I'm sending the updated Sam Cooke file back to Bloomsbury in the next twenty-four hours, no matter how long I have to sit here. The book is something else. Then over the weekend I work hard on the Dzanc story collection (I fear Michelle is cross with me, and I also want to do another book with them while I'm in this period--the period I must shake free of, but I'm here now, and that means max out the books), push into Scrooge--I'm giving myself until 1/20 to do the book--and think through "Eede Upstairs" some more.
That story will be what I think of as one of the massive ones. A "Fitty," a "Girls of the Nimbus." To me. I've learned that everyone seems to be citing a different story as a massive one. Vollmer cited "Holds," Pratt cited "Jute" and "Slung Stack"--all three from Longer on the Inside. Norberg cited "Dead Thomas," "Take a Limb," and "House Set" (this last one also from LoTI).
Then again, I have learned that there's a lot people don't say to me about what impacts them the most, and what they say about one work they could just as easily think about another, they just don't communicate it. I suppose my point is that I've learned that it could be anything. It's all at the same level, but different. Someone is just as likely to mention some story I can't remember doing as the best thing they've ever read as I would have thought they'd mention "Nimbus" or whatever. That's powerful. I've had to try and accept it. Even if it also makes perfect logical sense to me. I will sometimes go back and check out what they've singled out, and I'll think, "Shit, we did that? That's nuts."
I'll make a little note here for posterity at seven in the morning on this Friday of December 18, 2020. The book containing "Fitty," "Show Me Your Knees," "Dead Thomas," "Six Feet Away," "The Roll of Words," "Crossing Deer," "Rehearsal Visit," "Green Glass Door," "Post-Fletcher," "August Autumn," "Second Boy," "The Nookery," "Eede Upstairs," "Girls of the Nimbus," will be called Of That There Is No Doubt: Storied Humanness.
These are not the exact contents, but rather an idea of them. The title comes from "Fitty," which I looked at again this morning, and thought once more, "Good God, these people are so hateful to try and keep this from the world."
There will be flux in the contents, I note once again, as I sift through what I have. There is so much to pick from. With this book, the stories are longer. On the outside as well.
I'd say that the last fifty times I met someone I thought it worth trying to talk to--which, sadly, often means that they spell most words correctly, and seem kind of nice--the exact same thing plays out. No variation. And when I say fifty times in a row, I really mean fifty times. They will find out who I am. Or it will come up in conversation, because it has to. People have questions about what one does, you have to answer them. It's hard for me to answer, because people want a simple answer.
I try and do this, by saying, "author." Then it's "what kind of author?" I reply that it's complicated. Sometimes they get annoyed or angry, like I'm being difficult or lying. When it's someone I like more, I don't want to seem shady. It's human nature for a person who is answered thusly to think you don't think they're worth an answer. This site sometimes ends up being the answer. And every single time, no exceptions, I'll either never hear from that person again, or they'll tell me they're not smart enough, they're terrified of how smart I am, they wouldn't be enough for me, etc.
It's a given. They see what I do--and it can take only three minutes--and they know I'm not for them. Having someone see what I do is like pushing the eject button for me. It is every time. I can't stress that enough. You can't overstate how predictable it is. When I share this site with someone, I know that we won't talk again.
Do you know what it's like living this way? You're supposed to be punished and alone for doing horrible things, not for genius and knowledge and how hard you work and what you are trying to do, what you believe you're here to do. One recent person said, "I'm only a lawyer, I'm scared my mind wouldn't be enough." I happened not to answer in two minutes, and they freaked out. I mean, I seem kind of busy, right? They had asked me earlier what I was doing. I was watching a film, and I said the name of the film, they didn't know it, asked if that was bad. And I'm thinking, well, hardly anyone knows anything, so what's it matter? Plenty of people for you. I have no expectation that anything will know much of anything about anything. I have practically no hope.
