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Saturday 9/23/23

Wrote the feature on the Beatles' Get Back LP which I did mostly so I could include it in Just Like Them: A Piece by Piece Guide to Becoming the Ultimate Thinking Person's Beatles Fan. I still need to go over it before it's done-done, but it's very good. This is from it:

The Beatles did enthusiasm very well, and you rarely think they had to work that hard to manufacture any—it was just what came out when they played together. Paul McCartney’s “Teddy Boy” is the exception, and hearing it on this perspective LP you can understand why his three bandmates disliked it as they did.

The tune isn’t so much the issue as how the thing goes nowhere; and when it ought to stop—or, rather, each time it ought to mercifully stop—it takes another circuitous trip around itself. Plus, it doesn’t have much to do with a teddy boy, but rather some mother-son dynamic (with a kid named Ted). We don’t need the latter—we have “Let It Be” for the mothers.

“I’ve Got a Feeling” is one of those better-than-you-think Beatles songs that isn’t discussed often enough, perhaps because it’s cobbled together, like “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” albeit with less—and less discursive—parts. “A Day in the Life” aside, the Beatles songs that garner the most prestige present a single, unified front. They move A to B, with no wacky digressions or insertions, elegant examples of songwriting in its purest form.

The amalgamated approach almost comes off as cheating, compositing rather than writing, when we have this subconscious supposition that artists like the Beatles should always be writing instead, because they wrote better than anyone else.

“I’ve Got a Feeling” does indeed suggest ad hoc songwriting, a jam having become a number, a cut. Led Zeppelin worked his way, not the Beatles. It’s an invigorating piece all the same, a Beatles-based song of the self and their most Walt Whitman-esque/Leaves of Grass moment.

And despite the subject matter of “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”—which in one section involved nuns and phalluses—that language was oblique, so it was still something of a shock—even in 1969 at the high point of the hippie era—to hear these former mop tops going on about wet dreams and how everyone was having them communally as part of a blissful, unified movement in which pleasure—and emissions—continued post-consciousness.

Some of the music found its way to the outside world at the time—as so much rock music was wont to do in 1969, the year of the great bootleg flood—and got pressed up on acetate and played on a radio station like WBCN in Boston that September (days before Abbey Road was released), with the DJ predicting a cease-and-desist letter from Apple. You couldn’t fault the enthusiasm, which came from a similar place of healthy hedonism as the record itself. Get Back the LP was mangy, and so were cutting edge radio stations. Lennon in particular probably would have dug the spirit.

“Let It Be” is the centerpiece of that eponymous album, but on Get Back it’s “Two of Us” that’s the lynchpin. If you want to picture young Lennon and McCartney on the side of a road, guitars in hand, waiting for a car to come along to bum a ride while on holiday, this is the song, in the best setting, to do that to.

This “Two of Us”—which is different in the middle section of Get Back than at the start of Let It Be—takes us back, but without forfeiting that “road ahead.” You never want to underestimate the value and opportunity provided by the latter, as the Beatles knew and had understood since their start.

I'm going to do what I think is going to be the last piece for the book, which will be on the second take of "Helter Skelter," and also an earlier long take of "She's a Woman" as a forerunner of the former.

Worked on "Finder of Views," the second story--and thus the first in third person--in Big Asks. Staggering. It is simply staggering. I was talking to someone yesterday and when you put this work next to any work by anyone writing right now, there's no number you can use in terms of how many times better it is. You can't say it's a million times better. There isn't a number. And that's obvious. It's not some thing I say. It's obvious to anyone who sees that work v. this work. And that is also why those people are doing what they're doing and standing in opposition.

We can have some nice prose offs on here with selections from "Finder of Views." We'll put it alongside stories from The New Yorker, whomever, and those writers will look every bit like the talentless frauds that they are. Then you know what they and their ilk will do? Nothing. Because there is nothing they can say to argue or even suggest otherwise. If they could, they would have a long time ago, and there is never a peep. Plus, they know that I'd know who was doing the peeping, which is to say, the blatant lying, and up they'd go on these pages for all to see them as exactly what they are. You're not just dealing with cowards; you're dealing with cowards who know that everything I am saying in these pages is completely true.

