Search

When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead

Wednesday 3/13/19

I am going to toggle a bit. Having a hard time getting started today, but at least I've gotten started. Have commenced an essay on Martin Goldsmith's 1939 novel Detour for The Daily Beast. I have not updated the News tab for the site in a while. Also, I have not updated the various subject Tabs with new links going back to, I believe, August. There is some bug that makes it such that I have to do each attempted update like six times before it stays up. But I have to get the recent content on here, and that's probably, gosh, I don't know--it's probably forty links, right? Going back to August? Fifty? Even then, what will be up is such a small representation of what I have done, covering less than five years. It's going to take me so long to go back to 2008 or so, which is what I was planning.


Last week on Downtown I discussed how the internet is destroying humanity. I believe I am here to contribute something large to the saving of humanity. I do. I think that's why I was given this mind and this ability and this strength. And it's what I've always been focused on, something bigger than myself or anyone and driven along by that faith and the knowledge of what I am in what is a quest larger-than-life for someone else. But I don't think, yet, that it's larger than mine. As it is, right now, the way things are going, humanity will not end with a bang, a whimper, but a click. Yesterday's segment was on coffee. But, naturally, it was not just on coffee, because nothing I do on that given subject is just on that subject. I seek to provide that which is most human, to provide maximum human connectivity. This coffee discussion touched on Balzac, Beethoven, my workout routine, the Puritans, cunnilingus, Mississippi John Hurt, Dominique Wilkins, hockey, Robert Johnson, kindergarten art classes, Huffys, Christmas, the sea, film noir, gerunds, corpulence, bike helmets, Bach, Dylan, and Westerns, and I got to do my Boston meathead impersonation, which is always a good time.


I was talking to an academic after. I have been doing some experiments in interaction. This was a person who wants to write, who takes classes on writing, and teaches writing. They express themselves in acronyms. They give you the LOL. I shared yesterday's radio segment. This produced a comment of, "Did you drink a lot of coffee before this?" And nothing else. You can bust my balls all you want, and I'll respect you for it, if it is coming from a place where I know you are not too frightened to also let me know what you really think. But I sound like I was overly-caffeinated because why? I was great on the radio? Make your bad joke grounded in zero sense if you want, but don't just leave it at that and that alone--says so much about you. Tells me how weak you are and that you play not to lose, which means you will always lose out on anything of consequence. I don't need things like this in my life. Academics have absolutely no vim to them usually. So if you are at all inspirited, and funny, and informative, and interesting, they are threatened and rather than do an outright dig, they go the passive aggressive route. Academics hate a limb. Risking saying too much. Vulnerability. Personally, I'll hop up and down on the limb like it's a springboard, because that's really what a limb is. One of the keys to good radio--and good art--is energy. You can't have good radio without energy. I get this. I understood it from the very first time I was on, years ago. Orson Welles understood. It's why it suited him so well--he always created best when his energy was up, when he could launch himself all but bodily into a project, often under huge pressure, with no margin for error. His adrenaline helped fuel his genius. It's an interesting point. Listen to Dracula and The War of the Worlds with the Mercury Theatre, or even some of the Adventures of Harry Lime programs, or Les Miserables, his first radio production from 1937. Do you hear the energy? You can't have good radio without good energy. Write it down. I start with energy. People want to do prosaic pleasantries at the beginning, they want to premable, throat clear--no. Start with the energy. I'll start with a joke or a punchy way to begin my segment. It's not planned. You just do it. Come up with it. How fast can you think? How fast can you speak perfectly after you thought what you thought?


Same person asks me if I'm solicited for work, or I get it because I pitch things, because it seems like I'm always working on something. Gee, you think so? So what do I say then? I've never been solicited. There is no agent in this country who would represent me--despite that I am more successful than their clients, and an infinitely better writer, which is instantly demonstrable--no venue that would review me, no anthology to include me, no award board to give me anything. Solicit me. Right. Not only do I get all of this on my own, I get it all against great resistance. How do you go into that? Read the blog. That's all I can say to you. I mentioned some things I was going to write soon. Had a couple Easter things to do. Then I'm asked why. I say for money. They say, no, on what subjects. I answer with Ernest Renan and an M.R. James ghost story set at Easter. Now, this is the literature student. And this student has not, of course--because they know absolutely nothing (I think they're thirty-two or so)--heard of either of these people. They only know the people that their professors tell them to know (which are often their shitty writer friends), and the talentless system people of publishing that they are told to care about.


They know nothing else about anything in this world. A major piece of the overall problem for me, of what someone I know calls "the pie," is that no one can wrap their mind around what I do. People can't accept it. The best fiction writer is the best writer on film, on literature, on art, on music, on sports, is the best op-ed writer, is the best on the radio, the best diarist, and they have not even been given a chance yet to branch out even further, to endlessly ramify, which they can and will do with ease, with the chance. That's what I am. Just go there. It's happening. It's real. That person is alive in this lifetime. Just deal with it. You can just accept it. I'm not a generalist, I'm not a journalist, I'm not a freelancer, I do each and every one of those things I do--the music writing, the fiction writing, etc.--better than someone else whose entire career is that one thing. Read any of it. Listen to any of it. It's a world of specialists right now who know nothing about their given subject, which you can get away with, because no one else knows jack enough to say, "hey, that's not true," but being a specialist is venerated because our minds are becoming smaller and smaller as we more and more cognitively incapacitated. Lazier and lazier.


