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Wherewith shall it be salted?




Some of the worst people I have ever known--nay, let me correct that...some of the worst people I can imagine, who in fact exist, people who are endlessly bigoted, hateful, toxic, thieving, petty, childish, hypocritical--men and women--and who have been set up in a system where they earn nothing, and only look after their own--the people like them, who have their "breeding," who went to their schools, who have the right agent, who also have earned nothing, who contribute nothing to the world save the warping of minds when they are teachers--are busy raging on social media with all-out hate for anyone who does not think as they do, as if they were deep thinkers who could process many different viewpoints, accounts, facts, at once, in a brilliant accordance of mental cogency. So few of them have any conception of the bile they spew. In the name of honor, justice, and often in the forced attempt at reality to show that they are one of the good ones. I interact with these people, over decades of experience, I have seen how flat out toxic and vile they are, I have been ground down by it, I have stood by railway tracks thinking I can just end this and get out of a world where I seem to be imprisoned by a system that hates truth, legitimacy, individuality, decency, sanity, art. We are friends on Facebook not because I like them. Just to see what they do. And so they can see what I do. What they are about, what I am about.


I'm not going to get into what I believe or don't believe regarding yesterday's hearing. What I will say is that, on either side, a great many number of things can be true. And I don't know. And you don't know either. Can I see where she is coming from? Yes, but to a point; can I do the same with him? Yes, but to a point. Does that make me horrible? Read this blog. Read my work. Listen to me on the radio. You know me if you do any of those things, to some degree. And I'm not horrible. But I just don't know here. I have some ideas of my own. You know what? I've loved people and known them for years, and I've believed them, and I've been wrong to have done so. I was married to someone who did something that was as bad as anything I can conceive of at the level of what one person might do to a single other person, and I never, ever, ever, thought she could lie like she did, and in so complicated and extended a fashion, as though she had planned the lies for many years. That person I trusted my life with, who held much of my life in her hands, whom I thought I knew better than I knew anyone. Better than I know my mom--whom I've spoken to for most of the days of my forty-three years--or my best friend, who has been my friend for more than twenty years. And I didn't know. In fact, it took us four years after the fact, after the abuse, after the complicated plan of betrayal and destruction to begin to really come down to the bottom of what she had done, how far it had gone, how intricate the planning of the lies had been.


I wonder, sometimes, how much life experience the people who scream at you in anger on Facebook really have had. What happens if you disagree with them? What would happen to your relationship? Because some of these people I like a lot, even, and there are a handful I consider friends, not a term I use lightly or frequently. What would happen to your work with them? One thing I've learned in this life is that someone screaming against something vehemently, will often--almost always--be a person doing a version of that exact same thing they are condemning. They can't see this. They're in the froth. They love the froth. They have chums in the froth with them to build up the spume. It's a giant froth-spume orgy bath. It takes the mind off thinking, it takes a measured approach and dashes it on the rocks, it does no good for people who have been wronged, people telling the truth, people who are not telling the truth, people out in the world not immediately involved in the point of discussion who have truths that really need to be shared, for the right reasons. There is a race industrial complex right now, and misandry is a business right now, a platform, a way to get a story published, a book deal, awards, a staff job at The Atlantic. Misandry and sexism made Roxane Gay, who has no talent with which she could have made herself. She is a product of the times, her form of hate is a business plan, and this remains a reality--for it has nothing to do with me--even if I think Kavanaugh is entirely lying. Would it shock me to learn if he was? If that happens? Nope. Would it shock me to learn that Dr. Ford is lying? If that happens? Nope. Would it shock me if he's telling a version of the truth, and she is as well, perhaps about someone else? Nope. Would it shock me if she's telling the 100% truth? No. Would it surprise me if I learned that this is all about something that no one has even, for a second, considered yet? Nope. There is nothing that can surprise me here. I have known human evil in ways that most never will. I've known lies in ways that most never will. There were things I would have assumed were not possible fifteen years ago, ten years ago, six years ago. But I know better now. I don't know these people. I saw some testimony. I do know that what she said, what he said, is completely immaterial to many people, because more than ever, we go into something having something we wish to see, and what the reality is of how that thing plays out is practically irrelevant.


