9 AM now. Just wrote an 800 word piece and filed it with The Washington Post on the best Fourth of July literature. This was the entry for Ring Lardner's You Know Me Al:
Before football became our national sport of relentless brutality—metaphor!—there was baseball, the thinking person’s game, and this novel-in-stories by a writer whom Fitzgerald worshiped and who a comparatively limited proser like Hemingway couldn’t touch. You need not give a 6-4-3 double play about baseball to be sucked into this opus of the inventive argot of the folk, but better pack your sense of humor, and some tape for your split sides.
Yesterday I ran three miles, walked three, climbed the Monument five times. I took Emma to the Harvard Art Museums and then a screening of Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland--the 1985 anime version--at the Brattle. It's interesting to me how our thoughts overlap. She started looking into Van Gogh, and her favorite painting is The Potato Eaters, which is also mine. Walking through Harvard Yard, she stated that she was not a fan of the architecture, until we came to Sever Hall, which she said she liked quite a bit, as do I. Someone--a professor--gave a talk before the film, and Emma leans in and says to me, "he's not very good, is he?" He was not--he was flat, boring. She was taken with Memorial Hall, too, which we saw in the distance, so I took her over there, and I did my Downtown interview pacing inside the great room, with her tucked away in an alcove. Conversation was about what the Beatles and Orson Welles have in common.
9:40 AM now. Wrote a 700 word op-ed on the value of internalizing the spirit of the Fourth of July. We are all on autopilot now, drooling out that we like the exact same three things. You could swap those three things out and put another three before our zombie eyes, and we'd say we like those. What about seeking out new things? Choice, individuality, passion, wanting to introduce others to your new discoveries? A little taste:
We have a tendency to self-shackle. One of the greatest things I loved about getting into bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones was that soon meant I was electing to plunge myself into the world of Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Arthur Alexander, the Shirelles, Howlin’ Wolfe, who was the baddest man I ever heard—in a good way. I sought them out, because these bands I dug so much dug those artists so much.
I wonder who does this now. Probably precocious mid-teens. But do adults? For all of the freedoms we enjoy—at least in theory—there is no greater freedom than what we can elect to pursue to broaden our happiness, our knowledge, the quality of our leisure, our spirits, our souls.
The thing about a pack is, you could put so many other things in front of it, and the pack would follow that. In other words, it’s not about the quality of what is being followed, it’s about its visibility, how easily rote it is to stay in that holding pattern with the group. It’s like we have no personal say-so, or we are choosing to vacate our free will. You flip on the switch for autopilot, which I guess is a kind of personal choice, but then that’s not you flying that plane.
Fly your own dirigible. That seems as American as anything can be to me. Also as Platonic as anything can be, which makes sense, given that our Founding Fathers were certainly steeped in what people as long ago as Plato and Socrates had to teach us.
It’s affirming when you find something awesome that you connect with. Don’t say you don’t have time, because you do. You have a dog? You don’t even have to go to the store anymore to get his food, you order it online. Life now is a series of shortcuts and conveniences. Let’s face it: you’re not taking your free time and saying, “Huh, it’s time for me to read all of Proust in assorted translations so I can see what edition works best.”
You don't muck around, do you, brother? Almost 11 AM now. Composed a 1500 word piece on underrated Blue Note jazz musicians. This is the bit on pianist Herbie Nichols:
I knew an editor once who knew little about jazz and who liked to strike a pose and say, “More than anything, jazz is about race.” No. Simply, it is about the art that was, and the art that might have been. Sometimes, with a single performer, it is about both of those things equally. Let us adduce, then, Mr. Nichols. He was only forty-four when he died in 1963, a buddy of Monk’s, and a guy who didn’t like the competitive aspect of jamming at Minton’s. Not, I would say, because he couldn’t compete, but because this was someone taking his highly personalized cues and subsequent turns and inventions from Satie and Bartok, rather than Tatum and Hines, while interpolating Dixieland. Consider him jazz’s version of Charles Ives.
Ran three miles. Wrote The Atlantic. Wrote The Barnes and Noble Review. Wrote USA Today. Wrote The Wall Street Journal.
