Night Shades I – Derek Maine
March 5, 2021
(One of) Your problem(s) is an inability to stop thinking of literature in terms of very old or very dead hyper masculine white america. No, I’m not talking about fucking diversity. I’m just *saying* that none of your idols grew up with the internet. The medium has been given no lashing or love letter, not even a simple accounting. You said to Gary tonight “Every social interaction now we are staring back at ourselves.” The self has to be the center of the story because it, and how we perceive it, and try to change it, and try to even just figure out very basic shit like what it is, is the central feature of the lived experience, as you found it.
Disabuse you of notions, I need to get the fuck home.
I’ve taken my medicine. I’ve napped in my own bed. My neighbor’s Trump flag still flies. Socializing in the time of the plague did not break me. I need to locate the name of the aluminum foil artist. I have a lingering question. Was his death sudden and unknown to him? Because if not, and this is why I must know the answer, he could have destroyed his secret creation and it would not be on display at the National Museum of Art in Washington, D.C.
Before the rape allegations, Austin sold over 50,000 copies of his book. Toured the world. Steve’s on stage with SZA. His new album dropped. Even TB Sheets…no, not yet. Yes, it is a competition. This isn’t pick-up. This isn’t sparring. We’re not teenagers. All adults here. Adult situations.
I feel like I’ve been through a thrasher. Thrasher of wheat. Thrushes in the cornfield. Nothing draining since before Christmas. Just molecules bouncing around off each other violently, persistently inside skull and skin suit. I need my bearings, I repeat. I repeatedly repeat replete with all and every accompanying guilt-shame-desire human complex. Four stories and a poem in the next two weeks, you are going to annoy every single person who’s ever shown a wisp of interest in you or your work. “All he does is self-promote,” and the followers start dropping off like flies to new shit, abandoning me to my cult of one. Nothing since before Christmas. You even made a list. Nothing has been done. You’re growling in the wind. My voice is permanently damaged from screaming, I may never find it.
Fucking around with a flame wondering why you got your hand burnt. Goddamn, boy. They got hospice here. Uncle Wayne I thank you for hiring me to help you hang blinds that summer, I wasn’t doing well at all, I was drinking a lot, I must have smelled awful, you never judged, you never made me feel bad about myself, you never said a word. We smoked constantly. We were not good at putting up blinds. You were one of the most racist men I’ve ever known. Or are, I don’t know if you’ve crossed over yet. You served as a Deacon; I suppose that’ll help you now. I envy it, I’m not shitting you. I’ll be gasping to stay when it’s my turn, terrified of the nothingless void. Your son is a racist city cop. Your daughter still lives with you. She’s 40. You were so filled with love and hate and bullshit. Or are, I don’t know what time it is there.
Where are my pills? Where’s my money? I have to be interesting. I have to sing for my supper. It’s not enough, the work. I have to be likable too. Maybe especially. I have to be a pleasant person. People wanting my company, and whatnot. The work is of absolutely no importance to the world writ large. Every day less and less readers, more and more writers. Fighting for the same six eyeballs. It’s a losing proposition, it’s an unfair set-up. Swimming in shit. You love it, you’d have it no other way. Where are my pills? Where can I put this dick? It is throbbing.
The tenses of read and read being indecipherable when read.
The present being tense.
Restraint is the tool I most need. That or just: where do things go? Either think a thought & leave it there (oh, but then! it would disappear into a colorless void, the shape of nothing the likes of which we could never fathom — unable to consider the scope of loneliness to come) or Jackson Pollack piss all over every surface. This is soft, sweet, & bookish: Send to twitter. This is self-important, slightly crafted, and narcissistic: Send to [redacted]. This is a picture of my daughter on the happiest day of my life because we dressed up and had a tea party: Send to instagram. This is about the Tarheels lack of shooting: Send to Grant. This is boxing: Send to Medium. Always fracture, always be less than, and always just be a piece of yourself. This is the bedroom. This is the lights switching off. This is the time I sit in darkness, wide-awake until practically morning.