I have nearly 5000 "friends" on Facebook, and almost all of them are writers, though in reality, pretty much none of them are. When Facebook suggests a friend to me and I click on their profile, it says they're a writer. Who on earth could any of these people possibly be writing for? They're writers for whom? Even in theory, who are they writers for? There are no readers. That all of these people who are bad at writing who call themselves writers are the writers is why, in part, no one reads. There are so many more of these so-called writers cosplaying being a writer, than there are readers.

These people will have websites, and I'll go. I am so exactingly thorough. I look at everything. That website is more like a shop front. There's no content. Because they don't write. They have a few little things, and they're inevitably terrible. Want an example from yesterday? I could do this hundreds of thousands of times over. All of the work is this bad. Does that make me bad for not pretending it isn't terrible? Should I lie? Does anyone think this is amazing? Does anyone think there is an audience for this or would be even if everyone in the world read? What is the point of this? And it's person after person after person writing something like this. Here: This is the first paragraph of a story from one of these people:

Electricity ripples through the sky. Reds, purples, and dark blues dance around the sparks of light shooting through the clouds. Low angry rumbles follow behind, sulking because they can’t keep up with the rhythm and quick dancing feet. I’m sixteen when it happens for the first time: when the light leaves the sky and snaps to earth, lunging right for me, the girl with hair as dark as night. A searing pain rages through me as light shines out from every pore. An internal flame ignites, blood boils, and my body burns from within. My hair stands up straight as the static energy surrounds me. My blue veins, usually hidden, stand out like tattoos, vibrant and striking in my translucent skin. When the rumbling thunder hits my ears, it is soft like a hug, like a gentle blanket offering comfort, an apology for its wild brother.

I mean...did you love that? Did it impress you? I see these profiles and I think, "Who could these people possibly be writing for?" I know the answer: no one. Themselves. But only so they can call themselves this thing. It's like wearing a badge that says, "I am a writer and that is the thing that makes me special!" Because there is nothing else. The problem is, there isn't this either. There isn't close to this. And you can tell how stupid something is straight from the title. Here's one I saw yesterday for a book: Reaching the Shore of the Sea of Fertility.

Can you imagine me saying, "It's early on another Saturday, and I've been working on Reaching the Shore of the Sea of Fertility." You'd laugh at me. Or think I'd lost my mind. You wouldn't think, "Hmmm, that sounds pretty amazing."

Now, if I had a character who thought up the worst titles in their misguided attempt to sound creative and that's what they came up with, that could work. But as a sincere, "This is the best I can do, I'm going with this" thing, how could you do worse? Actually, I can show you an even worse one from a guy whose whole life and career, as such, is licking assholes into his seventies. He just tongue bathes people, and these people, being what they are, occasionally give him some stuff as a result of that no matter how clearly, plainly, laughably stupid his work is. Sit tight.

Then they award each other, hook each other up, hand out the book deals, publish each other. One broken freak puts forward another broken freak. Writing is obsolete. There are many factors for that. But one of them is because there is nothing worth reading. So people stopped. When you don't do anything for a long time, you lose the ability to do it. People then lost the ability to read anything, no matter how simple, and comprehend any of it. They lost the ability to express themselves in a way that didn't make them sound like an unintelligent child (which is hard, because children, by dint of being children, have a certain intelligence). They came to know what fewer and fewer words meant. Basic words. Those basic words became what people once thought of as vocabulary words. They had other options--videos, memes, gifts, the collecting of likes on social to fill their empty lives and souls--while you had one jackass after another writing this shit.

The world fell away, and all that remained were these jackasses doing this thing that no one cares about, so no one would see it and say it and say, "Wow, is that bad, are you serious?" There were no standards. If something was the best thing ever written or the worst, it doesn't matter, because there is no one to read it. This only matters insofar as the good writer makes these other writers doubt themselves, deepens their insecurity, their fear, their envy. Just as the productive writer does, because it's so hard for them to ever write anything, and the act of writing itself causes them great anxiety--crippling anxiety that shuts them down for weeks, months, years. Because, really, they know they have no ability to do it and this is their "thing." They want to be able to do it, but they can't and know they can't. But they don't want it enough to actually work at it. (And no, having your well-to-do parents pay more money for you to get another degree isn't working at anything; it's taking advantage of your parents and being a willing participant in a scam/Ponzi scheme.)

