Successful Halloween. Climbed the Monument for the thirtieth day in a row, dismissed a sycophant/passive aggressive person who was a bad bit of business, as per my policy at this point--project any of your stuff on me, try to take advantage me, try to get me to help your career--not a soul has ever made any effort to help mine, and I deal daily with an industry trying to block my path, all of my paths--and it's a zero tolerance kind of deal. I'm out. My focus is on changing the world to the good more than anyone ever has, getting this massive body of work to the people, and then really starting the game properly at that point. Change, revelations, truth, beauty, label-smashing, system smashing, creating. That is all I have the time or energy for right now. If you put anything between me and my purpose, for so much as four seconds, I'm simply moving through you as though you did not exist.
Published three works on Halloween--an op-ed in the New York Daily News, a piece on humorous literary ghost stories for The Daily Beast, a piece on perhaps the scariest radio program ever broadcast in this country for The American Interest. Earlier in the week Boulevard make the announcement of their 100th issue on their site, which features a story of mine called "Hold Until Relieved" which is in Cheer Pack: Stories that I am trying to sell (you tell me--he says rhetorically to his own journal-- what you think would happen if someone else had a story collection of stories from Harper's, Commentary, the VQR, etc. Some random professor in some random tiny town, someone who does nothing else but write those short stories, which it took them eighteen years to do), I spoke about the Red Sox on the radio, and JazzTimes published a big piece on some live jazz recordings from the 1940s. Real normal, right? Typical week. There is not a thing in my work to suggest that I do not know more on that subject than anyone in the world. There is nothing in what I say or write that suggests that. The only thing that suggests that is the incredulity that a single mind could be that expert on all of those subjects, and the realities of most people's imaginations that prevent them from ever conceiving of such a person.
But I am that person. And it's complicated. And I am complicated. And no one can begin to capture what I am in a pithy four word summary. "Feminist and culture critic." Oh. Simples. And really all you need to know about that person. Culture critic means you weigh in on the same effluvia that is floating in front of everyone's face. A new TV commercial, a Netflix show, an open on Saturday Night Live. Requires no fore-knowledge. You just give your two-bit opinion on something that you just came to. You bring nothing else to bear on it. Basically, you're like that drunk person at the bar, the Cliff Clavin-type, who talks from the ass on what is in front of the face, and you never ever venture further than what is put in front of your face.
I had an editor at The Atlantic who called me a generalist. I am not a generalist. I am as far from a generalist as you can be. A generalist is someone who either knows a little about a bunch of things, or who knows nothing about some things but can learn a little about them quickly, get up to speed, and then feel comfortable enough about to write on them. That's not me. I don't know a little about these things. I know everything about them, and that is backed up in my work on them. If someone can't accept that, it has nothing to do with my actual work. It has to do with what we believe is possible. It's a form of prejudice, really, in the pre-judgment sense. And eventually, I will get past the harbor blockade. Meanwhile, that person can do that, every week, and your dead dog has as many nominations, as many anthologies, as many people soliciting him, as many Pulitzers, as many genius grants, as many agents, publicists, silly bloody Pushcarts, reviews, staff gigs, offers, as I do.
The achievements of this week will up the hate and discrimination, more venues will ban me, not for doing anything wrong, but for succeeding in unique ways, and having done so as someone who does not fit the profile of someone they wish to see succeed. You see, it's very simple. It's empirical. It's not hearsay, it's not speculation, if you are so and so, and you do this thing here that I did, this one thing, call it what you want--the story in such and such, the op-ed in such and such, the radio appearance on such and such--these things will follow. This offer, this deal, this gig. We can list out almost everything I've done, and for others who come by one of those things, let alone all, which no one approaches--how could you?--you will see completely different results in following, whereas with me, you will see hate, the whisper network, the shunning. You will see, with each group of major accomplishments, life get harder and worse. For now. Until I prevail. Which I will. In a way that will leave less doubt than anything previously has. But you tell me how fortunate I am to be a white male, for instance, as some people do who trade entirely on their race and gender, who have no ability but know what their meal ticket is. You have no clue what my life is like, save as how I have started to open it up on here, working 130 hours a week, every week of my life, and then having to work in all of the exercise so that I don't have a heart attack, so that I can keep working like this, so that I can keep learning how to work faster, better, which makes me somehow, even as it gets harder, achieve more, only to be hated and banned more. But you tell me about entitlement.