Gary’s in a Kafka bureaucratic nightmare, vampires sucking his energy. Bibles is being pulled apart; they want his pieces for little souvenirs. I am answering questions, sorting data on spreadsheets, telling my children to shut up. There’s no room for the arts. I need to write Elle back about the edits to Farm Hand; I can’t because I hate the story now – I want it to just go off into the woods and die like Styles and Sam and (one day soon) Lily. I keep a list of what I have to do. It’s the only way I can breathe. Otherwise, I’d be back in the behavioral health center except this time with children and I never thought to investigate the visiting protocols, and can you imagine visiting your father in the fucking nuthouse, oh my god, and I complain about having a depressive drunk for one—well at least that’s a popular model. Lot of fellow commiserates on that path. The list is ballooning out of control with phone calls, emails to send, data to sort, 4 fucking stories that all fucking suck to fucking work on, tomorrow I start Andrew’s class, I bought way too much weed in DC and now I’m ingesting it all way too quickly, I can’t become a drug writer, where the fuck are my wits, why do I feel and seem scattered to bits? No answers today, march forward today, take morning medicine, for god’s sake Gary has to follow suit and do the same, we must be in top form, all of us.
[insert a picture or a fucking dash so the reader can go to the bathroom]
New Moral Stories is a collection where every piece acts as a moral tale to illustrate the epigraph. It is impossible to tell if the story followed the epigraph or the epigraph was summoned by the story. The tales themselves occasionally contain a spark but are typically aggressively average. The epigraphs served to illustrate that anything worth knowing is worth understanding in up to three sentences. The morals themselves are very basic, very white male Protestant American grew up lower middle class but like comfortably like we didn’t realize we lacked for anything we just knew people who had bigger houses trite variations on love thy neighbor as thy self. ⅗
“The genius of Proust is neither the work considered in isolation nor the subjective ability to produce it; it is the work considered as the totality of the manifestations of a person.” Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness pgs. 4-5 those being the only pages of the 798 page most misunderstood book of the 20th Century according to critic Fallon Wright that I’ve ever been able to read.
“He was so afraid of being known, not by face or name, but to be understood as a person apart from the character(s) he investigated that he insisted he was a fiction writer.”
Fallon had no creative spark, not an interesting style, an underdeveloped eye and so he trained what vision he did possess in criticism of those who had what he would never be able to [insert footnote: there is an Alexander Theroux quote from An Adultery which I’ve tweeted out last night which goes here]. Others told the truth but only if you could never know what their faces looked like, where they lived, names of their first borns because they knew, they fucking knew, that what they were doing was wrong, peddling interpersonal and existential bullshit to craft a familiar ennui.
It was all I wanted to do my whole life. I thought about it every day and rarely did it. I started doing it more and getting a little bit better. Then I had the idea for ‘New Moral Stories’ and within a year I was thrust into high literary society. I refused to shake Giancarlo’s hand at a reception in New York, his table was too far from the front for my liking. It got that bad! I spent 18 months at the farm getting my food delivered to me and letting myself be depressed for getting exactly what I’d begged for.
Sorry I sometimes curl around to different characters; they’ll fix it in post. Well, anyway I was high on the hog besides and wouldn’t it just so happen that Fallon stops by to do a piece on me! A kind of where is he now sort of number. And of course, he asks about the unsubtle dig in the Sartre epigraph and, hold on. Excuse me. Sorry, I need to take this. Can I call you back?
What is that?
Oh, he must have posted a picture or meme or something that just got wiped in the Failures.
Oh, gotcha. Continue transmitting:
Sorry about that. So, I assure him it’s all a big joke to me & his name-why it even perhaps lent credibility to my work and we chuckled together at that notion- was purely chosen as he was so exceedingly popular in high literary society. And we have quite a nice three days together hunting rabbits. Over coffee, on the porch where he sat rigid as always in a wicker rocking chair while I swung easily on the porch swing, our last morning there he said, “writers are the strangest creatures you can ever hope to meet, god forget-about knowing, and writing about themselves is all they want to do but they are too narcissistic to allow for any joy, so they create these little insignificant fictions while I get to write about the artists and get paid for it.” I said something foolish about blood money from the publishers, but my voice cracked in the face of my complete ignorance of the subject and it was clear to him too. We’ve been best friends ever since. And, of course, his little pep talk inspired “A Year of Writing at Home,” which, I’m sorry but I’ll always call it that-I understand the publisher’s reasoning, I felt obliged to at least pay him back by lending him a proper epigraph.
“Is the work good? Nothing else matters to the great readers. Reviews should be one-word answers to this simple yes or no question. But it cries out for something more, a conversation with the work. I’ve spent my life having many wonderful such conversations.”