Meanwhile, I'm rocketing in the opposite direction faster than Da Vinci did. And no one can grasp what that shape of that comet truly is. And, as you'd guess, this person who writes nothing tells me how busy they are. Come on. And as climbing the Monument came up, I was deemed to be "obsessed" with stairs. (This is not an individual with a strict physical regimen, I would say.) When we discussed diet, I made some remark about how I changed mine, and paid attention to sodium, for which I was labeled obsessed about salt. There was a time in my life that I would have said, well, at least I'm not obsessed with crullers. I might still say that to you now--but you really have to push me with something horrid on your end, rather than something merely annoying. Then again, these remarks mount such that they become a death of a thousand paper cuts, which is can be worse; it's more enervating, I think, more dispiriting.) And obsessed with a couple other things. So, this person did not even understand what the word "obsessed" means. When you are obsessed, it means you focus on that one thing to the exclusion of other things. As we had had a conversation, too, about what the last weekend had entailed for each of us, this becomes even more vexatious for the reason that it's so flat out dumb. Look at everything I compose. Everything I go to with the museums, the ballets, the symphonies, the forests, the plays, the films. The albums, the books, the movies, the stories, the poems constantly being poured into my head. The sports events I am always at. The litany of brainless people I deal with on dating apps. My radio commitments. The books I'm always composing. I do more on a Monday morning before eleven than someone else will do that year.


How do I do it? It's magic, what can I say? I am not other people. You know, yesterday, I just sat on my ass, my version of it, and I composed 4500 words, walked three miles, screened four films, climbed 1800 stairs, talked on the radio, sent out a book, pitched. That all took me like no time. Okay, let's bang out some brilliant essay. Back in a bit. (And you know what I've never said in these pages? "I'm so busy." So, if someone writing tens of thousands of words a week, trying to change the world because they actually can and will with some backing, keeping up an insane fitness routine so they don't have a heart attack because of their stress, dealing with getting around and/or taking down an industry that hates them and wants to end them, never says they're are busy--and helps people out, and has time for them, and can budget time to write letters for their neighbors, and piss about on dreadful dating apps and still watch plenty of reruns of Family Guy and Bruins games--then maybe, just maybe, if you're saying you're so busy, it's mouth-shutting time. Maybe? People have no clue what it means to be busy. They'd explode if they tried to maintain the pace of a single morning here. And I'm working at less than ten percent of my capacity, because I have been beaten down for so long and I feel like a portion of my soul is cut off and tortured in front of me each time I create some masterpiece that I know has no chance right now because of the unified wishes of a historically, unprecedentedly corrupt system. When I have taken that system down, or succeeded in spite of it, further relegating it to the ashcan of irrelevance, you will see what it looks like when someone is truly busy. Because I will be busy being the flood that overruns all. Good flood, but flood all the same.)


***


First 650 words in the can. Read over some of the info for this college admissions scandal. I am not in the least surprised. What would have surprised me in the past was that others are surprised, that people don't know this is how most things work. People don't try to be good. They don't answer to values, morals, their consciences. They are avaricious and care only about themselves usually. They don't answer to an overarching notion of right and wrong. People often do not give a toss about right or wrong when no one is watching, or when they think no one is. That takes self-reflection and moral and spiritual and emotional and psychological discipline and empathy and, too, sacrifice. As for college: If you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, you have to go to college. If you want to be an artist, or you are okay with having a job--like being a realtor, or a Starbucks manager--that does not require a degree, you should not go to college. You will not learn anything in college. If you want to be a writer, you will learn nothing about that there. I took lots of music and film classes. I almost failed out of all of them. What's that tell you? I tried. I'd sit there, and the professor would say that Citizen Kane came out in 1943, and everyone would write this down. They had no clue that this person couldn't even get dates right.


But I did. And I'm sitting there thinking, "Jesus Christ, what do I do about this moron? Do I say something? Do I just give the wrong answer for this?" That came up over and over and over again. I'd want to talk about editing techniques, like a match cut in a film, and the professor would say, "What's that? Did you make that up? I don't think that's a term." The most basic cinematic vocabulary. When I got out of college, I worked at a hardware store, I shelved books at a library, I worked as a bouncer of all things (at the Rattlesnake). And I wrote when I could, and I read all I could, and I learned, and listened, and screened. And you throw in debt that you're going to be saddled with? I saw that one of these kids went to college after her parents bribed people, not to learn anything--she was very open about that on a social media account--but for parties and gamedays. She is something called an "influencer." Now, this is something I don't want to look into too much, because it will upset me and I have enough to deal with just now, but I would imagine that means that she is paid millions of dollars by places like Amazon to look attractive, deck out something like her door room in high-priced items, and be basically a living mannequin on social media to get empty, depressed, shallow, broken, "please please please please please let me follow you" people to try and imitate her---which is to say, buy what she has. Am I right? These parents already could give their kids advantages other parents could not, and they still had to...not just cheat. This is worse than cheating. And of course the people at the colleges were too imperceptive to spot any of this.


