I completed a story called "Late First Rounder." It's about a college football player--a guard, in his senior season--who takes his old high school girlfriend to the lake in their hometown over the Thanksgiving holiday to break up with her. His team is ranked sixth in the country, has an outside shot at making the Playoff, and he's projected as a late first round draft pick. He's also suffering from CTE, which is never mentioned directly in the story, but we see the looming violence and his erratic behavior and thinking. (A dreadful writer like T.C. Boyle would say CTE two dozen times, in all caps, define it, define it again, bash your readerly head in because someone like that doesn't tell stories, doesn't know what a story is or how story works, how to show anything to anyone, and, again, is a dreadful writer. See his horrible "shooter" story from Playboy where the shooter actually wears a T-shirt that says Incel on it--which is hilarious, but unintentionally so--and then provides someone with a definition of what an Incel is, which is even more hilarious. The shooter has a conversation with someone and is actually like, "I am an Incel, like it says on my shirt. No one will have the sex with me and that makes me real mad and so I compensate by getting a gun and shooting people because, again, if you're not getting this, I am an Incel." Hilarious as in, "Wow, it's remarkable how bad this person is at writing, and yet, look at all of the praise and awards." I once had the nightmarish experience of listening to a brain-dead, entitled, talentless, everything-wrong-with-publishing drone like Amy Grace Lloyd--a classic publishing system dilettante that the publishing system simply provides for, for no meritorious or valid reason, simply because that's what the publishing system does--lecture me on 1. How amazing the story was and 2. How amazing she was for publishing it. What a migraine that produced.)
He's chosen the lake as the spot to end this relationship because that's where their relationship started and he thinks he's trying to be considerate and not make Thanksgiving worse for her and he figures that if she causes a fuss, he can just kill her there and dump her body in the water and that will clear up a distraction for him. They've been together since junior year of high school, but you also have the sense that she's out living her own life, and dating and what not, and has been for a long time. She's smart. She's going to be a doctor. He ends up being caught totally unawares, because when he starts his little speech--complete with a quote about time and tide from his college coach--she actually cuts him off to break up with him. And he's taken completely aback. His attitude becomes wholly different, and he eventually drives her home to her house, and there's this moment in the car--there's a lot happening in this moment, in terms of what he's thinking, what she says, how he's looking at the curb as almost this line of scrimmage, and even something quite significant that he notices for the first time about her mailbox--where her mom and dad are looking out the window--because they know what's up, to a degree--and she takes her leave of him.
We're with him in his thoughts the entire time (and into hers as well, but in not quite the same way; the shading is different; but we know that when she's saying what she says at the lake, she plans to have his number blocked on her phone within the hour). All of the forms of his confusion. His unbalance. We see his potential for menace. And we also see this hurt side to him. He's kind of the villain of the piece, considering, especially, what he was so casually prepared to do, but he's also a victim of the piece. It slices right through the heart of football culture in this country.
Ran another 5000 stairs.
As I do everything humanly--and more than humanly--possible to get anywhere, it's like the universe conspires to make that impossible. When I compose, it's as if the universe works to give me everything I need, when I need it, to make the best art there will ever be. Everything comes together. I walk straight into miracles. One after another. It all fits. Then I get nowhere.
Worked some more on "Complete Set," which is now at 4100 words. it will be a good one eventually.
Wrote an op-ed on Tchaikovksy. Lovely piece of writing. Wise, measured, true. And I think quite surprising, maybe, if you know that I love Tchaikovsky.
This isn't what the piece is about, but very soon you're going to see innocent Russian people going about their lives get treated like pariahs and lepers. People who have nothing to do with Putin or Putin policy or intentions, are going to be tarred and feathered. You're already starting to see it if you know where to look. For instance, tonight I saw where a piano competition barred Russian pianists. So, like some twenty-year-old Russian kid studying in, say, England. Barred. What no one on earth seems to realize is that we discriminate all the time. It's just bad to discriminate against, say, Black people. I would argue that certain forms of discrimination--and that's one of them--are privileged. They are a no-no. They should be a no-no. But they're not worse than other forms of discrimination. People discriminate against people because of their hair color. How they dress. We discriminate the most against people who are smarter than us. The smarter they are, the more we discriminate against them. That's fine. That's allowed. We discriminate against people because of height. Why is it allowed? I'll tell you why: do you ever hear anyone talk about any of these things? Of course not. They're fine. They're countenanced. They don't have the privilege that racial discrimination is afforded as the ne plus ultra--well, in reverse--of discrimination.
When you afford that privilege, you also provide opportunities for grift and actual racism. The publishing industry, for instance, runs on racism and sexism, among the other bad things it runs on as part of its dysfunctional fuel. It looks at someone's skin color or ethnic background and hands out book deals or takes the story solely for those reasons. This masquerades as justice, but it's just bigots bigoting. We have all kinds of ways of disliking people. And they're all allowed, save for a few, because that's the lazy narrative that one has to pretend to hew to. It's how you look good without being good and get to do wrong. And get various forms of reward for it. Most of those rewards are hollow and mean nothing, but these lives are hollow and mean nothing. The dollar figures are real, though. You can make a lot of money being a mediocre bigot. You can win a lot of awards. Get a platform. A large Twitter following. A staff writer position. David Remnick, who is himself this way, will hire you at The New Yorker, allowing that you also have the right colored (blue) blood in your veins and are as mediocre as he is so that he doesn't have to feel threatened. A so-called Genius Grant.