—-Fallon Wright from “A Criticism from Within”
One thing he apparently used to say was he couldn’t accept money for editing work because eventually as it became an employee/employer relationship he’d lie to keep his job even if it meant the work suffered upon such false flattery. His job, he said, was to help an imperfect person-the author-bring a perfect work to life. He believed the world was filled with perfect works and imperfect people. But that was just something he said. In your ear he’d whisper it’d cost you ten percent of any future earnings in perpetuity. Now, when you’re self-publishing pamphlets to sell to your twelve twitter friends that literally means nothing and so I happily let him see a piece through. It wasn’t until New Moral Stories that I understood what ten percent felt like. But by then I’d convinced myself I couldn’t write without him. He’d wormed his way into my sentences, a crafty bastard. A wonderful editor. Thomas Pearl, the world is a little less perfect today. May he Rest in Peace. Amen. Thank you. No, no, thank you.
“Writing interrupts my reading so I try to get it over with as quickly as possible.”
—-Garrett Frame from “Adult Situations”
At one point in the process, fairly early on in fact, we all sort of looked at each other and realized the story of putting his work together – of turning these disparate threads of words and stories across multiple platforms into a grand narrative to bookend his life’s work – was, in itself, a story worth telling. It wasn’t fiction, that was our primary problem. We had to clear everything with lawyers. For instance, he recorded his phone conversations (he said it was how he taught himself to write dialogue in “The Apprentice’s Supper”). We had an incredibly funny, also sort of tense, conversation between Garrett and his publisher when he’s told they’ll have to change the title of “A Year of Writing at Home” to “Adult Situations.” You can see, or hear I should say, Garrett losing control of himself which at first, we all thought was another writerly affectation of his, but it actually came to seem very important in the shape of the story we were trying to tell. This was the moment, we all agreed, where the persona he had crafted and marketed and sold was suddenly much more valuable and interesting to the marketplace than the work itself. The thing he had actually created was his own character and now he’d lost control of that creation to the forces of capital. Wow, that was very well said by me. Sam, did you jot that down? Please remove my congratulatory statement in post.
Well anyway, we could not get our attorneys to clear the use of the conversation with the publishers’ attorneys so we were left simply describing it, very blandly and academically I might add, which didn’t quite have the same effect. I began to see what Garrett meant when he spoke of hiding truth in fiction – his own work was immune from that kind of scrutiny because the moment it was questioned, he could throw up his hands and declare it was all fiction. We didn’t have that luxury.
Doc doesn’t want to be understood. He wants to be studied. He is cultivating an aura. We all are, I suppose. I don’t want to. I don’t want to, I’m screaming. No one cares, otherwise though. Do you remember the exhibit at the National Gallery? It was all made of aluminum foil. A giant throne of aluminum foil. A crown. Thousands of perfectly bizarre details in aluminum foil. He built it in his garage. His wife didn’t even know. They moved it to the National Gallery after he died. He died believing only he would ever see it. And yet he worked on it every day and gave it his love and attention. Why can’t you be like that? Fucking auras.
We found an entire lesson plan. Detailed instructions for teaching “The Apprentice’s Supper.” He had it divided by age group, from Juniors in high school all the way up to “Suggested Theses for Doctoral Candidates in Comparative Literature.” It was absurd. In his notebooks from the same time: “Teachers are very kind, patient types prone to bouts of laziness and inertia, well-earned from a life spent sorting through the muck of students in search of the rare Pearl. Today I wrote study guides for my most ambitious novel, TAS (of course). My hope is the teachers of the future will appreciate the materials and work/time saved on their behalf.”
Who thinks like this? Who writes their own Cliff’s Notes? The first section was labeled “Themes.” We howled when we discovered this. He was so fastidiously prickly he wouldn’t trust a reader to decipher the themes.
I want to make love to you. I don’t know what that means or how to do that. How do I make love? It’s there. It isn’t there. But I don’t make it. I confuse it. I want it. I don’t make it. I’m in it. I am in it; how could I make it? I think it means fuck slowly? But that’s just something I say to convince you to let me fuck you at the regular speed.