We already have our reactions ready, like they're in a canister, and we just wanted the official opportunity to unscrew the lid and dump them out for our chums on social media, and for our ever-present desire to avoid actually working hard at self-awareness, self-growth, dealing with what we do wrong, so we can instead look outward and declare what others do wrong, so we can pin a ribbon to our hollow breasts about what good people we are, and look! there are so many others--the smart ones, the graduate students, the super educated, the top editor--who feel like we do. Going to schools and sitting in classrooms does not make you smart. Some of the least intelligent people I've ever dealt with in this life went to Yale, more than anywhere else. I can tell from how they write an email, before I double-check, that they went to Yale. A good person is very hard to find. A smart person is very hard to find. A smart, good person? I bet there are less than 10,000 of those in the world. Is she one? Is he one? I have no idea. I don't know these people. Nor do you. And people do all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons, and they do all kinds of things for reasons they don't know, or reasons they're not aware of. Nothing would surprise me as to the truth. But this thing that he was angry, that he was mansplaining? Yeah, because if you were innocent--let's pretend he is--and this happened to you, you'd be a wreck. You might rally, but people can't even take the criticism of "hey, this doesn't work in your story" without tearing their clothes apart or getting drunk or booking an extra session with their therapist, or upping their meds, so do I think you'd buck up as your life came crashing down and you were the talking point of the whole country? Nope. Chances are no, anyway. But if you rallied, and you defended yourself, and fought for yourself, your spouse, your kid, and the edges of your voice got a little ragged with emotion? You know what I'd think about you? I'd think you were a human.


We are still allowed to be human.


That was not a job interview. It was a hearing on very serious charges. If they are true, they are absolutely awful. And you deserve what you get if you did that to another human. If they are not true, then you need to fight for your life. I see these people who are going to call a man angry, a misogynist, who are going to say he is mansplaining, no matter what he says. They're going to make fun of a man for crying, they are going to conflate a hearing on something incredibly serious with a job interview, when it's not a job interview. If one person sexually assaults another, the attempt to determine if that was the case is so far beyond a job interview. You are belittling assault victims when you call that a job interview. But I have learned that there are all kinds of ways to rape somebody. You can physically rape them, but you can also rape their life. You can seek to end them by power, by force, by numbers, by the internet. You can seek to silence them. To do what you will with their entire life, sans consent. That's the new rape. What we do to people on the internet is the new mode of rape, and we do it in the name of how righteous we are, because really, when you get down to it, we fucking hate ourselves, and it feels better to focus on hating someone else than how bad we really feel about what we are. "They deserved it" is the new version of "She really wanted it." When, that is, it comes from a place where the truth is not securely/as close-to-definitively established as possible, and you have to work to get to the truth.


One thing I will touch on as I have read comment upon comment about how evil men are, is that if you are a straight white male, it is an awful time to be in publishing. If you are self-made, it is worse; if you are athletic-looking, it's worse again; if you're a genius, it gets immeasurably worse; if you write work that people would actually like, that is not for entitled, pretentious Brooklyn lit grad students, it is worse yet again; if you are not miserable, if you have ebullience, wit, if you deal in truths rather than affectation, it feels like you are the most fucked person ever. If you were Twain, if you were Dickens, would anyone in this world ever trumpet your work? If you were Poe? Or would you be either shunned or destroyed? I see today that the "Cat Person" person has reviewed three books in The New York Times Book Review. The New York Times Book Review has a policy of not reviewing my work, because Gregory Cowles, an editor there, personally hates me. Despite the fact that I wrote for him, there were no edits, and hell, I even took him and his colleague to lunch. I had done three pieces for three separate New York Times Book Review editors. No edits, save minor copy edit stuff. Do you know how often that happens? Basically never. You see my work. You see the level it's at. It's never the work if you're banning me, blackballing me. Then, Cowles ignored me for three years, after saying he'd find something soon. Those three years are now seven. But read the "Cat Person" person's review of three story collections. I could have told you what it would say before I read it, but I didn't expect--I should have--for it to be this prosaicly written. Look how bad the writing is. There is not a single compelling thought in this review. It's a bad book report, which makes sense, as "Cat Person" read like a bad, pedestrian, diary entry from a middle school student, but about her older sister. She offers no insight. She cannot write. She has no talent. She has what she has because the fashion right now in literature is for meaningless, boring, writing, and for hooray for women, men suck, and white men suck the most. She is simply saying what happens in a few stories. Dryly, brittly, so that you can practically taste sawdust at the back of your throat. Her prose is cracked with lines like the dried up mud flats of a desert. It's desiccated. There is nothing of the vaguest merit in it. There never will be. I knew the piece reviewed three books. I knew that at least two would have to be by women, and I knew that if there was a book by a man that would be the only one that had negative things said about it. Now, I haven't read these books, but I would bet each is godawful. There is next to nothing in fiction right now that is not godawful. The very system exists to publish crap that no one out in the world could actually get anything from, it exists to publish blase, safe, pretentious writing that people within the system don't read any more than people outside of it--or not much more, anyway--and who pretend to like it, because their entire existence is an extended form of affectation. Their anger, even, is an extended form of affectation. There is nothing real about these people, save the damage they can do to someone they hate for reasons that has nothing to do with work, and the damage they do to culture and society by salting the arts as one might salt the earth. And salting truth, and how we arrive at it, too, of course.