***


Finished the Detour piece. 1800 words. Excerpt:


Goldsmith was a shrewd writer. “Haskell was driving without his sunglasses and I noticed that his eyes looked sleepy,” Alex narrates. There’s an accumulation of these details—an ashen color of the skin (both men are around their early thirties), puffiness in the face that comes and goes. It’s like an index of symptoms from a medical site for someone who might be having heart problems, but it’s very subtle. So when it starts to rain with Alex driving while Haskell sleeps, and he stops the car to put up the top, his attempts to wake Haskell by opening his door result in the bookie falling out and hitting his head on a rock. He’s dead. Problem! He probably had been dead for a while, but it looks now like Alex bashed him one, and this sets in motion the cycle of Calvinism-on-the-roids that becomes the plot’s autarchic ruler.

Meanwhile, we have Sue. She lives with a girl who is less of a dreamer and has her shit together, while Sue is working at a drive-up eatery and humping lesser Hollywood stars in hopes of meeting someone more useful. Goldman nails this voice. If you want to argue how a man isn’t allowed to do a first-person female voice (sexist and ignorant as you may be), read this.


He’s better at it than he is the Alex voice, which is damn convincing on its own, and could have sustained the whole of the novel. After she hooks up with a guy who’s basically a glorified extra and goes back to her apartment, she repairs to the bathroom while her roommate sleeps outside to masturbate because she didn’t climax during sex, and to douche, in hopes that she doesn’t get pregnant. This is no nonsense stuff. Men “can quickly forget things they prefer not to remember, and no matter what it is they have done, there are scarcely any distasteful after effects, recriminations or—worse yet—abortions.”


That’s weal-raising noir pulp talk for you. Suffice it to say, the clit-circling-whilst-abortion-mulling sequence doesn’t make it into the film. Alex, on his end, rolls Haskell into a ditch, takes his clothes, takes his money, and figures his best bet is to pretend he’s him, and unload the car first chance he gets. This dude isn’t St. Thomas Aquinas. But he’s not a heel. Goldsmith wants us to ponder how bad our luck can go. How we can be a chew toy of the universe. And what do you do when the universe lays the lumber? Do you fold as a moral person? Do you seek to reroute and become immoral yourself so as to profit? Do you panic and fall apart? Do you rally and grow, as life paddles your ass and stops up your mouth?


***


Walked three miles, climbed the Monument three times. I passed a comely woman--maybe thirty--on the stairs a couple times. She was wearing a Harvard sweatshirt and carrying a tote bag from The Strand. She asked me how many cycles I was doing today, and I replied, "an andante three." She looked at me as though I were crazy, and a "what" sort of dribbled out of her mouth. So much for that "meet cute" story. This is the kind of person who buys a copy of The Believer and makes sure it is displayed conspicuously so that people know they have it. Speaking of The Believer: I saw someone on Facebook last night saying a piece that had taken nine months to "gestate" was now in The Believer. I looked them up. They were exactly as I thought they would be. Went to Brown, live in Brooklyn. Always the same. The essay, which she says is "poly-textual" and is about "cathexis"--because of course it is!--is called "Stranger Situation: Searching for Donnie and Joe Emerson's 'Baby' Amidst Economic and Romantic Precarity, Temporarily Vanquishing Death." This is not an academic journal. This is sold in bookstores. This is what publishing--the part that is not genre--pretends to believe that you want. But it's always about them, and it's not about you, the consumer, the thinker, someone with emotions, the person who wants entertainment and/or edification. I believe in you and care about what adds value to your life. But they don't. Do you know who honestly wants to read something like this? No one in the history of Earth. What these people seek to do is use pretentiousness as a screen to hide the reality that they have absolutely nothing of substance or value to say. Always the same. Always times always times always. Anyway. Three straight climbs five of the last six days. And now to the Starbucks to work.


***


Emma came by the Starbucks so we hung out. I bought her a milk and a sandwich. (Her mother brought me some pasta and a cutlet the other night that was really good or certainly better than what I normally eat.) She told me about this girlfriend she had. Today she was wearing her first dress, which she got over the weekend in Rhode Island at the Target. I am not sure how secure she is in these matters so I told her that she looked great, it was a good look. While we were chatting--a lot about Alice in Wonderland and Emma's not incorrect theory that it's a very druggy work, a point of literary criticism an earlier teacher of hers was not pleased to hear remarked in class--I think she was in second grade then--Emma received an email saying she'd been accepted to Boston Arts Academy. I was happy for her. Fist bump. She had to draw some objects in the classroom for her entrance exam, so she drew a spinal column and turned it into a scythe. Then we came back to the building and got the dog to take him to the dog park, where Emma helped herself to some of my coffee and told me Starbucks coffee is gross. She prefers Dunkin' Donuts, but there is not a Dunkin' Donuts at the end of our street, and you can't sit in Dunkin' Donuts for extended periods of time unless you are up to no good or on the methadone. Anyway, it was good to see her. During this time I was working on the new stories in my head.