It is a little before seven. I have been up for a while. I am catching the ten o'clock train to Providence and will spend the day and the evening at Emma's grandparents' house with Emma, her mom Susan, her grandparents, and a friend of hers, and of course Benny the dog.
Not a lot of kindness filters into my world and Susan sent me a very nice note the other day expressing concern and commenting on "Fitty" after reading some excerpts. I was up at four in the morning yesterday writing letters on its behalf to people who will likely ignore me when they see my name, or do the spite rejection. As I wrote the final two sections on Thursday, I could barely see for all of the tears in my eyes. It is not saccharine. But there is no more emotionally powerful work of art, in this manner, in human history. I was working yesterday at the Starbucks for several hours, and I could not stop replaying parts of it in my mind. I even made notes after the fact of having composed the story, which is something I've never done. The way the parts fit together, it's just a technically perfect work of art. And I know that if it had some backing, it would become part of a national discussion, it would be fiction that "trended"--stupid term--on Twitter, it would be read by millions, it would become something else, like a film, it would have household recognition, it would be on many lips. It is that distinct, devastating, beautiful, powerful, timely.
I've said in these letters that it is the best thing I've ever written, which isn't really true. I don't have better or worse things. But it is the story, because of the nature of what it is, that 5000 years from now that aliens will point to and study in their attempt to understand what 21st century America was all about. And more. And you sit there, before the dawn, and you beg people who despise you to look at it, when, as Kimball wrote me once to say, it should be the absolute other way round; people who publish their friends, people who publish the person with the right agent who has everything greenlit and lined up for them--awards coming, puff pieces on them, hype lists about the Fall Books You Need to read, front tables at the bookstores waiting for stacks of their book, blurbs from the established system people/dinosaurs, someone who is the right color, the right gender, went to Yale, went to Iowa, so much Payola, basically, so many members of the comically insincere sham of a village on the take for them, the road already lined with jewels just waiting for them to drive down upon the merest formality--that is, having anything they can say they wrote with their name at the top--to begin the victory parade of a thousand tongues on a single organ; people who publish lockstep MFA Writing 101 cookie-cutter meaninglessness; people whom, if they just got out of their own way, if they stopped carving off their noses, would look so smart and reap so much to run this, something good for art, good for society, good for culture, good for flat out "oh my God did you read that" entertainment, good for business, good for your brand, a sensation waiting to explode. Something by someone who can put a lot of life back into what is a dying industry. Good life. Not the life of the sick house.
This is the only time in my life that I have asked myself if something I created was too emotionally powerful. Some people will read this journal entry before they read the story. But for when you do read the story, let me make a guarantee to you--if this is in some way proves untrue, I'll take you out next time you are in Boston, just contact me via the form on this site--that there has been no other work of art, in any medium, by any other artist, that will impact you like this one. Go in with the attitude of, "This guy, saying that, screw him, I'm going to be jaded and doubtful and 'there's just no way' will be my attitude, this clown, it's probably just whatever." Go in with that attitude. Go in with the attitude of hardest resistance. It won't matter. You may be someone who has not cried in thirty years, and I promise you that this story will turn you into an absolute puddle. It will break you down with both its horrors and its beauty. And you will feel so much hope, too. It will make you think about reading in ways that you never have before. Or not with another writer, anyway.
I am printing out four copies now, two of which I will mail this morning if I get going fast enough, to people I am related to. With every new story now, I print out a copy for Emma, and I write a little something on it, and I give it to her first. It's just something I like to do. Not because I want her to say, someday after I am dead, "I have these original manuscripts by this beloved artist who never saw that love in his life," but rather because, I hope, I can say to her, "Well, I am glad I kept fighting, because if I did not, all of what has happened, which has been so good and amazing, would not have happened, and you were the person I always gave my work to first, because you meant so much to me and I love you very much. Told you I wasn't just the crazy writer dude downstairs."
I had another panic attack yesterday afternoon. I can't deal with anything. With the nervous breakdown, I became unable to even look at my email. I went seven plus years of nothing but blows and tragedy, every day. Brutalization. Feeling all of that hate. Dreading my successes because they made things harder. And I cracked. Thinking about my situation, my prospects, my financial problems which will worsen (which could also all be entirely fixed, forever, in a morning), and certain people are often to bring on the attacks. People who will get angry and angrier if they know they are the source of these panic attacks. In my mind I just think, "I don't want any more trouble I don't want any more trouble I don't want any more trouble." Because I can't take it. I'm well past post-traumatic stress syndrome. I am a kind man and a non-confrontational man, and yet I have to take on things that are so bigoted and corrupt, otherwise, they will just own me and win, and I will die alone and unknown and in abject poverty, and these works of art, which can be beloved by millions and make me millions, will not be seen. And as principle, and with so much at stake, I can't give in to that. I have to expose this system on here. I hate it so much. I hate that it comes to this. But there is no choice. It goes against my nature and my desires but it is not only the right thing to do, it is the only thing to do at this point.
