I am thinking of going back to Rhode Island, leaving this morning and coming back to Boston on the train Sunday, with a stop in Providence to take my friend Howard to lunch if he is free. Howard is a great man. Ex-Navy, whip smart, has an awesome blog, he's a great writer, knows his music, film, literature. I'll be writing a full entry on him. We knew of each other because of some Beatles things, and then he showed up unannounced at one of the two readings I've given in my life--sad/depressing, isn't it?--which was a joint reading at the Harvard Coop in 2013 for Dark March and Between Cloud and Horizon. I didn't even try to schedule any of that for Buried on the Beaches, outside of this place in Chatham that ignored me (after someone from there got in touch with me and told me to contact so and so about doing these author luncheons they have at a boating club), because I have no chance to succeed right now. There's no publicity, no coverage, and, of course, I'm blackballed throughout the publishing industry. I went to Providence in December to take Howard to Trinity Rep's production of A Christmas Carol. He does a lot for me--he hooks me up with so much music that I need that I can't afford. He tracks it down, and sends me the files. I keep a giant list, which I hope does not freak him out, as it's like two notebook pages long now. I would say Howard is probably in his early fifties. He's a great, great man and model. I admire him so much. So generous and large-hearted, larger-than-life presence and smile. I have a copy of Booth Tarkington book for him, and a copy of Buried on the Beaches. He's never said anything about my fiction. I do get that a lot. Maybe people think they don't have to say anything because it's clear what it is? But when no one says anything...well, not no one. It's not actually that. Not far off, though. It hurts. It more than hurts. It messes with your mind, too.
Someone texted me this last night: "You story was brilliant. It made me cry. I was tearing up, and I had to say to myself, don't be a pussy and suck it up, but I couldn't."
That was about "Fitty." It breaks my heart to have to then explain to someone like this--I mean, they know, they get it, I don't really need to explain further--that the hatred for me is so great that these people are not going to put out this story that would do so much good and impact so many people. It's worse than criminal. But they can do it. Can you imagine what that feels like? Knowing you have this, knowing you have like Sgt. Pepper, and it won't appear in a setting where the world can access it easily and know to access it? I can't just stick it up here, because the world doesn't know to access this site yet. I don't have a guaranteed million visitors with each "issue." Publishing is all about cronyism and being the right kind of person, and their social class system. The two main characters in "Fitty"--Fia/Fitty and Carlene--are women. I'm a man. There are actually people in publishing who would look at that as sexist. As budgets plummet and page counts dwindle and venues go out of business--because of the inferior product that comes from their system of in-breeding--they are more protective of that limited space and giving it to their friends and system people. The hate for me goes up always. As this becomes ever more unjust, and I protest by stating the obvious, the hate goes up. It goes up with the achievements, it goes up with me pounding at the door saying "enough with your absurdity, this is insane." They want me to swallow my medicine and choke on the fate they have prescribed for me. They want me to countenance the absurdity, the insanity. They want me to enable it. They want me to pretend it's cool or that I don't see it. They take it to such laughably insane degrees, though. Six or seven years ago, this story would have had a 3% chance--it was the class system then, too--and you would have seen it somewhere big or biggish, because, for me, that's great odds, sadly. Now? I don't know what can become of it in summer 2019. It could go because something changes in someone or this story is such that even a max hater has to somehow have it. Maybe I'll just have some great luck for once. And that will spring me from this lower circle of hell. Once I'm out, I'll be out, baby. I just need to get out of his prison, once. Then I'll never stop, and I'll have my recognition, readers, influence, impact, money. No one will be able to imprison or pinion me again; I will overrun. I will. I am the good flood waiting to knock down the dam and become the un-damned. Of that I am certain. If I get out, once. This story is the story of our times. I know with full confidence that anyone I give it to, if I come by your house with a printout out, and say, merely, "take this, friend," you will close the door, I will go on my way, and you will sit and read and have a reading experience more powerful than any you have had. I promise you. The excerpts in this journal are telling. But the whole, taken together?
