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Guns, publishing, graves

Tuesday 7/5/22

A few things very quickly before I give myself over to my work and the war I am in.


Yesterday as I was coming back from running the stairs, I gave real thought to putting the entirety of "Fitty" up on here. I have been trying to think of how I want to say this. I will begin by mentioning that over the weekend I read an email from Thomas Gebremehdin, vice president at Doubleday. This is a man who had a job out of nowhere, as a starter job, at The Wall Street Journal, was then made fiction editor of The Atlantic, which lasted for just a few months, who was then installed as a vice president at a major publishing house. Gee. That doesn't sound shady at all. This was not because of anything he is, but rather a sequence of lucrative handouts for an empty suit who checks boxes. This man's entire life is based upon having the right boxes checked, and then looking for, supporting, and putting forward other people who also have the right boxes checked. A guy of no merit, no talent, no intelligence, fast-tracked from one upper-level gig to another. There are surface factors that play into this. I won't go into them here. But of course he is also an all-out system person, who plays the game of these evil people, tells them what they want to hear, platforms bad writers who offer nothing, based on things that have nothing to do with the writing.


He handles me with the exclamation point approach we saw from Kara Rota at Chicago Review Press. I had offered him There Is No Doubt: Story Girls, as I've offered him other books. It would not matter what I had or what I offered. I have my name, and I am not one of these vile people. I am the real deal. The realest there has ever been or will ever be. And that makes me the devil to these people. I am everything they are not. He does the same thing every time, because of this. It's like if you were Black, and you wanted a membership at the white country club in 1860. You're the wrong person. That's how someone like this evaluates what he takes. It's not your work, it's who you are to this community of the worst people there has been.


So he lied to me and said he didn't acquire much fiction, like it's something he can't do. It's an incredibly insulting lie, too, told to you by an adult tantamount to a simple, dumb, spoiled child, who expects you to be duped. Again, he was the fiction editor at The Atlantic, so yeah, of course he's taking fiction and can take fiction. And the hubris you require to think you're going to fool me with anything, let alone something a slightly more intelligent child than this fraudulent adult-child could see through. He's an evil guy, a liar, a bigot. He signed off with a "Good luck!" which means, "I would never, ever, ever, ever, ever work with you." He's a pussy, so that's how he says it. What these people also love to do is take a shot at "Fitty." He did that by saying, "I read 'Fitty,'" and nothing else. This is how they try to cut. This passive aggressive, "perfectly ordinary story" routine, "nothing special." When they all know what it is.


That was in my head. And for a while, like I said, I've been thinking of how I might say this. Everything I write--and I think anyone who reads it would agree, and hopefully there are people who read the pages of this journal who've bought the books and read the fiction in full, and there are, of course, all the excerpts on here--is of the same quality. I believe that every work of fiction I write is better than any fiction there has ever been. I believe the work bears that out. When I put the excerpts up on here, I am making a case. It's like a court case. I am proving what I am. "Damn, that's the best fiction I've seen," and then an hour later, you get the same reaction, with fiction in a totally different style, voice, form, etc. The stacking, the constant proof, is absurd. It's almost impossible to believe that anyone could do that. But I prove it to you, and I'll probably prove it again throughout today, so keep an eye peeled. I think all of this fiction bears this out sufficiently, and my situation is what it is, that I can say that. I should say that. I have to say that.


But there is something about "Fitty," to me, that is different. It's not better. But it's different. I think how I might put it. That if I had written nothing else, and I had this one story, "Fitty" would be the finest work of fiction ever written in this country. Ever written, period. In the world. But there is also something about it that makes it of this country.


It's a story about guns, but other things even more than guns. I think it's a story that could change how guns are viewed in this country. I think it's a story that could influence the availability of guns in this country. I think it is a story that can impact this nation. And maybe even help foster change in it.


