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The public demand

Thursday 11/5/20

I don't want to do this. I mean life. Someone wrote me and implored me, twice, "live long." I don't want to live at all. This is no life. It's working in filth and poverty and anonymity 24/7/365--because I work while I'm asleep--and being met only with indifference, hate, envy. Getting better all the time, doing something at a level no one has ever done anything. And getting nowhere. There's no audience, there are 150 Twitter followers, a handful of blog readers. What I publish, where I publish it, what I say, how well I say it, how entertainingly I say it, how wittily I say it, that I am the best on the radio--absolutely none of it matters. I am completely alone. I have no friends. I just do this, because it is everything I am, and if you had never published anything, threw up a website, called yourself an author, created a dummy Twitter account, you'd have more subscribers and more followers--people paying attention--than I do with what I can do and the career I've had. I've tried hard this year not to think this is a curse, and that I am cursed and doomed, but it's impossible not to come back to the supernatural.


It's early now--or early for some. I've been up since four. I have someone who likes to listen to me on the radio. This person is a great person. They're smart. They have character. They help people with the path they have taken in life. I have a lot of respect for this individual, though I don't really know them personally--I just know them from afar because they like to hear my radio segments. If I post something on Twitter, it doesn't matter how correct, how funny, how well said it is--no one will come within 100 miles of it, save this person, Kimball, or Aaron. Kimball mentioned Meatheads at the start of my segment the other day. The few people who have heard about this book are saying the same things. They say it's brilliant. They say it's genius. They say it's the funniest thing they've ever read. And then they say the thing that I knew was in the book and that is clearly coming across--that you will learn more about humanity, and that you will become a better person.


People are surprised, because they begin reading the book and what they think it will be is this hilarious take down of the meathead, the bro, the jock. And I'll say that if you were a misandrist who hated men, and you wanted to read this book to add fuel to your hate fire, you could do that. It cuts across, and suits, so many demos. Demos of people who would consider themselves the antithesis of someone in another demo. But the few people who know of the book are reading it and having this huge surprise. They're getting something they didn't think they'd be getting, and it sneaks up on you. I know that book is the funniest book ever written. I also know it is a book that is invaluable in how it can show us that far more connects us than we often think, and here in 2020 as we like to think. It is such a powerful book of the zeitgeist. And no one knows about it. No one could know about it, because of this hellish, historically unique situation that I am in, where an industry will not let anyone in the world know about the artist who can do a book like this. Someone wrote me a note that reminded me of Thackeray's remarks about Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Thackeray didn't have a kind word for very much, but what he told his readers, re: the Carol, was that Dickens had done you a great service--he had created a book that helped you, that made you a better person. That's Meatheads. And it's still edgy and all of that, but that's what it does. In this book that one can read and re-read and quote and savor. It was designed to be reread. Revisited. I wrote it that way. But it's just something that the few people who come to these pages--and I don't even know how to put this book up in the Books section, now that I don't have a webmaster--will know about. And that's hardly anyone.


Now this person I'm mentioning is someone who I honestly feel would love all that I do and write, and would love this journal. They're someone who likes interesting things. They have impeccable, wide-ranging taste in music, for instance. Like if I put up a link on Twitter to the Teardrop Explodes, they're all over that. But it wasn't until Kimball mentioned Meatheads that this person thought to buy that book. It may have been the first they heard about it. I don't know. But nothing I said here mattered. Whether it was read or not. And this is a fan. My point is that even a fan is not feeling, apparently, compelled at all to do a little looking as to what I might be up to. This is a theme this week--like with the woman who is a huge blog fan but who sent me a note asking if I still did the blog, rather than just, you know, check the blog. I'm feeling like people will do absolutely nothing, not even type in a site name, or use Google--that it has to be spoon fed into their mouths and down their gullets. And I don't have that luxury, because i have no publicity, no marketing, I am blackballed by an entire industry. There is no one behind me and everyone against me. All I have is me and my work. Right now. And if even these people won't come to me and my work, then why live? What hope is there? And I'd kill myself, but I have no friends, I have no family, I have no one I trust--I don't have anyone who would so much as call me back in a life-or-death situation. Norberg? No. John? No. Those people don't care about me at all, and I've known them for a quarter of a century. So my work would die with me. In my life, I had to beg the people I know to read, say, "Fitty." The people who are the best to me, are people I don't know well, most of whom I've never met in the flesh--Pratt, for instance. So what I have that keeps me from killing myself is what I feel is the certainty that I have no one who would work--and it would be hard, and take lots of time, energy, resources--on behalf of my work to preserve it and get it out there. Because I do believe that this world needs my work more than it has ever needed anything.


