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Hot ropes

Wednesday 2/6/19

Things are going terribly. I am attacking the blacklisting from all sides. Evil people. Can't quantify the level of it. I have to get through. There is nothing good to report. It's fifty blows a day. Kicks to the balls, hammer to the teeth, mallet upon mallet to the back. So often the back. This is a discussion of Winnie-the-Pooh from yesterday on Downtown. I'm losing work (cuts and closures because an industry has killed off reading and readers), then I fight to make up for it elsewhere. I write so much, but at this point, I spend less than 1% of my life--because I battle a blacklist all day--formally composing. In a normal life, which I fight to get to, I would spend 40 to 45% of it composing. If I am doing what I'm doing at less than 1%, what the output would look like at 40% is humanly incomputable. I was out with someone last night at a Mexican dive bar and she asked me what I would do then, what I would write, what I would focus on, what would be my "thing." Like it has to be one. Because it would be one for them, it has to be one for me. That's just how people think until they can get beyond their own personal parameters of experience and expectation based on who they are and what they can do. Would it be novels, would it be op-eds, would it be screenplays. Etc. "Everything. And things I invent, too, that weren't there previously. Everything. And it will be a piece of piss compared to what these days are like."

The novels, the stories, the essays, the op-eds, the films, the TV shows, radio, children's books, arts pieces, sports pieces, memoirs, speaking tours. All of it. I have to get past these people. I strategize deep into the night with another friend. I have also reached out to lawyers now. But I am not going into that here at present. I'm not a good enemy to have. The solution is just being fair. Be fair with me, you will have no problems. A box of copies of Buried on the Beaches has arrived. I have not even opened it. In fact, it sat downstairs for a week. I probably won't look. The site will be updated in the appropriate places--the Books tab, the News tab, here in this journal--when I have the Amazon link. All that matters right now in my existence is finding a way out of this situation. But readers of these journal pages should buy Buried. If I had written one book in my life and then got hit by a bus and it was that book, I have no problem saying that no one else ever had a better book.

Quite a thing to say, right? You can't say that! Why? Read it. You'll think the same thing. A lot of times, art is not entertaining, and entertainment is not art. To give each to people in equal measure in a work is something very rarely done throughout the time humans have walked the earth. I'm both artist and entertainer equally. It's one reason why I'm hated by my industry so much. Very little fiction printed fiction is meant to entertain. In terms of "literary fiction." They see that as a bad thing. They want it all to be exclusionary. It is fucking dreadful to try and read, like bathing your eyes in battery acid. And if people could love it, they hate it. That goes against their credo of what they think proper writing art is. They'd fucking hate Dickens if he was around right now, fucking hate Gogol, fucking hate Fitzgerald. What else? I have to be quick. I didn't get up until half past seven, and it's almost ten now. I picked up work with The Washington Post. Two things. I will write about A Confederacy of Dunces and writerly suicide--oh boy--and also how we speak now in the same ten or so phrases. "At the end of the day." "Sorry not sorry." "Asking for a friend." "Outlier." "Punchable." "If I'm the (insert name of sports team)." And I just wrote a 2200 word essay this morning for The Daily Beast on Stendhal's On Love for Valentine's Day. Excerpt. I am composing at a high level.

The journey is a four-step process, according to love’s master of exegesis. You started admiring the other person. They do something—maybe it’s a turn of phrase, maybe it’s how they pop a grape into their mouths—that causes some reconsideration. Then you acknowledge this to yourself. It’s the romantic equivalent of sitting back and thinking, “That’s interesting. Hadn’t noticed that before. Fair play.”

Next you have hope that they’re thinking about you the same way. You begin to imagine designs that might impress them, that might make your feelings known without you having to have that go-for-it moment when you say, “Screw it! I love you! There! The truth is out!” Finally comes delight—this person could lance a blister in front of you, some of the juice could pop onto your collar, and you’d praise her healing hands of benediction, how lucent her face looked, as if she were an angel, as she said, “fuck that stings.”

In Stendhal’s view, your heart was as much another’s as your own at this point. But things also get tricky. When we’re having moments like that of the blister analogy, we are not seeing someone as they are. This doesn’t help us or them. What you want, naturally, is to see them fully in all the ways that make them them. And they do the same with you. And through each other, you come to see yourself, in all the parts you overlooked or misunderstood, better. You gain more of your identity, your actual identity, through their eyes, their care and concern, their vulnerability to you and yours to them.

Viktor Frankl defined love as a choice, a will to extend one’s self for another’s growth. It was, in his view, more about what you did for someone else, than what you got back. I buy this. I’m not someone who thinks we see someone and fall in love. As I’ve learned more in life, I’ve learned that, yes, everyone says I love you, but love is not common.

Infatuation is common, more and more so because of the attention it can bring back our way. You make a decision to love another, because you are plunging. You are leaving the cliff side, you are leaving the bathypelagic layer of the ocean behind for a deeper dive. Whenever we do something brave, we do not stumble ass backwards into it. We decide. We do emotional, spiritual, character-based math: Do I have the stuff to do this?

But that’s why Stendhal laid out his four-part process. A progression. He was by no means saying that this was the recipe for romantic happiness. He just wanted to say what normally happened in those times in our life, when we will be in love. And how many will we have? One? Two? Five? It’s not a lot, even if you make it to 100. And when we know what is happening, we can check ourselves in some of the flaws of that process. When we see deficiencies as strengths in another, as the love besotted person often does, we are leaving reality. When you romanticize everything, people can lose themselves. You stop being Person A and Person B who contribute to Relationship A-B, and you become this big, smeary, love amoeba, and who knows where each person begins and the other leaves off at that point.

As it were, the critics did not love On Love. They thought it bizarre. Self-indulgent. Stendhal was a funny bastard, but they didn’t like that either, as if he wasn’t always properly solemn, given his subject. They basically treated it like you treat that couple you see when you’re at the movies and he’s all over her and she’s all over him and you half-expect hot ropes of seed to go flying through the air before the trailers start. Get a room, right?


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