A completely slothful Easter. Or was it? I cannot tell if my most indolent days, because my spirit has been broken on the wheel, are in-fact actual indolent days, or only indolent days by my standards, and not indolent days for someone else. I will describe my Easter.
I only ran three miles. No walking, no climbing. It has been a few days for climbs. I had intended to run, walk, and climb, but I was fatigued. I'm not sure why. It was humid. I did run at a brisker-than-usual pace. (Okay, confession time: there was this hot woman running near me, and I didn't want to get passed, so I upped my speed, and I'm not good at running, and she was good at running, but I wanted to And I had been up until 5:30 in the morning, then arising at 8:30. Why was I up that late? I had mean things on my mind. It was hot. I will need to get a new AC unit this year. I watched the whole of Netflix's Black Summer. It was serviceable. It at least tries to be good. It's a reasonably good faith effort at quality. There is nothing special about it, though, or any reason to watch a second of it again. The episode in the school with the children was the best and most interesting.
I read Wilkie Collins' "The Dream Woman" and finished a Three Investigators novel, The Mystery of the Kidnapped Whale, and also read some more of Lord Dunsany's The Curse of the Wise Woman. Screened Howard Hawks' final film, from 1970, Rio Lobo. Sent out some letters regarding my short fiction to people who detest me. I had something of a breakthrough in terms of what I have finally decided to accept, regarding the entire operation of literary magazines. And also discovered some valuable intel about a very bad person in publishing. A person as bad and vile as anyone in it. And as sexist and racist. And I know her entire shtick. Her entire pustulant business model.
I am preparing two incendiary posts on these subjects. The one on literary magazines will contain truths, from an inviolable source, that anyone who has ever thought about writing a story right now and sending it to these places needs to know. I feel like, at this point--and I do not say this lightly--I have figured out, in all of its complexity, exactly what is happening here. I've figured out publishing and publishing people in totality. In times past, there was mystery. Why does this happen, what put this person forward, why did this sell, etc. There is no more mystery now. I have all of the information. I am as certain of that information as I am my own name or that I am the artist I am. I think I'm cursed and doomed. But if there is a right course--and what I would need to do is raze this industry to the ground, start a revolution, lead people, get them reading again--I am on the one true path--and only I could have paved it--that there can be.
I'm certain of this as well. I am certain of my approach. You'd have to be what I am, have done what I've done, be capable of what I am capable of, you'd need a site like this one, you'd need a journal like this, you would need undeniable proof of what you are and what was happening here, what these people are, what their system is, and you'd need work that was the best artistically, the most diversified, and the most entertaining. You'd need total separation from all of the other work currently being produced. That work would have to be so bad that you can merely hold it up and say, "look at this," and it would essentially choke itself out, because any reader not on the take--the financial take, the emotional take of "please like me back if I say I like your work"--is going to see this work for what it is, for how bad it is. You don't need to be a literary critic, you only need to look at a paragraph or two. As for my path: You'd need to be fearless, you'd need to have the clearest eyes, you'd need to be strong. You'd also have to stay the course. But a big part of all of that would be total understanding of why what happens happens. And having enemies without the merest ghost of a leg to stand on, once you get to the public with your story and information, and your work, your--this is so important--comparisons. "They wanted this, for these reasons; they said they didn't want this, or otherwise made it plain, and we all know what that this is, because we're loving it, and it's being celebrated for the right reasons. Real reasons."
I sent a very strong pitch to my op-ed editor at USA Today. This is it:
Kate Smith and the Yankees and the Flyers were on my mind today. Also, Paul Robeson--who performed the same 1930s song that Smith did, which led to the aforementioned teams dumping her version of "God Bless America" (bad song anyway)--and the Marx Brothers, who riffed on the offensive song in their masterpiece, Duck Soup. And this occurred to me: the key to Gotcha Culture, is ignorance and a lack of education, insofar as if you know anything about art or history, you can't have moments like this where you shout, "That is wrong, shut it off, take it down, etc."
Because I could give you chapter and verse of some offending moment for nearly literally every single artist in history. Name someone, and I, as someone who has to know about artists for his business, can "shock" you. And if more people knew about art and history, there couldn't be Gotcha Culture, because then we'd have to get rid of everything by someone from an earlier time period.