People like mediocre bigots because they are comforting to other mediocre bigots. For instance, if you were a writer, chances are--unless you are a good person, who is secure in yourself, and doesn't need to see me as competition--you'd hate reading these pages. It's demoralizing, right? Think you had a good day, writing 600 words, which was the most you wrote in seven months after much intensive therapy and staring at blank walls and blank screens? And you know they're shitty words. But maybe this person who used to teach in your English department will publish the piece at their literary journal when you finally finish it in two more years because you wrote their kid a letter of recommendation and you can have two contributor copies to show off to a couple people with hyphenated four-syllable names in the English department you've been in for years and will be in until you die, if departments like yours don't go away completely, which you're starting to worry about.
You think that person is going to want to see this every day? The level of the prose? The constant and constantly varied invention and innovations? The achievements against all odds that are always stacking up and with no help and so many people trying to keep me back? Of course not. A lot of people don't even want to know that I'm at this desk every morning at four AM, and I seemingly don't sleep, and I run thousands of stairs every day. That I endure this pain without drink, medicine, support, and grow more and more every day as a person and artist also jacks the level of resentment. People don't want to know the fight I have in me. The purpose. The strength. All of that can make you feel awful about yourself by comparison. No one will make them feel worse. Because of virtues that are undeniable, and proven constantly, thousands and thousands and thousands of times over. Think you're smarter? Think you're a better writer? Think you know more about anything than I know--and have proven I know--about everything? There's no answering "yes" to a single one of those questions. Going to get inspired, fight, try and rise up, be the best you? Nah. Very few people--in terms of writers--have anything approaching anything like that in them. I don't mean in my way. That's not going to be possible. I mean in their way. Which is to say, any way.
Sometimes, discrimination is a numbers game. I mean, there's only one of me. I'm not a race. But because I am not a race, the discrimination I am experiencing can't be far worse than any experienced? I would prefer to be in a situation where others are going through what I am going through, so that we could band together. We could be allies. We could do business. In our numbers, people would see our plight and our cause. People will see mine, and this is all going to come out. That's part of what this process of ultimately winning will be and is. But it'd be easier right now if it wasn't just me. One of my oldest friends, a college provost, remarked to me years ago, "Colin, you are someone this world is going to feel like it has to nail to a cross." I think about that line every day. I think it's defeatist, for a start. I don't like to be defeatist. Once I had this editor I was going to do a book with, before I pulled it, after they were like, "Well, it's so different, it can only be this successful." And I thought, "why, fucker? This is amazing. There is nothing like this book, and all of the rest of everything out there is shit. And anything that has ever been anything was different. The day is coming, sir. The day is coming when a revolution occurs. My revolution. An amazing book unlike the rest of this mindless, boring ass twaddle automatically can only do this limited thing? Fuck that."
At the same time, I can point to utter piles of shit that no one can understand seven words of that became bestsellers, but that's not even what I'm talking about. I realize this is the same kind of person who, when the thing did what it was ultimately going to do--whenever what is going to kick in here kicks in, because it will--that they would have said, "I knew it all along, my press believed in this famous book right from the start, and we sold it to this other press for a shit ton of cash, that's right, that book you all love and quote and etc." Because very little is real. Reality is real. Most people and almost all of what they say is not real. You have to learn that when you're doing something of significance that others are not doing. Because if you don't learn it, you won't do what you need to do to get where you are going. You'll get caught up in the noise, which is their noise. It's not yours, boyo. It's theirs. So don't let it become yours. But as for my friend. Again, I thought, fuck that. I mean, yeah, maybe they will want to nail me to a cross. That already happens in a way. But just because that's so, and even if I am up there--again, in a way--I have total faith that I will get down and go where I need to go, to get where I am going, and I will take a good chunk of this world with me on that journey, or to that place, that is not an end, but is ultimately a start. And yes, you can bet your soul that I believe that I will. Because I do. I made a joke once to my mother, about my biological mother. She conceived me when she was fifteen, and really it looked like I'd be aborted. That was sort of the vibe. There was sufficient shame, with her family, that she was sent off to a different town to live for a while, which is how I ended being born in Cape Cod, so it was almost as if it was in the stars that I'd write a Buried on the Beaches. But the joke I made to my actual mother, a year or two back, was that there was no fucking way I wasn't getting out. It's a joke, but yeah, there still was no fucking way.
There are Russians being discriminated against now--and the longer this goes on, the more of it you will see--simply because of where they were from, not what they believe in, not what they do. You can't help where you're born, man. You can only help who you are. It's like how it just baffles me when people say they're proud to be born this ("I'm a proud Texan, baby"), or they're proud to have this color skin. It's like, why? What the fuck did you have to do with it? Nothing. All that matters is what you have to do with. Go by that. That's the measure of a human. There's nothing else, whether you're Black, white, Russian, a Colin, what have you. That should be it. And if you're against that idea, or perpetuate any system that is--whether that's the music example I gave above, the overwhelming majority of the publishing system, or if you're Putin himself--you're the issue. You are why the world is bad. It's you. It's not this other stuff you claim to be against because God knows you try so hard with your Facebook filters and your little memes and your little flags, because none of that shit is real either. It's you. You're the problem. The bigger problem is that you'd never have the necessary strength, character, and self-honesty to face it, address it, and fix it, and you'd hate and fear anyone who either told you the truth or you believed knew the truth. It has to be fixed for you. Not you you, necessarily. But the relevant you.
I'll tell you a little secret. People rarely know anything about themselves. It's hard. But they usually know what they are. These are different things. That they won't admit what they are doesn't change anything.
I'm going to floss again now. It's actually good for your heart, flossing. Did you know that? And have some lemon water. Making a point to hydrate more.