Yesterday being the Fourth of July, I gave real thought to putting up the entire story on here. I don't want to just give it away, and I don't want to be putting my work on a journal on my website. It's meant to be seen where it should be seen, by millions. And in books, and bought by millions. I was also thinking about all of the people who have insulted me over this story, like a meaningless, talentless, virtually unpublished blob like Nate Brown at American Short Fiction. You take a story like "Fitty"--you know what I mean--to Nate Brown at American Short Fiction, and you're offering it to a guy who has no power to take the story, who is just posing like he has any power or say, when he's just the talentless blog who sends writers their contracts so they can get their $150 for a story and two contributor copies. The stakes are laughable. No one cares, but this is all there is, a worthless journal like this, which is about the only type of outlet for fiction, because these people, with their sinecures, with all of their shitty, imagination-free, inconsequential, more-boring-than-anything-else-in-this-world fiction, have killed of reading and made it such that anyone who writes writes like this, or else there is no playing in their warped reindeer games. It wouldn't be enough to just write like this--you need the blue blood, you need to be like a Laura van den Berg type in life. You need to check the boxes.


But he has power in this dynamic, because I have to come to a worthless, despicable, hollow, toad like this. He's jealous. He's done nothing in his life. He can't write. (Seriously: look how much this guy sucks at writing, and this is like his "greatest hit" at some blog for a nothing literary magazine? I mean: "So this morning when I got up to pee, I wasn’t surprised that there was bad news on my homescreen." Wow. The talent, right? What is less important than doing whatever that is for whatever place that is? Obviously when I am doing what I do, where I do it, the toad is going to have nothing but animus and envy. Then the toad thinks it has power, because I have come to it, and the toad is going to seek revenge; not for anything done to this toad, but because of the infinite space in ability and much more, between us.) But he can fuck with me then. He can indulge all of his jealousy, and he can get semi-erect and get off to be able to speak to someone who is infinitely his superior as a writer, as an artist. Then there are the two boss bigots at American Short Fiction in Rebecca Markovits and Adeena Reitberger. Everything is a back room deal. It's cronyism, it's based on skin color, gender, the flavor of the month. As the literary journal makes the small amount of money it makes by getting people who don't know how it really works to pay them $3 to have their story rejected because all of the stories are picked up this other way. These people hate me, because I am the best writer there has ever been, and I prove it constantly. And they have no ability. I thought about putting the story up on here so that you could contrast it with this awful shooting story from American Short Fiction, called "Matt's." Go ahead and look at it. Seriously. Indulge me. How bad is that? You're shocked, right? Why is that published? You think it's a joke, right? You think, "That can't seriously be all it is?" If you're not a writer yourself, you're still going to think, "I could do something so much better than that." And you could. Because it fucking sucks. Obviously. What is more obvious than the reality that that story fucking sucks?


I thought about putting the story up so then you could ask bigots like Deborah Treisman and David Wallace at The New Yorker how on earth they could see this and not take it just because they hate the man who wrote it that much. And bigots like Christopher Beha and Katie Ryder at Harper's, the deplorable racist and sexist that is Ann Hulbert at The Atlantic. I think if you read these pages, you know that I don't exaggerate. I'm not a hyperbole person. I've talked about this story a lot. I've shown bits and pieces. I haven't talked about it for my health. You have to know that it's going to be something beyond anything else you've ever seen from anyone else.


But I didn't do it, because I just don't want to be giving away my work in these pages. For free, too. I couldn't do that to the story or to myself. Then later in the day, I get a text from my mom about the shooting in Highland Park, Illinois. It happened on a street where I worked at the Starbucks for one summer when I was home from college. Later in the afternoon, the shooter was apprehended right behind my mom's house, by which I mean, it was actually right behind the house. In the backyard there's a berm, and on the other side of the berm, is the expressway. He was caught 100 yards away. On the day that I was going to put up "Fitty," before any of that happened.


The end of a section of that story I excerpted on here last night, "The Difference Between," speaks to how these people are, even when the discrimination is not involved. They are the people least qualified in the world to have anything to do with writing and books. That section in the story talks about the difference between adults who retain a childlike capacity for wonder, and those who long ago lost it. The human adult--as, the real human, the real adult--is part child, because they experience the world in the terms of "can" and "why not?" As the story says:


You may experience that which others would never try to, because they don’t have a fucking clue it could possibly exist. And when they see that it does, they don’t get it. They are baffled, lost, fearful, made more insecure. What they are missing in themselves and also out on—what is causing them to feel those ways—is exactly that which makes life special when it is.