I don't really care about Kate Smith, I don't really care about this song, save that it led Woody Guthrie to write the far superior "This Land Is Your Land" as a brilliant riposte. I knew about that 1930s Smith song for years. Just as I knew about the Robeson version. That's how history and artistic history is. You can do it with Van Gogh, Dickens, the Beatles, anyone.
It's so ironic and hypocritical to me that this idea of enlightenment in these matters is founded upon almost total ignorance. Because if you know about art, and you know about history, you can't do "I'm enlightened, we caught you!" type of moves. You can only do them if you are totally ignorant in matters of the past.
I will likely not get a response, or a "we'll pass." But if I do, and I do it, it will be very good. I could do a couple of these a week and be a polarizing op-ed editor alone, if I could do nothing else, and make a nice living. But, that is not where we are at. It is another weapon, though, one more thing that could be someone else's entire career, which I am better at, in the back pocket.
I also pitched a book on With the Beatles to a book editor. We had discussed me doing a book on Abbey Road. I can do that, but I am also interested in pivoting, to look at what might be the quintessential Beatles album, spirit-wise, and allows for much probing of their relationship with black musicians and girl groups, and which ranges to their stage show and their BBC sides. With the Beatles is the first Beatles album, in terms of a studio production. Please Please Me was basically live in a studio. With the Beatles was more honed.
This new piece on an M.R. James ghost story called "A Warning to the Curious" came out in The Daily Beast. I came up with about ten other Daily Beast ideas, too. I have been talking to a smart, funny, hot pre-med student (another reason I was up so late), who seems very nice and has a black belt in karate. I like a sweet and badass mix. Also, if you tease me, because I know how intimidating I am, I will respect you. Talked to Kimball about what we will discuss on Tuesday on Downtown. That will be my thoughts on Twitter--the digital sewage tank of our age, where we come to to worship and for validation that our empty lives can no longer provide for us--as well as an exchange about the Daily Beast M.R. James piece and also my new short story, "Dunedin," which is a blazing work of art, which will keep you up all night thinking about it and wresting with it if you read it any later than, say, 7 PM. It will last.
Now, when I say "it will last," that is not my focus. Or my exclusive focus. Impact and a life right now matters as much as anything. It would light readers up right now, when it has its fair-chance opportunity to be seen by them, when it's a matter of "You must read this new Fleming story, have you read that Fleming story yet?" rather than me trying to find a way behind the enemy's border patrol, while in plain daylight view. The thing about this enemy is, they mean very little as entities. They preside over things that mean little. They preside, often, over venues that have a circulation of 1000. That means, that's how many copies they print. Those copies sit in piles in English departments or at other lit mags, because they are on each other's mailing lists. They are not read. The issues on sale, when you can even find them in the rare bookstores that stock any of them, cost $15. You are not paid to be in these journals. The reality is, they will take something from someone who has been in 1/700th the venues I have been in and be glad to have it--because they are not paying--no matter how bad it is. That writer's worst work. Because they are "paying" two contributor copies. If you've had fiction in Harper's or pieces in The New York Times and Rolling Stone, they are happy to have what you might freely give. They hook up their friends. And if you think I don't have a notebook full of accounts of how every last single person in a given issue has a relationship with that editor, for many, many, many venues and their issues, you would be sorely mistaken. I am planning how to dump that information out here, in an orderly fashion.
But, if you are Fleming, you can have masterpiece after masterpiece, each completely different from the last, stylistically, you can be as sweet and professional as you please, you can practically beg for ten years and 200 stories to take something--for free--and they won't. Because they get off on that with this person. Think of how lucky they are to have it, that you're even considering giving it away. Not some crap story that people won't like, but a legit work of art from someone lighting it up, doing what no one has done, frankly. (And all against great resistance, to date. So, in other words, this isn't some slimy, odious, favor-trader, working the cronies for his placements, or trading on race and gender, and victimhood, while using race, gender, and victimood as the chief engines of an entire career, making everything about race and gender, en route to the anthologies, lavish book deals, awards, because race and gender-baiting is the business model, and hypocrisy the 100% foundation of every last word written. "Let me make a great show of pretending that things are this way and so pernicious, meanwhile, I would never want anyone to think that they are not that way, because if I don't make people think they are that way, I can't have success, because I have not a single scrap of ability. Smokescreen!")
