It's 5:30 in the morning. I've been up for a while. I want to get to the Starbucks by six. Today will be a grunt work day. I need to put the time in reading, listening, note-making. Yesterday was the worst kind of day. All of them are bad. Some start out and they coagulate, the flow of life stops, and my own life might stop that day. It's conceivably a final one. But days when I do something major, I get further away in this industry that despises me, because of the latest major thing, and I see how nonexistent the result is, are the days that almost finish me. They are among my worst days, and since each day is a challenge to remain alive, that is saying something. For instance, in the past week, I've had a career for anyone else. Major fiction sale, major feature on radio history, piece on music in the best jazz magazine, brilliant radio displaying film expertise, unique blogs, and yesterday there was an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on how mansplaining is not a thing, it's a misandrist construction, because in this age, everyone is apt to talk down their nose at you, at length, about things regarding which they know nothing. It's part of our societal devolution. It's part of what I am trying to reverse. Not with a single op-ed. With the sweep of my work, what I do, the level I do it at. What I am. Which is not something there has been.
But there is math at play here. The Wall Street Journal, depending upon where one gets one's numbers, is the highest circulation newspaper in the United States. There is no one out there with the balls to say what I just did in public, let alone in public that visibly. What will the result be? I know that going in. The result will be nothing. I will pick up a single Twitter follower. Which is remarkable and seemingly impossible to do, if you are not me. I will track this kind of thing with other people. They'll never acquire less than 2500 followers, there will be books deals, gigs, etc. There will not even be blowback with me, because no one, with their name attached, will take me on. What I say is too correct and is said to well. I need the money, so I need the piece to run. But sometimes, often, I'd rather publish nothing, than to get this unique form of nothing back, time and again. It's frightening because it's not otherwise earthly possible. You can't do what I do in places like this and see these kind of numbers. So, yes, it is more confirmation in my mind that I am cursed. Which seems hard to argue against. Then, of course, other people in publishing see that that is my week, an unholy domination across myriad areas, from current events/ideas to fiction to music to history to film, and whatever else might be mixed in, since these weeks are different--sports, say--and the hate increases. No matter how little the stakes, whomever is doing the presiding will want to exercise what power they think they have, as a kind of evening of the score.
The literary journal that no one has ever heard of, with the circulation of 250, that pays $25, gets to have power over me, because that person seeing my email does nothing, thinks I am manic--which is incredibly faulty reasoning, given the cogency of thought in my work and unilateral depth of artistry (realize, though, that a work of fiction is supposed to be something you "birth" over fifteen months, but what it really is is a bad, pretentious form of contrivance about someone's stay at an MFA program or about being rich in Darien, CT, vetted by untalented people like the untalented writer who also call themselves writers, all part of the cloistered system from which no good work ever emerges, which is then trumpeted--when it is trumpeted--by that community that wants everything to sound the same, and for the community to be a safe space where the untalented are enabled, including the people at the top; it's like dealing drugs, only without the opioids; a shielding from the enemy, the ultimate enemy, that being..reality [oh dear]); but it's the rate at which I produce it; or, rather, that's what they tell themselves to comfort themselves that they do nothing in this life, and that they could not do in 500 years what I will do in two minutes, so, yes, of course they will not accede to anything pro-Fleming, however slight the stakes, if they can help it. And big stakes? Or what publishing calls big stakes, which really are not big stakes, not the kind of states I am after. Yeah, the big stakes here, such as they are, are for the kings and queens of their precious system. That I still get what I get, at that level, means there is an interloper in the midst, and then it's damage control to shut down the leak, to mix metaphors somewhat. There will be no awards, no anthologies, no positions, no nominations, no hype, no backing, etc. "Let's minimize the damage" is the word that is spread around. That's why you see the total shutdown after, say, I publish fiction in Harper's. Or even something like the latest op-ed. Whatever it may be.