I feel very guilty when I do not officially work. Even though I work most of the time, I work through weekends, I am always working in my head. It panics me, somewhat. And the guilt. I say to myself, Colin, it's 2 days, bring work with you, get out of that nightmare of an apartment, spread your papers out, your books, organize your aims and to-do plans, make a list of who owes you money, read the books you need to read, spend some time around people who care about you. I feel like I don't deserve caring sometimes. I feel like a dog that has been brutalized. And my entire existence is about stopping the pain that comes from this hell I am in, getting past these people and their blacklist, their embargo, their industry-wide blockade of me. I know that I cannot be happy until I have solved this problem. I know that my life has no purpose until my work can reach large sectors of the world.
When you have work at this level, that means so much, it all but kills you to have to hold it in your pockets in a kind of twisted invisibility because of these levels of discrimination. Make my life depend upon it, make the fate of my soul depend up on it: "Fitty" vs. any work being published right now. If anyone can truthfully answer that they prefer a Lydia Davis story over that, then damn my soul for all eternity. Make me the Devil's bitch. I will gladly take it. I will do the time of all eternity. That's how certain I am as to what this work is. This isn't close. This isn't like who was the better player, Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb. This isn't ego. I'm honest on here. The work, the excerpts, the full texts, the work the links take you to, it speaks for itself. I have no ego. I try to know, rather than feel. I feel elsewhere; but feelings never impact my honest assessing. That is why I can come on here and say the "good" and the "bad," because I don't view them as good or bad; I view them as the truth, and the truth does not root for either side. When you create a work like "Fitty," you know how special it is. You know it's pretty much impossible for someone to read it and not be balling by the end. Not in a lachrymose way. And it's not a one-off. And it's not even a greatest hit. That makes this harder. Ralph Eubanks was a candidate for The Paris Review job last year. He was the editor who got forced out at the VQR. I went from regular work at the VQR, to banned. More on that and the people responsible later. That Paris Review job wasn't going to go to a man, no matter how highly qualified, even overqualified, after their last editor, a man, Lorin Stein, fucked people on his desk at work, reputedly traded publications in the magazine for sex--and book deals--and allegedly anally raped people on his desk, too, and obviously hired people based upon their gender and their appearance. Look up any photos of him with staff--waifs, with this guy as the sultan at the hub of the harem. Disgusting, squamous individual.
Had Ralph gotten that job, "Fitty" could have gone there. If it didn't, it would have been because something else--I don't know, "Dunedin," "Post-Fletcher," "Pillow Drift," "Floor It A.C.," "The Last Field"--had already gone and it would be too soon. If James hadn't been fired at Harper's, it would have gone there. That's what this is. You need the smart person who is not morally twisted yet. It's not about the story, it's not about the venue, it's a matter of a person with honor, who still cares about the work. The secret, hidden society of publishing. Because of the business angles of "Fitty," I actually did something I've never done and submitted it somewhere else not to an editor, but a publicist. I showed this person clips of me talking on the radio, and about my fiction on the radio, to show just how comfortable I was doing press. You would do press after the publication of "Fitty," if it went in the only kind of publication I'd allow it to go to. I wouldn't let Cincinnati Review, for instance, run it, for $150, not to be seen by anyone. I have literally sixty unplaced stories right now, and they have different natures, and that means I prioritize them differently.
Doesn't mean that the story at that small literary journal is not as good. And of course I have work to burn. I'm not hurting for great stories. If anything, I have too many, I have many careers' worth, and if I get out of this situation, one thing I'm going to have to figure out how to do is find a market for this much short fiction. There is no market right now. You have less than five magazines that publish fiction that anyone actually reads. Let's say I have the sixty short fiction masterpieces. That is a problem that will need to be solved. Maybe you create your own periodical, devoted just to your work, because now you have the platform and the market and popularity--the supply would have been the issue, but it's not issue for me. That would be radical. You'd have to be someone producing constant top-level content, constantly. I have this backlog, and I can always make new great fiction--hell, you can pick the subject. Maybe books solve part of the problem, maybe you hit upon a revolutionary online solution--a subscription site, for instance, for your fiction--or something I have not thought of yet. No other writer is in this position. They don't have that much work, and they don't have several storage units' worth of short fiction masterworks. They are fortunate when they can say that they have completed single story--by which I mean, they technically have something that is 3000 words long, which has been through belabored drafts, "workshopped" with their false lit community friends, who are exactly like they are--that they strained over for eighteen months like they were taking a really big shit that wouldn't come out. Some of those people--Junot Diaz--know that their shit will go straight into The New Yorker, simply because they managed to fill up, finally, the bowl.