And I was looking at it completely backwards, because I have these amazing, life-changing works, and I wanted people to see them, I so wanted people to see them, to get out their into the world and start doing their thing. I erroneously made myself the supplicant, because I had this great work, and I wanted it out there. But what is "out there" in this context? I realize that no one will see them in these magazines anyway. They're not read. People don't even know they exist. And they employ people--"employ" as in, have grad students there who want to be writers and grow up to work at these venues when they are also a professor down the hallway--whose job it is is to ask established writers--and it takes very little to qualify as that----to give them anything. Anything! It goes in sight unseen. So. Enough. Enough with any trace of supplication. I've played into this, and my productivity has as well, because I was always getting back in line, always coming around with a knock on the door and something new, after thirty-eight other new and impressive achievements, too, and proof--links--of that, because I have far more material than anyone, and that is not even close.
It's hard for people to write their rubbish story that offers nothing--that will take them years to do the one. They will come up with their feeble idea that is some pastiche from their grad school life, they'll struggle to actually get words on the page, they'll do twenty bad drafts, they'll draw it out--because there's nothing there--and they'll have their friends--who are just like them--give their "notes," like they'll give their friends notes, and enough of these friends will say it's good--they'll lie--that when the bad story comes out in the venue no one reads, that writer will go on Facebook and thank the friends who gave their notes and "support"--they honestly talk that way--and if that writer is an editor, you can bet your last penny, my friends, that the friends they cited will be in their journal no one reads soon enough.
What I have also learned is that sometimes, people can hate productivity--and worse when you make it look effortless--more than they can hate genius. I would say that they might, as a rule, hate it more. Because genius is something they know, on some semblance of a rational level, is beyond them. They don't expect themselves to possess it. it's like some magic land you don't actually go to--Martians go there. But productivity? They should be able to be productive, they think. After all, it's just organization and effort, right? Wrong. They stare at the blank page. The blank page beats them down. Beats down their egos. Why do you think I write so much? Do you think that's a commitment to typing? To sitting there? Of course not. That has nothing to do with it. You spend more time at a desk than I do, chances are. By a lot. I produce so much because entire works of art come to me, either fully, or pretty far along. They just come to me. They always will come to me. Each is different from the last. My ability dictates my productivity. Not my discipline to "put in three hours of writing today." People threatened by my mind like to give me left-handed compliments and chalk down what I do to hard work, like if they worked harder, they could do it, too. Go for it. Try it out. A friend once put it this way: "It's like some quarterback decides he wants to be Tom Brady, and he sees how hard Brady works. So, he gets up earlier, he stays at the practice facility later, he studies defenses more, he trains better, he works as hard as you can, and he's nowhere closer to Tom Brady. How do you think that guy then feels about Brady? He hates Brady even more now."
What I am going to have to do is create the market for my short fiction. I write a lot of short fiction, and I always will. The reality right now is that there are two places that matter for short fiction, and as we saw with one of them, being in there, for me, made my situation much worse, because it upped the hate, envy, bile. (One website--and I'll link to it later, for a fuller discussion, terms inclusion in Harper's a "career-changer." Yes, for me--as in, made mine that much harder. It goes that way for nobody else. But those other people have things in common. And we will get into that, too. Harper's, incidentally, has two nonfiction ideas of mine at the present, as well as the short stories "chickchick," "Dunedin," "Floor It A.C." The last editor there was playing ball with me. I knew that they would turn down most things, but that they would also take some. It was enough to go 1-for-12. My feeling is that these new editors are not playing ball with me, they already have me down on a punch-out before I've come to the plate, but I do not know that for certain yet, and I could be being unfair. We will see. The responses I have received seem boilerplate to me--the same response you would give some random person who happened to have figured out your email address. Not a contributor with great work who is doing what I am doing.)
I will still email my work to some of these literary magazines. If they want to run it, okay. I have work to spare. I'll do my bit and get behind an issue with my work in it. But I am also giving it to them to create the paper trail and precedent. To create the log. To build the log. So that later, when this happens--and you know what I mean by this--I can say, many people can say, "Wait, you had A, B, C, D and on and on and on and on and on and on and on by this person, over the course of twenty years, and you didn't publish one of them for free?" And that will be coupled with additional information I have about the overseers of that place and those places, and we will watch that play out.