Anyway, I must hustle. Yesterday I only walked three miles and climbed the Bunker Hill Monument once. Today on Downtown I will discuss misconceptions surrounding age and the mutability of time. Rangy, no? Eh, whatever. It will be the usual--surprising, funny, inspiring, with heft, depth, edge. The idea came to me because I have this erstwhile friend who takes to Facebook and uncorks these very long posts. They're well done, he's a decent writer with that kind of thing, but in these posts he's very puling, he says his friends never read articles or books, they won't respond, etc., but he'll have like fifty people engage him at length. People who clearly read every word and do seem like people who read a lot in their lives, going by how they write. These same friends. I'm a man who writes an explosive op-ed in a paper with a circulation of 3 million and receives three notes at his website, zero signer-uppers for his FB author page, and one new Twitter follower. So, one can see how this might grate a touch, insignificant though it ultimately is.
Anyway, this former friend of mine--not an honest person who lives up to their word, no matter how small, if you will, those words might have been--does the whinging bit about how old he is. It's a theme. He's old. He's old, he's old. He has students who don't know REM's albums. This, in his mind, solidifies how old he truly is. OLD. This is not some jocose routine; it's a go-to theme. Personally, I think REM is absolute garbage. If someone else loves them, I like that, because I like when people honestly love things. Not pretend love things. No one actually loves Roxane Gay's writing, for instance. It's virtue signaling. Being one of the good ones, and with her, you get a lot of "I'm one of the good ones" points in a single package. Newton white guilt suburbia love. But most octogenarians have never heard of C.P.E. Bach. This means what? Nothing. It means that people are lazy, that if something is not all but being plastered up against their faces, they're not apt to know what the hell it is. How many people in this world do you think can name a single composition by Mozart? They can name one by Beethoven. They can name part of one by Handel. I'm using classical composers, but we could extrapolate this across the mediums, but I would prefer not to right now. If I don't know something, I learn it. Leveraged buyout. Didn't know much about them. Learned it. I've always been that way, but I also knew it mattered with what I was trying to do--change the world to the good more than anyone ever has, which I will, once I get past this industry's harbor blockade.
This guy could live for another fifty years. He did a lot of drugs, I think, so maybe he won't, but he could still technically be the quarterback for the New England Patriots. What is age? So, if you were Hendrix, and you were twenty-six, were you old, because you were going to die next year? But if you're fifty, and you'll live to 100, what are you then? What's old? I don't think anything is old, considering how I can compose an entire story, a novel, in a very real sense, in my head, in a single second. The concept of "old" strikes me as an excuse not to grow. What's Dylan? Seventy-five? He's playing somewhere tonight for over two hours. If you can do that at seventy-five, I'm sure you could, say, work on your anger issues, too, that it wouldn't be, "too late."
What's too late, what's too soon? Me, with what I am trying to do, which no one has ever done, I am in a race against the clock, and also because I want it in my lifetime, soon, and I want to grow it once it is here, once I get there, and I have that platform, a unique platform. Having said that, here, at forty-four, I have created a body of work larger than any body of work by anyone who has come before me, who lived for many more decades than I have thus far. People in the Monument think I'm in college. A woman called me a student--albeit, I don't know why, we were not on a campus--over the weekend. I see people my age who look fifty-five. They acquiesced to that. They threw it all in. There is a giving up in this life that tells, that tells upon your person, your manner, how you think, I am sure the waves of your brain, how you interact, how you dream, hope, look at yourself in mirrors, by which I do not mean actual mirrors; I mean the lenses of self-examination, of, yes, reality. It's a decision, in part. But it's also math. A lot happens in twenty years. Think of twenty years. You can have a couple kids, send them both to college, you might live in two, three houses. And that's the same as from seventy to ninety. Twenty years! Take good care of yourself. Stop drinking. Run up and down a Monument. Find your version of the Monument. Learn. Learn what you don't know when you see you don't know it. That does something to our brains; it ingrains in them, while keeping them loose, limber, a child's capacity for wonder. You're not old with that. You're old going on Facebook, maybe, whining about how you're old, not writing anything, blowing off your good friend, passive aggressively insulting the others you still have. Give them something great to read. Write a masterpiece. Create a unique blog. Whatever.
As soon as I am done with Downtown, I'll record a podcast for someone on Billie Holiday and her song "Solitude." More work for free. Which is discouraging, considering what I'm giving away. The person offered to send along their questions, which no one has before. I said it was cool, just ask whatever you wish. I guess the thinking is so that I won't get tripped up? I'm not going to get tripped up. Fire away.