I need a woman like Veronica Lake in The Blue Dahlia (1946) to come into my life like she comes into Alan Ladd's. Pulls up beside him when he's walking in the rain and wants to help. She's smart, caring, beautiful, with a great voice, too. And she's just there.
But we now live in a society where there is no romance, and people are scared of anything intelligent, passionate, purposeful. They just want to be enabled in what they already are. Which is little. And with little emotional risk, no venturesome spirit. They don't so much as wish for things to be awesome and take them to new places, so much as they don't want anything to go wrong. They don't want to feel or risk pain. They don't want to try. I've noticed a change over the years. People used to write me out of the blue. Not many. But some. They had to know me. A number of them flew into Boston to meet me. They could reach out to me, take a chance. Now people just huddle in corners, seeking out other people who huddle in corners. If I get a note, it's about how frightening I am with my mind. I shouldn't say they seek each other out. They sort of accidentally slide into each other. Like snails with their mucus trails. Sometimes two of them just come to the same bit of the corner.
My Twitter page is something else. I see these mocking comments from people when seeking to win an argument that someone's words are not of consequence because they only have 100 followers or whatever. As if this was an indication of the value and intelligence of what one was saying or offered. I will see someone who is a roofer with 12,000 followers. Or someone who has "published" two pieces on Medium with 10,000. The point is is that just about everyone has followers.
Not I. I have about 150. Not thousand. With the places where my work runs and what I post on Twitter most days. Which is unlike what anyone else posts. Adam Vinatieri retires, and an idiot posts, "ADUM V WAS LITERLLLY THE GOAT" and 2000 people hit that like button and follow.
I post, "Greatest clutch performances I’ve seen: Gretzky ‘87 Canada Cup. Ortiz ‘04 ALCS. Brady second half v. Falcons. Jordan’s last sequence as a Bull. But perhaps #1: Vinatieri’s tying kick in the snow. As a coach of mine said: balls as big as grapefruits."
The first one is moronic. People like moronic. Anyone could post that. That's comforting to people. I provide the well-written bout of insight with vim, edge, wisdom. Others cannot do that. So, they don't like it. Zero likes.
It does not matter what the subject is. I will paste in some other examples from the past day or two. Same result every time.
"I saw a stat today that all of MLB has the career batting average of Dave Kingman, and the same K and walk rates. I knew Kong was ahead of his time."
"Works of art that are not perfect that are better because they’re not perfect: the White Album, Out of the Past, Rio Bravo, The Pickwick Papers, Tender is the Night, Moby-Dick, Duck Soup, The Potato Eaters."
"A worthy op-ed would be to make the argument that Patrice Bergeron is the best leader in Boston sports history. Is he? I think he’s close enough to advance the thesis. He does one thing in particular that separates him from everyone else. Like Brady, Ortiz, Yaz, Varitek."
"It is a point that will mean nothing to anyone, but I’m only comfortable calling a game 'pivotal' when a series is tied 2-2. There is 1. The meaning of significance and 2. The series actually pivots."
"There is such an obsession in society—and headlines—with who 'crushed' someone, or 'destroyed' them, or 'owned' them. Says a lot about us without meaning to."
"Saw Romeo and Juliet trending, and thought, 'finally, an intelligent literary discussion.' I didn't really think that, of course. Couldn't have one of those, could we? But it is one of Shakespeare's weakest plays. People tend to think it's one of his best based on its fame."
"There is not much to do on my epic walks—26 miles this weekend—save reflect, think, plan, and create, but I find I’m excelling this spring at snagging those dried, floating, blowing petals out of the air. My glove hand is Grant Fuhr-like, and I have robbed Mike Bossy again."
I could go on and on. You could take these posts and put them into a book and have a modern version of Pascal's Pensées. Which does not matter at all, except insofar as that is a bad thing right now. You want to be a moron with connections. Better still if you can check off some boxes for the Woke folk. Do some grifting and pandering.
What happens, of course, is that people make a conscious choice to stay away. It's not that I'm not seen. It's that I'm completely different and my mind is completely different. Different levels. People do not like that. I need to find a way to get them to like that. But right now, they don't. People learn who I am, and they flee. I'm not like them. Our minds don't work the same way. I don't provide the echoes they need for their chamber. And that's all most people want. It's what they need.
