Women insist on pushing me for information about what I do when I first meet them. This is not a conversation I even want to try to have, because it is simply too complicated to have.
If you were me, and someone asked you what you wrote, what would you say? Realizing that people think that answer can and should be provided in one sentence--or not even a full sentence.
They know that I write. Chances are we are not going to know each other for any time at all, because I am looking for someone brilliant. The smartest person out of several million. The smartest person in every other room she will ever enter. That's for starters. Someone voluble, with character, courage, who is historic and capable of being part of history. (And while we're at it: fit, athletic, active, witty, real--none of this Woke/SJW/virtue signal pose bullshit; foul/kinky/up for being so/exploratory/but in a one-to-one context; open to all: art, sports, life, new experiences, nature, the deepest of human connection.)
Most people can't communicate without emojis and acronyms and four spelling mistakes per every ten words. I do answer these questions, though. Politely. And I don't lie. I say that it's very expansive, and would take some going into, and it's incredulity-inducing, but let's just say it covers a lot of different things.
Fair, right? Well-handled!
They don't care--they won't leave it there. The push and force and push and force, grilling me.
I don't want to be grilled. I can't say, well, I write fiction, all kinds, and invent new modes of fiction, and I am an expert out in my own territory, where I am the lone resident, on art, film, music, sports, literature, and I write cutting edge op-eds, and discuss all of this and more on the radio, and I'm the go-to Beatles expert, and a diarist/memoirst doing new things there; in summa, I produce anywhere from one to twenty works of art per week as I fight against a bigoted, anti-reading system that is trying to suppress me (I'm doing a full entry on this, but here's a fun fact: When the publishing industry learned, in spring 2017, that I had sold a story to Harper's, it made sure that no one in that industry, going forward, would publish fiction by Colin Fleming; Harper's makes your career if you are someone else; with me, an industry--by which, in this case, a lot of literary journals that do not even pay, which are in no bookstores--decided, from man to man, woman to woman, that no material by this person would be printed; in those two plus years, I have created more fiction than ever, more varied fiction than ever, literally dozens of masterpieces with me in my absolute prime as a writer and artist, a far different beast than I was even three years ago, growing and surging all of the time, and because of that publication, which was an enormous achievement--all the more so when the other people who achieve it are system people, with powerful agents engineering such an achievement for them--and you do it entirely on your own--we came to the final straw of hate and envy; think about that: the thing that makes another person's career, was the thing with me that did more than any other one thing to get people to try to put a stop to the career) so that I can reach the people of the world, get people reading again, change the world. And that's how it stands right now, when I am hugely limited in my options, because I am the most hated person in an industry, blackballed by an industry, who will double and triple and quadruple the list of "what he does" within a month of getting to what I have coming to me. And this is fun: that person who is hated and blackballed? They still write better, write more all the time, invent more all the time, and publish more all the time. That pisses them off way more. They just want me to die and go away.
Right. Because that conversation, between me and my Tinder Lady Love, is going to go well. I'm not going to say I'm a journalist, or a freelancer, or a critic, because I am not those things. The people who are those things do a very different thing than the things I do. For instance: Read any piece I write on music. Read any piece by a music critic. See the vast difference? I'm not just talking quality, I'm talking the approach. The two pieces have nothing in common. They are about entirely different things, with entirely different goals. Entirely different results, entirely different utility. A music critic says, "this good, this bad." I don't do that. I give you a story, something that is beyond the scope of the nominal subject matter, written in prose that is its own form of music--and architecture, geometry, painting--that has as much interest for the person who has never heard of the nominal subject as the person who loves that nominal subject as a passion in their life, replete with ideas concerning the human condition, the nature of art, society, who you are, who we are, that go worlds beyond the nominal subject. I don't do "this good, this bad." A music critic does that. A music historian, meanwhile, wants to get history right. That's their main objective. That is far too limiting for me. I don't do that. We can do this with anything. What do other people do on the radio? Listen to anyone else talk on the radio. Listen to me talk on the radio. We are doing completely different things. Different objectives, different results, different tools. We sound completely different.
I obviously can't say some version of the above, which is true--save in how understated it is, if anything. Even those words I provided really don't begin to get into it, do they? When they see the work, when they see this journal, the fiction, the nonfiction, hear me, know me, come into the world of my work, and the world of my quest, and the world of me, all of this is so self-evident that I can say it. Just like I have no problem saying it on here. Because the work proves it all. This is what it is, and I am not going to lie, because what is the point?
The disregarding of boundaries flabbergasts me, though. Sometimes, when I'm about to move on, I'll toss them the link to this site, as if to say, "Look, I told you I couldn't give you a one sentence answer, and I wasn't lying."
Site speaks for itself, no? And then they'll be embarrassed, and want to play it cool, which is typical cowardice. They try to downplay at this point, by going, "Oh, neat," like there's nothing to see here, but that's because they lack the verbal acumen and the courage to say something fitting. They feel dumb, they feel inadequate, they feel like they can't possibly say something "smart enough," and when people feel that way, because many people are cowards or socially inept or both, they default to playing it safe, which in turn is really rather more insulting. Saying "Oh, neat," is as far away from the mark of what is fitting as saying, "Gee, you suck, you're a moron." But I also didn't want to put them in this position before we knew each other at all, but they forced it.
