These people are killing me. Obviously all of people who want me dead, but also the people who don't in that they don't care one way or the other. I have these editors who say, "well, sure, write something, you always do." That is, they want the piece that is not assigned. I have no other option right now because of the situation I'm in, and my poverty--which I'm even more worried about right now--than to just grind out another piece. And I send that piece to that person. And ten, twenty, thirty times in a row, they won't even respond. It breaks you. Which is different than being broken. What it does to you though is horrible. You work so hard, you're writing something so much better than what runs. And you don't get the response. Not even the lowest form of a courtesy. And you know what you have to then do? Turn around and write something, and hope it goes better. They don't even cross the street to spit on you. And right now, I have to take it. But you know what that's like writing a great piece and knowing chances are nil you'll be paid, it will run, it will be looked it, you'll be responded to? Then you just deliver. Because you always do. Which also allows them to further take you for granted, and have even less motivation to write you back, because, eh, you're always there.
I wrote an awesome op-ed this week on empathy and the Ukraine, and that won't come out. Not one response. Soul-crushing. I wrote a 2000 word piece on the 1986 jazz film, Round Midnight. I wrote a 2300 word piece on why no one reads any Fitzgerald besides The Great Gatsby, what this says about us, what it means on a level beyond Gatsby and book, and also Fitzgerald's second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, which came out 100 years ago.
I completed "The Parable of the Woodpecker" on the fiction front. Also, "Darkness Within Darkness." I also finished everything I needed to do with "Desilva." Those stories are 6200 words, 1000 words, and 4400 words respectively. I wrote a 1000 word story that is hilarious and bang on point as a work of satirical fiction called "Don't Be Bitch: A Putin Satire," which of course no one will put out, and they'd be terrified of something that pushes the envelope this way anyway, even with the universal hate theme going.
Speaking of things not coming out: I have now written 350 short stories since June 2018 and have nothing to do with any of them. They just sit here. Worse than criminal. A crime against humanity. All because these people hate me so much because of what I am. Are that threatened by me. You know how many of those 350 stories are worse than the story of mine that Harper's ran? None of them. That's what I have sitting here. 350 brand new goddamn stories.
I walked three miles yesterday, just to get moving, and ran 3000 stairs the day before.
The state is never stated in "Desilva," but if you do some figuring, based upon what happens, what's really the driver for the story, and where that happens, along with a reference to miles at another point, and you factor in the climate descriptions, certain mores, you can pinpoint the location to the Middle West, and probably Michigan or Minnesota. A small town in either, with one fire engine. This is another bit from the story:
The ice groaned and winced some more, sounding like a blackboard being cracked in two, and now we could hear Thadd whimpering as if he had come to understand the gravity of his own situation, or decided to drop the stoicism. I’d never heard him whimper before. He’d heard me whimper, when Paul had finally fallen asleep, with all of those painkillers in him after the accident, and my wife had gone to bed, and me and Thadd sat up late at night together, when I gave in and let myself cry because I was scared my boy would never be as he had been. He’d heard me do a hell of a lot more than whimper, too. He’d heard me cry into the night like no baby he’d ever known, when we were both older, and sometimes I just took him home with us, after a night over at the McReynolds, with neither Dave nor Belinda saying a word, or their kids. He was a comfort dog. An ally. A friend. He made you better by being there, which was also when I realized that the best thing you could say about a dog was also the best thing you could say about someone else, what you hoped they’d say about you, because that meant you’d really counted in their life.
A couple nights ago I worked hard in my head on "The Hornet." It's a big one, and I want to get it right. I wrote the ending on my phone for this story that formally just has the start, and which needs to change. But I pretty much have the entire thing at this point. It's strange what can end up being academic for me. Like what most people think of as the actual writing.
I have a lot of pieces and projects to tend to this weekend, a blurb to write for someone, and it's going to be miserable. It's always miserable here. This is grinding. You're just grinding and grinding and grinding away. I used to think that writing a work better than anything a human had ever written was the hard part. It's not for me. It's the easy part. I do that daily. Getting out of this situation, and knowing full well why I'm in it, which I've spelled out methodically on here, is the hard part. I need to be crossing more things off my list, and then get myself to where I can figure out and do EU. That's kind of the thing with the big circle around it, fiction-wise. That novel. But there's just so much of everything. Beatles book, assembling There Is No Doubt and Longer on the Inside. I could list 250 things right now. I do hope to come pretty close to having a clean version of the essay collection in the next few days. I need to write this Jelly Roll Morton piece as well, and finish an essay about a novel from 1971, which I don't want to do, but there's a chance I can get some money. And I have to reengage on multiple fronts. War fronts. I hate doing that. But it has to be done.
Posts coming on Beha, Remnick, John Freeman, Sarabande, American Short Fiction, The Missouri Review.
Do what you have to do.
