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Tchotchkes

Sunday 7/12/20

Almost six o'clock on Sunday morning. I need to proof yesterday's story, "Second Boy," and I should also go over one of the ones from last week, called "The Space of the Moment." And another called "Can, Will." The latter two are potential fits for Longer on the Inside: Very Short Fictions of Infinitely Human Lives. (Happy, Norberg?) The former especially so.


What I'm going to do soon--because I also use these pages as a notebook--is create an entry detailing the books I have completed that are available, and the book projects I am working on, both under contract, and for publishers who are waiting to see something. Three presses are waiting on nonfiction material for me--one for a book on the BBC version of The Office, another the Beatles book, and the last one a Billie Holiday book. I am itching to do Musings with Franklin with a press with some vision, and I think it would also be beneficial, if possible, to package it with another book, be that the essay collection about repairing a broken self, or Longer on the Inside. Or even Cheer Pack: Stories, the book with the works from Harper's, VQR, Commentary, Glimmer Train, etc. I have all of the stories I need for that book--that is, I have so much material fitting the bill to pick from. I keep making those stories (though I am not exclusively making it, in these new short stories, as quite a few are quite lengthy, word count-wise), which just means more to pick from. There is not a hard and fast rule, but my general idea is that stories will be 1000 words or less. That means "Jute," "Acorn Caps," "Leavable," "You Don't Believe in Fate," "Under Benches," "Holds," "There the Day the Island Was," "House Winds," "Taffy and Grilled Cheese." They are not shorts, and each story, really, is longer than any novel, in terms of depth, impact, characterization, plot, layering of levels. Chekhov used to do something like this, but he didn't go as far. I'm very confident in these works. They are a kind of revolution unto themselves with a new narrative form that has redefined ideas of time and length.


Norberg wanted "Infinitely" rather than "Endlessly" in the subtitle, and after thinking about it for a while, I'm game. In a way it's a boast--you're terming the stories of an infinite nature, implying that you've revealed something of the infinite. But you know what? I have. The stories are the money behind what the mouth--the subtitle--is saying. They are the walk for the subtitle talk. I should have fifteen to twenty books published by the time I'm at the end of my forties, so that is something to stay focused on. Because when this changes, and all is revealed, what is going to happen is a lot of people are going to discover there is a huge body of work, for them to partake in, thrill to, and keep discovering awesome new stuff. Candy store times infinity. If one knows what I mean. Because this is unique. This fucked up hell and treatment is unique. My situation, unique.


Now, with some authors, they might have this breakthrough moment and you discover this earlier novel of theirs from seven years ago, but that's about it. Do you wonder why, when that happens, the discovered novel from seven years ago doesn't become some hit? That's because it was not any good. The new novel, that is becoming the hit, is also not any good, and it's no better or worse, probably--but it is being hyped, and that is all that matters here. What they are saying about you, not what anything actually is. You don't discover entire universes at once, whereas that is precisely what is going to occur here, because what has happened to me has never happened to another writer, it could not have, and no one other writer has had this volume and range and uniform quality of work. Or was this driven, or got better and more productive every day. If someone is wise enough to invest now, and able to see what is on offer here, which I think is as basic a form of cogitating as there exists in the world--it's largely a matter of not being blind and/or bigoted--I think I'll make you a lot of money.


And what if you go back, when this veil is finally perforated, when it is set ablaze and reduced to ash, and everything that had been behind it is a masterpiece? Everything is fresh, everything is different, and there is something for everyone, and every kind of everything? And, with that, the story that accompanies everyone's question of "How the fuck did this happen? How the fuck was all of his suppressed?" And then, someone has the answers. And those answers blow minds, but the answers are all true. What are we looking at that then? I think you're looking at a whole lot of fucking change, and something radical, and an artist stepping clear from any previous conception of what an artist is or was believed to be able to be. In plain view of a shitload of people. It is at that point, that things, really, for the first time, will get started here. I'll have the body of work, and I'll be ready to go.


People have careers, and they just are what they are. They flatline into something. They will never be more. Tea Obreht, for instance, is a lousy writer, who every nine years or whatever writes a book. She was on that New Yorker list. She was the youngest person on the list. That's her entire life, it will be her entire career. That kind of tag line. She's never going to do anything special, at the level of the work, none of it is ever going to make a damn bit of difference in this world. She doesn't have that in her. That's what she is.


Justin Taylor--who we will be getting into shortly with an entry of his own--is just some guy who writes tedious, pretentious fiction, that The New Yorker will publish every few years, who is a system person, who is going to be handed book deals with majors even though he sells no copies of his books and what copies are sold are to his friends and the people of this system, of academia, and never the people of the world, so a few other places will put him in their pages. They won't even need to read the work, because of what he represents to these places, even though he sucks at writing, and what it's all about is the name of Justin Taylor, and this concept that he is this thing, even though it's this pointless thing. That's what they're publishing--the concept of what this guy is. Which is a nothing concept, which is never vetted, but anyone who actually reads the work knows that there is fuck all here. And it's annoying, too. Gives you a headache. Some pretentious, fly pest buzzing around your face, that's what it's like trying to read a Justin Taylor story. And he'll review books of people like him in BookForum, which is just a cell for these people, the Brooklyn magazine-as-clique, and he'll get his $100 for that. And that is all he will ever be. What else can he be? There is nothing in the work, not truly, to mean anything to anyone. Is he going to diversify? Have a sports radio program? Write bold op-eds? Publish some groundbreaking study on Dylan? Inspire people with his talks? Ha. Come on. He can't do anything. This is all it will ever be, this is is, until he dies.


That's how it is for all of these people. Curtis Sittenfeld? Highly connected person who writes the same kind of shitty book--you know exactly what it is going to be--that's either historical fiction about rich people, where she has to use characters from real life, because she has no imagination, or autobiographical fiction about her rich upbringing, because, again, zero imagination, and she could never, if you give her 150 more years of life, invent something. What's she going to do? Write some landmark book on film? A memoir that connects with what people in the world are going through right now? Of course not. She'll be what she is, and nothing more, never a single damn surprise, never a single damn note of freshness, of newness, for the rest of her life.


There is nothing else here with any of these people, and you can sum up what every single last one of them is, and always will be, in like five words. If that. Me? Nah. Nope. There's something wholly different here. And always new.


Funny story about Sittenfeld. I had a friend once, and Sittenfeld interviewed for a job at their school. And her first book--which was the result of her connections--was called Prep. It was about being rich, and going to an expensive prep school that costs as much as a college. And, gee, guess who did that in real life? There's no invention. These people exist within the world of their own navels, and nowhere else. And the book has this kind of pink belt on it. Like on the cover. Embossed. It's a book wearing a pink belt. So she's interviewed, and then she hands out these little pink belt toys to the committee, and everyone on that committee thought, "Who is this fool?" And one person heading up that committee said to my friend, "She's incredibly connected with the right people, and this will be her life. Pink belt toys." That's all it is is. That's all it ever is. She gave them these little tchotchkes. "Here, have a plastic pink belt." Perfect metaphor, really.