That describes these people in publishing, and why they are they are the people least qualified to have anything, as I said, to do with writing and books. Are you an exception? Okay. Then be that exception, hard. Lead. Don't be a pussy. Because you may be more valuable and vital than you think you can be based on what surrounds you, and what you often just give in to. Don't give in. Because if you are that person in publishing who is different, you are something special, and be that as much as you can. It matters.


There are two kinds of people here. There are people who are going to know that every word I've said in this entry is true, and they are going to hate me for it, or hate me more, for that reason. Then there are people who are going to know that every word I've said in this entry is true, and they are going to want this to be different.


These people named above, and many others, hate me so much, that knowing what this story could do, they would rather that people get shot and murdered than put forward a work that can possibly make a difference in this national horror. A statement story unlike any other. Think about that: they'd rather have people die than allow Colin Fleming to have a work in their otherwise meaningless journal, if we're talking an American Short Fiction, but you know what? Harper's is pretty meaningless, too, really. What does it mean? What does it give the world? Does it matter if it exists or not? Of course not. But this is what there is. This is all there is. These venues. For fiction that no one could possibly care about. But what if you have fiction that everyone would care about? What then?


I cannot exaggerate how sick and evil these people are. A Claire Boyle at McSweeney's. And John McMurtrie--how do you like his character? And he's nowhere near as bad as most of them. But when John McMurtrie, who has no special ability as a writer, a thinker, anything, is tapped by The New York Times Book Review--because he's a member of their gated community--to write some pieces, what do you think does? He sucks, and licks, and rubs, and al but dry humps the proper people of this system, like some obsequious robot programmed to be insincere. You saw that letter to Claire Boyle. After years of her discrimination. What kind of person doesn't even respond to that letter? I'll tell you who: the kind of person who, if their parents are decent people, are ashamed of them. Of what they became. What they stand for. Or don't.


Think of the depth of that hate and envy. They'd prefer slaughtering, bloodshed, lives destroyed, over putting forward the best work ever written that can make a difference. Think about that. They prefer not being a part of history, not making money, not publishing art of that significance, in a sea of sameness, work for the greater good, and reaping all that comes with it--even as their magazine dies, their industry is dying--than to put forward Colin Fleming. In some cases, for fifty bucks and a free copy of a journal no one has heard of. But it's even worse at a New Yorker, because there is the story to change the world, or at least have a hell of an emotional impact--because "Fitty" is going to fucking wreck you like you've never been wrecked--with the platform in place. You just need to plug in the masterpiece. You publish fifty godawful, prosaic stories a year that combine naval-gazing and outright wankery, like it's someone jerking off over and into their own bellybutton, and then going to their therapist. That's how I'd summarize New Yorker fiction. Before we get into how race and gender plays a role, and again the flavor of the month, how much money does your family have, who is your soulless agent, etc. That is actual sociopathic envy and hate. That's not just "I dislike you." That is something so much more than Trump Derangement Syndrome.


I received a very moving letter this morning from someone who had just today read a post on here from four years ago about a man I hadn't known in person. An editor. I had written for them. There were things about them I did not understand. For instance, never would my work be taken on, but I didn't feel that it was because of anything untoward. Nor did I think it was because this person didn't know what it was. I suspected they were in a lot of pain, and couldn't get themselves to do what they thought was best to do, or was right to do. This man, though, would reach out to me, and he'd try and joke about things I'd posted on Facebook, say. I didn't do normal postings on Facebook. I wrote on Facebook. I treated it like a mini-version of these pages. He'd quote me verbatim. He would try to be funny with me by referencing characters I'd made up, like we knew them. Anyway, he died rather unexpectedly. I didn't know how. I wrote about him on here. I sent it to the people he worked with. Being what most of these people are, they didn't even respond, not even to say thank you. They're just bad people. We know that. The woman who wrote me today expressed how moved she was, and said that she had once been engaged to this man. He had moved to LA, and she drove him there. I got the sense that they weren't together at that point, and they were friends, or she was someone who was trying to help him. She said that he suffered from depression, and so a number of people had assumed he committed suicide--I didn't assume that, but I thought it was a possibility, because it was so sudden--but she wanted me to know he died of natural causes, and that he was buried in Boston if I wanted to visit his grave. I will write her back and thank her for the letter and ask what cemetery he is buried in, and if there's anything she would like me to do or leave at his grave.