They're not going to work ten, twelve hours a day--they're not going to work a half hour a day--for years, decades, a quarter of a century, to actually be good at this thing they say they are. Which is what it takes, no matter how much ability you're born with. They're dabblers--delusional, dilettante dabblers. Of privilege, with no life experiences, people who have never been willing to sweat and bleed and try and risk; risk staring the truth in the face and having to then deal with the truth. The better a writer is, the more productive a writer is, the more those kinds of people will want to shun them, block them, have them be dead. Actually dead. These are not well people. If they were well people, they wouldn't be doing what they do in their closed-system fantasy land. It's their deranged little lunch table, in reality.

So who gets the spot, the book deal, the award, the genius grant, the Guggenheim? If it can be the best writing or the worst and it's the same, who is going to get it? That's not strictly true, though, because given a choice--and you have to find a way to take the choice away from them--these people are going to put forward people on their level who do what they do, look like they look like, went to their kind of school, have their kind of academic trajectory, write the same way about the same things; they don't read the work and think "This is outstanding"; they scan it to see if it has the hallmarks of their work, of who they are. The basic shit of people like this. That's all they're looking for in the work. Writing is entirely about the writing community. The only people--for the most part--who buy the books are the people in the community. They don't buy the book to read the book--they buy the book to be a part of the community. To "support" someone. The most important question to these people, at every level of this system, is this: "Are you like me?"

No one has ever bought a Laura van den Berg book because they like to read Laura van den Berg books. No one could ever like to read Laura van den Berg. I mention her a lot, which is because she's an apt encapsulation of a system person and product. She epitomizes what that means. She has no talent at all. She is as boring as anything can be. She writes the same meaninglessness every time. I'll put up an example here soon breaking down just how bad she is with a story from the bigots at American Short Fiction. I'll explain what these simple, broken people target as worthwhile. I know how these people think better than they ever could. I know exactly how they operate and what makes them tick. I can say, "See this stupid thing? This appeals to them for this reason..." I'll walk you right through it.

This is typical of what these people post. Saw this on Facebook yesterday, too. It's just one day, accidentally seeing things, pretty much. It's a sea of this shit. Non-stop.

2 Random Questions for a character I'm developing (based on myself(but not me):

1) What is the first thing you notice(d) about me(or a character like me)?

2) what one-line phrase sums me/my character up?

Any and all(practical or smart a$$) answers are greatly appreciated! It's hart to answer questions like these on your own...

Again: Can you imagine me seriously doing this? It'd be like the apocalypse was happening. It's inconceivable that I could write and post this.

You could say, "Hmmm, you wrote those things about those people on the blog and they weren't sweet and gentle things..." Yes--after twenty years of easily provable cause, and taking it, being a silent victim. These are bad people. These are people who look after their own. These are people who hate anyone who can do what they cannot do. It's a closed, discriminatory, bigoted system. Most of the people of that system are the most prejudiced people in this world. They steal. They steal money. They do so much damage in this world even in their obsolescence, because they have killed off reading and writing.

A world without reading, and without good writers, is a world with a very big problem. Reading good--and of course great--writers who offer us things, make a big difference in our lives. How we express ourselves, how we think, in our abilities to be open-minded, judicious, balanced. In the stoking of your imagination. In inspiring us. This world is a cesspool right now of hate, narcissism, personal agendas, no real interest in a greater good, no real interest, often, in anything beyond a person's simple, selfish desires which are born of fear and insecurity.

People don't even know how to talk. When was the last time you experienced someone saying something--anything--that was different from the same old shit? When was the last time you had a conversation that didn't feature the word "literally" twenty times? When did someone last say something original to you? Insightful? It's been a while, hasn't it?

Why do you think that is? Are we incapable of those things? We never could do them? That's not true. We are devolving. We can handle less. We are less strong. We are more broken, and, further, more ill-equipped than at any other time in human society to put ourselves back together again.

Killing off reading and writing--quality communication--has had a huge role in that. When we can't express ourselves the way we wish to, we become angry. Confrontational. Our relationships suffer. We have friendships that are not friendships, we just don't want to be open about the truth that so few of us have a single real friend right now.