I had a migraine all day yesterday. I'm out of Advil. I had some old Tylenol from 2016 when I had the pneumonia, and I must have had twelve of those over the course of the day. I did something I don't normally do--I worked on a single short story for twelve hours. Getting it in a shape where it can start going in a direction. It was the one I put up an excerpt of the other day, which now has a different name and is completely different in many ways. I can feel myself changing once more as an artist. I have these instances where I transform--they used to happen maybe once every five years--now they happen two, three times a year. What I've done in the past is had a complete draft of a story that would then require my collage skills. My architecture skills. Editing, you might call it, but at a level of moving around continental plates. I can make enormous structural changes that alter so much--as I also alter everything else--in mere seconds. You shouldn't be able to do that. But in the past, I did that from a draft. Yesterday, for the first time, I began doing that from within the actual compositional process, moving parts even before they existed, in a way. I had something great. Then I knew I could make it better. Then I knew I could completely push in a different direction and make that greater, and there'd be little relation from where I had started to where I was beginning to get. And the story would have everything--it would be hilarious in parts, but every bit as emotionally devastating/powerful as "Fitty." I had an inkling all along that it would be a war story, near the end, but then I saw it would start as a war story, and I wrote an opening section, after working on everything else for eleven hours, that was as single block of a paragraph, that starts the work with incredible drama and action--an action of stillness, in one regard. You can have stationary forms, and so much action in that scene (I hesitate with the word "scene,' because there's a still-life implication, a vignette quality, a painting; whereas, this section exists in several time periods at once, because of manipulation of the language and the punctuation, that people won't consciously pick up on, but will register in other parts of their mind, which are crucial--even central--to the reading experience), if you write it a certain way so that the movement is in the writing. That opening section is pure tour de force. The story is called "Girls of the Nimbus."


Read some of Edith Wharton's "The Triumph of Night" (1914) this AM. A kind of ghost story that may not be a ghost story. New Hampshire setting.



Saw His House on Halloween. Yet more mediocrity. At this point in the game--and this was true seventy-five years ago--if you're going to do a haunted house story or film, you need a new idea. People don't have new ideas anymore, so what they do is try and tap into the Woke shit. Doesn't matter how nebulously. The ideas need not add up, the themes can be half-baked. So long as it has some tinge of the Woke, that's all they want. Get Out is like this. Get Out is an awful film. His House is better, but there's nothing there.


It long ago ceased being strange to me watching the biggest bigots I know in publishing try to morally shame people for alleged discrimination on Facebook. There is no self-awareness in this world--there is less in publishing. Negative numbers of it. It's like there's an absolute zero everywhere else, and most people hover around that, but in publishing, someone might score a -17. Routinely.


My sister received an email notification at least for yesterday's new blog post. But it seemed like she was receiving some all along, when others haven't been receiving any. I don't know. For someone who deals with so much humanity and humanness in his work, and sounds so full of life and humanity when you hear him speak, I am in near-total isolation. I had tried to help Vollmer with something once, and we got to talking, and I mentioned that I was not liked. He said that he found that very surprising, but that it was my life, and I knew. Which I appreciated. This is true. I've never been liked. That is something I have to completely reverse, and I don't know how to do that. Obviously I'm not finding a way thus far. That person you hear on the radio, who knows everything, and is funny, and makes Kimball double over with laughter, who sounds like a great guy to hang out with and get a coffee--that person is not liked. (And anyone who knows me would tell you that that's exactly how I sound all the time--that it's not some act donned for radio purposes.)


People don't like that. They like people like themselves. Or it's not even that they like people like themselves--they're just far more comfortable with people like themselves. These are lines from Thoreau's journals:


"I feel that the public demand an average man,--average thoughts and manners,--not originality, nor even absolute excellence. You cannot interest them except as you are like them and sympathize with them."


This is my biggest problem. The largest piece of the pie. And there are big pieces--I'm blackballed by an industry. Most papers and review outlets in America have a policy not to cover my work. People don't read. People have lost the ability to read. Straight white men who are self-made are hated in publishing even when they are mediocre--which is crucial in publishing; mediocrity, pretentiousness without knowledge, privilege, connections, classism--and fit the preferred profile type far more readily than I do. My skin color. My gender. My productivity. My legitimacy. People hate experts. I am an expert on many things. They appear to have nothing to do with each other, and yet, one person knows the most about all of these various things. That frightens the few people who do try to understand it, or who see so much evidence of it that they have to think about it, though they may well wish me dead if they are in publishing. And it borders on the impossible that one could understand how someone could possibly be that way. It's beyond the scope we expect with anything. So it becomes a moot point--a point that is not even seen because of its vastness, and to begin to understand that point, time and energy and a very open mind--a capacity for wonder--are necessary. People are lazy and will only pay any attention to that which is rammed in front of their faces--repeatedly. They are not going to go off on their own and look and learn, and then spread the word. And I am completely dependent on that right now.


But ultimately, this matter of what Thoreau calls "absolute excellence" is the issue beyond all of the other issues, any one of which would leave a person completely fucked. It's why the better I get--as an artist, a person--the worse this gets. I am not an average man. I am a wholly original artist. I am not like other people, though I do create work that holds up a mirror of who they are, how life is. I work for them, to reach them. My work is designed for them. But I myself am not an average man. I am as far from what that is as a human can be. And if you understand what Thoreau means--because he's talking a kind of sliding scale--what he's saying is the further away you are from that average-ness, the more fucked you are. I am living that. That is the reality of my life right now, and I fear--I have no greater fear--that it will always be this way, and now I'm a man who does not kill himself mostly only because he has no faith that anyone in this world will do right by what he created.


Quite the spot to be in. Quite the life to be in.