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Friday 5/10/19

No less than three different pitches related to Walt Whitman went out today. At least one should be assigned. Conceivably all three. I have one more in mind, which I think would be assigned--that one is for an op-ed. My former VQR editor will write me a letter of reference for my Guggenheim application, along with my former Harper's editor. I am banned at the VQR right now, despite the excellent fiction and nonfiction I provided the venue in the past. This editor--who had been the EIC--had been forced out. Eventually the person who has banned me will not be there. He might go on to somewhere, where he will then immediately ban me. It's the person or people you are dealing with that it all comes down to. It's never the work, and it's rarely the venue. If that person in charge does not like you and wish to add you, if you are not one of their people and they are not truly open to all--and to quality--then nothing you can write will matter. Having that work you offered them published elsewhere and at "better" places will increase the enmity of the person who was not going to use your work anyway. That's the kind of person you're dealing with. Meanwhile, they will hook up their friends, their friends will hook them up, and they will hook up the hardcore system people whose work nobody likes, which you are told you must like--as one editor of mine put it, "the Lydia Davises of this world." Yep.


I also pitched something on the new Criterion Channel. People binge Netflix, of course, and most of what I've seen on Netflix is pretty mediocre. Why not binge the Criterion Channel? But: there are like 1500 films on there. Where to start? So I thought it'd be a good idea to write a primer, staring people off with ten films they've likely not seen, which cover a broad spectrum but have certain binge-able aspects in common. It's a good idea. I'm the person to do this. I doubt it will be assigned, though.


Someone in the building told me that whenever they walk past my door, they hear a constant rhythm of keystrokes, like music. They said that this was very soothing. Today I was at the desk, preparing to weep, head in my hands, when I heard this little voice outside say, "Bye," followed by another voice, belonging to an older person, ask, "Is he in there?" The first voice belonged to Emma, the second to her mother. They were, presumably, leaving for Providence, where Emma's grandparents live--or two of them do, anyway. She thinks I don't know she does this, says goodbye to me via my door when she leaves for the weekend, but I've heard her a few times now. Somebody today asked me how I was, I said "quite bad," they said why, and I can't even answer that question at this point--I mean, I can, but it's just too much, it's too historically much as well--so I don't answer and pretend like I was not asked. The only answer I can provide someone is this journal. It's this journal, or you know me and we have long conversations, or you know me and you receive letters from me.


But conversationally, in two lines? Nope. I can't answer you. People's lives and situations are usually pretty simple, and they can do the two sentences for most things. They assume that you can as well. There are a lot of reasons--so many reasons--I had to undertake this journal, this public journal. That is one of them. Sometimes it feels like eventually everyone will know, but hardly anyone knows now, or could know. Like you couldn't even begin to accept all of this, or much of it, unless the person at the center of it had this as part of their official, common knowledge, household recognition story. I know someone who maintains that I will be angry later when I see how some people who knew me all along treat me differently and talk about me differently. We'll see. Have to get there first. I'm a very loyal person. When I think about the traits that mean the most to me, loyalty is right up there. Not being weak is right up there, too. I don't know if I find anyone loyal, to be honest with you. That I know. Perhaps one person. Another might be, but I don't know them well enough. The more loyal you are, the longer your memory in these matters tends to be. Sometimes I act like things that have been done have not been done, because I cannot allow anything to get in the way of what the concern of my moment is; but those things are always there. A time will come when I do not have to act like they are not.


I saw that this Ben Shapiro stormed out of a BBC interview. A taped interview, but I only saw the footage today. People have tried to make this into a "See, the Right can't face adversarial questioning" kind of thing. It's not a Right thing. The Left can't either. People can't. People need to be tongued, or else they cry "attack! Attack! They're attacking me!" The questions Shapiro was asked were normal questions. They were pretty low-key and benign. They were just questions about his work and passages in his book. What's the problem? Ask me anything you want about my work or a book of mine. I'll answer you. Easy peasy. You can ask me something stupid about any of it, if you want, and I'll answer you smartly. Happy to answer any questions about my work. Anything at all. What could be easier than that? Of course, that's pretty easy and fun if the work is great and you know it is and you know it comes from a good place, the best place, and you have interesting answers that trigger rich discussion. But this guy blew up over nothing. What did he think he was going to be asked? "Can you tell us five things that make you awesome?" Obviously not.


I love, too, how people's "comebacks" now center on how many followers or whatever the other person has, as if this meant anything. Think of all the morons you know who are horrible people, who haven't a smart thought in their brain, throughout their brain's history, who have 57K Twitter followers. So? Wouldn't that more seem to be more the mark of idiocy than ability? Just generally speaking. Like, if Bob Dylan, 2019 version was out there, and he made lots of art, and was really smart, I bet he could go on Twitter and say intelligent things and no one would follow him. But, some idiot-lout, who is crazy, and spouts off about police are pigs and screams their childish, simple, political ideas at you--and calls themselves a socialist--is going to have 70K followers. Now, new-Dylan might hit it big, he might become a household name, and then he has 1.7 million followers. But before that? He's not an ass making a spectacle of himself, so the numbers won't be the same. And you also have to be a very simple thinker to watch someone cave and throw a tantrum and say, "See? That's how that entire camp is, but not our camp!" Stop it. Everyone is a puling child now, just about. And the whole, "I've never even heard of you" thing is the height of imbecility. Most people haven't a clue who Coltrane is, or Handel, or Donne, or Jim Thorpe, or John Ford, or Martin Luther, or Walt Whitman, or Stravinsky, or Robespierre, or Judy Garland, and on and on. And this means what? But now adults, who know nothing about anything, actually say to each other, "I don't know who you are!" and "Right back at you, I don't know who you are!" Awesome. We are children in sandboxes right now, without the built-in excuses of being children in sandboxes.