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Labor Day Weekend

Monday 9/6/21

It’s but a simple thing, but to venture to the greasy spoon in shorts and a ragged hoodie to fetch a coffee at 5AM in early September, and feel autumn in the air, is an experience that should always be sought out, and held in the mind as though between fingers.


On Friday I completed a story called "Teeth and Hands," having added some crucial elements. So powerful. So imaginative in its own undertaking, so fiercely resonant in the emotional impact. It will be a part of The Ghost Grew Legs.


It's hard to hang on--it's literally life or death, at times, when I have to force myself not to give in to what has happened to me, is happening to me--sometimes, such that if I'm to do so, I must create. So it was later in the day Friday, when I wrote a new story, which is as good as fiction gets.


What I can do, and often do, is write a story at will. I "play" a story, if you will. That is, I have nothing in mind, and I sit there and create. I play the story as one would play the piano. What I can create in these efforts are works that are rigorously, impeccably designed, multi-tiered, with the tiers in all forms of rhythm and interaction, dialogue, as if I worked on the story and its design for ten years.


That story is called "The Man Who Takes My Train," and as with "Teeth and Hands," it moves me immensely. It will be a part of Longer on the Inside. Some lines:


"We’ll sit in the garage for an extra second, an extra beat, my wife and I, as if we’re about to storm the once-distant shore that we’ve finally arrived at, or plunge beneath the waves for a desperate dive that has to be made, when we’re really just going inside to see what wounds we can coat with new skin, what match heads we can eliminate under turned taps."


The title works on multiple levels. There is this old man who takes the narrator's train, and is a constant. But the title comes to refer to the character of narrator himself--the kind of man he is, or has become, which is something he grapples with in the story.


Between the end of Friday and early Saturday, I sent out a pitch related to Coltrane, questioned an editor at Granta who publishes a rapist, plagiarist, serial abuser, who is also a terrible, gimmick-y, hack of a one-note writer, but thinks I am the devil; sent an essay about YA fiction to a venue; and asked another editor at this same venue--for whom I used to write elsewhere--if they might commission a review of my upcoming story collection in January. Sent a couple other works to BOMB.


I have also talked to that publisher I mentioned earlier about the book on Orson Welles's Macbeth and his horror efforts, to get that back-and-forth going, though for now my focus with this place is the book that will take up a lot of time in this just-started week, because that absolutely must be taken care of right now, and no later. Also wrote Kimball about what to discuss on Tuesday. Among other things.


Watched all six of the Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott Ranown westerns, and The Innocents. Listened to Grieg's Peer Gynt (Karajan; Berliln Philharmoniker; 1983), Bill Evans' Portrait in Jazz, Radiohead's OK Computer.


Red Sox are winning again, though they hit a bump yesterday, and had terrible loss today thanks to their abysmal defense. (Remember in 2004 when Theo Epstein identified the team's defense as a fatal flaw and fixed it? They disregarded defense altogether this year.) They should make the playoffs, even if they play less than .500 ball the rest of the way--so long as they're close to .500. And then a one-game playoff, with Sale on the mound, and you could win that. At which point you have an October playoff series, which is the stuff, and you take your chances. The Rays are a good team. Relentless. I don't see anyone else in the AL, though, who I'd call formidable.


If the Red Sox made it to the Division Series, Tanner Houck looks like he could be a compelling starter. Guy can pitch, he’s getting better, unflappable demeanor. Reminds me of Jon Lester in that last regard.


In professional sports, vaxxing is more about competitive advantage and being a good teammate than anything.


This is part of a letter I wrote someone, which I'll include here, because it adds worthy points to this journal:


I think Longer on the Inside is a logical progression not just for me as an artist, but within the framework of the two previous books. There's nothing like Anglerfish, a fictive probing of the emotional abyss that is a kind of realist absurdism; there's nothing like Brackets, which is almost a deconstruction of the possibilities of a story collection, while being a towering collage; and in Longer on the Inside, you have a new form of fiction, these novelistic works taking place in 1200 words or less. This is a prismatic tour-de-force from one author, and it's not like we're doing, 'hey, here are three collections by this guy that are interchangeable.' These are statement works, each distinct.


