I have to get out the door quickly. I've done a lot today, but I need to really up the pace. It's noon right now. We can play the week game for last week later (which I would not be comfortable doing if I had not already done a lot this week), but will just recount the weekend now. I feel bad because on Sunday a woman wrote me a nice note on Facebook saying that she is a regular blog reader. I wanted to thank her, but I've just looked three times now and I cannot find the comment. I don't know whether it has been effaced or I am that inept with technology.
I started a story called "Authenticate" on Sunday. Halloween story. Pitched a baseball idea to my WSJ op-ed editor Saturday night. Sent an excellent Halloween essay--centered on a broadcast of Suspense from seventy years ago, with powerful implications for our age of the sinking ship of humanity and individuality--to The American Interest. I think copies of a recent issue showed up in the mail, which will mean some extra money for me if they reused something. I'll bring humanity and individuality back. Just give me a chance. Yesterday, Columbus Day, my work day began at 3:30 in the morning. I came up with half a dozen short story ideas. I listened to three Orson Welles radio broadcasts, two from Suspense, one from The Shadow. Am screening 1953's The War of the Worlds. I walked seven miles, ran six, climbed the Monument five times, doing the latter in a personal best twenty-five minutes. Yesterday, that is. Five climbs in a half hour is pretty fast, so this was really moving. On Sunday I walked three miles and climbed five times. At night I read in a park as the sun goes down and I can see my breath.
I have to double-check, but right now we are looking at forty-three works of completed short fiction since last June. There are twenty-five unsold works predating those works. Including a story accepted by both Harper's and The Atlantic that has no home. I'd estimate--they're written down, so I can count later--that I have come up with twenty new short story ideas in the past week. When I have the idea, it's done. I don't even need the idea. I can just sit down and do it. You could supply the idea. You give me the idea, and from your idea I will write the best work of fiction there has ever been. I can do it with anything now. That's new to this year. Maybe it happened after "Fitty." Somewhere around then. There were thirty preexisting ideas, and there are ten stories in various veins and stages of completion. I despaired to John, again, that even if I was the most beloved person in this industry, there is no set-up for these works to appear and be loved, there is not housing for them, if you will. You could offer to take all forty-three of these stories off my hands into whatever literary journals I wish, boom, they're out the door, and I'd say a flat out no at this point. They're too valuable for me to receive fifty bucks and a free copy of a magazine no one reads or has heard of. I'll do that with some of them, but not more than that. John said don't worry about this now, that it will all get read, that I am closer by the day, with each composed masterpiece, which I think is dead wrong and makes no sense to me, but I don't have the time nor energy to itemize the details of our disagreement on that score just now. He added that the range and quality is such that The New Yorker could put in a different Fleming story each week and that could be their entire allotment for a year, two years, and people would be blown away. Doesn't work like that. To date. Of course he knows this. But he thinks the gap is so great between this work and all other work that it's going to get sorted out. But it is hard not to think about on my end. Worry about. I don't just produce better work, I produce much more. And people would already be getting a very late start with my output, it's not like they would have been reading it all along, they'll enter into this and it would be like the Beatles had 500 albums and each one was new to you. I see that as a huge problem for me. John thinks it will be the opposite.
It is virtually impossible for even I to conceive of the same person writing Chads, writing Dark March, writing "Fitty," writing Buried, writing "Jute." Someone wrote me about "Jute," which I have not even begun to describe in these pages, but I will, soon. Called it timeless, ethereal, a classic. It is those things. But, that is not going to help me with it right now. That's the worst. Out of all of the bad feelings I have as a result of this hell, that one might be the worst.
I got cards for my mom and sister--mailed the former this morning--and Halloween cards for my niece and nephew. Wanted to get him a Star Wars one--he's into that--but couldn't find one. I sat and read at the Sail Loft last night. Alone, of course. Always alone. Got takeout. Went to the MFA yesterday as well. Saw the new ancient Nubia exhibit and also Women Take the Floor. I go to the bar alone, the museum alone, the symphony alone, football games alone, the ballet alone. It's upsetting. Not the alone part so much as my fear that there is no one out there in the world I will find sufficiently interesting, who is also truly good.
And squirts like a waterfall!
No, no, no--I jest. Dance to keep from crying.
Actually, that's a mixed metaphor. Waterfalls don't squirt. Sea cucumbers do.
Sunday was 1239 days without a drink. I had climbed the Monument five times four days in a row, but it won't be five times today. Had several talks with John about the new short stories. Some of them. I understand how difficult it is for him to read this work, see it for what it is, and then, as my friend, to know what the deal is. Of course, he can only imagine what it is like for me. Jesus Christ this work I am producing. It is insane how good it is. And there is so much, the ceaseless flow. There is a catch-22 with feedback. People are, of course, absolutely overwhelmed, blown away, they can barely process the quality of the work (and then, too, the range and quantity, that it all comes from one human and when it does), they are overcome with feeling and emotion, they connect with it, they see it in their lives and experiences, it pulses in their cores, it is a kind of artistic magnetic north, and the drama is as intense as drama can be in its developing, measured increase of tension (one of the new ones, called, simply, circle--the title is the shape of a circle--epitomizes this last notion in particular), and this they convey to me. There are specific words, but there is also the excitement, the tonal excitement, the spluttering, even, of that attempt to find their own words, feeling that none are adequate, to describe what they've just experienced. You want to see that, but at the same time, it makes the injustice hit home even harder, it's like a stick the size of the world being shoved up your ass, again and again and again, and you're living like that, you are taking that, that's your reality, that is your prison of pain, you are living under that regime right now and you don't know how you're going to overthrow it, only that you must keep fighting.
Talking about a boatload of classical music on the radio later today.
I just looked again. I cannot find this. Even people who like me do not tend to engage with me out in the open because I am generally found to be intimidating, and now someone takes the time to say a kind word and I look like I am being rude.
This is Gertrude Fiske’s Wells Beach, oil on canvasboard, circa 1920. Heterogeneity of seascape and power lines. Uncommon construction. Maine is the setting.