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Three books down, one artist up

Monday 5/3/21

On Thursday, I met the drop-dead deadline for the Scrooge book and got it back to the publisher. Was a pretty big thing for me. I've done a lot of stuff that hasn't been done before. I don't know how to rank all of this, so I don't. For instance, between mid-March 2012 and the end of that calendar year, I composed sixty short stories, plus forty nonfiction works for magazines and newspapers, as my life came undone, creating the whole of Dark March, Anglerfish, Buried on the Beaches. That stands out to me. Going back to June 2018, as has recently been discussed on here, I have written 260 short stories, and over 1000 blog entries. It's not a volume deal--it's a quality deal--a uniform quality deal--in absurd, scarcely believable volume as well. While I was doing that, I did much else. So that also stands out.

As does this gauntlet of books I've just gone through. I wrote the Sam Cooke book, this Scrooge book, and readied Brackets for publication essentially simultaneously. Music book, film book, fiction book. The Sam Cooke book was written in fifteen days. Scrooge was written in thirteen days. Brackets was made over the course of twenty years, and that really challenged me to make sure it was the most unified of wholes, in the end, despite--and even because of--it's unique, unprecedented range. But it's not like while I was doing those books I wasn't doing so much else. For instance, I wrote "Transitionings" as I wrote Scrooge, to give just one example. (One more stat: the recently published Meatheads was written in seven days.)

Pretty simple goal, in one regard: Create the best music book ever, the best film book, the best work of fiction. To keep challenging these people of this system and make this more and more obvious what they are doing to someone who, well, you can't just call them a talented guy, can you? You can't explain away what they're doing that way. Brackets comes out in July, Sam Cooke in September--both can be pre-ordered now--and then Scrooge on December 1.

I'll still have to do some edits with Scrooge, but the heavy-lifting is over. The book will be illustrated, and I'll be the person selecting the stills from the film. Because, obviously, I'm going to know the film best. I'm so proud of the book as a book which goes beyond its subject of "this here one film." It's really a book about the horrors and self-wrought horrors, often, of our age. Of being too scared to live a life. Passivity, passive aggressiveness, depression, defense mechanisms.

What are these people going to say? What have they been able to say for so long? What is even harder to say each time I do what I do and do something like this? He's not good enough? Not smart enough? Doesn't write well enough? Impossible to honestly make these claims. So what, then? "I don't like him." Why don't you like him? What's he done to you? The answer is nothing. The truth of the answer is, "Because he is so many things I want to be and will never be, and so I make him pay."

This is what I'm doing with an entire industry against me. What do I do if I am not in that war 24/7/365?

Yesterday I arose at 4:40 and immediately went to work. I altered an essay about English pastoral horror in cinema, as it pertains to the spring, and sent it back to an editor. Offered an op-ed on Hemingway to someone else. I had pitched an op-ed on Citizen Kane and the mistake people make with it. Then I wrote a 1200 word short story called "Cartoon Hearts." Next I shaved for the first time in almost a week, watched some of Dark City (1950), and walked eight miles. The day marked 1771 days, or 253 weeks, without a drink. I just wrote the Kane op-ed and sent it to someone and will see if I can't move it. Very strong piece. Speaking of moving: It's time to move Cheer Pack, Longer on the Inside, Glue God, find a buyer for the Beatles book.

I have also realized I've made the mistake of granting access to too many people who should not have access to me because I am by nature kind. I put a moratorium on that a while back. In the past, I'd respond to most things, but more often than not someone was up to no good or had an ulterior motive or I just plain let someone into my life--even to a small degree--who would ultimately be bad news. A problem I don't need to have. I have enough problems. I know someone who is always saying to me--I think they're trying to remind me, too--words to the effect of, "These people should never, in a million years, have a pipeline to you. You're in a certain position because you are hated by an evil industry, and that makes you vulnerable to people who should have zero access to you."

Some of the things people say to me are...well, they're just insane things. The sickness. The passive aggressiveness. And, of course, the ignorance. And some of the things these people try and do, once they think they have a foothold, is also insane. It gets pretty disturbing. I don't know why I've taken the bait in the past. Someone asks me for something, and I'd be like, "Sure, I'll help you out," and it was almost always a giant and immediate regret.