As for Cheer Pack: I think what can happen--and this is why I sent you that blog on this point--is that someone might look at a work and they deem it innovative based upon the surface. What the eyeball sees as the topography. For instance, the opening story to Brackets functions this way. It flat out looks different. Whereas, "Find the Edges," from Cheer Pack--and Harper's--might not look as outright inventive at first. Which I know to be silly, because I operate on a far more sophisticated level than that. "Find the Edges" utilizes characteristics of a ghost story. It's a ghost story while totally not being a ghost story. Those techniques illustrate then death in these lives--these living lives. Consider for instance when the man is in bed, and he hears the sounds of his children. That's not rendered in the prose as "well, his kids were banging about at night." There's something haunting, disturbing, going on there. But also desperate, sad, beautiful, mysterious.


That's innovation. I don't have any one thing any more innovative than anything else. I have works that differ from each other in every way, and each work is its own ecosystem that functions according to its own precepts order. And, of course, I write these works to be books, always conscious that they are also parts of books--integrated books. Another reason I really don't like the term "collection," because in truth it's just not what I do.


I received a letter from Scott LaFaro's best friend from high school on account of the JazzTimes feature I recently wrote. As I mentioned, his family had also written me, and these letters are both true epistolary delights. I'm glad to have them.


The best friend talked about going to a Stan Kenton concert with LaFaro their senior year of high school, and these warm, wonderful memories of college years. The friend went off to the army, LaFaro received his recognition, and the letter concludes with this emotional account of the friend in 1998 returning to their old college stomping grounds and hearing Kenton cuts with LaFaro come on the radio. He had to pull over and regain his composure. A really special letter.


I watched The Apartment. A Christmas movie, in a way, and a Christmas movie like no other. The suicide attempt occurs on Christmas Eve and into Christmas itself. The film is satire, an indictment on failing morals by way of illustrating empty lives. When Fred MacMurray gives Shirley MacLaine $100 he casts her as prostitute. But she’s also taken a hand in that casting. The difference is he’s callous to the point of cruel.


Perfect is different than best. But "Walking Distance" is both the best Twilight Zone episode and the closest to perfection. The protagonist receives crucial advice from his dad—advice he needs as much any from his boyhood—as their final moment occurs outside the contours of time.


I mentioned on Twitter that I'd be talking about a Mexican horror film tomorrow, so immediately an Hispanic guy unfollows me. People are insane. They are so horny for trying to find offense that they've actually become insane. It is a Mexican horror film--1934's The Ghost of the Convent. What else do you want me to call it? It's not like I said, "Hey, lechuga heads, if you like tacos, you're going to want to listen to me talk about..."


Yesterday marked 1897 days, or 271 weeks, without a drink. A bit more walking lately. Walked five miles the other day, three on Saturday. But it's mostly just stairs of late. Ran 5000 stairs each of the last three days.


The air conditioner has stopped working--sounds like it's full of water. That's wonderful. Just got it last year. Everything in here has stopped working, just about, and needs to be replaced.


I wrote a story called "Welts Not Welts" which I need to keep working on. It's told by a Black woman who was adopted by a white widowed mother and was the only Black person in her small, rural town. She awakens each night to the sound of an axe striking a tree, so we find out what the deal is with that, and also her "relationship" with this white boy in the town who means well but maybe doesn't do so well. I also came up with three other stories over the weekend, which I'll tend to moving forward.


Flowers outside with Hallway Hermey lurking, as is his way. He's always around, and he will cut you.



Went to the Boston College v. Colgate football game on Saturday. The view from the end zone top deck, which is where I like to sit:



Here you can see the Reservoir, which I've walked past so many times on my trips to BC to run stairs:



There's a lovely street that winds above said reservoir, so I walked that way heading back to grab the T in Cleveland Circle. Sunflower from the community garden on that street:



And in the plot next to that one someone had hung pumpkins. First pumpkins I've seen of the season.



And here's Labor Day me: