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Matters literary

Monday 10/2/23

Wilkie Collins had a strange way with commas.

Books I'd like to write books on, or write about in a book that is a broader survey of literature: Collins' The Woman in White, F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night, Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House.

I will write a book about Thoreau, which will be a reader's guide to his writings. An overview, tour, and conversational and practical study with depth and expertise.

This is Thoreau on literature:

“In books, that which is most generally interesting is what comes home to the most cherished private experiences of the greatest number. It is not the book of him who has traveled the farthest over the surface of the globe, but of him who has lived the deepest and been the most at home.”

There is more value in those lines than anything one will "learn" in the whole of their MFA career.

Thoreau on what we would call journalism and the news:

“I have no time to read newspapers. If you chance to live and move and have your being in that thin stratum in which the events which make the news transpire—thinner than the paper on which it is printed—then these things will fill the world for you; but if you soar above or dive below that plane, you cannot remember nor be reminded of them.”

I feel the exact same way. Why would you care about something that is about to be over, which was how something was on Tuesday but will be gone by Wednesday? Or if not Wednesday, then next week, month, year, whatever it may be? Why would you devote your life to writing about such things? Who cares? No one is ever going to know and it doesn't matter. I have published more op-eds than anyone in this country ever has who was not an op-ed columnist with a full-time op-ed gig. I'm the best writer of op-eds there is. I can say that because the work backs it up and what am I supposed to do, pretend I'm not what I am when I already have thousands of people in an industry against me and trying to suppress me? Am I supposed to play along with them and essentially kill myself off and bury myself alive with silence while I wait on something to happen like these people all waking up one day and changing who they are and what they're about and deciding to put the best writer forward and sing his praises despite how much he threatens every last iota of their existence and fake, manufactured sense of self? Why would I do that? To say nothing of people outside of the industry who are so intimidated by me that they're too frightened to voice any support even when--internally, anyway--they wish me well and root for me?

But everything I write is something that would last because of its truths and ideas. I don't do the news as the news, because I don't care about the news because the news isn't relevant to human existence, knowledge, or growth. It's just clothes. It's not body.

The news is akin to knowing whatever the price of a six-piece McNuggets was at McDonald's in 1987. Does it matter now? The price changed. It's over. Done. Not worth writing about, not worth caring about other than knowing right then and there if you have enough money in your pocket to get a six-piece McNuggets. I see all of these people get worked up by the news because they live the thinnest of lives.

I'm not saying one doesn't note the news. What I am saying is how most things start and end with the news for people, then it's on to the next bit of news. They have no agency in their own thinking and are almost always incapable of being anything substantive themselves. They are always fading and going away, like the latest bit of news. They bob along that way until they die, and that's it. They're never more than that. Their simple thoughts are dictated to them by whatever the news is and their simplistic reaction to the news, because they know nothing and never take the time or effort to learn about anything in life. Their god is this form of ephemerality. They are ephemeral. And I don't mean because they will eventually die and go away themselves. The news says, "Here's this thing, care about it before it goes away," but very few people are able to be self-reliant in what they care about, which should be the things that don't go away. But the news comes to them, and in this latter case--which is a way of being--they have to go to something. And people are almost always too stupid and lazy to do that. But going to those things is the very point of being human and alive. That's what you're here for. Going to those things, evolving, and trying to help people, frustrating as they may be.

Came across someone posing the question which character would you most like to be in an M.R. James story? I'd say Colonel Wilson in "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad." Great character. Experienced, wise, helpful, brave, quirky. Second choice would be the owl in "After Dark in the Playing Fields."

Finished two Beatles pieces. From one of them:

Right from the song’s beginning, we’re tipped off that things are about to turn a bit loud so duck and cover, if you’re the type. The studio equipment squeaks, stumbles, distorts, overloaded from the initial notes. You question whether the speakers are going to survive or get fried like the laser-blasted soldiers in Orson Welles’s “The War of the Worlds.”

Lennon plays bass, while McCartney and George Harrison handle co-lead guitar chores. That’s McCartney’s bedrock riffing with the strings on his instrument seemingly coming loose, as Harrison tosses in menacing licks in conjunction with the synodic throb of the beyond-this-world juggernaut. It’s akin to jamming with H.P. Lovecraft. Close your eyes and it’s not hard to picture George Martin in the control booth, head in hands, thinking, “What on earth are we doing tonight? These bloody guys.” (Martin would be on holiday for the September 9 session when the Beatles returned to “Helter Skelter” and cut the album iteration, with Chris Thomas, Martin’s twenty-one-year-old assistant, producing.)

There is no one writing like that, and there is no one who can come close to that. Look at everything else about the band or anything else, for matter. It's so simple and basic and empty and pointless and anyone could do it. Anyone off the proverbial street could do it. Not this, though. No one else can do it.

Just Like Them: A Piece by Piece Guide to Becoming the Ultimate Thinking Person's Beatles Fan is over 100K words. I don't expect it to get much, if any, longer. I really pushed myself. I had more than enough, but I wanted to hit all of these different topics, and I wrote another twenty pieces to do so. You read this book, and whether you're a newcomer to the band or some hardcore veteran, and you can dazzle anyone you talk to about them. It's such a practical book, has so much utility, and the ideas and the writing take it to this other level/place. It's also a mess right now and needs to be cleaned up, fixed, revised in parts, made consistent with repetitions removed, but that's more than enough--obviously--to be showing people. What I just described is what happens when a publication date is in place as the next part of the process. But it's all written.

Part of the problem with Lovecraft is he never lets the reader breathe. A reader must be allowed to breathe. I don't mean because of the pace or anything; I mean because a reader is packed so tight in Lovecraft's prose. It's like reading within particle board.


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