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Hard bop

Thursday 1/23/20

It is not very early but not late--half past six. Yesterday I walked three miles, climbed the Monument five times (3000 stairs), composed a 3000 word short story--lots of 3s--put up a couple journal entries, sent the new story to three people, two of whom absolutely loathe me, one of whom is indifferent to me and may loathe me imminently, and had this piece published in JazzTimes on Hank Mobley's Blue Note recordings from 1963-70. Who was Hank Mobley? He was a tenor saxophone player in the 1950s and 1960s who was as good as John Coltrane or Sonny Rollins, but you don't hear much about him, as he was thought of as a lesser artist who played hard bop. What is hard bop? It's a very bluesy, soulful form of jazz that grew out of bop, with rhythm and blues elements.


I don't mean to insult anyone in saying these things. I guess I am saying them now because it gets me down how little most people seem to know about anything. Presuming we all have one life and one life only--and I am not saying I believe that, because why would I? Who knows what the answer is?--why would you say, "eh, screw it, I'm good, I will know nothing, I will learn nothing, I will stare at vapidity on a screen and never, ever, ever learn." Not that the many readers of the Many Moments More journal are that way. But, I still think we all can use cautioning from time to time against becoming that way. Life can be hard, can run us down, and we can face it with a calloused skin to protect us, so we can withstand the elements better, so to speak, so we can make it through a patch, but we cannot let the calloused skin become our go-to; we must feel, feel deeply, or else we cannot learn; and we have to learn or we stagnate, and we do not live. We may have things happen and happen to us, but we do not live. And that is the same to me, in a number of ways, as being dead. Not every way. Your kids still see you, you reply to texts, the report at work gets filed. But that does not mean we are alive.


Most nonfiction writers who publish know nothing about anything. (The fiction writers also know nothing about anything, and certainly nothing about the human condition.) I will see that some agent has signed someone up who has published less in their life than I have published since now and Christmas. They will get this person a book deal at a major. This person will be awful at writing. They will come from money. They will be commonly be comely but sickly and/or icy looking. They will be vapid. They will be shallow. If they write fiction, you will not be able to understand a word of it. They will have nothing to say. If they write nonfiction--and I go to the websites of these people, because I will instantly learn everything about such a person when I see yet another example of their kind--I will see that it is always the same kind. What kind is that? It's never a kind in which one must have any knowledge of a given subject. The pieces are what I call plug-and-play pieces, in that any moron, who knew nothing about anything, could write these pieces.


So, one I saw the other day was about how a hard workout four hours--why four hours--after a stressful test can help you with stress! Another one was, "Should I feel guilty if I am white and I read a book by a black person and I identify with a character?" See? Plug-and-play imbecility. Any jack wagon in the world can write this nonsense. There is no expertise. It's the same level of knowledge you see at a bar at two AM when everyone is drunk and a genius and they will tell you about how life really works. "Let me tell you, kid, don't eat two hours before bed and you don't have to exercise, I'm telling you, bro." But here, well, let us give you prizes and a book deal with FSG! That's publishing. These people who do the plug-and-play pieces almost invariably went to Yale or another Ivy, and they are the dumbest people in our society. They are the people who know the least. So what were you doing all of your privileged life? You weren't learning anything. You were probably busy collecting things that were given to you, spending money, and telling people how great you were.


This is Mary South. Exactly what I am talking about. The perfect example of a system person. Has not earned anything. Has published less in her life, indeed, than I have published since Christmas. She will bore you out of her mind. Knows nothing. Her fiction is your standard "Men are evil" pandering of the age. It's written in the Creative Writing 101 style. There is a garbage magazine called NOON which these people pretend to like. It's "very important," though there are not a dozen people in the world outside of publishing who have any idea what it is. The people in publishing don't read it, because the people in publishing don't read themselves. It's all about status and power. By status, I mean people get to pretend they are smart and important, so they can big league other petty people, tiny people, like themselves.


Diane Williams edits NOON. (NOON comes out once a year; once a year it serves up its slop for no one to see or care about; why? What is the point?) She is also an awful writer who has been around forever. No objective third party in the real world could enjoy anything she has ever written in many decades, but in publishing, you are a monster if you don not pretend she is great. In other words, if you are sane and honest. If you are not broken. If you have talent and understand what talent is. Or you actually, for real, not for pretend, care about writing.


It's supposed to be a big deal to be in NOON, when in reality it means nothing. You're not paid, it's not read, it's not seen. It's meaningless. NOON is one of Mary South's big publications. You know what most people would not know? Mary South worked at NOON with Diane Williams for quite a while. (Worked as in "worked"; it's just hooking up friends.) So, Williams stuck her in the magazine. Again, that's all this is ever is. Cronyism, frauds hooking up frauds. That's who they want you to read, they want you to read the person who writes this utterly idiotic prose, and not this person, who writes what he does, as much as he does, at the level he does, because I am the antithesis of a mindless robot like this. A mindless robot from the right schools, the right background, with the right look, who is the right gender, who has the right connections.


What does this add up to for a Mary South? Nothing. It never becomes anything. A book comes out, with a story from the book in The New Yorker, so The New Yorker can put out more bad milquetoast placebo fiction to pander to people who really just want to have New Yorker tote bags so they look smart to the plebians (in their view; never in mine) at the Starbucks. The New York Times Book Review is a hive of Nazi thinking, and they will do a puff review saying how great the book is, but it's not meant, it's not legit, it's all but bought and paid for. It will be assigned to someone exactly like Mary South, who was Mary South a year or two ago. That's the Nazi part--if a black woman writes a book about over-eating, they find another black woman who is large to write the review. Nazi thinking. It's never about merit. It's never about the work. They look to skin color, gender, and matching up similar types. They only deal in types. They don't deal in people or work. Here is how Mary South writes. You are not remotely interested when you read this. It means nothing to you.


And she will have her little moment, and the people in the industry will buy the book and not read it, because why would you, and some people out in the world will hear about the book because of The New Yorker and The New York Times Book Review, and a few of them will buy it for their book club, and because these are real people who have bullshit detectors, they will all feel absolutely nothing--or nothing positive--for the book. It's not good writing. It was not put out there this way because of anything to do with quality. And less people will read, because all of their experiences with reading go this way now when something is touted to them, because this is all there is being touted to them; it's not all there is, but it is all that is touted.


And people are very lazy right now, even when they know what is what, and if it's not touted, they won't seek it out. If Flaubert made a massive comeback right now because of some Netflix show and everyone started to read Flaubert, then people would love it and see it for what it is. But on their own? No one is going to a library to get a copy of Madame Bovary. Mary South will teach, she'll instruct other bad writers and robot people like herself to do this kind of writing. They'll work at what dying literary magazines remain (magazine that don't sell $1000 worth of copies in a year), putting in other bad stories for no one to read or enjoy or care about. And then she'll have a novel because it was probably two-book deal, which will come out next year or the year after, again there will be puff reviews, but less of them, then there will be nothing for five years, and something else will come out, it won't have the buzz, if this is buzz, because this was her one moment, this is it. And the moment cannot be sustained, because it was about anything but the actual work and what the work could do or who could really care about it. That's publishing. And in that system, I am the devil. That's what you're dealing with.