Two weeks ago at this time I was literally walking the streets of Boston and crying. I don't have much in terms of support. I'm on my own. Against much. Very hard to keep going. Very hard to imagine hope, let alone have it. I went into a cafe and I sat there until late at night. And I asked myself, "Do you die, or do you keep going? There has not been anyone like you. There is not going to be anyone like you. Do you die, or do you keep going?"
The next day, an overheard conversation-- a single line, really--on Atlantic Avenue produced an idea. It's less than two weeks later. In these less than two weeks, I have never worked harder nor composed more. Today I wrote a 2000 word essay on Howard Hawks, The Thing from Another World, and our age of digital autophagy. Excerpt:
There was a time when if you viewed yourself as a complex thinker who loved sci-fi and you cared what others might think about you, you had to nurse something of a secret shame.
Jazz was like this in the 1940s. We all know those films where the smartest person in them—who is either a scientist or a professor—literally crosses the tracks in town late at night to go to some juke joint and hear his or her favorite hep cats blow up a storm. The professor or scientist is willingly welcomed into the ranks of the audience, whose members nonetheless wear a collective expression of “we don’t get many other fans here, nice to have you, jazz sibling.”
Cinema in this country was dominated by Westerns, now that color was an option, and directors of expansive spaces fell in love with the expansiveness of CinemaScope. Westerns were made by directors Americans knew it was wise to respect—people like John Ford and Howard Hawks. They were prairie operas, Shakespearean fare with holsters rather than scabbards, and though they could have an element of what I call a guilty comfort to them, a lot of that had to do with the range of the various oaters on offer. Many cheapjack Westerns were akin to that last drop of tainted water in a prairie dog hole long after the rains came; others were pure Old West opalescence, light shows of the possibilities of the human spirit, regardless of era, age, or whistles in need of wetting.
But sci-fi? That was about human-sized bugs with eyes like blinking copper pancakes, actors rather longer on histrionics than chops whose go-to moves could often be uncharitably adjudicated by how convincingly they bunched up their brows to indicate confusion as to how runoff from the nearby atomic energy plant had produced this latest bit of mutant nastiness.
That was the fourth essay of this week. The others were on Jesus, a video game, and a 200-year-old painting. I also worked on a new short story called "Dunedin." Spring is three weeks old. Within those three weeks I also composed a humor book in a week, an op-ed, another short story called "chickchick," a piece on Anthony Braxton, a personal essay on a computer game--the same computer game, actually--and pieces on a Fitzgerald short story, an M.R. James ghost story, the bulk of a personal essay on climbing the Bunker Hill Monument, and many journal entries--must be upwards of thirty.
I am so close on so many fronts. I am right there. The walls have to start coming down at some point. How is this the same person? How is this one person? I see millions right there. This direction, that direction, doing this, doing that.
I am going to apply for a Guggenheim Fellowship, because I need the money right now. I'll write about Ambrose Bierce for The Daily Beast. An editor there wants to run an excerpt of Buried on the Beaches, but they don't normally do this, so it would have to be an exception, which they are trying for. This writer, besides being really nice and really professional, is an excellent writer. A legit good writer. I print out their work and I learn it. Few writers understand the geometry of writing. It's all angles and assembling shapes. In some ways, the least that writing is about is words. It's about math, geometry, painting, music, architecture.
The four essays this week totaled 8000 words. With the work on "Dunedin"--note how different it is from Meatheads Say the Realest Things; again, how is that the same artist?--that comes to about thirty-five pages. There were also hundreds of letters. Most to people who hate and fear me, but the ceaseless trying nonetheless. It's very difficult to do something for hundreds of hours when you know what the result is almost certainly going to be and that is bad or no result. But I also know what I can do in this world. And that is nothing precedented.
Twitter is something I am not understanding. For instance, I will see some talentless writer, who is virtually unpublished--and what they did publish was in the Never Heard of It Review--and they have 40,000 followers. Why? Who are these people? How have they ever even heard of this virtually unpublished writer who is also lousy at writing? This is the norm. It's not rare. What does it mean? How does it happen? What is the point?
I have 32. Not 32,000. 32 as in 10 times 3 plus 2. How's that even possible when you're in the venues I'm in, over and over and over and over and over again? But if you're in the Never Heard of It Review once, back in 2013...you have 35K followers? What are people doing to do that?
I saw the name of the new Star Wars film. Sounds like an erection traveling sideways. In space.
Look at that. Something wittier than anything I saw this week on Twitter in all of my researches. So I know people aren't finding entertainment there. What's it mean to be followed by a lot of people? Obviously it's not an intelligence thing. It's not a success thing. It's not a humor thing. It's not an entertainment thing. It's not a "people know who this person is" thing. What is it?
Is it a be a regular tool thing? A be boring thing? Do you have to spend your life on there doing something that brings you followers? If you are an author who has never been in a magazine that more than fifty people have read, why would you have tens of thousands of people following you? And you're a bad writer on top of that? There is something I'm clearly missing here.
If anyone heard my radio NHL playoffs prediction segment last year around this time, it will come as no surprise that I am thus far completely wrong about the Lightning, having gotten every last thing wrong last year. There was really nothing I got correct last year. Not even a little bit. When last I checked, the Lightning were trailing Game 2 3-0.
I arose this morning intending to work more on "Dunedin," but instead I composed a new short story, the seventh of the year, called "Enib Bine."
It is about seething, blackened masses of vines, feeding upon humans who had not been able to discern their advance, and the last remaining green tendril--a bine--that attempts to stop some humans from being overrun and blanketed, devoured, upon the ground, by stringing them up in trees, and later entering them through margins at the eyes.
It's a story about how forms of life stop and start. A horror story, I would say. But like my horror stories, different from other horror stories. The opening:
The vines moved en masse, black. They fed on no light. Green was gone, unwelcome. Unsightly. Unwholesome. Contrary. Beasts of the forest floor, departed. Animals, with inkling. First one forest to be the kingdom of vines. Then another. Where all was swallowed. Moonlight consumed, the sustenance of night.
The humans were ill-prepared, made docile and confused, by the sound of vines moving en masse. Crackling, like a campfire with rattlesnake pairs playing atop flames, held in the air, rattle rattle. Fists of fallen oak leaves, huge handfuls, fingers pressing down, grinding tip against tip, until leaves are dust, sound no more, though this was not a sound that stopped.
Eventually the humans moved no feet. They went neither left nor right. Forwards or backwards. There was no available ground. All was vines.
This has nothing to do with the story, of course. I just like this cover.