I have been shivering with cold for several hours, for some reason. I have pushed fairly hard lately, though I would say I've been operating at 30% capacity of what I'm capable. So it goes when you spend 99% of your life writing to people who hate you because you achieve and produce and are entirely legit, unprecedented, and self-made. There is nothing worse to many publishing people than that. But I would put up the last ten days I have had--which was six business days--against any ten day period from any artist at any point. Today I composed 2100 more words, completing "Nacho Cheese" at 5000 words. I started that Thursday. Did some more Saturday. Then today. That was after finishing "TK" Wednesday, having started it Saturday. So that means inside of those ten days I started and completed two short stories, did two reviews, and wrote two essays. The stories alone totaled 9700 words, and I have never written anything finer than each of them. (And that's with having a day where I covered thirty-one miles on foot, and watching plenty of crap TV, and going to museums and films, and sitting by the harbor idly staring at the rabbits on the adjacent lawn.) They are stories that will be around for a long time once they get out there. "NC" reduced me to a puddle as I completed it. I don't believe a work of art can be too moving. But this took that notion to the edge. There is a maturity in this last cluster of longer stories--"Funny Lines TK," "Nacho Cheese," "The Last Field," "Cheer Pack"--that ripens into forms of wisdom that represent another level in my journey as an artist. I have so much more to blast out now just to get through this next clump of deadlines. Those percentages I cited were real. If my life were not given over to sending hundreds of letters to people who despise me, and the many people who owe me money, and I simply composed and lived a life, I could comfortably do six to twelve books a year. That would be a holiday. I wouldn't even notice the work, compared to the hell that this is. Because you're sitting there, you're writing a story and you know exactly how good it is, you will put it up against any story anyone wishes to name, and you already know how these people feel about you, and their anti-meritocracy. Hell, after I had fiction in Harper's, so many of them couldn't wait to pay me back for achieving that. When I have those days when I'm in The New York Times before people have their morning and then on NPR before it's afternoon, life gets worse. They pay me back. Then I somehow get better. I work harder. My talent takes me to another level, and I achieve more than before, despite them. And then the hate goes up again. That's the cycle right now. It's not going to matter in the end, because when I have my chance, all of this is going to allow me to expose and end their system all the faster. And I remember every last exchange, email, every example of the corruption. My mind just does not forget things. When you write as much as I do, and you're writing on all of these subjects, you're an expert on all of these subjects, you can't do that if you forget anything. It's just not possible. You always have to have it there in your head, every last thing since you first began to think, since you first began to be exposed to anything, since you first started trying to absorb the world, basically. This shivering is concerning. I sweat so much when I do these crazy workouts like those Monument climbs yesterday in the humidity, and I end up in those clothes for a while, and I wonder if that is the problem. I cannot have the pneumonia again. I don't get sick. I have a singularly high pain tolerance. This stems, in part, from the migraines I had as a kid. They would last for days at a time. There was concern that I had a brain tumor. I recall being four, five, and banging my head against the wall because that hurt less than the headaches. I've always had different definitions of things. Pain. What it means to be busy. What abuse is. Good things, too. Love, for instance. I don't think most people know what love is. I think love is one of the rarest things in this world. I don't have love in my life right now. But I know what it is. Well, I shouldn't say I don't have it in my life. I don't have a person-based version of it in my life. Anyway, in summer 2016, I had the pneumonia and I was in the worst physical pain of my life for almost two weeks. The only comparables were the migraines, and then when I had a stroke in 2012 in San Francisco on account of life becoming too much after things that were done to me by someone so evil that I was never even angry, because there is a form of evil that is so beyond the pale of what people can do to each other even at their very worst that anger can't begin to cover what you feel. You become entirely orientated, when it comes to what has gone down, to pulling all of that into the light, in justice. In truth. I had to go to Charles MGH twice with the pneumonia. Actually, part of "Nacho Cheese" takes place at MGH. It's a very well-plotted story. You rarely see capable plots anymore. You see overwritten and pretentious crap that no one outside in the world would connect with, that writing students pretend to, a lack of an actual story, and then a downbeat ending over nothing more consequential than a packet of Twix. Hell, less consequential. Give me the Twix. Would-be readers, the people who are left with only touted crap to read, are the victims, and these victims are subsequently blamed for being too stupid and having attention spans that are too limited to read. Which is not the problem in the slightest. I had migraines like the ones I experienced as a child with the pneumonia, and my temperature went to 105. I would vacillate between just being this human stream of sweat, where I could actually watch liquid flow out of my pores. Out of my shins, my forearms, my ankles. Before I could go even to the hospital, I had to sit down in the basement, on the metal steps, and basically just drain, wait for the sweat to come out and make a puddle at my feet. And then I would shiver so hard my teeth felt like they were going to break against each other. I was living pretty healthily at the time, too. This was a few months after I had stopped drinking. I was walking over fifty miles every week. Anyway, when I got sick, I gave myself two weeks. I said, "you have two fucking weeks to fix this, to get back to working harder than before, so marshal your mental discipline and start using your mind on your body. You are stronger than this shit." And sure enough, on the fourteenth day I walked around by the Charles. It was funny: I was still pretty weak, such that if I had to go up so many as three stairs--you know what I mean, those stairs that aren't stairs, they're more like little ramps in a city you don't normally notice--I didn't have my wind. But it got better, and soon I was running again. I didn't do Monument climbs at the time like I do now. Did you ever notice in old novels and stories how people are dropping dead of pneumonia like every twenty-five pages? Pneumonia is never something to trifle with. Anyway. I'm drinking various forms of tea right now, nice and steamy, and I think I'm getting back to feeling myself again. I started watching Glitch on the Netflix under the covers, like I was in a fort. There are a lot of shows like this now. People coming back from the dead and being like "Hey, wait, what's up here?" The Returned. I saw that one--the French version. I started the American version but just didn't care enough. The French one has creepy elements. The terroir has a lot to do with that. I listened to a few more discs of the complete Cutting Edge set today, as that is something I want to write a book on down the road. Dylan was an artist who understood the role of energy. You can tell how important it is to him in the studio. The energy to bring into the performance. (He also wrote with a lot of energy. "Highway 61 Revisited" has great energy. It's also hilarious.) That doesn't mean you play fast, or loud, or hard. It's so much more nuanced than that. But all great art has great energy. Every single last great work of art has great energy. I see no energy, ever, in fiction right now.
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