with a TV set in a shopping cart. It's late fall. There's a storm. He's beneath an overpass with another transient. The story is about that TV set and why he has it. Takes place in three separate temporal spaces--the present, the first meeting between these two men a few years ago, and back when the guy with the set lived in a house. It's less than 1000 words long. Do you know how hard that is to do? Another work for Longer on the Inside. I had far more than enough material for this book a ways back, and I said to myself, "Just keep doing them--can't have too many. More to pick from, and we'll use the rest of it later. Keep cranking the art. Have faith that there's a point for all of this, and all of it."