top of page

"Have you got everything you need?"

Monday 1/6/20

Good for Ricky Gervais saying what he said at the Golden Globes. He re-proves what I have known for some time now: If someone is smarter than everyone else, if they are more articulate than everyone else, if they are correct in what they are saying, if they say it with humor interspersed, even mordant humor, and they are a decent person with a nice way about them, they can say anything, no matter how controversial, and carry the day.

People will flock to them. The people who would wish to end them, hate them, attack them, will lack the command of language, a requisite amount of intelligence, to take them on, because they are nowhere near that level. And they will shut their mouths, and go away. Go after someone else, who is closer to their level.

I have seen everything Gervais has made. Most of it is just okay, though he made one of the great works of all-time with The Office. I would have The Office hang out with In Search of Lost Time, Sgt. Pepper, Citizen Kane, Dark March, Beethoven's late string quartets, A Love Supreme, and that would be quite the gathering of works that belong together. His remark about how lazy Hollywood has gotten in its moviemaking, and how awards have come to mean absolutely nothing, is spot on.

Further: That goes 1000x more so for publishing in 2020. If one thinks Hollywood is bad, it is nothing compared to the publishing industry.

The difference being, people still watch and go to movies, so there is a group that cares, a big chunk of the populace. Whereas, people in publishing have completely killed off reading. It's like they've pulled a curtain around their world, where they can molest, rape, discriminate, perpetuate evil, drip incompetence from every last pore, and no one can see, and no one cares, and so on it goes, until it gets exposed, stopped, replaced.

Nothing in publishing happens because someone wrote something better than someone else.

I see these hateful, toxic, bigots, with no talent, bragging about their meaningless story being in something like the meaningless Pushcart Prize anthology. And you'd laugh if they weren't part of a sick subculture that has parted humanity from something humanity needs, that being writing made in good faith, at the level of art, that entertains, that actually matters and connects.

Speaking of which: I began two new personal essays this AM. One is about moving as a child, and how the horror of displacement--relative to how one thinks at that age--can inform a kind of vital motility of thought--and the power of adaptability--later in life. The other is a piece looking at the role of nature in my early life, how it shaped my thinking, shaped the artist I was looking to be, and would later become. I have also started an excellent new short story this morning, all of which I have worked out already, called "Drivel in Wormwood."

I pitched a feature idea on Coltrane and "Giant Steps," in which I would look at the various rungs, if you will, of the giant steps; the process of trying one attempt at the piece--I feel like we should almost call it a piece, rather than a song--in the studio. The released version may or may not be the best, may or may not be the most interesting; the process, though, is fascinating, and who better to walk readers through that journey that Coltrane took with his most complicated piece, and the musicians tasked with trying to follow him? Ah, poor Tommy Flanagan, the pianist. He had a whale of a time with those changes. And I love Flanagan's playing.

I walked three miles and climbed the Monument five times on Saturday, but no times at all yesterday. I set off to climb, but I was underdressed and retreated on account of the cold. The wind blew right threw me. To paraphrase Shane MacGowan. Though I am not old.

Yesterday marked 1309 days without a drink. Tomorrow I will return to Downtown and talk about girl groups in 1960, The Twist, virginity, the Twist in relation to the Beatles, and also Sam Cooke, who utilized the Twist form--which ought to have been limiting, but which he found liberating--to author one of the best LPs of the 1960s. I say "author," because the Twist made Sam Cooke write.

A few stray sports thoughts, re: the Patriots, before I move on from that. Belichick made a remark about Brady's return as being a two-way street kind of deal. In other words, money. Anyone who thinks Belichick wants to be done with Brady should dispense with that faulty logic. He does not want to pay him an amount that saddles the team. Brady should not care about what he is paid; he should care about what weapons the team invests in. He will, of course, care to a degree about what he is paid. Won't be the salient point for him, though. He will return. They will restock. He will play for a while. What's a while? I don't know--could be three years. With New England. They will find his successor, maybe in this spring's draft. That successor will have that time behind Brady. A year, two years, three, I don't know. That's how he is going to leave New England. It's going to be a Garopollo situation over again. Brady was supposed to leave back then, after a year, or two, or three. He did not. This time, he will. Because he will want to anyway. I get how this guy thinks. He's like a mini-competitive version of me. For the first time in a long time, a lot of people--the majority--doubt his ass. You don't know what it is like to be great at something and be a competitor if you think a person like that who has their ass doubted by millions is not entirely about sticking it up asses. Not a reference to pegging. To proving wrong. He's not going anywhere, and he might win an MVP, and a championship or two.