I don’t know any card tricks. I’m too self-conscious. Every day I do the same things, in the same order. When I first left the Center, but still had to go back for outpatient 2x a week, Tracy, who had big teeth, would tell me that routine was extremely important. She’d say, “find some things you like to do and try to do them each day,” and I said I like to read and write and Tracy, I guess it could have been a small mouth, but it really was distracting-not the fangs but the front two and not just noticeable like a distinctive overbite but just…really super large teeth, said “that’s wonderful.” I can still shoot threes but I never do, even though I have a hoop right outside. I should buy Zelda now that the kids have a switch. It’s supposed to be fun. Then I’d play. It would be too hard, and I would get mad, just like I did with that stupid fucking zombie game on PlayStation and what the fuck was I doing taking a twenty-year hiatus from gaming and going from Excitebike to The Last of Us, and then get depressed at how I only do the same things. I baked bread a few times. I don’t know. It’s not that exciting something just being in the oven. I sat on the counter and read. I haven’t written anything on the DC story in a week. Barnyard Bridge hasn’t been touched in two weeks. I keep avoiding looking at the edits for Farm Hand from Elle, what the fuck was I thinking sending that to her: goddamn, you get one shot, and you waste it with that paint-by-numbers indented bullshit. Only here. Here where it is a molestation, an act of aggression, because I am not alone here. I am not alone here. These are not my thoughts. We are engulfed in the smoke of everyone else’s thoughts. The content is overwhelming, they say. I welcome it. That warm, soft, comfortable thrill of thoughts which I never had the burden of thinking. My own so shallow.
I have nothing of consequence to say. I have a compulsion to speak. I cannot handle silence. My head starts throbbing and remembering little styrofoam cups. Shaped like a cone at the bottom. I have to stop treating it like painting, which I could never do. My god, I always wanted to paint, to be able to create something abstract – something devoid of the need of the appearance of meaning but I’ve hated every half ass effort I’ve ever made, and I never enjoyed it as a physical act. I wanted to just accidentally, unknowingly have a supernatural ability to create beauty. You took your little styrofoam cone cup to the water fountains, someone checked to make sure you took your medicine, everything was white everywhere you looked all of the time, I have to remember to keep my wits about me to stay on this side.
I remembered what my whole life felt like one night. It was horrifying.
8: hiding underneath the table at Nanny’s, the one with the lazy Susan where we played cards and got a nickel for every beer we’d open for uncles could have been rich if we hadn’t wasted our coins on candy bars: remembered.
14: bringing my little writing journal, so proud so excited, to the behavioral therapist who rides a motorcycle and says he can’t wait to read my work and then he shows my parents that I know they are lying about Grandma Rose and what Uncle Wayne did to those dogs, slept naked in the bed with my cousin, two years younger than me, when I was 10, she was 8, I already established that, had to write an apology note to her mom, my aunt, everyone thought i was sick, I saw it on one of Nanny’s shows and just wanted to play house I didn’t touch her, and I walk in the next session and my parents are sitting there, and the behavioral therapist who rides a motorcycle is sitting there and all of my writings are splayed out on a glass coffee table with things highlighted and everyone is stern and staring at me, it will be over twenty years before I show anyone my writing again: remembered.
Reading felt good tonight.
Got too high.
I think you can be yourself.
God, I hope you can.
I can’t anywhere else.
I’m not complaining but
Even a wonderful wife is a wife and
Children will break your heart.
I lost my thread.
This is imaginary writing, brush strokes, the little gaps between the thick slather of color just oozing and stretching on the
On the greyhound bus between San Francisco and Los Angeles you asked me to marry you. They found your body three days later, not fifty feet away. In an old oil barrel. In a land of dust.
-ok, great which one?
-which one what?
-oh, they go together
-we can’t do another one of those. Not for the fall catalog I’ll lose my job
-well, which one do you like the best?
-wasn’t even listening
These nazis are going to kill me. They are coming for my family. The sun is coming to kill me. It’s all set to explode. The broken brain is out to kill me. It knows where I live.
I feel better. It’s the Klonopin I snuck earlier. The drug is making me feel better. Now I have to Google “mixing Klonopin and marijuana will I be ok” because I want to feel good and lifted. I’m nothing like my father why would you say that.
Authority: Marijuana and Klonopin can be dangerous when used on their own. When combined their effects can cause even greater hazards.
“Through personal experience & experience from close friends the effects of mixing the two drugs are mild. You may feel slight euphoria, relaxed, & drowsy.” Christopher Ross, MS Psychology, University of Central Florida (2014). 3rd response to Quora question addressing similar topic of concern.
The primary issue is a lack of imagination.
Which leads to over explaining. Exactly, over explaining.
