Search

Stick

Friday 4/24/20

I have expended so much mental energy of late. And I need more. I am not making the proverbial dent. A problem--one of the many, as it turns out--with being able to do anything as an artist and writer is that you do so much, you constantly invent, and then there is so much to preside over, to work over, so much that can go wrong that you have to stop from going wrong or make it right once it went wrong. If you can only do one kind of very mediocre, prosaic, thing at once, and that's what you work on for three years--and it will take these people that long to write one of their formulaic stories--then you are presiding over very little, and that's a lot easier. But if you're able to create multiple works of art a week--some weeks it has to be like a dozen--and you're also trying to do many books simultaneously, of many different varieties, you're presiding over so much and it's just exhausting the mental energy--and you always have to be on, brilliant, inventing--required to try to keep it all in the shape it should be in while making more. Because you always come up with more, and what are you supposed to do? Not create the amazing work of art?


What I've been doing is going back into recent works and fixing what needs fixing. Sometimes it's nothing, sometimes it's very little--stuff no one else but me would notice--and sometimes it's a huge ass mess I need to put right. I did that today with an essay that was like 8000 words long that should have been 3000 words less than that. It had far too much intro. It was slop. So I cut all of that, moved action closer to the front, led into the action with snap and punch, then made all of the adjustments that I had to make throughout because my work is such that when you change a little, you change a lot. Take T.C. Boyle. He has no talent. I was looking at this short story of his, and he could have been saying anything. It was in Esquire. It was about a school shooter. And the shooter actually wore a shirt that said Incel on it. I mean, T.C. Boyle is laughably bad at writing. I actually laughed out loud. And the shooter makes this speech when he's going to do his shooting, and he's like, "I am a virgin at twenty-four, and that upsets me, so I got this gun to rend the fabric of American society. You may think of it as a symbol for my unused penis. Now I will have blood now that you understand why I, guy with the Incel shirt, will be doing this shooting that is about to happen." Dude just has that name, which ensures that they put him in. The publishing powers that be, I mean. But he sucks at writing. Anyway, at the start of this story, the narrator, who is not the Incel person who wears the Incel T-shirt, is getting a train to go somewhere. And they start their story by listing all of these things they had to do first. Basic errands that have nothing to do with this narrative. Like, they go to the dry cleaner. It's not significant. They could have gone to any store. It's just a list of errands that could be any other errands. He's just typing. Dude is just filling up the word count for his shitty story. He could swap in whatever. There's no precision. Someone I know looked at it and compared it to some boring guy coming up to you at your kid's school and just talking about boring random shit you could care less about like his lawnmower and the new recycling pick-up times.


Not being terrible at writing, I don't write that way. Every last letter has a point. Has a meaning point, a depth point, a structural point, a sonic point. Which exists in connection with every other last item in the work. Change one, you change a lot. So I had to fix this. I sent it to one place that has a sociopath on the masthead who banned me for life at another place he worked at, where he doesn't work anymore, but he told me he left word for the people replacing him to also ban me. Oh. That's normal. Doesn't sound insane at all. Someone else saw the old version--which was a different thing, really--and turned it down a while back and, frankly, was right to. But now I have what I have.


