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Phantom Colin

Friday 5/21/21

Yesterday I started work at four AM. Last night I went to bed at 2:15. Today I started work at 6:15. I am working so hard and desperate for money. I sent pitches deep into the night. I tried to find grants I could apply for. I couldn't turn up anything, and I doubt any of the pitches will produce a reply, especially as many went to people who have not responded in years on account of the blackballing. I worked on two new stories as well. I sent "Eyejaculator" to places that pay next to nothing, and again, it's the same thing--editors who have not responded in years, who wish me dead. At venues no one has ever heard of.


I have all of these expenses, I have less money than ever coming in. I sent a new op-ed idea to USA Today about what is baseball's biggest problem--which I don't see anyone mentioning anywhere--and which also ties into larger societal issues. I came up with another op-ed idea I haven't pitched yet about travel. I'm alone, desperate, scared, and always hurting so much. I sent "Coalescences" to an editor who I saw had quoted "Eyejaculator" (which I had sent her) on Facebook. I scoured old messages for any sign of any chance to pick up a few bucks. I saw all of these messages from Dzanc that I hadn't really seen before. I had offered them Cheer Pack and Brackets at the same time back whenever it was--a couple years ago. There were notes about how they thought Cheer Pack was a work of genius, but that Brackets was the more innovative book, and that Cheer Pack was something that should go with a major press.


I saw that and laughed a kind of very sad laugh at about one o'clock. Yes, it should be with a major press. You open the page to the first story and it's freaking "First Responder" and I defy anyone to show me anything written this century that is anywhere near as moving as that story, which you can type in on Google and read in full. That is an all-time story that an editor at Harper's wanted to buy, before he was overruled by his boss who absolutely detested me, and was then bought by the VQR, where I am now banned because the editor who has come in since then, Paul Reyes, is all about cronyism and, as their former editor put it, "the Lydia Davises" of this world. That is, the right kind of person, who writes their predictable fare, with the right reputation, connections, etc. He hates me more than that woman at Harper's, Ellen Rosenbush, did. She banned me there because I once wrote her on a Saturday. (It was a thank you note, actually, for her taking the time to read the story her deputy editor wished to buy and had done a final edit on.) That's how insane and arrogant these people are. How entitled and pretentious and smug and petty and bitchy and moody. There is no accountability. No repercussions. They get away with it all. Do you know why? Because the only people in the system, who are able to stay in the system, are exactly like them. Their kind of person. People who need it to be like this because they'd never get anywhere on ability. They're not going to complain. Anyone else wouldn't last a month here. Two weeks. You'd stop trying. No one would give you a chance, write you back, read your work. You're not one of them. And the greatest artist ever? You'd be in a fucking war unlike anything else. You'd be completely frozen out and hated, even as you were still doing what not one of them could ever do a fraction of. Could never do a fraction of what you do on a random morning. So here we are.


I have to find a way to get sneakers because this pair is falling apart and to the dentist for a cleaning before my teeth rot because it's been that long and this mattress is shaped like a U at this point because there's nowhere else to sit in this horrible apartment, and it has to be replaced because it's messing up my back and the refrigerator also needs to be replaced because what passes for a kitchen is flooded every morning and there are actually rusted pieces of the refrigerator everywhere because they come off and float away. It's not a human way to live, and then I just work and work and work.


I sent these stories to this tiny place in Maine. They only pay $100. Each issue, they run a story 1200 words or less. With the Longer on the Inside project, I have like 125 stories that fit that bill. I should never be sending my work to a place like this. It's just not big enough. But this is what I have to do, because of this situation. The stories should be in The New Yorker, not in this tiny place up in Maine. I know someone I respect a lot, someone I value, count on. They have work in there. They are that rare person who writes who is not threatened by me at all. They have no problem with the idea that they're like this solid player, and I'm Gretzky or Jordan. They're secure in themselves, and they know I'm a once-in-history talent. And they believe in my ultimate outcome. This is someone in my IC.


So they introduced me to this editor. I had put off sending these stories--and the offered introduction--for a long time. I just couldn't give a venue like this a work like "Jute." I just couldn't. It's just too good. But things kept getting worse, and I asked this fellow if he'd introduce me, and he did. I gave the editor four stories. And he turned them all down. He said--and I'd never heard this before--that they didn't belong there because they should be in a bigger market. I look at it like, okay, this guy fell to you because of really fucked up circumstances. Look at it as good fortune. Good for the magazine. Then I was so desperate that I sent him five more, and he's like, "happy to look." But what are we looking for? Stories that are less good that could appeal to fewer people?


