I won't put this person's name up, because she's by no means a bad person, but this is typical of how people interact with me, and it's something I just will not stand for. (This webinar is what is being referred to, by the way.) It's the de facto mode of expression when talking to me: left-handed compliments, passive aggressiveness, and assorted insulting remarks. We both know what the reality is, of the person and the work. So don't ask me to pretend to be a moron and go along with the BS you're saying to me. I call it cool guying me. People do it because they understand that I am on a totally different level. Not just from them, but from anyone they've ever known. They are often threatened by that. It's why no one praises anything. Why there is no support. Why people in business with me often act as though they are against me. And why everything is happening with publishing. This doesn't happen if you're mediocre or just great. This happens only if you're what I am. That's as much proof as almost anything.
One might recall when we talked about My Dinner with Andre, when one character says to the other something along the lines that people are so weird with each other whenever they have to say something real. We're used to being fake. Lying. By lying I mean saying compliments that no one on earth has ever meant--you know, like what one says about Laura van den Berg or Emma Straub. No one means it. Because no one means it, it's easy to say. It's easy to support someone like that. Praise them. Praise them from afar, praise them to their face. There's nothing that is real about who you are that is on any kind of line. There are no stakes for you. It's easy. Because you don't mean it at all. And you also don't care at all. They are being praised for other reasons. It's easier. Parallelism is often the reason. Or you're a member of the diseased publishing subculture. You think you have to, so you just go along with doing it. You're too scared because of perceived peer pressure within the community to say the truth, even if it's obvious.
With me, people can't do that. They quake. They also want me to perceive them a certain way. They want me to think well of them. They want my approval. (Or, as with many in publishing, they want me dead, because I am everything they could never be, and I prove it every hour of every day.) They don't want to come off as being too fawning, like they're kissing my ass. Remember when we discussed in these pages the importance of having a kissable ass? Who has a kissable ass? A mediocre person you can lie to. Empty praise that no one means. That's easy. But to tell me what you really think about me? About my work? People can't do that. They worry that they'd come across as unseemly. Effusive. Gushing. They'd be vulnerable. They'd be out there, on the line. Who can do that? Someone very secure in who they are, who also realizes they are not in competition with me. Or, someone who is not secure at all, who sees a million other people doing the praising. Then they can add their voice. That's the trick of this, though. To go from zero--because of this situation--to millions. So they end up cool guying me, at best, which is what I call it. They try to play it cool. Because it's me. Note this exchange, which is embedded in a text to someone who knows exactly what is happening and why.
Note how important it is not to mention the book. To praise the book. Like I'm some PR hack who works for Sam Cooke. I'm going to say something that some might find surprising, and others won't, but it's true. I am ambivalent about Sam Cooke or just about anything I write about when it comes to nonfiction. Sam Cooke is fine. I like him. I like 500 other artists more. You're going to get energy, passion, and all sorts of tidbits you didn't know, from angles you never considered on your own, no matter what I write about, and that's certainly true, as much as it is anywhere in anything I've ever done, in that Sam Cooke book. But Sam Cooke is not the point to me. The work is the point. The work of entertainment and art that I make. And it is vastly easier to write and sing "You Send Me" than it is to write that book. That's the art.
I'll give you another example. I recently wrote this big feature on a film and people like it a lot--what they think I'm proving about the film--so I won't tarnish that feeling for anyone, but I don't think it's a good film at all. I also don't care. I'm writing a work of entertainment and art. That's what I care about. That's the show. That is all I care about. When I write about something, it's never about that thing. Do you understand? Whether it's fiction or nonfiction. I mean, I just wrote a story called "Bitches" about bitches. Do you really think it's about bitches? It's always about something else, and so much more. The Beatles piece is never about the Beatles. Look at it this way. There is a character in a work of fiction. That could well be an ordinary person. It's not some genius. But then this work of entertainment and art grows up around them. I reveal what is behind the mysteries of humanness. I pull back curtains. I give people a better seat to witness the answers. I give them something in which to see themselves. To identify with. Relate. I revel in the relational. That is my art: the relational. That's what I do. It's the same thing with the nonfiction. The work is the point. Not the subject. The subject isn't even the real subject, but it can look that way, if you'd like it to, if you were the diehard Beatles fan. I guess. Because if I write something on the Beatles, I defy anyone to find anything by anyone else in which you get more about the Beatles, at their essence. But it'd also be very hard to see it as "just" that.
I'm not the publicist, I'm not the go-between, I'm not the shill, I'm not the journalist, I'm not the emissary, I'm not the critic, I'm not the messenger, I'm not the hawker, I'm not the barker. I'm the artist. Me. And whether you like or don't like that putative subject before you get to the work--the book--doesn't really matter at all, except insofar as it brings in people who already like that subject in their own life. But my books, my works, are no more for those people than they are for anyone else who could not normally care less about the putative subject, or has never heard of it.
When someone cool guys me, they want me to think a certain way of them, but this backfires totally. I instantly have no respect for them. I'm done. I'm totally done. Unless it's someone who is bringing something to my world right now, like money or a platform, because that's the position I'm in unfortunately for the time being. A day will come when people who think we're this or that, and I think this or that about them, are going to be sorely and immediately disabused of those notions, and they won't know what hit them and we won't know each other anymore. But for now, I have to bite several of those bullets. But I hate when someone tries to cool guy me. I mean, look at that. Anything not to give me credit, credit the book, or even mention the book. But they will give it to Cooke, because there are no personal stakes for them; there's nothing on the line, personally. They're talking about a third party that is not there, whereas they're talking to me, who is there, and what I am requires them to put themselves on the line. I know exactly what is happening. I've figured it all out. I live it. That's someone going out of their way to do that, because of who I am. It happens throughout every day. Like I'm not supposed to speak up? I'm documenting everything here, in exposing why all of this is happening. This is a big part of it.