I read that awful news about the young woman who was the captain of the Stanford soccer team who killed herself. These days, I post things on Twitter, because they're interesting, but I try not to read anything on Twitter. Even with that little bell icon, when there are superimposed numbers, I don't click on those. Why would I? There's not going to be any support, there won't be anything about my work. Most magazines and newspapers in America and the UK have a rule not to give me any coverage. But I do what I do, because I have this faith that things will change, and what I say is important. I'm here for something bigger.
It's like this conversation I had with this writer a ways back. And he's like, "Your Submittable account must look crazy with all of the stories you have." No. I don't do Submittable. I'm not paying anyone to read my work, let alone bigots. You're getting the deal of a lifetime when you get to publish something like "Desilva" or "Fitty" or "Girls of the Nimbus" or "Dead Thomas." Because that pisses all over anything you've ever ran. And it's generous of me to offer it, for, what? $100, and after you discriminated against me for fifteen, twenty years, as I lit it up constantly, and you resented me and were envious because you didn't? So now I'm going to pay you $3 to reject "Desilva" because it came from Fleming, as you get off on that? Right. But this other writer also sees these venues as his endgame. And I'm sure he doesn't understand at all what I'm doing. I offer you the story. I offered "Desilva" to One Story last night. I email it to you. To Patrick Ryan, who will feature in the John Freeman entry on here, which is a doozy. There's no one worse than Freeman. Well, maybe Remnick. These people are just putting in their friends anyway, and they're going by color and gender, and who the agent is, and who the flavor of the month is. The $3 thing is a scam to make money because no one is interested. They don't sell anything. No money is coming in. They've killed off reading.
But like I said, I'm sure this person wouldn't get what I'm doing. My endgame is not his endgame. I'm here to change the world. I believe I will. I believe something is going to happen and there is going to be a path out into the world for all of these amazing works, to be seen the way they deserve to be seen, to do the most good that they can. That's my operating premise. In the meanwhile, I keep creating. I do offer the works to some people, if the money would help me and if I can live with the story being in those pages. All of these places are going away. In a few years, none of them will exist. This isn't the future, and it's not even the now. It's not close to being the now. I also send the stories to people like this because there is coming a time when that story will be beloved and the world can turn to that person--because I will make it all known, and these pages make it all known--that they were offered A, B, C, D, and so on--over five, ten, twenty years--and they didn't run one. Explain yourself. But you ran this awful piece that anyone would laugh at, and this awful piece? (The public is not seeing these awful pieces, because the public does not reading, because the publishing industry has killed reading. But when the public does see these pieces--because I've pointed them out, or they want answers later--then you will get the endless laughter over how bad they are, and the anger that this situation could have ever even happened.) And all because you hated this man that much? What did he do to you? He was great? He wrote great work? He was smarter than you? He wasn't one of you? He kept offering you masterpieces? He had a historically unique publishing track record? He was an expert on all of the things? He was awesome on the radio? He was everything you're not?
And that will end you. The truth of what has happened here will end you, when this changes and when the leverage becomes entirely mine and the world's. In the meanwhile, that can all go away when a person treats my work fairly. "You know, Colin, what do you say we reset, I know it's been a long time, things have happened, and I was reading this story last night, and I loved it, and if you're still willing, I'd really like to," etc.
All it takes. I don't want to be your friend. I don't want to like you and we don't need to like each other. I don't want to fix the past. I only care about the work, and moving forward. Getting the best work there is, to readers.
Someone might say, "Will you take down that blog about me?" No. But I won't do the next ten I have planned about you. Because as I've said: I always have more on you. The full load is never shot in one entry, no matter how thorough it looks.
Sometimes, moving forward means exposing people for what they are. It can mean a lot of things.
Anyway, I was talking about this young woman. Heartbreaking. And I happened to see the comments on Twitter, and God this world is disgusting. Thousands of comments saying that she's hot and fuckable, etc. "I'd still fuck her." I mean...you know how I mentioned Harper's above? I struggled with that. The people t Harper's now--Katie Ryder, Chris Beha--are evil bigots. Broken, cowardly, evil bigots. They weren't in place when that story came out in 2018. I don't like mentioning something I wrote in 2018. I struggle with that. It makes me feel guilty. What I'm trying to do though is show perspective. Because I'm sure someone would think that story must be amazing to be in those pages. (Unless they read these pages, and know how publishing really works.) And it was just another story for me. Had I written it this week, you'd have seen it in this journal as something like, "Found this fragment from a few years ago, took an hour and fleshed it out, it's called 'Find the Edges.'" I feel guilty talking about the past, like it compromises me, stops me from being someone who only moves forward and lives in the now. I don't like writing about the masterpieces I wrote this past week--or finished this past week--here before dawn on a Saturday, which is when weeks start for me, but this is a record of a singular life, and quest, and I am trying to be thorough. This record is important as a work of literature and a work of history.