But for the people who want to say he's declined so much, who embarrass themselves with their cringe-inducing, "OK Boomer" Tweets--seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you if you do that?--I would like objective input on where he has declined. Do you think he's lost velocity? Clearly has not happened. Do you think he's gotten dumber and doesn't recognize schemes and packages like he used to? So, what, he's becoming less intelligent and fast-thinking at forty-two? In the prime of his life? Do you think that's what is happening? Do you think he's become less accurate? Let's say he has. What does accuracy have to do with? Mechanics. Mechanics can be honed, built up again. People, in 2020, think not with their brains, or their eyeballs, but their agendas. Their limited, warped selves, their fail egos, their personal dysfunction.

Then there is the Kumbaya crowd. I deal with the Kumbaya crowd myself. For instance, whenever I meet someone who calls themselves a writer--and I really should have a policy at this point, with no exceptions, of having no social intercourse with these people--they immediately try to suck you down to their level. That's the level of "Oh, I know this person, do you know them?" and "I love Bread Loaf, do you love Bread Loaf?" and "If I were in Boston we could go to a cafe and have a writing session," which is actually what someone said to me the other day.

A writing session? I want to end you if you write. I want to compete against you, I want you to see my work and think, "Fucking hell, in a trillion years, I could never come near that, what I do means nothing, I cannot invent, I should do something else, he's wrecked me." Because I compete. I don't compete with readers. I connect with readers. I give my life, my heart, my soul, to readers. Nothing in this world matters more to me, and I should say in sooth, than stories connecting with audience, with people who need the stories, who mesh with the stories, who see themselves in the stories. I love those people. I love them completely. I live for them. But someone with no ability who fits in nowhere else and came to publishing to try and find community in what is a twisted, diseased subculture? Yeah, I am not doing Kumbaya with you. Fucking sitting in the Starbucks looking up from our lattes and sharing a line one of us just wrote? Are you you kidding me? I told a friend about this remark, and you have never heard someone laugh so hard.

The Kumbaya Brady crowd comprises the people say, "he's done so much, he should be able to play for anyone he wants." How does that work, exactly? He could suck, and because he was good in the past, he can name his team, and out of fellowship and respect for his past, they should sign him and let him play?

What world do people like that live in? He should play because he merits it. That is all that should ever matter. How good you are. How effective you are. Not your bloody laurels. Not your cronies. Not your fucking skin color or what is between your legs. How fucking good you are at what you do.

And you better stay good at it, because if you regress, people should be able to blow past you and you should be fucked. That's what I love. You are only as good as your last shift, and I don't know that that's true. You're only as good as your next shift, perhaps, is the better way of thinking about it. I am never going to get worse at what I do. I get better every day. So, I suppose, this would hold appeal to me, especially. Whereas, quite a few people--and nearly everyone in publishing--would hate this to the max.

What have you written today? What have you written this week? What have you invented? What did you get up before dawn on Saturday and create? What have you learned? What can you do now in April that you couldn't do in February? Let's compare, let's look at what you did, what I've done, let the better person win. Let's go. Where's your novel, where's your story, where's your essay, you on the radio? Any good or do you suck? Where's your blog? Is it any good? Is any of this great? Timeless? Transcendent? Can people connect with what you do? Do they laugh? Do they cry? Do they beat their breast and say yes yes yes yes yes? Do they feel like life would be very different without it had they never experienced it?

Compete compete compete. Enough of your race and gender exploitation, your favor trades, your system that keeps out people not like you, from your background, your schools, your wholly unearned privilege, with all of your limitations, your paucity of range and knowledge, all of the shit you know nothing about, which is effortlessly at my command, and come out here into the sun with me, into this field, and let's fucking compete.

It'd be game over very fast though, wouldn't it?

I should do some Monument climbs for my heart.

Then I will write a piece on the new Netflix series of Dracula for The Daily Beast.

* Addendum: It's is 11:15 now, same morning. I have not climbed yet, but I have composed and filed an entire 2000 word film piece with The Daily Beast. That's how we do mornings here! Like I said: Compete!

bottom of page