And it's just getting worse. What is to stop any of this? What's to help us? And the longer it goes on, and the worse it gets, the harder it becomes to get up, to begin to move in the opposite direction. If you lose the ability to read, to know basic words, and someone puts a text in your hand, you're not going to be able to read it no matter how lucid and straightforward it is. You won't understand any of it. And it's not just the text. It's the argument. It's the speech. It's the law. It's what's really happening with that thing in the news. It's what the family member is saying to you. It's what you could know about yourself. What you need to know about yourself.

We are always looking for alternatives to reality now. We may think, "Humans are doing so much with technology, how much can they really be devolving?" Just like we think, "That person over there has have 250,000 followers, they must be interesting," when chances are that person is the opposite of interesting. They have those followers because they say the same dumb, simple shit in the same exact language that all of those followers use, and people are just thinking, "I could say that! I do say that!" That's not interest. It's insecurity. It's narcissism. People look to other people like that not because they are entertained by them. They look to them for validation of their existence, of who they are, which is itself devolving. "They are like me. I could be them." That's it. And that is success now. Those are the people who have it. People who say stupid, basic shit, in the same phrases--the same stock phrases--that almost everyone else uses. Find me an exception. You can't think of a single one. You can't be great? We can't value greatness? We can't aspire to greatness or our own closest version? As for technology, that's a feint. A distraction away from the real, human problems. We can't deal with our most basic emotions anymore. We are medicated up the ass. We are self-medicated up the ass. More people have a drink or drug problem than ever before. There are so many people in your life who have a problem with alcohol. You may be one of them. And they hide it. Because we are all about show now. We're about what we present to the outside world. We can be less happy, more depressed than at any time in our lives, and we will sit in front of that computer as we get closer and closer to wanting to die, or living another day wanting to die, and we lie our faces off and tell everyone how happy we are.

Language, ideas, communication, and writing have so much to do with all of this. There's an irony at play. I mention that book above, I show that FB post about the woman who wants the character like her who isn't her--right--and the excerpt from the story, and obviously that's just this bullshit, nonexistent world, really, this sect, this subculture of a subculture that no one outside of that world knows anything about or gives a fuck about. And the people in it only give that fuck because they want to feel like they're a part of something, that they're special, because they know they're not a viable contributing member of anything back in the world of reality. And here, you can fake it, and be lied to. Who even cares enough to expose you for what you are? Besides me. And I don't care because of you. I care because of what people like that have wrought, and what there can be instead. That is the currency of the publishing world: lying to yourself, lying to others. It is all bullshit. None of this writing will last, and none of it has so much as a single second of fleeting value in the here and now.

Quick diversion: Yesterday I was saying to someone how I had written 5000 words before 10 AM, and how in my head I thought, well, that's easy for me. But I told them I caught myself. Do you know why it's "easy" for me? I entered this world with more ability to do this thing than anyone has ever had to do anything else. But that wouldn't have meant jack shit if I didn't work at it constantly for every day of my life. Watch Steph Curry shoot around in practice or pre-game. He never misses, right? Not once. It looks dead easy for him, doesn't it? Do you know why? Because for so much of his life, Steph Curry shot a basketball not that far off from every waking moment of every day. That's shooting. Do you know how much harder it is to write at an elite level than it is to play a sport? To be a Hall of Famer in a sport? There are infinite variables with writing. You are showing how this world works, while reaching beyond this world for the light to shine on what is happening in this world, how people are, how we work, at the level of the entire fucking group, and the very specific person. How are you going to do that, even if you have the ability--and the chances are nil that you have real ability--if you're not doing it every minute you're awake in some form or other? Do you think these people work at writing at all? Because I've pasted in here, again and again, their posts on social media how they just wrote a paragraph for the first time in two years. Look at those websites from these bullshit Guggenheim winners and the like. Where the fuck is the writing? You hardly ever write. Where is the work? And you have people who will hook you up and run anything by you if you can produce any goddamn piece of dreck that happens to have your name atop it. So where is it? Where is anything? Why do I create more by ten AM every day than most of these people will write in a year? Two years. Five years. Ten years. Yet, there are the awards, there are the book deals, for what little they are able to scrape out of themselves, that piss poor, valueless work. If you aren't writing seventy hours a week, something like that, you're never going to get close to good. It doesn't just happen. It's too hard. It requires too much. It requires too much just to write something decent that's worth a casual read. Let alone something mind-blowing? Life-changing? Art for the ages? Art for the here and now? All of it?

