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Ride it

Monday 4/26/21

Drop dead delivery date for Scrooge is Thursday. I am up to the challenge.

Today I awoke to see a text from someone asking why I had not been confident in Brackets. They were surprised by this. The people I know who know my work can't conceive of me having doubt. I'm also looking at it differently than they are--by my standards. Not anyone else's. No standards are as exacting. I am ruthless. I will not spare a single feeling. So if I say "Fitty," "Nimbus," "Nickel Coffee," "Fetch and Ferry" is a masterpiece, that's not some idle term I will capriciously kick about.

I decided to give them a fairly fullish answer, even in the text medium. Which read:

"There was a blog entry about this, but essentially...I made the book out of utter frustration. As a kind of 'fuck you.' Not to a person. A fuck you of frustration. Cheer Pack was the obvious book to do (the Harper's story is in it). No one would do it. No one will do it. Of course, that's because of the blackballing, plus my skin color and gender. But it's so elegant in design. I think it's nine stories and they all go together perfectly. Starts with 'First Responder.' So for Brackets I was like, fuck this, and I crammed every kind of story together. Things that have no business being in the same place. Just this absurd explosion of styles. And the stories were written over twenty years. So then when it came to the revisions, I saw that a lot of it sucked. To me. But my sucked isn't someone else's, and a little work on my sucked can make everything perfect. Anyway, I rewrote a lot. It was all Track Changes, and red ink. But I didn't work on it long. Like two fast days. I kind of dreaded the book. I need the money. I put off looking at it. Finally I did last week and that was when the shock happened. Because it's amazing. It's as strong as anything I have. And it works together so well. The stories I had the most reservations about knocked me over with their quality. Probably the ballsiest book I've ever seen. I mean, a work of young adult literature is followed up by a story of erotica starring the ghosts of Lincoln and Poe. The first story is a grocery list. Publishing hates anything exciting. As a work of art, it's thrilling. The themes work throughout the whole book. It's brilliant and integrated. I've never seen anything remotely like it. So it was a few things that I did. What was in the stories in the first place. Somewhere. And then those rewriting days. Also my initial 'fuck you' had some method to it. I was still designing something. There is a Padraig and Lorcan story in the book that floored me. The way I describe it is to say it's like a punk rock triple album or the White Album. Which is how it's described on Amazon, I think. It's an audacious work of art. Radical. I was shocked how well it all belonged together. Also, some of my earliest fiction is in there. But no one could tell. I change. A lot. I do things I didn't do earlier and sometimes couldn't do. But pretty early on I reached a point where the quality was the highest it could be. It was harder for me to get there. And it took longer. But in the end, a Fleming story in 2002 got to the same place a masterpiece like 'Fetch and Ferry' from the other day did. Having said this, Longer on the Inside is a super obvious book to do, for many reasons, but who knows where that will stand with this same place. I'd like to do that book and the Joy Division music book with them. More books. Push out the genius in all forms. Max forms. I wish someone would get max creative. Dzanc could do something you'd never ever see with anyone else and put out Cheer Pack and Longer on the Inside on the same day. Two books that are almost impossible to believe are by the same author. Make the case for the genius. Show the mega-genius. The unique artist. There's no need to think, 'But there won't be coverage this way.' There's not going to be coverage anyway. I am blackballed. But I am also going to win. And when I win, I will be everywhere and overrun all. I will be in the air people breathe. I will be in every field of vision. The press like that can play a part. Then they have the association. They have the early catalogue. Which they can also sell to the highest bidder for it all to come out again, and come out with not just a chance, but a guaranteed, epic victory. So let's get creative in the meanwhile, let's find a way to push an artist who is historically unique. I mean, imagine sitting there reading the likes of 'Last Light Out' and "Pikes and Pickerels' from Cheer Pack on the same day you're reading 'Jute' and 'Meteor People' from Longer on the Inside? It'd be like the Beatles releasing Please Please Me and Sgt. Pepper on the same day. 'Oh, we just did these at the same time, cheers.' Everyone would be like, what the fuck, how is that humanly possible? Those Cheer Pack stories are big, meaty, and then you have Longer which defies the laws of writerly physics and invents a new kind of fiction. That's how I should be approached, pushed, marketed. Even now, with the blackballing in place. Play up the whole 'this guy is like nothing that has ever come before' angle. When it changes, it will change fast, because everything is in place. You don't have the option to do this with any other writer. They have so little, and what they have is always exactly the same. That's a really good idea, Cheer Pack and Loner on the Inside coming out on the same day. What a gesture, what a bravura flourish, what a gauntlet to lob like a mega-genius bomb. The move itself creates a kind of news and buzz. I need someone to think 'new.' Do you know what I mean? With some vision, some purpose tied in to a unique artist. Not to just default to publishing tropes. I remember when Dzanc asked me for books to compare Brackets to, and I just wouldn't go through those motions. There are no books to compare it to. That's the point. I am not other writers. Ride that train. Take it somewhere. And then it will take you places you never thought you'd go."

I move through life observing. I would do this were I with someone, or others, but it is also different when one is alone. I sit in cafes like I did yesterday, where I read, make notes for work, and I watch and hear. What I notice is the absence of friendship. I believe there is very little friendship in our world. Those with friends tend to be older. People born in the forties, fifties. Two people will sit and talk, but they are not talking. They're not listening to each other. They are each having a turn saying something, which they would like to be responded to in a very specific way. The other person makes perfunctory remarks. They're not hearing what is being said. That's not the point. They're there merely to provide a few expected words. Then, they have their turn to speak. It's the fallout of social media. In "real" life, people are now as they are on social media. No one on social media actually has any interest in what a person has to say. They're not interesting. It's a ritual. "I am not interesting, and I want support and fake cheer, and thus am I providing you with some, as you are also not interesting." If someone is interesting, they will be excluded from the responses, the likes, the compliments. Because people sense that it is not germane to what they are. They're almost "doing" social media for the wrong reasons. The reasons of "this is interesting, I am interesting, I will share interesting things." Which is against the grain of the purpose of what social media is really about. It's primarily for weak people to humor other weak people in order to be humored in return. Weak recognizes weak. When that occurs, it's very easy to hit the like button, to give that follow, to say that half-assed compliment, to dish out the exclamation points, to kiss the ass.

A woman yesterday at the cafe says, "I know I'm fucking amazing." And it's like, are you? And do you? No and no. But that is not the point. The point is to say this to her "friend," who any objective party could tell is not listening, is thinking all about what she wants to say when it's "finally" her turn to talk. "Yeah, for sure." Then Ms. Amazing wraps up her little speech that is really to herself, and the friend steps to the podium to do her version of what just occurred. Are they friends? Nope. Not at all. Would they tell people they're best friends? Yep. But there was nothing between these two. There was no attempt to communicate and come closer to each other. I see this all the time. They were devices for each other. Tools. Instruments. A friend is none of these things. They were Human Facebook, Human Instagram, Human Twitter. They were not human friends.

Speaking of friends: Sent Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad books to my little niece whose birthday is in a couple days. I love Frog and Toad because they are true friends and true friendship is rare. I especially love Toad because he’s so creative and passionate—and weird—and I especially love Frog because he’s loyal and nurturing. I read these books even now and am a big believer that everyone should.

I know I've said it like four times, but this cover idea for Cheer Pack is awesome. The cover ideas for Cheer Pack and Longer on the Inside are both entirely female and yet they are so different, too, as each book is so different from the other.


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