I tasked someone recently with going through my Twitter followers. Do you know who follows me? The people who follow me are literally rocket scientists. You'll see someone who speaks seven languages, studies jazz and the Beatles, and makes their living teaching law and is a judge. Someone else will be an astrophysicist. Another a heart surgeon with a passion for Ellingtonia. One person is a horticulturist who teaches Medieval languages. There are no "normal" or "average" people. Every last person who follows me is a part of the intellectual elite of the intellectual elite. There is not one exception out of the 150. Now, this isn't to say, at all, that what I do is for these people only or primarily. Anyone can understand--it's easier to understand what I write--a book like Buried on the Beaches, or an op-ed, or a Beatles piece, or this blog, or whatever it may be. It's not an appeal thing, it's not a comprehension thing. Obviously this person writes better than anyone, and they write to communicate. It's a confidence thing. A self-esteem thing. The people who follow me are not threatened by me, usually. They view me as separate from who they are, not an indictment on what they are or are not. They think, "Wow, what this guy does and is is nuts, there's a lot for me to take in here," not "This guy is very scary to me and makes me feel bad about myself."
But even most of the people who do follow me won't so much as hit the like button for anything. No one else does. People can't do anything on their own, for the most part. They have to move with the group. But you can go on Twitter and flip through who follows me. There's an actual rocket scientist. Who loves opera. You need the "regular" people. And you need the morons. You need an army of morons at your back to be successful. The way it works is, morons get morons. Morons attract lots of morons. They can have complete gobbledygook that no one can understand a word of. Doesn't matter. What matters is that the moron makes the person who follows them feel good about themselves because they're a moron.
It's like showing up at the basketball court when you suck at basketball and there's one guy alone there playing who might as well be drunk. He's bouncing the ball off his knee, and every shot is like it's been fired out of a cannon off the far edge of the backboard. And he's like, "Want to play one on one one?" And you think, shit, this is no sweat whatsoever. Comfort zone! You don't want to show up and see some dude draining shots from half-court and throwing down reverse dunks and have him say, "Want to play a game?"
I suppose that's crass, the moron thing. But it's true. And I don't know what the risk is throwing around the term morons, because everyone thinks they're intelligent and you wouldn't be talking about them anyway. You can't get anywhere when you only bring in that one mega-exceptional person (comparatively) out of multiple millions. And those are the only people I'm bringing in right now. They are the ones secure enough in themselves. I think that is it. I think that's entirely it. That is such a huge piece of what is my problem pie. As I've said before, Thoreau wrote in his journals that you are totally fucked if you represent absolute greatness. What the public demands, he said, is an average person. (Imagine what he'd think now in the internet age and with our drastic devolution?) What the fuck is an average person in 2021? How low is that bar? But it's true. He was right. I'm trying to be the exception. And it's going horrendously. And the better I get, the worse it gets. Which was his point.
This week I saw on Facebook what is typical of what I see on Facebook. An author took a screenshot of their book deal, with a major, from Publishers Marketplace--a website that documents these things--and then 8000 people fawn over them. This woman, in this instance, has never made a penny with her writing. The book was a story collection, with Harper Perennial. She does not write for any venue that anyone has seen. Almost all of her published pieces--and there were not many--were with online literary magazines that are scarcely even blogs. Her "greatest hit," as such, was a short story in Prairie Schooner, a literary magazine in Nebraska, that does not pay at all, and charges you money to have your story looked at, in spring 2018. In spring 2018, I had fiction in Harper's. I had a dozen other works out simultaneously. Fiction in Glimmer Train, pieces in Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, op-ed in the LA Times. One gets the idea.
Now, this woman can do nothing else. She can't write op-eds, she's not in prominent places, she is not an expert on anything, she won't speak on the radio. She can't be launched into the culture. There are such limitations in what she can do. How she can earn. All of her pieces--because I looked--are the same. They are works by an academic with no expansive appeal. No value as art, as entertainment, from a person with a very low ceiling. Her ceiling is in the cellar. They were an intern at the right kind of places. Not places of consequence. Not places anyone has heard of. But within this circle. I offered this woman at Harper Perennial my book, Cheer Pack. In that book are stories from Harper's, Glimmer Train, Commentary, the VQR, Boulevard, and so forth, from the person who has published work in just about every major venue there is. Who does so much. Who is still young. Who does so many different things. Who is dynamic on the radio. Who can bring in crowds with a lot of things. Op-ed work, for instance.