They are all dabblers. They're not serious about writing. Nothing is published because someone thought it was great. It's entirely other things. Bad things. Things pertaining to membership within the clan. Things in line with how bigots operate. People who start and end by saying, "Are you like me? Are you one of us?" So then what happens? That kind of work, produced by those kinds of people, becomes what you are "supposed" to do. It becomes the work they look for and reward, providing it's by the right kind of person, a Jamel Brinkley--awful writer, doing the right kind of awful writing, and the right kind of person for them. Everything they get--every publication, every book deal, every gushing review, every award, is for those three reasons: awful writer, doing the right kind of awful work, right kind of person for them. That's why those two bigots at American Short Fiction, in Adeena Reitberger and Rebecca Markovits, publish him automatically. (This will also be the only way an embittered fossil-termagant like Wendy Lesser at The Threepenny Review operates.) Do I even need to put in a few lines from his story that those bigots just ran out there as good as sight-unseen because of who wrote it to show you how awful it is? You know how bad it's going to be. How...blah. How...nothing. But I can do it. Might as well:

Ghosts have been in my family for generations, but the ones on my father’s side tended be of the flimsier sort, available more to the ears than to the eyes of the living. His grandmother left behind her Sunday-afternoon humming, for example, and his disabled uncle persisted in the heavy step and drag, step and drag, along the length of his porch. My mother, on the other hand, had the telltale visibility and near-corporeality of many of the ghosts on her half of the family. This quality made it difficult for living witnesses to keep the necessary boundary, to distinguish between traces of things and the things themselves. You could treat the ghosts of my father’s people like an overheard phrase of a familiar tune, taking notice of it and perhaps, for better or for worse, remembering, but only for a moment. With a ghost like my mother, however, you had to be careful. Before you knew it, that quivering body would firm into a pillar, around which your entire life, here and hereafter, would everlastingly revolve.

Do you think that's amazing? I don't think you do. Pretty good? Nope. Average? Average what? For a high school student? If I told you an average high school student wrote that would you think, "No way! That's too good for an average high school student!" You wouldn't think that. Go ahead: type in Brinkley's name on Google. Do you see how little actual writing there is? Do you see how what there is is automatically ran by these kinds of people, though? Do you see how the boxes are checked? Do you see how he fits the profile? How about this: When you take a look at what is available to read online from him, is any of it any different any time out? Or is is the exact same stupid, simple, meaningless shit? It's exactly that, right? Simple, stupid, meaningless. Any asshole could learn to write like this in a day. But why? Creative Writing 101 at Bunker Hill Community College. That's really what we're talking.

Want to do a quick prose off? Sure, we can do a quick prose off. This is the start of "Finder of Views":

If there had been anyone to whom he spoke about what he watched that he shouldn’t have watched and that he couldn’t stop himself from watching, Mason would need to be careful to avoid the phrase “splurge of cock.”

Those would be defense mechanism words, crass as they were, issued from a place of horror and heartbreak, but Mason knew there could be no earthly defense for what he was doing.

There probably wasn’t an otherworldly defense either. Having said the phrase, he’d find himself reeling and somehow more naked than naked—like the dust version of a skeleton where you can still make out the shape atop the dirt—in front of someone else whose mouth had become an unrivaled rictus of repulsion, as if the flesh of the face had melted and then froze again at the worst possible moment.

Of this Mason was certain. The joke didn’t exist that could minimize or deflect from how loathsome he’d become.

He’d say the phrase anyway, practically able to feel the texture of the words as they went over the tops of his teeth, incapable of restricting their egress. It was sickening to be haunted by a memory of something that hadn’t happened yet because of something else that had.

He thought a lot about the concept of mercy. Who deserved it and who didn’t. As he’d lately realized, Mason had somehow gone most of his life never knowing how much shame and pain had in common, which now struck him as a colossal joke that anyone could be so ignorant. How easily they rode together. They didn’t answer to laws of propriety. Nor adhered to established boundaries. They had no respect for any rules in how they haunted, where they haunted, when they haunted.

