Next year, Tailwinds Press will be publishing my first novel, Chads Say What: Being a Novel Novel in Laughter for People Tired of Crying But Relieved Not to Be a Bro (and the Unification of America). (Which had previously been Meatheads Say the Realest Things: Satire from the End of Civilization.) The people who have read it could tell you it is not like any novel there has ever been. Or any kind of book there has ever been. You might even say it needs its own category. But it is very funny, starting out like it's going to be a lampooning of the American meathead--and who better in society to skewer right now?--and becoming something that ultimately links us all, disparate though we may be from each other. Or disparate as we think we are. I have written in the past that the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night is a technically perfect work of art, of popular art. Chads is my A Hard Day's Night. I am very proud of it as a work of art, a work of entertainment, a work of great fun and laughter, and a work of probing, empathy-inducing, surprising truths. You'll all but fall over from laughing, and cry that something could be so tender, so aching, so human. It's a long way from Dark March to Buried on the Beaches to Chads Say What, but that they all come from the same artist is going to be a big part of this story, when it's all said and done--and, hopefully, while it is still here in early-ish phases.
So, what this is looking like, here at the close of 2019...There are four books out now: Dark March, Between Cloud and Horizon, The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe, Buried on the Beaches. Soon there will be four more: the book on the 1951 film version of A Christmas Carol, the 33 1/3 book on Sam Cooke's Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963, If You [ ]: Fantasy, Fabula, Fuckery, Hope, and Chads.
I am trying to sell Cheer Pack: Stories, which is the story collection containing stories from the VQR, Harper's, Glimmer Train, Commentary, etc., though I hate mentioning that stuff because it is ultimately meaningless. I was at the bookstore yesterday, and if you understand this industry and you go into a bookstore, you get firsthand visual evidence of how these people have a stranglehold on everything that comes out and will get seen, no matter how awful it is, how tightly they have gated the bigoted community. How it is their friends, their cronies, the people they trade favors with, the people who try to drum up racism and sexism because they have no talent and they need to drum up racism and sexism for profit. Every single last thing happens for the wrong reasons, and not reasons to do with quality of work or what the work might actually mean to people. It also has nothing to do with business and profit.
I am trying to sell Glue God: Essays (and Tips) for Repairing a Broken Self, which people, so many people, need more than ever right now. What is Glue God like? It's like parts of this journal in impeccably fashioned, controlled, soul-barring, teaching pieces, funny pieces, pieces bursting alive, pieces to make you cry, pump you up, in perfect prose that is like a poem whispering in your ear, yours alone, and symphonic constructions at once, pieces that connect and impart, brave pieces that show one soul to other souls. And they won't put it out--it's not about feminism, it's not about gender, it doesn't suck ass as writing, it doesn't pander, it actually matters. I would venture that I know more than anybody ever has about repairing a broken self, keeping going, enduring, growing while doing so.
There are now more than seventy short stories composed since June 2018; that is four books' worth. The stories have not been organized into books yet, as I am still simply just writing more, my ability is ripping through every last fiber of me, I feel it, and yes, I have no problem saying this, what I am right now and can do does not feel human. It used to feel human, twelve years ago. The point I have come to does not feel human. I feel like I have become something else. I do know that one of those books will be called Slide Into My DMs: (Connection) Stories (for a Disconnected Age) and that the first three stories in it will be "Fitty," "Take a Leg," "Jute." There is a reasonable chance that each of the stories in that book will be told by, or narrated by, a woman, as those first three stories are. Which makes these people hate me more, that I can do that, that I am a man who can do that, and there is no one who can point to a single story and say, "I know more about that kind of person than that artist does." Nobody. In some ways, for a number of years, I was painting with but half of the paintbox. I had more paints in my half than anyone else in their wholes, infinitely more, but still it was only half of my paints. I probably have more paints out there still, I'm sure I do, so the fractions are not accurate, because I will always discover more paints. Always.
There is a memoir, Many Moments More: The Art of Endurance, about what happened to me in the time following my singular divorce, which is to say, the early years of this now almost-decade long hell. The details, the story, their plot points that go beyond anything in any Greek drama or opera, my almost-death, the choices I had to make, what I had to do, what I had to face, what happened to me, amazingly, again, when I once more opened my heart. The loss of everything, the house, the stroke, who I had to become as a person, as an artist, my days sitting on train tracks trying to decide if this was the day, what I learned about myself, the powers I discovered within myself, the drinking, the giving up drinking, the walking 3000 miles a year, becoming more hated in an industry as I discovered and honed my powers, creating at rates no one had ever created at, going backwards as a result, the climbing of an obelisk, every day, up and down, up and down, up and down, fighting to remain alive and grow and reach the world, while being totally alone, abandoned by almost all.