This attack came after my workout. Yesterday I was just so exhausted. Someone had said that creating these stories for me must be like giving birth. I don't know if that's a good analogy. But they cost so much in terms of what I do give, in terms of energy; I am excavating myself, with one of those huge excavators you see, and I am giving all of my blood into this new form of life, and so much of my soul. It's like a blood and soul transfusion. And it all comes out of me. There is no recovery period. I have to give so much of my blood and my soul again, for the next work. Later that day. Or five minutes later. Or ten seconds later.
Yesterday I needed not to give after the completion of "Fitty." I needed to let my blood and my soul regenerate a little. The price of that story was so much of my very being. But I needed to have some control, to try to do something for the cause moving forward. On those days, I seek to work out hard. My physical health is a part of this, a part of taking down this system, a part of reaching millions of people, a part of altering this world. The upkeep of my physical health, as I am embroiled in the greatest challenge one single human has been embroiled in, is a part of this. I need to have the physical health to withstand this emotional and psychological battering. So, I ran six miles, I walked three miles, I climbed the Monument five times. I sweated clean through two shirts. My hair becomes this sea of salt, so much salt drips down into my mouth, it's like I have the Dead Sea on top of my head. My sneakers, which are tattered and have holes in each side, are criss-crossed with ribbons of thick salt. As I am so conscious of my sodium intake, I'm a little confused, maybe concerned, by this salt evidence.
My lungs feel powerful. I have always carried a lot of weight in my legs--my thighs have been large since my hockey days--but I note now that my calves are highly defined. The Monument is about many things, and one of them is calves. And yet there I was, moments after, unable to breathe as I sat still, in pure terror, thinking about if this does not change, thinking about all of the money I am losing lately when money was already so hard to come by, thinking about people I cannot talk to anymore and how angry they get and how I could never remove any scales from their eyes. The money is not strictly because publishing is dying. Even before we get into huge book deals, movie deals, radio deals, bestsellers, that kind of thing, there is easy money to be made if you are me and can write on everything and write note-perfect works instantaneously, and you are not banned everywhere. There is an easy six figures to make just doing pieces. There are easy six figure gigs with staff jobs. But you are dealing with the discrimination and the hate. That plum job is going to someone with no talent, who has achieved less in thirty years than I do each week, who makes a comment about how women who have abortions should be lynched--more on this guy later--and then is fired three days after being hired. It's all cronyism, and it all goes to people who offer this world nothing and have never honestly earned anything. Also, often, right now, race profiteers. But even more often just cronies, people who were in the editor's class at Princeton. I am the fear maker. I am the man who does in five minutes what you know you could not do in 500 years. And these people tend to be so fragile, so insecure and egotistically needy, because they know it's all strings, smoke, mirrors, and bullshit, that they cannot have that man around, and they must villainize him. I am the reminder of all that you are not. They prefer people on--maybe, sometimes--their level, or better yet, below what they figure is their level. The irony is that bringing in me will make you look good, and I will help your cause, and your business. I'll put your kids through school. I'll get you that beach house. I am unlike anyone else you could ever hire, because I am unlike anyone there has been. And I prove it, I prove it daily. You can hate me all you want, but you can never say this man is all talk, because I show the walk after the walk after the walk, and it's undeniable. It is, as they say, what it is.
Next week I need to force myself to be brave. I am going to confront some things I have not been able to deal with, and I'm going to have to try and hang in there after the rain of blows. Susan said she did not know if she should call if I was going to end my life. I told her that I don't know what I am going to do, that I do know I can't do this much longer, something has to give, one way or the other, but right now I am fighting, I am still fighting.
Emma texted me that she missed me. I had told Susan yesterday that it would be difficult for me to be more proud of someone than I am of Emma. When you are like I am, when you have my mind, you are alone. There is no one like you. There is no commonality. You feel like an alien. And yet, though you want recognition, and appropriate financial compensation in accordance with what you do and the audience for that, you are, more than anything, doing what you do so that all of those people who are not like you, can live better. You are doing it to help them. Not as charity. Not as "I am above you, peons, I will give you this." You're doing it out of love. Even as you feel so alone. Even if, on a person-by-person basis, you love so few people. But you have an overall prevailing love. It's complicated. But you do it to help. To reach. To console. To entertain. To bring happiness. To help people come to know themselves better. To help them deal with pain, with self-doubt, with confusion, with alienation. To make happy people happier. To grow stronger in their relationships. To make them laugh after a shitty day. To help them become themselves. Big strokes and small strokes. Emma is the only person in my life whom I have ever known who has, for the lack of a better way of saying this, a little bit of that alien in her. The extra.
I have to hustle now if I am going to get a few things done--I'd like to run a quick three miles--and make my train.