I am being a disgusting coward right now and I cannot afford to be a disgusting coward right now but I am not facing things I must face and taking on things I must take on and I must remedy this swiftly and face and battle. I feel my heart jackhammering all the time, I feel it pounding in my wrist. What happens is I turn to where I have complete dominion and mastery, and that is in writing, and what happens is I write more and more, I build up the enormous corpus of art even further, but as I write more and more, that creates more and more resentment. None of these people want to see more, see more works at the level they are all at, see new kinds of works I had not been doing before. In a way, I further perpetuate this horrible situation, but it's not like they weren't going to be opposing me anyway even if I wrote one thing every six months.
I was having an argument with a friend the other day, and I was referencing a thing another friend said, which was that to even begin to understand what I do or who I am, requires a lot of time and thoughtfulness. So I said that to my friend, and my friend did not disagree, but they said that one I am out there, the narrative will emerge, will do so quickly, and what will matter is that lots of people will have product--the art, the entertainment--to buy in large amounts, that that can be their focus. And I said but with Bob Dylan or whomever, you want to know what he's about, and it's so much easier with Dylan than with me. And my friend agreed, but said you still want the Bob Dylan record, you buy it. A lot of people go from there. I said to my friend, it is super confusing to understand what I do or am if you limit me to 2020. And by limit me to 2020, I mean with an industry against me; if an industry was not against me, I would have thirty major pieces of news each day, for that is how large the body of work now is, and how fast I can go. But even as it stands, here is the breakdown thus far on 2020:
* wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed asking if it is okay to be weak (Answer: No! But we must first define what is meant by weak)
* wrote a piece for the TLS on a play called Marching Song that Orson Welles wrote as a teenager
* Talked on the radio about girl groups, the Twist craze, the Beatles, and Sam Cooke
* wrote the first 3000 words of a personal essay about moving
* began a personal essay about Joy Division and "Ceremony"
* began a personal essay about growing up in nature
* wrote the short story "The Krait"
* wrote the short story "Drivel in Wormwood"
* wrote the short story "Mixie Cut"
* began the short story "Orange Needles"
* wrote a 2000 word piece on the BBC series Dracula which will appear in The Daily Beast tomorrow
* wrote a dozen blogs
So, you're talking short fiction, literary essay, op-ed, personal essays, film piece, radio talk, and many entries in this singular journal.
it is confusing. It is almost impossible to believe. It does not compute, it's nothing one can compare to anything else, which we love to do, to get our bearing and firmer footing. I worry that people will never know because it is too much, too unlike what anyone has ever done or been able to do before. Whereas, if you do one thing, very occasionally, and you can do nothing else, you're not even adept at that one thing you do do, that's easy to grasp. My friend says, "You do every single thing better than anyone else out there doing it. You're not trying to do something that has been done, you're not looking to be happy making $83K, you will not get to where you want by being spirited along by these evil people, it has to be all about, and will be all about, an entirely new way from an entirely new, unique force. You cannot compare yourself to anything or anyone, that's why it is going to be massive ultimately."
I don't know. I just know I'm hated. I published four things at the end of December, great things, all different from these things, and I know that makes it harder, it makes a nasty, tiny, prejudiced, petty man like Bob Wilson at The American Scholar loathe me more. And that's what it is. That's all it is. It's not the work--no one thinks it's the work in a trillion years--it's not the knowledge. It's that hate. You're dealing with wall upon wall upon wall, made of hate. Same friend called while I was writing this blog. I mentioned the quality and rate and range of production as a problem, and he said what I said, that, yes, they want you to bore people out of their minds with your bad writing, they want it to feel for readers like they are reading homework, but I cautioned my friend from thinking that just being awful and boring at writing and taking twenty months to finish your one bad, boring piece, is not a solution. Because there are millions of people out there like that. You need to be born into their diseased system. You need to be born into the gated community. Or--and this is what I hope, where I have put my faith--you need to be infinitely better than everyone in the community added together, and you have to take it on, force hands, and ultimately take large parts of it down, and fill everything in with better stuff and a better way.
Here's an excerpt from "Drivel in Wormwood." I need to climb now.
“We will make this work,” my husband Ted said to me, taking my hand and lifting it a few inches over the armrest with a little shake. Some people touch your shoulder, some dip their chin in a steely nod, others enfold your hand in theirs, others take and shake.
My inclination is to put an arm around the back, but one cannot reciprocate in this manner in a car. We were en route to our honeymoon spot, a motel on the South Carolina shore with a peg-legged captain, made of corkwood, standing sentinel outside, big photo-op draw for tourists.
When I was a child and my parents would say the expression “en route,” I always thought they meant something inside of a root, like that was where a plant’s soul or heart was, a desired destination, which was confusing for a child.
Probably why I was prone to think about the insides of wood, even when I knew better. Ted loved motels. He found kitsch romantic. The art critic Clement Greenberg wrote a famous essay about kitsch in art, and I showed it to Ted, who read it, to his credit.
“No, not like that,” he said. “’We’ll leave the light on for you’ and all that jazz like in the commercial. The romanticism of a left on a light. And fake palms and garish sea captain statues outside with the inevitable parrot perched on a shoulder.”
We called them “dry drives.” By “we” I mean me, when I was talking about Ted and what to do in my head. Seeking out my little voice of counsel I keep there, like maybe plants have hearts or souls in their roots. “What are we going to do?” I would say, not aloud, of course.
I knew when I married Ted we would get divorced, but we could not get divorced if we were not married first, which I viewed as part of our journey, how we would move on.
My mom liked to say, “takes what it takes.” When I was in third grade I made a button for her at school for Mother’s Day so she could sport her favorite saying without having to declaim it, but all the words would not fit and when I used just the first letters I realized the button was kind of insulting but my mom wore it anyway.
She married at twenty-two. I was twenty-six. A guy named Jesse would come over when Ted had class because we were both in grad school, then when Ted was out drinking because he’d be drunk in front of me but he would not get drunk in front of me.
I knew Jesse from fat camp. We both got thin. There were lots of people he saw and some were more particular than others. I’d have him in my mouth and he’d state, “I can’t go down on you today,” as if that would be cheating, one of the rules of his somebody-elses. “Tell me what your husband would think,” he enjoyed adding when he rolled me over and got at it, and for whatever reason I would correct him and say, “He’s not my husband yet.”