What am I supposed to say with the whole "I'm worried my mind isn't adequate" thing? We're not going to be intellectual equals. We won't inhabit the same galaxy. That's just reality. That doesn't make me an ogre. But it does add to me being completely alone. I don't answer immediately, and I get a text saying this individual already has self-esteem issues, and the announcement that she's leaving now. I mean, that's for the best. That would never have worked. But it is what happens every single damn time.
What am I looking for? Realistically, someone much smarter than other people, who is kind, has character, seeks to grow, and is strong enough to support me and be a part of this quest. The "now" portion of, and the reaping portion of it later. The people for me, really, are people I can't meet. Someone said to me the other day, "I can't imagine how hard it is for you not to have a single peer." She was exactly correct. My people is a Thoreau, a Welles, a Keats, and I'm not going to meet someone like that. I don't mean that we'd be on equal footing. I'm not going into that. I know what I am. But there'd be something with them. I'd look forward to seeing them, if my life wasn't like it is now, and talking to them, sharing ideas.
In my entire life, I've met one single person whose mind truly interested me. One. But what am I supposed to do?
When people detail life conditions they think are hard, I think, "you have no clue." They wouldn't have lived through the Molly thing. And that, now, compared to everything else, is a comparative blip, though of course it's not and will be the stuff of an entire book in Many Moments More: A Story About the Art of Endurance. What it tells me is they couldn't live a single week as I live. And what I have been through? Endured? What I face? And as that all happens, I create and grow like I do? Then I'm supposed to do what with another human being who can't even conceive of these things, let alone try to fight back against them. They'd be crushed. Instantly. It's like I'm an alien.
I sent out this nice pitch for a possible piece on Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy, from 1621, which will likely be ignored, and possibly stolen. These people often steal my ideas, just as they steal the money they owe me. This one place in particular--probably the best known place--has stolen a lot from me over the years. Including their Pulitzer Prize-winning editor in chief. I haven't documented that on here yet specifically, because I try to keep the door open as long as I can, which also means having things done to me that are vile, and then not saying anything publicly. Taking it. The theft, debasement, discrimination.
...I mention my age in part because it might seem unlikely that I'd be a huge admirer, and a longstanding admirer, of a book that is about to turn 400-years-old. That would be Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy, a mere 900-page tome about sadness, in all of its myriad forms, that is oddly, paradoxically, life-infusing. As much as anything I've ever read and reread--I put it in the category of Montaigne's essays, and the complete fourteen volumes of Thoreau's journals.
And yet, there is nothing in literature like this book, an exploder of convention and expectation, cobbled together from sources, with Burton employing different styles, approaches, but the work always proceeding in an orderly fashion from his singular mind.
I think we are profoundly unwell right now. Mentally unwell, unwell as a culture, oftentimes strangers to ourselves. This book is an antidote, an expostulation.
Further, it's hilarious. And probably the book that has the least business being hilarious, if our expectations are any indication. There should not be mirth and whimsy here, but Laurence Sterne could have read this and though, "Oh my, Tristram and Uncle Toby and the boys need to be funnier if I'm to keep up."
It's a unique book, which I've read a mere ten times (in times of health issues, it also doubled as my official "hospital book").
Got a text from my sister last night. I guess her kids had play dates for the first time in a while, and some boy knocked my nephew over, sat on his chest, and knocked the wind out of him, and there's a history of this. She sounded frustrated.
The first two chapters of the Cooke book are revised. Begged some people to read "Fitty" and "Nimbus." Degrading. Time to go for a run.
Ran three miles. Worked on "Eede Upstairs" in my head as I went. Got a good sweat. Half of the Sam Cooke book has been tended to.
I'm close on Cooke. I'll finish in the morning. Doing more now wouldn't be good enough. I have to be sharp. Wrote a publisher about the Billie Holiday book. If they're not going to do this with me, I don't even know what to say. As someone said to me the other day, who has been in the music field a long time, this press would be crazy not to do this book. They had read the proposal.
Anyway. Perform well this weekend. It's an important two days. Cooke, Brackets, stairs, Scrooge, "Eade Upstairs." No stopping now means no mercy later. Get there.