In the process of what these stool passers do, the idea of having a story once every two years became this celebrated virtue, and someone such as myself became a huge pain in the ass, probably derided as manic, obsessive, what have you, because, yet again, here was another week, another day, another month, when that productive person was trying once more, back in the inbox with something else. The thinking is largely, I hate this guy, what a pushy asshole having work after work, and they know all of this stuff I do not, and they publish all of these things I never could, I hate him I hate him I hate him--pretty ass backwards thinking; I mean, sorry for offering you all of the masterpieces--but there is also an element of if you have much at all, let alone a lot, it can't be very good. They are so unproductive themselves, so they need this to be true for their egos. You can only produce great work rarely, after much time.
Umm...yeah, if you suck. Or you're buying into this fallacy. But all of the actually great artists produced a lot, at a high level, regularly. You think Mozart wasn't creating masterpiece after masterpiece? Bach? Schubert? Do you know how much they wrote and how consistent its quality was? These people are then fronted with my work. I don't mean just what I send them. They encounter it in life. And they want to think it sucks. And there it is, time and again, at the same level. And that makes them angry, too. I work harder to get out of this situation. I get better. I get faster. I create more works of art, I am so poor, always getting more poor, and always need more money, so I have to try and create more and more nonfiction and sell it, and that means more links, and that means more hate. This is a Catch-22 at the level of a curse. Because I have no choice. I can't just sit back. Nothing will happen. And, unfortunately--I cannot believe I sometimes think this way--I cannot stop getting better.
I will say this: If these seven plus years had not gone like they have gone, I would never have become this artist that I now am. I never would have been capable of what I can do now. Is that all part of the larger plan? Did this have to happen this way so I could be able to do what I am going to do?
Maybe that is fanciful. Maybe that is the truth.
So. I am going to go to Rhode Island. Fiona is gone, so it will just be Susan, Emma, and me. Susan has been so nice and supportive. She's smart and funny. She's what my dad would have called a space cadet, very flighty, but sharp, skilled with one-liners, astute. She has a nice way about her. I think that's one of the nicest things you can say about a person. And obviously Emma. Maybe we will work a little on her school projects on Kafka and Thoreau. She'll bring up things from weeks ago--she brought one up last night, involving a woman who screamed at us once when we were walking--that have lately been on her mind, and so often they are things that have lately been on my mind, too. They are ostensibly random things, but not random things. There are many times when the footfalls of our own individual thoughts are like parallel tracks in the snow. I have never experienced that with anyone else. Nothing remotely like it. Which is also why I think we can just sit in silence together and feel like we are communicating. It's uncanny. It's fascinating. It's preternatural. I still feel very guilty, though. I have found as well that with these crippling anxiety attacks, which sometimes literally knock me to the floor, gasping for breath, that when I formally compose--I don't mean compose in my head, but rather at the keyboard--I can take the anxiety down a little. I write from within a cave of terror, often. I don't get out of the cave, but I move a little closer to the mouth, and if I did not, I would already be dead by my own hand. As it is, I'm barely not. The margin is narrow, so narrow. Something has to happen. I have to get that chance.
I printed out "Fitty" and "Dot" for my mom and my sister, but I am not going to have time to get to the post office this morning. I need to hustle if I am going to catch this train. I feel very guilty and indolent, like a lazy cow. Hopefully I can get a lot done there, too.