There isn't anyone else in a position to do this or take this course, for many reasons. And the stage is certainly set, not just in publishing, but in the world, for that person to impact a lot. Is this what I want to be counting as a "positive" right now? Is it a positive? No, and it certainly does not feel like it. But I could also see how it could be the ultimate positive, in the end. Because if the end as I wish it ends up being there, it could well be that this had to be the set-up.
I listened to disc 5 of the Beatles' White Album package, which is the penultimate disc of outtakes. The off-mic "Yer Blues"--with a different Lennon guitar solo (which Harrison counterpoints)--and the punk-vocal version of "Helter Skelter" stood out, but I need more time with these sides. Also listened to the Beach Boys' Wild Honey--which was delightful; someday, back in Rockport (NB: I will be writing about a Pat Metheny show there next month for JazzTimes), I imagine me having a deeper relationship with that band, really moving hard into them--and the 13th Floor Elevators' Easter Everywhere, it being Easter. About that record I can say that it is a brilliant doozy.
This blog is a weapon, it is a tank. In time, as more people come to it, I think it will do a lot of the work of this battle for me. It is not reputable. (I will need a better business model for it then. If these pages are being turned into books, which is how I am writing them, it would make sense to charge for a blog subscription, but to waive the fee for people who were initial and/or long-standing subscribers. I have a list. I see you when you sign up.) Because this is the truth, these are the truths, and it is clear that the person relaying them is what he is. That could not be faked, there is nothing pretend about it. I also listened to some Easter-oriented Gregorian chant on the Naxos label.
Emma sent me a nice text from Rhode Island where she spent the weekend. She read the M.R. James piece and had also just read it aloud to her family--mom, dad, grandparents. I did get her a little chocolate for Easter and also an inscribed printout of "Dunedin." Now, some of you might be like, "Whoa! You can't show that to a kid!" Well, I'm not so sure you couldn't anyway, but in this case it's Emma, who has already seen and read plenty of things. But those of you who have read the story, yes, I can imagine what flashed through your brains concerning the "dandle" scene in the basement maze. What a powerful scene, though, right? Could you even imagine another writer or artist creating a scene like that? No, right? And that should be the stuff. That scene is mind-blowing. You can't get scenes like that anywhere else, and it's not like that's the big set-piece of the story. It's not even the clear-cut most emotionally galvanizing part--there are fifty other contenders for that spot. Again, that idea of separation--there is so much separation here between what that person is doing, and what everyone else is doing. It's Gretzky v. Kurri for the scoring title, only these people are not Jari Kurri.
That reminds me: also read a few chapters out of a history of the WHA, called The Rebel League. And I watched the final fifteen minutes of the Bruins game. Carlo and Kuraly really stood out to me. I like Torey Krugg's game--because of his offense and power play ability--but he is a pylon in his own end. He taketh away, he giveth; the Mark Bellhorn of hockey players. Come down wide on Krug, accelerate, dip your shoulder, and you can turn him around as you take him to the net. A defenseman's success, in his own end, is often as simple a matter as how regularly his chest is barreled up with his opponent's. Krug's often is not. Chara made a very savvy play on the empty net goal. When he came around his net, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with the puck. He had a plan, he executed it, and he executed it sans hesitation. Toronto also pulled the goalie too early. I believe Hart trophy finalists for MVP will be announced today or tomorrow. My finalists would be: Kucherov (who is easily going to win the award), Marchand, and Giordano. I'm not expecting Marchand or Giordano to be a finalist. McDavid will likely be one, but his team was so bad, and I'm not a fan of that. Stamkos could be one, but he wasn't even the most valuable on his own team. Defensemen never turn up as finalists. Crosby? MacKinnon? Goudreau?
Watched the end of the Red Sox game as well--they may have saved their season with the sweep. If you look closely at their offensive numbers, you'll see stats starting to nudge up to where they should be, or a little ahead of where they should be for some players--check out their RBI totals, for instance. They have a ten game home stretch now. Go 8-2 or 7-3, and baseball should be relevant this summer. There is a danger when you start to dig yourself out, and that is, you then drop two or three in a row. When that happens, that's almost certainly how your season is going to be. They need to sweep Detroit.
So, that was Easter. Also, 1065 drink-free days. I lost count this last week, and I had to check back in here to see where I was at.