That's my guilt level. I cannot conceive of being someone who wrote these things about this young woman and then went on with my day. Went out to dinner. Disciplined my kid. What has to happen to you to become like that? Because nothing worse has happened to anyone than what has happened to me. Maybe I should say, what programming must you have inside of you? I felt physically sick last night reading about this young woman. Seventy years of life in front of her. And she's found dead in her dorm room? And you can never take that back. You can't undue that. It made me want to help someone. And all of these jokes--can you call them jokes?--about the vaccine. "Jab must of (sic) killed her," from people who...do they deserve life? Why? There was no kindness. It was only evil. You see something with this and with the Ukraine situation. Life is not real to people. It's a video game, a Netflix show, a form of social media that happens on streets and in homes. Our society and culture is so far removed from reality. We are virtual. We are virtual zombies. That's one reason why the piece about empathy was so important. We are virtual zombies, but almost everyone touts their level of empathy or calls themselves and empath. The truth is, we don't even know what empathy is. Or what it means. I don't know a single person who possesses empathy. That's not me trying to be mean. Empathy, as the piece notes, is as different from sympathy--for which it is often confused--as an ocean is from a pond. It's a brilliant, necessary piece. And not so much as a response.
Someone asked me if they could use "Jute" to teach some things to their writing students. They didn't have to ask me. I had sent them this story a couple years ago when I wrote it, and they talk about it often. It's just good form to ask, what a moral person who dots their i's does, just out of respect. No one, of course, will put it out. Again, because it's by me. It was the story I wrote that really, in a way, created Longer on the Inside, when I realized I could do something I hadn't done before, and which no one who has ever written has ever done. I invented a new kind of literature with that story. I could write something that contained as much--more--than what one would find in a novel, and I could do it in something 800 words long that was not a vignette, it was not a short short. You see the meaning of the title of the book of these works: longer on the inside. And it took all of my ability, and all of my decades of working seven days a week, twenty hours a day, to reach that point where I could do that. Then you have someone who feels this way about it, and wants kids to read it, learn from it, study it, and it's something I've had sitting around for two years, whatever the time period is, that no one can see right now because of the people of the publishing system. Not a good situation. It's very likely going to be the first story in Longer on the Inside. Not because it was the first written. First stories of a book have a look. It's like first songs on a record. And last stories have a very different look. Same with last songs. But it was a breakthrough work for me, a game changer, an art changer, a history changer.
The Fitzgerald piece, incidentally, was excellent. This is from it:
Typically, I want to say, “If you loved Gatsby so much, why did you read nothing else by the man?” but I end up answering my own question. There are several factors. People are lazy. Something needs to be talked about by a lot of other people at once for a person to check it out. Look at Twitter. If there’s enough evidence of how cool it is to walk around with a toilet seat around your neck, rest assured you can step outside and the world will look like a million moving bathrooms. Gatsby isn’t read at the best age either, when you’re sixteen, seventeen. You’re impressionable, which is different than really being ready for a work of art, which functions in tandem with you. Where you are in your life. What you’ve seen, felt, come to know. It can still “work” on you, but it’s not the same.
We’re this way with everything, not just Fitzgerald and Gatsby, and it limits us. We miss out on so much. When we miss out on a lot, we don’t learn and grow as we might. We don’t become who we have the potential to become. That’s the micro level. The macro level pertains to society, to culture, which also suffer. Get bogged down. Pinned in by roteness. You look on Twitter, and become convinced that people communicate in the same ten words. We’re sufficiently inept at language that to make a point we wish to make, and (hopefully) clinch an argument, we treat the word “literally” as if it were a magic button one pressed that made something “extra super duper really true.” “It’s literally ridiculous.” Is it? Go beyond what was shoved in front of your face, and the powers and parameters of your mind widen. The same is true with reading Fitzgerald.
A century ago, in the first third of 1922, Fitzgerald’s second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, was published. He was big at the time. A star. A stud. Voice of a generation. A “hot” guy, too, you could say. Lived the life. He also had the added cachet of seeming to be approachable. No airs. Fitzgerald, unlike Hemingway, was not a dick. He was that friend you’d turn to when you required advice that you knew no one else could provide, despite their well-wishes and claims of “you got this” and “I’m sorry that happened to you.”
Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise, had been published two years prior. There was a raft of popular short stories. When I think of Fitzgerald, I don’t think of him as an author, a writer, a novelist, a maker of short fiction, a masterful correspondent, a man who endured, an essayist. He is all of these things, but more than any of them, he is a storyteller. Story transcends form, even as form abets story. It certainly transcends labels.
Fitzgerald has novels that are like short stories, and short stories that are like novels. The parsing has never interested me. The voice does. The music of the prose. Its painterly qualities. All in service of story. Story is the absolute when it comes to Fitzgerald. The reason his work endures—if we seek it out and experience it—is because the same is true for us. Nothing impacts us or defines us like story. You’re riding on the train, and two people across from you are having a conversation where one is sharing a story of the evening before with their companion. This isn’t about eavesdropping, but you want to listen to that story. It’s one of the most fundamental parts of being human. Fitzgerald got it, and he lived a life in service to story. Which is also to say, to people.
This is the Creation's We Are Paintermen (1967) album because I need to put something here and it's great.