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The other side of the table

Saturday 5/4/19

It is 5:30 at night and I am ready for bed. The day began with work at 4 AM. I composed an 1100 word piece on how jazz pertains to cinema and how cinema pertains to jazz. I don't have a home for it. I'll have to sell it. I wrote an 1800 word personal essay about something very sick and cruel that someone did to me a couple years ago--someone I was going to be with who was not who they said they were, who had even reached out to my closet friend and was fully aware of my history, yet did what they did, knowing all the while.


There is no cant in the piece, though. The perspective it offers, given what was done, is, I think, one that could not be expected by anyone. It's a surprising work. I doubt the place I wrote it for will take it, so what I'll then do is make it longer as a piece I can move, and it will also be something, altered once more, that goes into the memoir of what I have endured and what my quest centers on, whom I have become, despite everything/all, called, as I have expressed in these pages, Many Moments More: A Story About the Art of Endurance. The material will also be pruned, changed, recast, taken a long way from my actual life, and it will go into a short story I'll write later, presumably later this year.


My ex-Harper's editor--who will probably be my editor again somewhere else--said that he would write a reference for me for my Guggenheim application. This is the radio conversation Kimball and I had on Tuesday, which was about popular culture's unhealthy obsession with death. We talked shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, both of which I find utterly ridiculous. These shows, in fact, and so much of what people tune in to, listen to, read, speaks not to what I believe they actually would like best, but what is on offer. I think if there were better products as options, people would get so much more out of what they read, watched, listened to. But there has to be first place right now, doesn't there? It's like when you have a bad basketball team--someone has to average 20 points-per-game.


As for Game of Thrones: everyone is posting about Arya Stark. Let me understand: You have someone who is good at being an assassin, so this translates to hooray for feminism? Nothing unhealthy about that at all. Do people really not realize the meaning of the words they choose to bang their chest about and what that in turn says about them and the things they purport to care about so much? Is there no clarity anymore? Or are faces pressed so closely up against objects that all perspective, sanity, must die?


Your various -isms like this will always be a form of what I call laundry syndrome. That is, when you're at the football game in your team's home stadium, you are a rah-rah person, you want every call, right or wrong, to go your team's way. You boo when the correct call is made if it goes against your team, you cheer when the wrong call is made if it helps your team. All you care about, in that environment, is the laundry--the logo on the jersey. Not what is right or wrong.


This is a piece I wrote for The Daily Beast on F. Scott Fitzgerald's "May Day." I pitched The Daily Beast on Robert Bloch's 1959 novel Psycho today for Mother's Day. I contacted the program director at the Brattle about having me curate a film series in October on English horror films--mid-century or so films--as something like English terror cinema comes to Boston. I wrote a local radio station about contributing, floating first a discussion of Buried on the Beaches: Cape Stories for Hooked Hearts and Driftwood Souls, which comes out in less than two weeks.


Meatheads Say the Realest Things: Satire from the End of Civilization is going around to places. I consider it my first completed novel. Though there is no other novel like it. I am less concerned about its ability to sell millions of copies than I am about the usual--the blacklisting, the fact that every book has to be a retread of other retread-y, bland books, that it's all about race and gender right now and trading on race and gender. (Where did Dante stash the hypocrites in Hell?)


I wrote this book to have it seen by millions of people. There is not a funnier book. It may be the thing I'm most proud of that I've ever composed. That doesn't mean it's better than the rest of it. It means that I hit the groove and I think it's a perfect work of art and perfect demographic-spanning entertainment, and it would make a lot of people really happy and also serve to show and teach some vital things that we need to know right now, and that we always need to know, but we so often don't. I mention the groove--I am not sure I've ever been in a deeper one in my life than when I wrote that book. I was that book. Or it's like playing the guitar--I could play anything on that book, right away, you might say. And structurally, formally, it's bang-on airtight. A Hard Day's Night is a perfect album. A Christmas Carol is perfect. That's the category. It's like a perfectly stuck landing. I stuck that landing at the level of a full book. Absolutely stuck it.


Emma texted me yesterday that she was home from school feeling sick, so I brought her some tea--this Harvest Blend from Trader Joe's that is effective when it's really hot and you don't feel well--and also some honey Hall's lozenges. Then when I was at Starbucks later on she came by with Benecio--the puggle--and knocked on the glass, in hopes that I would go for a little walk with them, so I did that. Emma has this hot teacher, and I'm like, "Look, practice child, hook up the C-Dawg with Ms. B." Emma is not enthusiastic about this. "I know what will happen," she said. "You'll take it too far. I'll have regrets." I assured her this would not be the case. I should mention--Benecio has a torrid/disturbing relationship with his blanket. He humps it frantically. Then, post-humping, he retreats to the corner of the room and weeps with shame until he falls asleep. He has some issues. So, after saying I wouldn't take it very far at all, let alone too far, I said the most I'd do is say something like, "You know, Benecio isn't the only one with a blanket, you know what I mean?" and she smacked her forehead and said, "There it is. You've done it anyway." By strange coincidence, Emma's birthday is on the same day that Buried on the Beaches is released. I will write something very special for her in a copy and give it to her as a present.