People will sometimes tell me how privileged I am, which is a violently bigoted thing to say when you know nothing about a person's experiences, and you are far too obtuse to begin to understand that we can discriminate against someone relentlessly for all kinds of reasons, and in publishing nothing is worse than being smarter than people, producing more, working harder, not coming from their backgrounds, their schools, not looking like them, sounding like them, not writing pretentious work that no one could enjoy, learn from, and not strapping literature to the Procrustean bed, not being easily classified because, frankly, there has never been anything like you, and you are essentially put in the position of having to find a way to explain what that massive totality is, because it goes beyond the ken of all expectations, as they have previously been. You walk that line, of trying to help people see what is there, in this culture where you're supposed to pretend that you are not the things you are if you are certain things. Well, I am certain bloody things, and there is no precedent for them. And this site is proof of that. Four mere years are documented on this site, in part. A mere fraction of what there has been. And that was done by someone who had not an iota of help or what they could have, should have, expected to follow, based upon the precedent of others, from what they achieved, who always had to work so hard for each thing, the things that should have just come, eventually, and who had to work harder the next time after something great was achieved, and all the more so after thirty great things were achieved at once, the thing that in the case of so many other careers opened so many doors.
Imagine if that person did not have to deal with that, did not have to battle that? I spend maybe 1% of my life formally composing. What will it look like when I spend 50%? I have created a unique, huge, body of work already. I am forty-three-years-old. What is going to happen, what is this going to look like, how much money am I going to make some people, when I am given my head, when I am out there, when I am lighting it up with several books a year, and a radio show, and films and television, and speaking tours, and sharing all of this, all that I have to share, what is it going to look like then? And when I'm not living in filth and poverty and spending most of my life doing so many things that are not just beneath me, but beneath anyone? What is it going to look like then? What will be wrought then? What will be changed then? It's coming. Eventually, it is coming. And when it comes, when it finally comes, it will go fast.
You are a bigot if you tell someone how privileged they are when you know nothing about their life, and even more than a bigot, you are someone devoid of rote-level intelligence, because you fail to grasp something as simple as how variegated discrimination can be.
You are not only a danger to society, you are its weakest link, you are the person that a person like me, such as there are any others, needs to help this world get past. You are the problem. You are its source and center. You hate yourself, you know, on some level, how toxic you are, for you've always been railroading your own life, destroying real connections before they could even happen, and you are entirely, fundamentally alone, without a single real friend, only your trumped up circle of people who are no more than passerby in your life, and often digital passerby at that, your network of Facebook "friends," say, or your "community" that you flit amongst every now and again.
I know exactly how you are. You go online and you check the number of likes, and if you got less than you wanted that shadows your afternoon with doubt, and you think about how to write your next post so as to get more, and this gauges your self-worth, and every day you wake up you're a little more dead than the day you were before, which is remarkable, because you stopped actually living a long time ago. And rather than think, and face things, and grow, you are going to make others who live fully, deeply, richly, artfully, pay, while you cloak this toxicity in what you try so hard to consider moral superiority in your mind--though you can't help but know better, and you hate that, which makes you hate yourself even more--but which makes you baser than base, a scourge, a heart-sucking parasite, a fat tick on the bottom of the lowest portion of society's ass. And that's pretty low, considering how little is above sea level right now. Gurgle, gurgle.
For nearly twenty years I knuckled the forehead and bent the knee, and tried to pass through their system playing nicey-nice, suppressing the vomit that constantly surged towards my mouth. And the more I achieved, against astronomical odds, without a single person lifting a finger to abet that, the bigger the achievement, the more the hate, the banning, the doubling-down, the policies not to review my work, to make me beg six years for a response, the ignoring, the whisper network of "I hate him he publishes so much I publish so little cry cry cry you should hate him too will you also hate him for me at your place gee thanks let me hook you up with a story publication."