He envied poets, I think, for exactly that reason. Rob Dawson, from Temple University, wrote an excellent paper detailing his awfully complicated relationship to poetry and poets.
I think he thought that any writing on the internet, anything being stored in that sort of diffuse setting (yes, I think he even meant geographically. The nondescript concrete farms of servers) and then consumed in that way too – that kind of click here then go there try this get bored move on style of reading that had become so fashionable, was ultimately a draft or working out some thoughts at best and idle chit chat at worse. But then, later, he did compare the best literature to great gossip so maybe he’d argue that the physical books, precious things he obviously felt-at least emotionally, were somehow the inaccurate pretensions of an incalculably flawed man and that if he wrote one goddamn word worth studying it meant that American Literature had gotten very, very poor indeed.
He certainly thought internet writing, or writing on the internet (note, leave repetition) valued false intimacy & that false intimacy might have been, in fact, the central thesis of the era. So, in that way there would be nothing truer than cyber writing. It was an unpolished gem mine of traumatized teens – unsure about that last sentence I’m stoned figure it out in post. Oh, Christ I’ve lost my point.
He was the kind of man to call a gatekeeper a tastemaker – that’s my point.
I grew up in a house that was on the set of Unsolved Mysteries. The parents were sleeping upstairs. Simone thinks she heard a sound, but it could have been anything – probably nothing. The blinds were drawn they even called them shades they were brown and wooden my grandfather owned a blind company they called them window shades oh yes, I’ve mentioned my Uncle Wayne who hung blinds with me that summer who’s dead or dying into the story so now we are establishing him further in act two. Good. Oh, the house I grew up in? Unsettling.
My biggest fear is being alone – that started in the house. The house set on fire. I was smoking cigarettes (mom’s Virginia Slim 100s) with Jarrett H. who’d go onto snipe brown people who had a different name for god in the Middle East and drive a big ass truck with a trump flag knows how to cook brisket, and I put my cigarette down between the slats of the back porch. Underneath the back porch was pine straw. And a lawnmower with plenty of gasoline. There were no injuries. But it was aflame.
I have this habit, ok-ok it’s a compulsion. It’s a real compulsion. I have this tic. Sort of a nervous tic. I’ll be walking down the street, say. I’ll describe it, as best I can and let you be the judge. You tell me if it’s a habit. Or a compulsion. Or a nervous tic. It’s because I’m extremely very lonely especially when other people are around – so I won’t need a diagnosis. A script would be great, here—-may I? Just take your pad there? I already know which pills I would like. I could fill it out for you no problem and you could just sign. Very easy. Where was I?
You can decide how to classify it. I should stop trying to do your job hahaha. Sorry, I’ve never had such good insurance before I’m not used to this.
I do this thing where I might be walking down the street and I can hear a party going on in one of the houses. For a few minutes, but honestly a few hours, I will wait outside —- usually in the bushes but a shed has worked before as well. A dumpster if the landscape is urban, sure. I listen to the sounds of the party. Glass clinking. Laughter. Music. Eventually, I walk in. Always a side door, some totally very nonchalant entrance you know? And I grab a drink just to have something to do with my hands and I stand in a semi-circle, I join a semi-circle of people talking and laughing and I just stand there like I’ve always been there and oh don’t mind me and I hope they never find out how goddamn lonely I am, oh these people are so interesting. So much better than listening to my own mind (constantly trying to kill me) – these conversations are invigorating. Someone turns to me to ask my opinion, to bring me into the conversation. I say something stupid. It’s no matter, I’ll be leaving soon.
This is how it felt as I read Part 1 of Not Yet and Manuel is bringing bibles into the narrative constantly consistently and I’m even more confused about what the fuck is going on, like what is this sorcery literature party I’ve been wandering in digital forests searching for and I find these connections which confuse me. Who is writing these things?
I met him at a club can you believe it? Oh, we were so young then! He was ordering long island iced teas. Wore a blazer with jeans couldn’t have been 19 years old cocky as they come. Had a Joy Division t-shirt on with that blazer. The one with the waves. Before they sold it at Urban Outfitters! They played smooth jazz at the club. A live band. Out on the courtyard. Under the strung-up lights. Under the canopy of oak trees god love us all we cry mercy before you and give thanks it is good to give thanks combine ——> submit as Part 1 Night Shades.
Epigraph for Night Shades posted to twitter. [jan 15 21 4:15p.m.]