Irony: People play it safe with me--they play not to lose--because they don't want to put me off or lose me. Single best way to put me off or lose me: play it safe with me and play not to lose. Do I seem like someone who would have any respect at all for someone who didn't have big balls? Not a gender thing. We know what I mean by balls. Do I seem like someone, who goes through what he goes through, who has endured the worst forms of abuse, who, rather than capitulating to the horrors of the abuse--be it with the unique, impeccably organized evil of a Gone Girl wife, or this industry--instead grew, remade his being, body, mind, soul, would respect someone too scared to speak honestly from the heart? With something as easy as this? Probably not, right? I can do what I do, and you can't even speak honestly about something that clear? Come on. We are not going to know each other for ten seconds, if that's the case. Let me put this in sports terms: those people are the second half Atlanta Falcons from the Super Bowl against the Patriots. I am not interested in the person version of the second half Atlanta Falcons.
Anyway, this woman yesterday pushed the issue. She does so by saying, "Even Tolstoy could say what he did, and I'm sure you're no Tolstoy."
No, I'm not Tolstoy. I'm beyond that. He'd tell you that. And if I was Tolstoy, I could give you the one sentence answer, great as Tolstoy was.
But what a condescending, nasty, passive aggressive remark. This person doesn't know me. Now, if I went into my answer, she'd say, at best, "Why aren't you the most household of household names?" But it is more likely that she would call me a liar.
But if it's the former, then what? I go into what is happening with publishing? With a stranger I'm not going to know another five minutes? Then she would learn about me--because she'd look me up (you need only my first name, at this point)--and rather than saying to herself, "Shit, my bad, that guy was understating things, holy cow," she would be embarrassed and have been proven wrong, way wrong, in her insulting conclusions and projections, and she would have become angry--because this is what people do now--and conceivably found some way to turn this into an attack.
People expect the answer to be "I write on film" or "I write romance novels." I'm not other people, other writers, other artists, other anything there have been prior. I'm not other people if you reduce the entire history of my output to a given week here and pit it against someone's life.
Even then it's not readily believable. It will make perfect sense later, when the praise and BS praise by bandwagoners is shouted from the mountaintops, but at this point, I'd be better off if I lied completely about what I do.
I guess what one could say, in terms of advice--and it would be good advice, I think--is to say what I need to say to handle that first series of questions, and get beyond that. Then let the rest come clear over time.
I just can't. I am put off by someone who has grilled me when I've been perfectly clear and polite in communicating that I don't want to be pressed. If I was an accountant, this wouldn't be a conversation at all, there would be no questions about my job.
Unfortunately, I think someone is going to have to already know all about me--that is, I am going to have to be out of this situation, and have the recognition, fame, wealth, the various biographical sources--for me to be with anyone. I used to envision someone strong enough and smart enough to be a part of this process, but I think there is no way that is going to happen or that person exists.
So, really, this situation I am in is everything. It's this dire, dangerous, death-trap of an apartment; it's no life, it's no female companionship, it's no money, it's not even a single thing--a ballgame, a TV show, a new music download--to look forward to. Because it's just pain, just the fight right now. In this nasty apartment. I feel filthy all of the time, because you can't clean in here.
If I am ever out of this situation, I could see me being obsessed with not having a single speck of dust on anything, being this OCD neat freak, having bad flashbacks and nightmares to living like this.
(Irony of irony, if I had my house and houses, I sometimes wonder if I'd ever leave them. I'd be so certain that God had let me succeed so that he could have me get crashed into and killed by a drunk driver or something. I'd also assume that if anything in my life went as I deserve it to, I would have several kinds of terminal cancer instantly. Right now, I don't really care if I get run over and die, for instance, in a way. Imagine me as a shut-in? Hopefully I'd still be writing on here about leaving the Rockport house and staying in Boston for the weekend and climbing the Monument twenty times, and describing new modes of crazy fitness routines I had invented out in the woods by my other house on Cape Cod. I think I'd be good at inventing nature-based workouts, actually.)
These people own every single part of my life. And you can't tell someone who makes art better than anyone has ever done something else, who makes it constantly, who can't stop making it, to whom entire galaxies of stories and new modes of creation just arrive, fully formed or near fully formed--they just come to me, constantly--who is getting better all of the time, who can impact millions of lives, appeal to millions of people, to just chuck it aside and do something else when this is everything they are and they can't do anything else, besides.
I am so fully an artist, that I am nothing else. True, the fullness of my artistry makes me many things and potentially many things: author, entertainer, speaker, radio person, filmmaker, television program creator. It's massive and broad. But it's all in the direction of creating. There is nothing else. Let alone that would allow that person to be who they are, get what they've fought so long for, get what they are uniquely engineered to do, which no one has ever been built to do. Death is the only other option. Do you know how hard it is right now to even be around people? Do you know how bored I get? How stupidity pecks at my brain like a million birds with sharpened beaks? It's like being an alien. I couldn't be in an office fifty hours a week as an alien. I've developed too much. I've gone too far past humanity, in some ways, as I've come to know humanity and people better than ever. I've evolved too much. This is everything. It has to work.
This was supposed to be short. I screwed that up. I'm going to exercise, as I feel like a pig. I attempted to do something with a razor this morning, and I may have gone too far.
Here are the boys.