This coming Tuesday on Downtown I will discuss a clutch of 1944 films with thriller/thrilling aspects, but each path-blazers in their way: Bluebeard, Double Indemnity, The Scarlet Claw, The Uninvited, Gaslight, Laura. I have also been thinking about a Beatles book that looks at their relationship with black artists. But what I really need to do first is get the materials for Same Band You've Never Known: An Alternative Musical History of the Beatles to Da Capo. I am disgusted with myself that it has taken this long. Oh, to not have to live in this filth and poverty and spend my days writing people who will never respond, and pitching thousands of words a day--I'll do a future blog post, soon, with some pitches pasted in, to give an idea of how much work that is, how much flat out writing that is--and have my house in Rockport and everything organized and to get up and know that because of what my work means to people, because I was given a chance, everyone is going to see what I come up with next, so it better be special and new and good. Important. And if it's not, there will be backlash. That is what would be unadulterated happiness to me. Until I have the solution to this situation, that is precluded. And writing these pieces, so so so many of them, constantly, while trying to do book work in the cracks of time between the latest massive expenditure of energy is just...this is just the most difficult thing ever, on so many levels. Literally. To even keep it together, to even keep going. And to always have to be on and brilliant and note perfect. And inventing. Constant invention. This morning I screened the 1942 coastal-noir, Moontide, with Jean Gabin--someone I once wrote about, but I don't remember for whom--in an American picture, with Ida Lupino. I love her. I wish Ida Lupino would come down to my shack on the sea where I sold bait and partner with me. Gabin didn't like the Hollywood system--specifically, he wanted no part of the PR rigamarole he was supposed to do.


I walked three miles yesterday and climbed the Monument once. That was the first of much of any physical activity I had done since Sunday, so I made up for some of that today and walked three miles and climbed the Monument ten straight times. I ran the first 100 steps the first eight times, then got stuck behind a pack of people on climb nine and only ran the first seventy and then the first fifty on climb number ten. No stopping at all. I am in the best shape I've been in in twenty years. This is from after. I haven't shaved since Monday.



This isn't nearly what I was supposed to get to in here, but the rest will have to keep. I'll quickly touch on the Bruins--feeling pretty good about this series. I like how the goaltender is playing. Rask has surprised me in these playoffs. I think he's in one of those zones he usually gets into in the middle of the season, when he'll be undefeated for thirteen games. Bobrovsky is going the other way, and I felt that after Game 3, too, when the Blue Jackets won. When you hit the post, you're beating the goalie. They rang a lot of iron in that game. I'd like to see Pastrnak taken off the point on the power play. You don't need forward for that. Fix your problem with giving up shorthanded opportunities first. I could also see the Bruins losing this game, but I think we'll be back here for a Game 7 either way. The Bruins can actually win the Cup. There is a real opportunity here. These Boston teams could go 4-for-4 with championships. I'm surprised that people are not talking about this--it's been on my mind for a while.


Soon on Downtown I'll discuss the Stone Roses and Joy Division. The debut albums of each Mancunian band came out thirty and forty years ago, respectively. I believe they are, also respectively, the second and third best bands in rock and roll history. Better than the Who, Stones, Kinks, Byrds, Beach Boys, Velvet Underground. I'll also say that after "A Day in the Life," the finest single-song works in rock are "Fools Gold" and "Ceremony" (there is no official studio version of the song; this is the rehearsal version; when that riff kicks in at :42 --oh good Christ. That is why we live. To be able to experience things like this. Perhaps not coincidentally, both songs feature percussion work of an impossibly high level.). Saw that a new entry in Dylan's Bootleg Series is coming out, looking at the Rolling Thunder Revue. I'll request a copy. Travis's 1999 album The Man Who--one of my favorite records; I used to write to it a lot--is getting reissued as well, with a Glastonbury set from the same year and various B-sides, including this cover of Brittany Spears' "Baby One More Time." Brilliant.


This is my favorite Travis song, though. It's called "Writing to Reach You." It just encapsulates an important idea for me. And one I've tried to impress upon Emma. For, you see, when you are the artist, all that matters, the only person that matters, is that person on the other side of the table. You do what you do for them. They come first. You, your ego--you should have no ego if you are a truly great artist; you simply have complete cognizance of what you do and the level you do it at--are not as important at the person on the other side of the table. You create to reach them. That is everything. You make sure they get what they need. You are clear for them. You think through their eyes, their brains, you don't orphan them, you don't leave them behind, you don't leave them out. Publishing, right now, doesn't care about the person on the other side of the table. But I do. I will give that person, those people, my life. I give them everything I am and can do. Nothing in human history has ever been more important than reaching that person on the other side of the table, and nothing ever will be.