This has been a theme in my personal life, too. It's hard for me to sort of turn my back on my giving nature. Like, I've had some people do some truly warped, vicious, and twisted things. And yet, I've felt bad for them. Sometimes I've said, hey, just because such and such was really warped and twisted, doesn't mean if you need something you can't come to me. I wouldn't not help you.

And nearly every time I've said that, I've ended up regretting it. I've cursed myself for being nice. It's hard for me to just put my back to someone, but it's definitely something I've forced myself to do. There are various kinds of bait I do not take. This is another that I've added. I have a simple way of looking at it now. Get in the way of my purpose, and that's it. No wiggle room. No equivocation. And, depending upon the person, the piper will eventually get paid. In hockey, we call this taking a number. A person wouldn't want me to take their number. I am the last person you want taking your number.

You might think, okay, nothing happened. A year might go by. Five years. It doesn't matter. The time always comes. There is nothing I forget. There is no amount of success I can achieve that would preclude me from doing what I long ago promised, and always re-promise to myself: that the people who need and deserve to be held accountable will be held accountable in as public a fashion as possible. Because so much sick shit has gone down. An honest mistake is one thing. Someone up to no good is another. And I always know when someone is up to no good. Try to part me from my purpose, for so much as a second, and the phrase "dead to me" doesn't even really cover it, nor "comeuppance" for when the time is right. It's different case by case. I'm not aware of a phrase that does. I'd have to invent it. There is something otherworldly inside of me when it comes to my purpose. I am not even sure it's a human thing. I would say no.

I did a lot of head work this past weekend on "Pre" and "Ainsley." Hard, intense, driving work. I've been listening a lot to my characters. Hearing their stories, waiting on certain parts of their stories. Often I come to know a lot about them that they don't know about themselves. But I always listen to them. They are real--more real than real, I should say--and I have complete trust in their realness. Absolute, total faith. That's a big part of our relationship.

Years ago I wrote this Jimmy Blanton piece. Same as any piece I write. Better than all that is out there. Couldn't give the thing away for free. Offered it to The Atlantic--I am dreading the blog post it is becoming increasingly plain to the point of unavoidable that I must do about The Atlantic and what they have done to me, because it will be ugly--and The New Yorker. Not even a response. Offered it to Jazzwise. Got a token blow-off. Offered it to DownBeat--again, not even a response. The Smart Set had said some thing to me about not wanting to do jazz, but they put it out. Someone shared it on some "these are the best pieces in publishing" site I guess, and now all of these people are saying it's brilliant and genius and all of that. A person posted on Twitter that they hate all music criticism, and this is the first time in their life they feel differently with this amazing piece. Yeah. Well, that's what I do. Every time. With everything I write. Again, no readers left behind. I don't write music criticism as people think of it. I don't write anything as people think of it. I give you a life experience in prose form. An honest to goodness deep and searing and real and profound and altering human experience.

You don't have to care about Jimmy Blanton or know who he is to have that life experience. With any other piece by anyone else, you need to have some interest in what they're subject is. They can't interest you otherwise. Pedestrian stuff. They can't compel you. They don't have the life stuff. My subject is never really my subject. I give people a story, and a life experience, but also with more of the expertise about the putative subject than anyone else in the world has. Anyone. Anywhere. Every time.

So, then The Smart Set rounded up stuff for a jazz post. All of it is funny. By which I mean, depressing. Ironic. You do the best work. By far. There's no comparison. And most publishing people are so hateful, so bigoted, so lazy, so stupid, so envious, so incompetent, some combo, that they don't know what they have, don't care what they have, or want nothing to do with what they have because they want the person who can make that, makes stuff like that always, every bloody day, to die. What's more, there's never really been anything any good written about Blanton. So even from that angle, there was a need. Like, if someone had something vaguely competent. Let alone brilliant. I could do this with 5000 pieces I currently have and two dozen books just sitting here.


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