There is a novel underway called Done Eden, which rises out of the partial blueprint of my short story, "Dunedin," and the novel The Freeze Tag Sessions, which is at 60,000 words now, a book about a young prodigy/genius of a piano player--very young; or at least he thinks he is a piano player, and has no desire to be a genius, and wishes he were anything but, and tries to bring that about. There is another novel, 20,000 words thus far, called Musings with Franklin, which is told entirely in conversation--something that has never been done before--in a bar. There is another novel, Run It Again, which is about Van Gogh near the end of his life, John Lennon high on acid in the summer of 1967, and Edgar Allan Poe, in some kind of world that is not our own, and the concept that if you run life again--like when we run a game of pickup basketball again--you would have telling results, that is, very few people, very few artists, would succeed as they once had, should they not have merited it in the first place, because very little regarding success has to do with ability. But not with some people; and they set out to test what happens when life is ran again, when their own lives are run again.
In progress is a Beatles book called Same Band You've Never Known: An Alternative Musical History of the Beatles, that focuses on parts of their output, approach, artistry, even the orbit they inspired, that is uncommonly focused on, which reveals far more about who they were, I believe, as artists, than the standard Sgt. Pepper, Revolver stuff. The BBC sessions, the Hamburg tapes, Beatles-related literature, the Yellow Submarine film, Carl Perkins, girl groups, first takes.
There is also the explosive, Blackened Birds: The Beatles, Stones, and the African American Musical Geniuses Who Taught British White Kids How to Listen, Write, and Change the World, which is a book someone should have already written but nobody has in part because no one has the expertise on those various subjects. On one or another, but not enough on all that you'd need. But I do. I am prepping a collection of my critical jazz writings for a book, as, of course, my jazz writings, another voluminous part of my output, extend back over fifteen years at this point, covering many venues, and I've now been with JazzTimes since 2006. And I'm also prepping a book on my critical film writings.
There is another memoir, called Saving Angles: Finding Meaning and Direction in Life's Unlikely Corners. I wrote a series of essays--and am still writing them--which I undertook for a two-fold purpose: 1. To take them later, together, and hone them into a continuous memoir, which is why I picked the subjects I did and 2. To be able to sell them as stand alone pieces. Most of the recent essays excerpted in this journal are from this project, which touches on Monument climbing, Guy de Maupassant, Soviet goaltending, Curse of the Cat People, Linus, learning to become a better thinker through one's nightmares, William Sloane's To Walk the Night, Joy Division's "Ceremony," delayed gratification, shitty teachers, the computer game King's Quest, a super bizarre great aunt.
Remember: this is radio guy, op-ed guy, sports writing guy, art pieces guy, fiction guy. How is that possible? What's more impossible: that someone like that could exist, has ever existed, or that because they can do all of this, at the level they do it, and an entire industry just about wants them dead and doesn't want anyone in the world to see what they do? What's less likely? Because they're both real, they are both undeniably, demonstrably, plainly, real. How about that no agent in America would represent that person whose each and every week is more successful than the career of any of their clients? That's why this individual committed to himself, to going it entirely alone, and doing what he needed to do. And he wrote all of the above, writes all he writes, does this blog, which is its own landmark form of art and humanity on display, and yet, by far, the majority of what he writes, is letters to toxic, hateful people, who are only going to hook up their friends with their bad writing, and the people who enable a dying system that has absolutely no relevancy in society or culture, save in how that system is keeping the one artist that has dealings with it from reaching the whole of society and culture.
Also: Isn't the idea of a Genius Grant, and more than a half million dollars, when you read these pages, when you read the work, when you read stuff like the above, just like the funniest, most misnomer-y thing ever? Look at the people who get that, look at who twists in the wind meanwhile. Genius. A lot of people call me that, and I think they think it's a compliment, but it bothers the hell out of me. It is so misleading and limiting. "Genius" is as erroneous a term, in one way, in describing me, as "idiot" is. People don't understand that. Put it this way: you have a line, and on the left side of the line is the designation "idiot," on the far right, the designation "genius." And they're far apart. Most people just think in terms of the line. But put a point high above the line, and the point is on the vertical axis, an axis, let's say, emanating from the center of the line, so that you get a triangle, and that point is equidistant from the lower points at left and right. That's me. On the vertical axis. I would take the money from the grant people, of course, if they weren't so busy hooking up system people whose work means nothing to no one and never could mean anything to anyone, their scantily produced, creatively impoverished, one-note, predictable work. Take the money, buy back my house in Rockport. Actually be organized, have room to move, to breathe, not have to live like this, and you know what would happen then, with a reason to live, to actually wish to create? You'd see a time come when what I am doing now, would look like I was sitting there with my thumb up my ass, comparatively. In some ways, I haven't even started yet.
And all of this is just such a limited, thumbnail sketch of some of what is going on right now. Not to mention, a lot of what is planned to be going on shortly, or down the road. Eventually there will be Ride Your Enemy's Horse, when I have gotten to the place I am going to get to, in which I will expose and name every last person I need to name and expose, and contain even more info and detail than this blog will have contained by then, detail what I had to beat, in the form of a 400-page book. The phrase comes from Kafka. What it means is, you are on your feet, while someone else has the advantage over you, of being up on a horse. In a war. Nonetheless, you have knocked their ass to the ground, stuck them through the heart, and now their horse is your horse to ride off elsewhere, and do what you need to do.