top of page

No C-Pigge

Saturday 3/26/22

After doing the unthinkable and not running stairs since Monday, I ran 5000 today. The C-Dawg must not become the C-Pigge.

Finished that Jelly Roll Morton feature. It was excellent.

Came up with more story ideas.

Also came up with two new op-ed ideas--one pertaining to productivity, the other Charles Mingus. Also pitched a different Mingus idea.

Giving thought now to a book of some my writings on literature. The notorious "Zombie Lit" can be in there. The title at present is The Human Reader: Pain-Free Explorations of Life-Changing Literature. Or, The Reader Within: Explorations of Life-Changing Literature for Current Book Lovers, Future Book Lovers, and Everyone Else. Or, Stories in Us All: Explorations of Life-Changing Literature for Current Book Lovers, Future Book Lovers, and Everyone Else. Or, Stories in Us All: Explorations of Life-Changing Literature.

I will tell you what I do with the nonfiction. In part. There are many things. They are clear from the work and addressed in this journal. But what I'm thinking of right now is that I give the expert, the diehard, more than they knew they could be given, and loads of newness, such that there's a remaking, or refashioning, re-igniting of passion and thinking, with storehouses of fresh knowledge, arguments, concepts; and I compel the newcomer, and bring them in, without overwhelming them or making them feel lost or uninitiated, while also taking care of the person, via the ideas, and the nature of the prose, who ordinarily would have no interest in the nominal subject. Because it's always about more than the nominal subject with me. But I am also giving you that nominal subject in greater detail, from wholly original vantage points, with unequaled expertise. The rub: no reader gets left behind, and each may dine to their fullest. Well, you will get left behind if you come in with an agenda or are a bigot. But, in reality, there's no room for that person at my table anyway.

Random aside: I can't believe Jackie Bradley is back on the Red Sox.

Sat in the cafe and thought hard about There Is No Doubt: Storied Humanness. Read Keats and the February issue of The New Criterion. Listened to Mozart's piano sonatas. Drank hot chocolate.

Also listened to Zeppelin first album, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, the Who's A Quick One, and their performance from the Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus. Watched a short horror film called In Darkness--not at all good--and finished the third season of All Creatures Great and Small. (NB: I would wear a T-shirt that said, "More Tricki Woo!") Siegfried is my favorite character in the show--he's the smartest and most complex. Cried at the end of this season. A beautiful show.

If I were an athlete, it would be a rule of mine never to talk about officiating. Just don't do it. You only sound like a loser after you lose and you say anything about who got what calls. It's the mindset of a loser. Saw that a Purdue player said that Saint Peter's got the calls last night. You lost to a #15 seed, man. A winner would have the attitude that no matter what is set against them, they should be able to overcome it. And if they didn't this time, they will next time, and concern yourself with what is next. If your career is over, then concern yourself with what is next in life. You achieve nothing positive by carping about refs after the game. And you know what? The refs are hardly ever the reason why someone won and someone lost. Still, people who know very little about sports--despite spending enormous chunks of time watching sports--will often think this way.

They make it very hard for you to watch the NCAA men's hockey tournament. The Frozen Four is in Boston. If something good happened and some additional money came in I might go. I've never seen a championship game in person. Well, a Beanpot championship game or for Hockey East.

I am having a hard time fitting my hat over my hair.

Got four bags of small sweet peppers, a package of strawberries, a bunch of bananas, for the grand total of $7. Drank a lot of no-fat milk for my blood pressure. Also, peppermint tea.

A letter:

Greetings, sir. How have you been? A few things here. First: I am sorry if I've missed anything. I have begun going back through the hell-space that is my inbox, slowly but surely, having had my head down finishing two books (one of which was completed this week; the second of which will be done this weekend), while writing everything else I write for magazines and newspapers. Essentially, I turned out the world for a bit. I write, I run stairs. That is pretty much it. I know I have to get you some payment details, but please accept my preliminary apology if there's anything else I've missed, which I should be coming to soon.

I have given copious thought over the last seven or eight months about a second volume. What this has meant is I've made lists, reworked lists, thinking in terms of what is the greatest need? What is the greatest service we could provide film fans and horror buffs? Where is the scholarship either "soft" or lacking? What book does there absolutely need to be?

Two favorites have emerged from my very varied list (which also includes some sci-fi fare). I had mentioned one to you, in Orson Welles's 1948 picture, Macbeth. I know there's the Polanski entry in the series, and I think of this one as being billed as Macbeth (1948).