It's a given of this system that someone like a Brinkley will get what they are handed. This kind of bad writing becomes the standard. It becomes the goal. You become your environment. Here, these people essentially brainwash themselves. What you and I would look at and think is the worst fucking writing we've ever seen, writing that has to be a joke, what many people would now call "cringe," is what these people have brainwashed themselves, through all of this inbreeding, lack of accountability, or ever having to answer for any of this shit, to think is the best there is, how you're supposed to do it. Then you get the Laura van den Berg armies of indistinguishable, terrible writers. The robot drones, every last one of them making work befitting people who are wholly dead inside. Work that is dead inside, dead on the outside, and has no more of a pulse of life than a fucking stump. Less of one. Then, they teach others to do it, because that's the real money, as such. The scam--and the shit--goes on and on.

Anyway. I had mentioned the tonguer, this guy who had an even worse title. We'll get into him more later, because it's worth exploring, but I was talking about John Domini, a man who measures success in life by who gave you a blurb, regardless of how gross, fake, shallow you had to be in landing it/them. And he licks, and he licks, and he licks. He's licked asses into his seventies. He's like some creepy, awkward uncle, the kind that you knew from the very start not to trust. As I said, these people eat it up when someone who is one of their own, who is obviously lying and full of shit--not that they can tell or care, so long as they get that praise--kisses their asses. So they'll give him some stuff.

You have to realize, sales come down to the "friends" of these people. Who they know from AWP. These numbers are so small, because there is no book-buying public. The buyers of "literary fiction" and the like are members of this system who don't actually read the shitty work of people in this system. The members of that writer's network are the only people, for the most part, buying the books. You buy one of theirs, they buy yours. That's it. That's the goddamn business model. None of this work has merit, value, to be more than that, so even if a better system was in place, in theory, they could only be selling to each other, because it's impossible for the world at large to be honestly interested in any of what they are producing.

I actually knew a guy once who was in publishing, who said to me, "In all of these years, I've never understood why one book sells and why one doesn't," and this guy put out a book by Laura van den Berg. And I was dumbfounded. I just sat there thinking, "You really don't get how that works, genius? You can't puzzle that out?" People who suck, who fit the type, who check the boxes, who are connected, who are not a threat because of their talent or any honestly-earned career successes, or their knowledge, who have connections in this network, are the people who sell the 842 copies. That's exactly how it works. If they are hyped, yes, then the few people in the world who read might buy a book by that person because they were on some show or The New York Times Book Review lied out of its ass about how great it was. But you know what then happens? They hate it. They don't fall for that BS again. They feel duped, ripped off. They question The New York Times Book Review. They question why that person was on that show, why this book got this award, why these other "famous" outlets sung the book's praises.

When that singing happens, it's never meant. People are just saying things, man. They are just saying things they want to say for other reasons than the actual contents of the books. You are being tricked. This is someone who has written for everyone. This is how it works. Not with me. But it's obvious in every way it can be obvious that I have no overlap with any of these people. Artistically--never; morally--to any degree whatsoever--rarely. Because people are insecure, they will then often blame themselves. They think, "I'm not educated enough to read," and rather than put themselves through that feeling again, they won't read. They'll do it less, they'll stop. And that will change them. They'll fill up on more garbage. Their attention span will diminish. They'll communicate less well. They won't improve at it. They'll think less well.

But we've been joking about this book title here for a bit now, me and some people, from Domini. You ready for this? I'm not making it up. This is real. The Archeology of a Good Ragu.

Can you imagine coming up with something that dumb? Then thinking, "Yep! That's it! That's the name of my book!"

What would that look like if it was me and I was on here? I get up, I start an entry, and I say, "Was up late last night, working again on The Archeology of a Good Ragu." Again, it's inconceivable that I could say anything that stupid. And to say it seriously? So when the book came out, someone like my mom, or a friend, would be asked, "What's Colin's new book again?" and my mom or my friend would have to sit there and seriously say, "The Archeology of a Good Ragu."

How could they say that without laughing? How embarrassed would they be? You couldn't say it with pride. You'd hate having to answer that question.

But these people? That's how it is here.

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