I wish I could share that interview I gave on Sam Cooke but Ryan hasn't put up the podcast yet. He doesn't want to share stuff like that right now, with people dealing with the pandemic, and I respect his decision. Personally, I think this is the time--well, it's almost always time--to share things of this nature, not only because people are looking to occupy their minds, but on account that this can be a time of growth. Plus, it's Sam Cooke and Colin Fleming talking about him, moving from the sacred to the secular, and that just seems like it'd be a good thing. Anyway, we're going to discuss the Doors' "Five to One" pretty soon for another segment, which will incorporate a discussion of the Waiting for the Sun album--the only Doors album that does not have a prevailing musical theme--and the Doors as quasi-metal band, the live versions of the song, the Stooges connection. I have a lot to say. To dilate upon, as they say. Well, no one says that. I say that.
I began another short story. These are short ones right now, as I ramp up to composing the second and final pandemic story, "Change of Gauge." That one will be longer. All of these stories are different lengths, from complete narratives in the 600 word range that read like novels like "Jute" and "Sound Holes," to the longer works like "Fitty," "Subway Friend," "The Warm Boy," "Orange Needles," "Dunedin," "Pillow Drift," "Six Feet Away," "Floor It A.C." I think those are all game-changing works of art. Some the prospective basis for films and TV shows. Playboy, as I mentioned, recently came to an end, and Esquire is close. I will later share the correspondence I had with Esquire's literary editor about "Fitty." A literary editor who is not allowed to select anything for publication because the venue is dying. Which might make you ask why have a literary editor and why pay them a salary? Maybe that's part of the problem, no? But you know what's a huge part of the problem? The talentless fossils these places do publish, from time to time, because they think they have name value, but they are just perpetuating a cycle of boring writing and boring reading and what I call the experience of non-experience.
Esquire, for instance, will slap in a T.C. Boyle story. You can't write much worse than T.C. Boyle. He just some old fiction hack who broke through forty-five years ago, and he gets to be a star, but no one actually cares about his work, save sycophants. But he has name value? To whom? And we should just keep this tired old lazy ass bromide going, just because it's been a thing for forty-five years? Playboy would slap in a Stephen King story, and these venues think that's the way to go, that will help them from folding. Will it? Does anyone care about a Stephen King story in 2020? Here's what I think: he was someone you read in high school, and you got your fill. He does nothing new. You know exactly what you're getting. There is no excitement, no surprise, and if you like him at all, didn't you get your fill years and years ago? Why read just another of the same old thing? I don't think there's any demand for that. I don't think there could be. I think it is impossible for work like that to have buzz or legs. I think there would be demand for a unique genius who creates unique works of art and entertainment and they are always new, you never know what you are going to get from this mind-blower. I think that's how you restock your coffers and succeed in the publishing business again, you get behind that man. Make this name, and I will make you a fortune. But when you can read forty or fifty years of the same old stuff, it's never new, it never surprises you, never blows your mind, why do you want it? (Nostalgia?) You don't.
I did some quick counting. That is thirty-nine short stories composed in 2020, thirty-eight since "Fitty" in July of last year, and now ninety-eight going back to June 2018. It's disturbing. As I've created this galaxy of fiction, I have been writing the stories knowing which I could pair together. You could do a horror book, of sorts--but a different kind of horror; a book of stories no more than a page, or two or three, long; a book of stories dealing with the news of this age (and transcending it); entire books in which the narrators and/or main characters are female. You see this ridiculous manufactured drama from the drones of publishing about "Who is allowed to write what?" I'll tell you who is allowed to write what--the people with the talent to create lasting, believable, works of art, authenticating mirrors of the human soul and condition, are free to write about whatever they damn please if the work ends up being what I just described. Black can write about white and vice versa, a ninety-year-old can write about children, poor can write about rich, man can write about woman, a Yankee can write about a Latino, anything you fucking well please if it's legit and good and meaningful. It so happens that the person who writes the best about women and writes the most stories with female protagonists, in the entire world, is a man. Should I do a "sorry not sorry"? I hate when people do those. But yeah, read "Fitty" and be like, "oh, he got that wrong," because you couldn't.
What else? Things are not going so well with the Fitzgerald op-ed. Even the places where I am liked are loath to put out anything critical of publishing, no matter how true it and how necessary it is. Me being critical of publishing and saying the truth about publishing is ultimately, along with my work, going to be the only thing that gives publishing a shot, in some form or other. Because if it just keeps going like this, it's all going to be all gone, and no one is going to read at all. It's already pretty damn close to getting there. These literary journals? They'd rather do their power trip thing with me than publish the masterpiece, as they recede deeper and deeper into the margins of irrelevance. I mean, what? You showed me? I have a lot of stories to unload. By a lot, I mean like 150. Me letting you have a story at a literary journal--and that's really all it is, me hooking you up, not the other way around--helps me out only insofar as I have a huge amount of fiction right now. It's not going to make my career or anything. It's just taking down the stack a bit. Now, put "Fitty" or "Six Feet Away" in The New Yorker or The Atlantic, then we'll see what happens on the large scale.
The Miles Davis Bitches Brew essay will run this weekend in The American Interest. I have to finish an essay for them on Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year. I need to do edits on an essay for The Smart Set on Renan's Life of Christ. Kind of a pain in the ass to do and will involve a decent amount of work, but I need the money.
Doing the Renan now. Going to take a break. And yes, I know there is a problem with the search engine on the blog. You should be able to type in any word and if it's used anywhere in any post, that post and all of the other posts in which it might be used--so if you're in publishing and you're jonesing to look yourself up--should pop up easy peasy, but it's not working right now. I haven't heard from Andrea in forever so I don't know what's going on. Which is increasingly a problem with the novel coming because I don't know how to get it up on the site or into the cover rotation.