I also offered that woman at Harper Perennial Longer on the Inside: Very Short Fictions of Infinitely Human Lives, which invents a new kind of fiction. It's "arty" and all of that, and populist, and easily readable, digestible, and you could also write books about it. And you know what she did? Now, you could have given me next to nothing for both. Five grand for each. For both together. No risk. Take a shot with this guy who is historically unique. Who has the crazy track record. Who is not some limited, simple, one-note shut-away cloistered in academia. Who can do so much in so many ways. And you can get him for all of these different kinds of books, too--story collections, novels, music books, essays, memoirs, film books, and so forth. A guy who is an art machine, and cranks great new work every day. Someone for whom the phrase force of nature was built. Some guy with the kickass, amazing blog that if it were the only thing he'd done would be enough to make it a life work and an all-time legacy work. And it's like the least of what he does.
What she did was she ignored me. Both times. Not even worth a response. To that guy. But she bought the book by this person who has done nothing, appears incapable of doing anything but what is billed as her works of feminist fiction, with the shitty stories that have no valiance or purpose in this world. That's it. A connection or two, and the feminism thing.
This author was objectified by this editor, but she probably doesn't know it or care. Her work is garbage. It's about these other things--the boxes she checked--and no money will be made from this. She'll sell a few hundred copies to her friends, her cronies in academia, and it will get token--which is to say fake--reviews by the usual suspects (LitHub, whose editor, Jonny Diamond, is a coward and a thief who stole money from me), just because of the press that put it out and the "feminism" tag. And that will be it. The book will do nothing and can't do anything. A story collection with a bloody major publishing house. This is the recipe. And nobody reads, and nobody cares.
That's publishing. The editor who bought this book was like the person who wrote it. And that was comforting for her. This wasn't about art, entertainment, or business. Whereas, I am sure I scared her, and also brought out the Green Beast. And they think so simply, so she also wouldn't know what to do with a force like myself. And she wouldn't have the social skills to have a conversation with me about that power, what we can do, how to best do it. I can explain a lot, because I am this thing. And I see the entire roadmap out in front of me. I know how this can happen. I know how to do it. But I need some backing. And I can also show someone, and explain to them, the nature of this map, and explain the route to take in this unique vehicle. That requires some back-and-forth, an open mind, an ability to listen, and probably some form of a connection. But there has to be openness. Not, "Oh, I will run, this is not at all the same kind of shit from the same kind of person I deal in exclusively."
By the way, I've now composed 269 works of short fiction since June 2018, and I would estimate that at least 200 of them feature female protagonists and there isn't a writer anywhere who can touch any of these stories.
Yesterday I began a story and put it aside. I then wrote a different short story called "Spearminty," which is awesome and was excerpted on here. I will send the complete final version to the Inner Circle in a few minutes. I then worked some more on fixing the Three Investigators essay. These were all minor points of judgment. I wrote some more of the Halloween piece on the 1945 nine-minute French film, The Vampire, and a British Public Information Film from the early 1970s starring Donald Pleasance--or his voice, anyway--that is this masterful horror film without necessarily meaning to be. I then finished writing the Otis Redding Christmas piece, which is excellent. I wrote some entries in this journal. I was exhausted. This is so much work. So much energy and emotional and creative energy. So I took a quick three-mile walk. On this walk, I did nothing but try and think of ways I could get some money coming in. Trying to come up with anything I could write, pitch, someone I might approach. I came back from the walk and wrote another short story called "Jesus Changes Everything," which is another radical explosion of form. Two landmark, shocking, beautiful works of fiction in a day. I figured out a Beatles essay I would write on the first take of "A Day in the Life." Then I watched John Ford's Sergeant Rutledge. I'll go over "Jesus Changes Everything" now and also send that to the IC. I just wrote a letter to an editor as I was writing this.
I will try to put up something cheerier next time. As I said, I don't like probing these wounds to bring out the truth. But I have to. This is life and death. If I do nothing, call attention to nothing, this will just end tragically and I will have no chance whatsoever for anything but the tragic end. I'll just be dead, and it will be like I had the worst life ever, but also like I never existed at the same time. None of this amazing art ever existed. So I have to say what is true now, because there is nothing else I can think to do and nothing else I have not already tried.