I am, by any standard, I think, one of the world's leading experts on Welles. As with the Beatles, he is one of the great passions of my life. I think he's one of the three smartest people ever to live. Many people know and discuss my Welles-related work, the same as with that Beatles work. I'm known for offering viewpoints, angles, perspectives no one else does. I see said work discussed often online. I also give scores of interviews about Welles. On podcasts, the radio, NPR. Talks at Harvard. I'm Welles guy! After I'm done writing this pre-dawn Saturday letter to you, I will be writing a piece for someone for Easter about Welles's Chimes at Midnight.

One of my main writerly goals in this life is to compose a Welles volume. To say that's an ambition is an understatement; it's a necessity tattooed upon my soul. Welles people are always hungry for new approaches to Welles. There's a real audience waiting. A readymade audience. A loyal audience. He's aged well. I am tapped into those forums, those groups, those websites. Welles made a remark before a broadcast of Lucille Fletcher's "The Hitch-Hiker" (in which he memorably starred) that many people thought of him as a horror/spook guy, which he put down to the infamous "War of the Worlds," but the truth is, Welles was a horror maestro, in all forms of art. He's a horror titan. It's just that he did so many other things, we lose sight of this. Even Citizen Kane has real horror aspects and techniques (think about the opening sequence--that series of dissolves). But back to his days in The Shadow--in 1937--Welles did horror. In truth, he did just about as much as anyone has in the the States, if we're not counting out-and-out genre-or-bust people (Stephen King, for instance).

No one writes about Welles's Macbeth, and I think it is oft-misunderstood. The circumstances of its making--for a studio that cranked out cheapie Westerns--is fascinating. We also have the whole relationship between Welles and Shakespeare, which goes back to his schoolboy days when he authored a book on the Bard. I am writing a novel that is a modern re-telling of Macbeth, and the horror of the play has been cooked into my bones going back to my own schoolboy years. I think Welles's effort is one of the all-time horror movies. It's one of the most singular. It's weird, wild, protean, psychologically askew, primal. Welles people would be buzzing over the book. But I'd also write it so that classic Hollywood people would like it, and intellectual people, and not-so-intellectual people, and Shakespeare people. With Scrooge there was an element of first person. I think that's the nature of that film--it pulls out the personal connection. Goodness knows, I've received many kind letters about the book, and also that aspect of the approach. But that would be less in evidence here. Different films call for different treatments.

Then we have 1931's Dracula, from Tod Browning. You might be thinking, "what? Dracula? Everyone knows that movie!" Hear me out. This movie has been discussed as flawed for so many years now, that I think we no longer see it for the masterpiece it is. Those "flaws" are the strengths. The alleged staginess is instead a kind of cinematic out-of-body experience. Whale and the Frankenstein pictures get the art house clout--but Dracula is of a qualitative piece. Again, I think it's a film that has become so misunderstood. I want to build it up, make a case for its artistry. I also believe it's the most influential picture in American movie history. Pre-Dracula, there was no American horror. There were chillers, thrillers, and mysteries, but no outrightly supernatural pictures. That's why Dracula wasn't marketed as horror, believe it or not--it came out on Valentine's Day as a love picture! Then there is the timing. Dracula could only come from 1931. We are so fortunate that it was made when it was made. Sound had just come in, but soundtracks filled with music and cues really hadn't. Dracula taps into one of the great powers that humans have--their imaginations. We work in tandem with the movie. I defy anyone to find me a picture that has this one's look, feel, tone, vibe. Nothing "feels" remotely like it.

Yes, there are Dracula books, but none like this. They focus on everything, it seems to me, but the actual film itself. This isn't just entertainment and a vein of pop culture being made--or opened--before our very eyes. This is rich art. We would be hitting a big need. And doing some important redressing.

Really, I want to do both of these books, and I want to do them cleanly, efficiently, and with alacrity. They are pretty much tied, in terms of my sense of "This is the book to do." I took too long with Scrooge, due to many, many concomitant pressures, various things in my own life, when it reality, it takes me two weeks to write one of these, when I know my stuff, and I know my stuff every which way with these subjects. I think they can be important works. I also think they're commercially viable from the jump. Markets are there. That has been part of my thinking/planning, too. I have made a very concerted effort to find what can work best for us--you, the press, me--on all fronts. I also don't want to do something super-niche, when there are broader possibilities that also offer real opportunities for distinction and need-hitting and conversation starting and stoking.

Hope you've been well, my friend.



bottom of page