On Sunday I arose and wrote a 2000 word story--my sixth of 2019--called "chickchick." I am certain that if the right place published it, it would become a trending item itself. It's the only work of art I am aware of right now--certainly the only story and the only thing in publishing--that pushes back against PC culture, "automatically believe all women," "make reparations"/white guilt, his/hers/they/them society. The story centers on Orson Welles in the future. He's alive because society has changed how we die. Has changed the very definition of death. He can't make films any more because films don't exist. The world became too upset in being moved by films, and in people identifying with characters up on a screen and coming to learn more about their lives. For a while everyone brought animals to movies--like comfort squirrels--and each theater became like a mini-Noah's Ark, but the snakes and the owls ate the crickets and the chipmunks, and hell broke loose. Welles works as a wrestler, despite weighing 425 pounds. His handle is the Mad Director. He has no friends, save a female house sparrow named chickchick, who lives in his dressing room, and whom he holds and strokes in his hand, and thinks about killing, so that the bird won't have to bear witness to anything anymore. He's not allowed to talk about its gender and how he knows it's a female sparrow (there is a telltale marking, which you perhaps know if you pay attention to birds). He is allowed to self-medicate, which is encouraged. Drink, needles, pills, things for every orifice. He takes his wrestling jobs--which involve his signature move of leaping from the ropes, to crush the throats of his supine foes, like Bald Bull from Mike Tyson's Punch-Out, Jesus, and Iron Fist from the comic books--to save his money--even though he has to contribute most of it to a reparations fund, called the Human Tithe (never mind that no one knows what the word "tithe" means anymore; words, too, are being eradicated, and a device has been designed to communicate thoughts directly, once the designers have figured out how to block the honest ones, because it is rape to receive an honest thought without first having given your consent, and they are worried there would be trillions of rapes a day) so that he can illegally fund a film that no one else but he will be able to view. He wants to set the new record of sustained happiness when he screens this labor of love and duty and talent, surpassing the old mark of 11.4 seconds. People time the length of their orgasms, and that's their contribution to this competition, as such. He got in trouble long after Citizen Kane for writing a line about how death comes to all men. Sexist. What about women? What about the trans? What about--and there are many other groups. You're allowed to be a glutton. That's encouraged, and his rolls of fat must be termed parts of his beauty, even if it takes him twenty-five minutes--everyone just waits--to climb the ropes so he can do his thorax-exploding, elbow-based leap to his adversaries. Art has died, culture has died, and he just has his bird--this is how it is for the artist--and this dream to know two hours' of sustained happiness again, albeit privately. Just him. With something he made. The story came together easily, its pieces locked together perfectly. There is nothing vaguely like it, on multiple fronts. And it's really quite beautiful in the end. And there is so much happening at the level of ideas. And I don't think anyone is going to see it for quite a while. What an opportunity, though. For someone to seize.
This is an academic point right now, and an inconsequential one at that, given where things are, but with the "esoteric" stories on the one hand, and the longer, more novelesque ones on the other, I am closing in--depressingly, because there is nothing I could do with either--on having what is tantamount to a Dark March II, and a Cheer Pack II. One problem being that I have not sold Cheer Pack: Stories the original.
Edits are done for a new Washington Post piece. There were things I felt pretty sure I would not be allowed to say, and I wasn't. That's not a big deal. It's money. I need the money. Very little of it sounds like me.
A check that was supposed to be for $300 turned up and was instead for $30. That's not good.
