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Scott Stossel on danger, plus Wendy Lesser, considerations of age, machetes, and starting to erect

Saturday 1/6/24

Speaking of Scott Stossel: He called me on the phone once and told me it must be dangerous--dangerous!--for me to write as much as I do, and that it could put my physical health at risk.

I wrote less at the time. This is way, way, way down the list, but that bothered me. It's like, yeah, wow, imagine possessing unique talent, the whole mega-genius thing, actually working hard, knowing everything, having an imagination, the ability to produce endlessly, and taking care of yourself, instead of sitting there, having nothing to offer, doing nothing, and being handed things and carried.

Fucking fraud.

But what was kind of amusing was that even Scott Stossel, as far removed as he is, knew about Wendy Lesser at The Threepenny Review and rightfully referred to her during that conversation as the harridan that she is. I thought, "Huh, even this guy knows about her."

Funny thing is, he's only a few years older than I am. Going by the calendar, which to me, for me, doesn't mean a lot.

What's my age? I don't really have an answer for that. I could do a calendar answer, but that's always been misleading. What's that even mean here?

Someone said to me, "Jesus Christ, he looks like he could be your dad."

But that happens a lot of times when you're that kind of person and you know it.

The thing about this guy--and it's not true about all of these people--is that he knows it. And I know he knows it.

That can eat you from the inside out and manifest externally.

I knew this other editor once--he's dead now--who was this envious jackass, what a friend of mine would call bad news. He lived in a jungle. I'm not making that up. He lived in an actual fucking jungle where he built a house on a mountain top. Took lots of photos of himself with a machete.

Anyway, he liked to say--this was back in 2010, or so--that I needed to write less, that no one was a bottomless well. Of course, he barely wrote at all. Oh--he was a writer, too. I knew what this fucker was up to. I always know what someone's up to. And that was then. I'm a whole other kind of animal now. Plus, those were pre-Zulu warrior days.

I could live to be a trillion a trillion times over, and I'm always going to have new stuff that no one's ever had. That I've never had.

The great thing is, you can invent fucking anything. You're allowed to. There's no one to stop you there, if you can do it. In theory, you can invent and innovate indefinitely. How fucking exciting is that? If you can really do it? Or if you could plausibly give it a go? But if you can actually do it? And there are no limitations?

I had this other editor once, and there was this story in a book of mine. There were no commas in it. Not one. It was probably around a 3500 word story. And this editor was like, "There has to be one." That wasn't how the story worked. It wasn't how it worked rhythmically. They're all different. Each is its own thing. And I wasn't going to insert a comma just so there could be one. I was polite about it, but I knew what I was doing and why and what was right. That guy killed himself with a shotgun.

A guy he traded favors with--just a notorious favor trader--told me this. Everything that this other guy did, published, "achieved"--right down to his five Pushcarts--you could document as being a result of a favor trade. He was Mr. Quid Pro Quo. Once he called me and dictated to me what he wanted me to write for a review of his book. Or he thought he dictated it to me. He was so specific. "That can be the pull quote." And sure enough, I'd read reviews of this guy's books, and they were in his voice because that's how it worked. People went along with it. Then he'd publish those people. Publishers Weekly--Starred review! Just all preordained and set up. Automatic.

And this fucking book? Throughout this book, whenever the main character got aroused, this guy would seriously write, "He started to erect." He started to fucking erect. It was like fifteen times in this book. "He started to erect." "Once more, he started to erect." "From his hiding spot in the closet, he started to erect."

Five-time Pushcart winner right there, baby. Pretty legit stuff, right?

He started to erect.

And people would say to me, "He's fantastic, isn't he? He has five Pushcarts, you know."

Oh, yeah, fucking fantastic.

That's all this shit is. There's nothing else here. It's all some version of this. Up and down the line.


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