I shared this with my guy, and he assured me that what this was was this other editor recognizing my genius and trying to do right by me. By the work. I don't know. I don't think it's that, to be honest. I could be wrong. But I'm very rarely wrong about these things. But what I know now is I offered him nine stories that this person I know would know as much better than anything they've ever published. This isn't, "eh, here's a crappy one, you can have it." I only have works that are at my very best. All just to get $100.


I spoke to the web person who I wasn't sure was still around. I need things fixed on the site, and I'm worried about how to pay for that. I know it's all a backroom deal, and that it is 100% rigged and has nothing to do with what anyone writes or what anyone actually deserves, but not getting that Guggenheim has hurt me bad. They're not going to give me that until I'm already rich. They're not going to give it to me now when I am an infinitely better writer than everyone who wins one and actually deserving in the spirit of the award--which I now know is total bullshit--of providing money to a writer who needs the money who has demonstrated they're worth that money and can use it to create more work. They give it to people who already have all the money, suck at writing, have all the right agents and publicists. They gave it to a husband and wife this year. Not a husband and wife who write as a team. A husband who sucks at writing, and a wife who sucks at writing, in Paul Yoon and Laura van den Berg. So anyone is supposed to believe that these two highly connected, talentless people who are married just both happened to deserve this the same year? I mean, come on. These are people who come from money (they all go to the Ivy League school after going to the prep school that costs as much as an Ivy League school), have money thrown at them, knowing nothing about anything, write the most boring material there has ever been, and have awards thrown at them for the one shitty thing they manage to write once every three years. All connections and sucking at writing. People who do not work as hard in their entire lives as I do in a single weekend. And here, have $80,000 for your household. That's really how the award functions. It has nothing to do with ability or who deserves it or is in the spirit of it. Kimball wrote them a letter of recommendation. And you know what he said? He said, "this guy is the best writer in the world, who is shunned by an entire industry, and this award exists for someone like him more than it does for anyone." They don't care. You spend five minutes at this site alone and it's like, "Holy fuck, look at this guy." It's all pre-arranged, it's all about the system and keeping the fat cats of the system morbidly obese.


I walked seven miles yesterday. I got my haircut. I was just too hot. It'd been a year. The barber had to tell me to be careful after when I stood up so as not to slip on the hair that was everywhere. I may look like a thumb, but that will pass in a few days. I had this giant slice up my forehead, like three inches long. I have no idea what it is from. My hair was covering it. I have all of these bumps on my head, because I still have that thing going on where I pass out, and I hit my head. But I don't know what this cut is from. Maybe I did it while I was asleep, but I don't see how a fingernail could have done it, unless you were really trying to rake into yourself. I must have done that though.



Sometimes I"ll say to these people, "Look, I know you hate me. I get it. Hate read the story, even. Hate read it. But look at it. It's obviously a unique work. It's obviously a special work. That's all that should matter." Some stories are just so obviously what they are--"Fitty," "Girls of the Nimbus," "Transitionings," "Eyejaculator," "Fetch and Ferry," "The Stopping," "Dead Thomas"--that you can say this.


And you know what they do or say? Nothing. Because you're not just dealing with bigots. You're dealing with cowards. They could have a written guarantee from the god of reality that the story they've just been handed is the best work of art ever created. A historic work of art that people would be going on and on about. Talking about, debating, sharing. A work that would be huge right now. And would last forever. They don't care. They care far less about that than they do who the person is. How they feel about that person. Doesn't matter if they'd be guaranteed that the work of art would mean great things for their venue, their business, their family. They'd still turn it down. They likely would not even look at it. They'd hate that that particular person who is so unlike them made it. That's what we're dealing with here. That's just the truth of the situation.


Do I look for exceptions? Constantly. Would I work with anyone, no matter how they feel about me? Not literally anyone--for instance, one of these people anally raped staff members on his desk while at work (among his many other transgressions, like trading acceptances for sex)--but not far from it. I do not care about feelings. I care about work and business. My feelings about you will not get in the way of doing unto the work what the work deserves as work, and the business of reaching readers, commerce, dollars and cents. I can loathe you and have no respect for you personally, professionally, morally, intellectually, and behave completely professionally and cordially to you as we go about the warranted business and no matter what you've previously done to me, more or less.


I just revised an essay from last year Joan Harrison's 1944 picture, Phantom Lady. Harrison was one of the first female producers in Hollywood. Not a lot has been written about her. This is her best film. I tie it into our age, too. I think I can maybe sell it for a very small amount of money.


I am so exhausted right now. But I'll exercise because I feel like a fat load and for my blood pressure. I'll do some work in my head. Good God this is just getting harder and harder. I don't know how I could ever even tell anyone someday, if I'm with them, if I'm not in this position, what these days are (were) like. I think the trauma might be too great to even talk about them, if i ever get out of them, if that makes sense. Unless I have to for the historical record. To make sure the story is straight. Straight and known.