Yesterday I must have worked on ten stories. One of them is major, by which I mean, it's a story of now, a "Fitty," a "Six Feet Away," and that is called "Green Glass Door." I am going so slowly with it. There is another that should also be special when I figure out more of it--again, I want to go slowly--called "The Harrowing of Culver Street." I had some things to fix in "Leavable" and "You Don't Believe in Fate," so I did that. They weren't big things for someone else, but they were big enough for me. I have different standards and scales. My aim is to make every single last thing I write the best thing ever written. Not to do a great story or a great piece. I want every single work to be better than anything ever done by anyone else. That's the standard and expectation here. If I do this book of very short stories that are very long in other ways--stories longer on the inside, if you will, than the outside--I may well have the title for that book now. I pitched something on Saul Bass today--his centennial is May 8. I filed the Fitzgerald essay with The American Interest this morning. I don't know why the Defoe thing hasn't run yet with them. I am trying to sell this Paul Whiteman essay to someone, too. I would assume the Konitz isn't going to run--that one really had to go with JazzTimes. The Whiteman could go other places. Sometimes, for no reason at all, I shout the words qui qui ri qui, which is the sound a Spanish rooster makes. I don't know why I do this. The more important development of today is that I have begun work on something very special, another story I will go slowly with, which I expected to be one thing, and then I was doing it, and I said, "wait..this is big, this can be big," and when that occurs, I have to adjust and began the adjustment. What I have thus far is perfect prose. Probably about 700 words. You won't find 700 better words. And I know some things going forward, but I need to know some more. I printed it out and I am going to sit and think with it, because I know it's going to be a special one. Which isn't to slag off any others, because qualitatively it's all pretty much the same. But some I just feel a little differently about. I have two going on simultaneously right now, which is unusual for me, so I must be thorough and take care.


Someone wrote me a nice note yesterday. I don't get many. They had read the Smart Set Renan piece, said that they had elected not to believe in God before, but that my work caused them to move towards an acceptance of something larger than us. Not necessarily God, but something. And they were going to subsequently explore this. I think that's a pretty powerful effect for a piece to have. Am I surprised? No, not really. I know what the work is, I know its power. That's not the problem. The visibility is the problem--the lack thereof. And the lack of a chance. The complete lack of backing. The blackballing and the embargo is the problem. It's not that the work can't have this kind of impact often. I'm not shilling for God. I don't really care one way or the other. But the work connects with people like no other work does--when they see it on fair or favorable terms, by which I mean, with an open mind, or coming in thinking, "damn, that guy is good, I will check out his new one"--and I think epiphany and being moved to think or feel something would be the norm. But it's nice that someone said something. Like I said, it's very rare. Sometimes people don't say anything because they figure I know, so why bother? But it does matter, especially during this time period. I'm still human, even if I'm not like any other human.


I should pitch the Saul Bass thing to someone else--Vulture--but they never respond to me. I mean, obviously I should be writing this piece for that day. I am sure no one else has this pitch. I don't anyone has any pitch, but even if they did, they won't have this idea.


NFL stuff pops up on my Twitter. I don't know why. Twitter picks like four categories to focus on for you. Why the NFL cracks my top four, I have no idea. But there were these tweets from Johnny Manzel. I looked at them. Now, this guy is an idiot. I went to his account and he has two million followers. He doesn't do anything. He's a drunk. He doesn't even play. He flamed out of the league. His career couldn't have gone much worse or been that much more nonexistent. And now he seems to do nothing. I guess he golfs? It's really sad. He doesn't say anything amusing. But this guy has two million followers. Why? What is it with this world? Why would anyone care what this person says? What can you get from any of it? Even if you're a spectacular moron, what is there for you? What couldn't you get from staring at your own thumb? The people with the biggest followers tend to be the dumbest people who are these thumb people with nothing to say. I'm not looking for Einstein or Proust, but if you're a moron, what does this moron offer you that a stick wouldn't? Two million people. You can do shit with a stick. Maybe you need a fire? Maybe you're on a walk, and you're bored, and there's a stick on the ground, so you kick it for a bit. You can get more out of kicking that stick than you can following a person like this. Shit--how many followers would the stick have? If it's a big stick you could make like a little face on it. Sometimes stupidity can be interesting, I guess? People think it's interesting when Trump or AOC say their stupid things. But this isn't even interesting stupid. I guess it's not that much worse than reading a T.C. Boyle story. Actually, they have quite a few things in common. Food for thought. The stick could be used as a weapon. If it came to that. Or sexual stimulation. Which was a thing in aboriginal cultures. Really. So, you know--more utility. Maybe we could get the stick trending?