I am in "hang on" mode. Where I can all but feel mental fingers tightening on a rope or a rail, as I say, "don't let go." Saturday was bad. It was an almost deadly day. I didn't show today until three. I am surprised I did. Then I threw on sweats and went to the Starbucks. I have shut the phone off. You get tired of nothing ever coming in. When it's always just you. And you're alone and unloved. I say the word "friend" just as a verbal shortcut. I don't actually have any. Emma was at the Starbucks. This child never eats. She's always starving after school, where she does not eat. So I bought her a sausage-and-egg-sandwich. On Saturday I forced myself to go to the Brattle for a screening of Saturday morning cartoons and PSAs from the 1950s-1980s. The program ran three hours, but I only lasted an hour-and-a-half. I always sit at the top of the venue of whatever I'm at, be that the concert hall, the movie theater, the rink. I sit on the far side, so that way, alone guy only will have someone on one side at most. An older couple came in late and sat beside me. I would say they were around seventy. This was at 11 in the morning. They both start doing voices. Cartoon voices. His legs are spread, so I'm in this ball not to have to touch him. Then he falls asleep and starts snoring very loudly. A door-rattler. His wife is still awake, quite aware of how stentorian her husband's snoring is, but cool, she's going to let him sleep, and besides, she was busy doing a loud Porky Pig voice. There wasn't a Porky Pig cartoon playing. At which point I said, right, screw this, we're off, and I went to the Harvard Art Museums, where I stared at paintings from Picasso's Blue Period and tried not to cry. At night I went to the Garden--again, by myself--for the Hockey East championship game between Northeastern and BC. I sat--mostly stood--in the last row of the 326 balcony section, no one in fifteen yards of me, and read War and Peace between whistles. BC fell behind quickly 3-0, but you could tell that it was still a winnable game for them, and that the final score, either way, would likely be close. Northeastern prevailed, 3-2. I was surprised yesterday to see that Gronkowski retired. I really had that wrong. I was almost certain he'd be back.
There isn't even anyone I can send "chickchick" to. That feels awful. True, even without the blacklisting, I don't think anyone would put this out right now. Well, if it came in from Stephen King, a limited writer, to say the least, but a famous one, it would readily go into the earliest possible issue and would be a sensation. Even if I was not hated and blacklisted, and when I have something that is more, let us say, "Winter Dreams" than Rite of Spring--the formerbeing a novelistic Fitzgerald story--there would still be no one to send it to, because I have so much material already that everyone would already have something by me. I have stories I plan to write. I write them over time in my head. "Dunedin" is an example of this, which I'm doing now, or "Cheer Pack," "Funny Lines TK," "Terry from the Cape," "Sega Man." A lot. Others come out of nowhere, and not having a clue five minutes earlier that I would have and write a story about such and such, I have done just not long after. Either way works for me. They come as they come; and for me, they always come. I feel the acute sting of that right now, though; what it must be like to know you're liked and that masterpiece you have can be seen by many people not long after you've completed it. A lot of my life is hard. The poverty. The complete aloneness. That's worse. Being hated. That's pretty upsetting. This apartment, for lack of a better term. But I don't know if anything is harder than having what I have, being able to do what I can daily do, and having no outlet for it right now because of a system where everything is backwards and bad is good, boring is desired, moral is repugnant, honestly-earned is deeply-resented.
I guess one could point to Van Gogh. He kept painting. But it's very different. No one exhibited his work. It wasn't in 150 museums. He didn't even know if he was any good. Read his letters. He honestly had no clue, and it didn't help that he didn't have reason to believe--in terms of positive reinforcement--what he had was of any artistic value, or could be desired or pleasurable for people. So he drank, fought, spent his days in fields, screwed a lot of prostitutes, got a lot of diseases, alienated everybody, and was just about incapable of laughter or making or appreciating a joke. That was just cooked out of him, if it was ever there. And still, Van Gogh lived in big houses. Isn't that something? For all of the talk of his poverty. He lived in much bigger houses than my house in Rockport I am trying to get back. And he sold nothing. Nor did he have another job. I don't have the problem--if it is a problem--of not knowing how good my work is. I know exactly how good each individual article of it is. It's not conferred on my work by the places it's been, though plenty of people would love to play that game with their work, were it in even a handful of those venues. But that doesn't mean anything. Or, rather, it doesn't mean the work has any merit. That stuff is about other stuff. Some might say, why do you care about being in some of these places then? Well, if you're Elvis, and it's 1955, you have to get on the radio, don't you? Even if it's shit on the radio before you. Lawrence Welk. You still need to get on the big stations, to get heard by enough people.
I have pitched essays--which is not what I want to be doing at all--in the last day on King's Quest--the 1984 computer game--the 1994 film Backbeat, the Who's Tommy and abuse/trauma, suicide, Melville's Redburn, Picasso, the dearth of imagination in titles and how important a title to a work can be--it's a handshake and hello to the reader--and the French Romantic painter, Theodore Gericault.
For each of these entries there has to be an accompanying image, for when they're all in a row on the main blog page. It's kind of a pain in the ass to find something for everything. So for this one I'm just going to put this song here. 4:25.