I was left with one recourse: take them on. They dictated my recourse. They formulated the strategy, and it was one I mulled for many months, many hours a day, discussed with crucial inner circle people, both friends and family who had watched, for years, what I had gone through, debated in my head as I walked fifty, sixty miles each week like I was enduring Biblical trials, composing in my head as I walked, reaching new artistic heights, then paying for having done so, and for having become still more productive, more diversified in my work, formulating exactly how I wished to carry myself if I went with this plan that seemed the only one left to me, what my tone would be, the rules of my own making that I'd have to adhere to, the volume and thoroughness I would have to deal in, the things I'd have to have covered, the arguments I'd need to make, the proof I'd have to have, the things I'd need to cite, the thousands and thousands of facts I had ready to go, which anyone could check, the correspondence I had.
All I care about is art, which sounds like a diminution, but is anything but, if you understand the amplifying power of art, and how it can enfold all of human life within it, as it transcends it. It's everything I am. It has been since I could first remember it at two. It's the prism through which I see everything, it is how I view friendship as the kind of friend I try to be, it's what I think is the root of love, rare though love is. It's what makes me cry at the ballet, it's what I sometimes see even in a sports contest, it's what makes me a puddle at the cafe as I read, it's what in turn allows me to become contrails of a sort in a sky before I have finished reading, seeing, listening. I wish to quarrel--to lay on--with absolutely no one. The time, the energy, the movement against the grain of my nature. But I will run God himself through the gut if He is fucking with art and that which matters most, and that's where this has come to, which you see sometimes in these pages, and we are just getting started.
There is no industry as corrupt as this one, there never will be one as corrupt. There is no industry as inequitable. There is no industry that, at root, hates literature more. If you are out there and you think you are a great writer and you think you're not getting in because of the bad system, well, first I'd say that most people who think they are great writers suck at writing. (But, firstly, sucking at writing will help you far more than it hurts you with these people, as the system is presently set up. If you do not suck at it, you know. You always know. Just like these people who have garlands that they have not earned tossed at them--that their work has not earned--always know. Why do you think they always need people tonguing them? Because that covers up the doubt that would be felt like so much prickly heat in every last pore, and which never departs, and which causes them to detest people who are legitimate, for it is those people who stalk them in their paranoid minds with the greatest of all weapons, the weapon they fear the most, more than any monster: and that is a mirror. But if you have true talent, you know. And that knowledge remains the same if everyone tells you how great you are, or no one does. That's the thing: if you have the talent, no one can keep you from it. Hardly anyone has it. But a joke about you maybe sucking won't bother you at all if you have it. It's not going to change anything for your understanding of what is there, because if something is, nothing could.) But leaving that aside. Let's say you are great. Then yeah, you are not getting in because you're not in bed with someone, you're not one of them, you didn't go to their schools, you don't look like them, sound like them, you don't have a team working for you, you don't have an agent getting some story picked up sight unseen.
That's it. Because that is all this is. And you have to write a certain cookie cutter way (often this is an exceedingly pretentious way, but it's almost always required that you follow MFA tropes, and what you must never, ever, ever do is offer up truths and actual emotion; that's what readers want, that's what gives work legs, but it's the last thing wanted here; they won't tell you that, because they are busy trying to find work that is a simulation of all of that, a watered-down one, faux-life rather than anything real; it's all about the faux, you might say, with publishing right now) that is anti-reading, that people get nothing from, that cannot last, that does not entertain, that does not enrich, that sprains the eyes of normal people out in the real world when they see it (which they only do because a village back on the island that is publishing touted it relentlessly, creating ads for it, puff-piece reviews, meaningless awards, stroke jobs on LitHub) for all of the backwards rolling those eyes do. There are basically no exceptions. I am trying to be the one who is, I am going to be the one who is, I am the one who is, and who changes this system, so that others with talent can come forward and have what their work deserves. Or at least something vaguely approximating a fair shot.
Anyway. This entry was in Drafts for a couple days, and I only put it up at last on Sunday morning. New week. In which we lay on anew. Because that it what we do here until it changes, and once it does, we'll lay on anew anew--different ways, different objectives.