Sat in Starbucks for six hours working. What I do each time I write something is I try to write the best thing ever written. That is, if I had only written that one thing, there would be nothing better, by anyone, period. If you go through my output, you will see that I never repeat myself. Every sentence is art. I give my entirety and the entirety of my genius to every last word. I treat each work as equal. You cannot find a single cliche anywhere in my output. I can barely tell anyone how difficult this is right now. I cannot conceive of anything more unfair in history than what this is. You boil when that is your life. You're never not boiling. The knowledge of what has been done is perpetually present, which means you perpetually boil. Do you know how difficult it would be to simply fill up the word counts in a given week for a piece on jazz, an op-ed, and a piece on many forms of literature? Just to fill and file. There is no one else alive who can do that. Even have it just be crap, but completed. And here it is a mere flick of the wrists. In a couple hours. And all of it is untouchable. When Norberg remarked that this must be so draining, I can say that, yes, doing that, day in, day out, is impossibly draining. Do everything right, do it better, pay the price. I try to get a hold on myself in certain moments, where I strain for more strength. And I say, "Look, what you are enduring and will have had endured is only going to make the victory that much sweeter, and that much more consequential and impactful, for you and upon the world." Ambrose Bierce wrote that endurance is a fool's errand. I can't have my life be a fool's errand. As I wrote to someone today, I honestly wonder if the greatest artist ever would simply be smothered and buried in what the world has become by the twenty-first century. That they could not be known by anyone. I'm not writing Finnegans Wake and stuff that isn't both accessible for the masses and smarter than the next smartest thing an intellectual wants to dote on. That also makes it worse.
I received a nice text from Emma's mom about what a nice time Emma had last night. E posted about it on Twitter and was excited to see that both the Brattle and the Harvard Art Museums liked her post. Emma recently learned that I have spent every Christmas, going back to 2012, completely alone. I have not even talked to anyone on that day. She knows how deeply I love Christmas. So she told me that I will be spending Christmas with her and her family, which is not going to happen, as I informed her, as I'm the last person her parents would want around and I could never, ever, ever, horn in on someone's holiday, that would make me feel awful. "It's happening," she countered. "Don't make me Christmas rape you, bro." It's not happening, but she's sweet. When we walk, I always have to stick my arm out when we cross busy streets because she's not paying attention and she'll just keep going. I told her that I hoped she was more careful on her own, and she said that with her dad she holds his hand, but because I looked young she wouldn't want to hold mine and get me arrested and I said good, we are on the same page. She decided, then, that she would punch me in the side instead. Emma's father only gets one day off out of every nine. With Emma out of the house last night, he and Susan were able to have a date night, and then when we got back, they texted us to join them at the cafe, but I made some excuse because a family should just be together and that was not my place to be. She would not have agreed with me, but I am sure Emma knew exactly what I was thinking, because she is smart like that. I felt like the end of The Searchers. I don't have a place right now, or a people, or a partner, or a friend. I am a drifter in the worst hell I can imagine. I mean that literally. I would rather have my limbs hacked off each day than go through precisely what this is.
Note my word choice--precisely what this is. In The Inferno, sufferings are designed with the utmost specificity to bring out max pain in the individual being punished. If you were God, and you wanted an exact plan, comprised of a trillion parts, a trillion specific points, to create maximum pain for me, to enfold that max suffering in every detail of every day, you would have come up with what this life of mine presently is. For instance, I know that after a person robs from me (as I said, I will do this entry in full--because people need to see how evil someone like this is--but John Freeman, whom I've mentioned before--he was the person who told me that if I wrote something as good as the Bible--which I guess he thinks is great writing--he would not publish it, because it had my name on top--told the editor of LitHub, Jonny Diamond--yes, you really deal with people here named Jonny Diamond--not to pay me $200 that LitHub owed me. And being a coward/sheep, Diamond did not. Would not even respond. Went from "do these edits, do these edits, do these edits" to "we're good, it runs on this day" to being told by Freeman to hate me, to shutting down all communication--ghosting without payment or the balls to say anything or be his own person. How evil is that? That was money I was owed. For services rendered. For a lot of time put in. Dozens of hours. And what can I do? Sue you over $200? I asked about my money multiple times, I said, "You are really this kind of a person?" and being the sniveling, evil cowards that so many of these people are, they simply robbed me of money I needed and earned; meanwhile, LitHub is one of the key sites all of the people like these people--which is to say, most of publishing--turns to get their marching orders on what bad books to pretend to care about to perpetuate their system; it makes the "Ten Beach Reads You Need This Year" kind of lists, it hypes bad books and bad authors, it is one of the main publicity outposts; I can give you a similar story or stories like this with most of them; it's one reason why you see no coverage of my books) badmouths me to twenty people who then ban me, is going to be the person whose absolute meaningless soap bubble of a story is going to be featured in whatever magazine I stupidly open next when I am at the bookstore that brought them a lot of money and a cushy deal, all landed for them via their hook-up/cronyism culture. I don't even document these things anymore they are such a fait accompli. Anyway, you know the shot. Well, you should. How can you not know The Searchers? It's one of the two dozen greatest works of art ever created in this country. Go watch The Searchers. Then go read The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe.