The first six episodes of my podcast are now available here. For the foreseeable future, odd-numbered episodes will be long-form rambles about a particular topic, and even-numbered episodes will be readings of some of my published works. I hope you enjoy.
I just received my first manuscript rejection from a New York literary agent.
I’m relieved to have this mandatory hazing ritual out of the way. Strangely, I feel more like “a real writer” now than any minor successes have ever caused. Perhaps I am consoled by a small sense of pride that this didn’t emotionally phase me. The juvenile phase of self-righteous indignation whenever someone calls “my baby” ugly has come and gone, thank God. (If fact, for a rejection it was quite civil).
I know that I’m happy with what I wrote; I know it can make some money for myself and some press; and I know there isn’t an agent or press on Earth who’s going to tell me “it’s perfect as it is; we’ll print it at once!”
There is an eerie peace to be had in knowing that it is now beyond my strength to alter without the aid of a professional editor. In some metaphysical sense, the process is already over. I just have to keep submitting.
My friend Prof. Peter Hoheisel’s new poetry book, South to the Rio Grande, is now available for purchase. It was a pleasure to work as his editor and defacto agent throughout this process, eventually finding the perfect home for this manuscript at New York’s Clare Songbirds Publishing House.
Peter is a free-verse poet inspired by the likes of Yeats and Rexroth, and his book comes as a breath of fresh air to anyone who still likes their poetry decipherable and meaningful.
You can read more about our collaboration, including an interview I conducted with him and our dual-appearance on a radio program, here.
Click here to peruse our bespoke wares.
Which of my books would I prioritize regaining if they were lost?
It’s a difficult question, and to my own surprise I found an unintentional theme while attempting to answer it. I feel perfectly comfortable with never again owning most of my fiction and poetry titles, knowing they can always be revisited via library. This is probably due to the fact that I’m now more interested in writing my own fiction than ingesting others’, and it’s rare that I need fictional works as a reference, whereas having major works of history and philosophy at hand are indispensable.
So, while I would never recommend anyone neglect fiction or poetry, it would be disingenuous to include such titles here. And, more often than not, I would simply recommend classics of the “no, duh” variety in those genres, whereas a few of my nonfiction selections manage to avoid the status of household names.
Theodore Draper’s A Struggle for Power
Tocqueville’s Democracy in America
Davis’ Three Roads to the Alamo
Carl Sandburg’s Lincoln (Prairie & War Years)
Shelby Foote’s Civil War
The Landmark Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Arrian, Julius Caesar
Gibbon’s Decline and Fall
Graves’ Greek Myths and White Goddess
Hall’s Secret Teachings of All Ages
Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations
Lin Yutang’s The Wisdom of China and India
Watson’s Grand Historians of China
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Le Morte D’arthur
Mishima’s Sun and Steel
Clason’s Richest Man in Babylon
I’m very glad to announce that my ‘Collaborations’ page is up and running. Click here to read the first of many entries–my interview with a Texas poet-professor on his craft.
I doubt Uncle E/Paul will ever read this, but if he does, I hope he enjoys it. And to any other ER fans or tingleheads who happen to wander in, welcome.
I’ve learned many things in my time at the Sanitarium, but the profoundest realization by far was this—it is the ones who neglect to wear masks that are hiding something. I ought to know, having been a bald-faced liar and thief to boot. One requires the full range of motion–the lithe muscles bunched about the mouth, the delicate drapery of eyelids and lashes, the serpentine curvature of the lips, even the laconic understatements of the brows–to convincingly portray fiction as fact. The simian face is a delicately-tuned instrument of deceit, evolved to employ every wile towards the hypnotizing of one’s prey. Only once lulled into lethargy by the illusion of mutual empathy can purses be pilfered or secrets be stolen without complaint. Indeed, so desperate are humanoids for the empty consolation of affection that they often freely give what one wishes to take. To wear a mask is to foolishly surrender these advantages.
Gaining admittance to Arkham Sanitarium under the pretense of being yet another inept rift-walker afflicted by existential overstimulation, I immediately set my sights upon the Professor. Months of infuriating cat-and-mouth ensued, during which I allowed myself to be subjected to innumerable experiments in return for the mere opportunity to probe his enigmatic ego. I had received a tip from an unimpeachable source that this Clemmons—humanoid avatar of the Crawling Chaos, some say—was in possession of a certain article necessary to the completion of my collection. Though I knew from previous experience just how inscrutable these Lovecraftian deities can be, I was unprepared to be administered so ample a dose of my own manipulative medicine. His legendary “ASMR” method was intoxicating even to an accomplished hedonist such as myself. It was akin to an inverse Lemarchand’s Box–a stimuli so utterly benign as to obfuscate whatever will is subjected to it, like an audible opiate. All too soon, I had forgotten my purpose within the experiments and found myself attending the sessions for their own sake.
Eventually a glimpse at a couple of long-term patients—Messrs Ross and Hicks—brought me back to my senses. After years of daily experimentation they were utterly Hollowed, too ASMR immune even to raise their arms and praise the sun. I stove in their heads with one of Zed Zombuy’s accouterments and used their ample souls to bribe Margaret. She removed my file from Clemmons’ cabinet and placed it in Corvus’s, for I had reasoned that I might have better luck with a visage less visceral. Shrewd assumption–the Plague Doctor was far more pliant than his “brother,” willing to occasionally lapse into the personal amidst the professional. I quickly discerned that he was hoping to find a promising apprentice among the Sanitarium ranks, and did everything in my power to appear the choicest candidate. His offer came without solicitation.
Having already learned the ins-and-outs of ASMR first-hand, I exceeded the Plague Doctor’s every expectation, expediently transporting even the most troubled of patients into a nervous nirvana. I gleaned much during this apprenticeship concerning the less-than-benevolent motives behind ASMR. Succinctly put, the method serves as a potent astral anesthetic for spiritual surgery, akin to the harvesting of metaphysical organs. I couldn’t help but admire the ingeniousness of it. But I was after something of infinitely greater import—a single fragmentary page somewhere in Clemmons’ office, bearing the sole extant printing and pronunciation of an ASMR trigger-word which, when whispered, ends the myriad maze of the rifts by imploding their disparate possibilities into a single linear timeline with a definite conclusion.
I waited until Corvus passed out from a raucous evening of beer, pizza, and Magic: The Gathering before relieving him of his keys. For a single pulse-pounding hour I desperately ransacked Clemmons’ office, searching high and low for my prize whilst pocketing other curiosities that happened to take my fancy—a Pip-boy, a set of monster hands, and a pestle and mortar. I would have taken his decorative “Om” lampshade as well, could it have fit within my bag. Regardless, eventually I found the coveted document upon Clemmons’ bookshelf—or what was left of it, I should say. I recognized it only by its distinctive aura, for it was naught but a charred-grey pile of detritus swept into a mason jar and nonchalantly labelled “LOOSE END.” I had to clap a hand over my mouth to stifle uproarious laughter.
Simpletons think the cacodaemonic ambition of we maskless ones is to end the worlds, but in truth it’s just the opposite. We turn back the apocalyptic clock, deny the return visas of Jesus and Buddha, frustrate the portents, forestall the judgements, rendering all a repetitious now, like industrious beavers damming the inlet of time. Clemmons and his Sanitarium, as with any authority, are not the solution to the problem which justifies their existence but the cause. Respectful of a kindred spirit, I replaced every artifact I had pocketed. The only trace I left was to pop next door to Corvus’s office and inscribe a brief message across the face-board of his desk. I carved away with one of his scalpels—”DO NOT TRUST THE PROFESSOR.” A moment of uncharacteristic weakness, perhaps, but I had grown rather fond of Herr Doktor. Behind that perfumed mask is a genuinely lovely soul even rarer than the relics which comprise my collection—just the sort of irresistible specimen that the Professor’s rapacious appetite will inevitably slurp up like an oblivious neighbor’s milkshake.
I thought I was scot-free as I unlocked the back gate of Margaret’s garden. Only as the whining of its hinges ceased did I harken to the scents that had lately colored the surrounding palate—sulphur before and rotten calamari behind. I glanced up. Satan leaned, devil-may-care, betwixt the gateway, stroking his mustache pensively. Cthulhu loomed over my shoulder, tentacles worming and pulsating.
“Well,” I smirked, “I’ve seen enough hentai to know where this is going.”
“Your meme magic won’t work on us,” Cthulhu garbled in shadow-speak.
“You can check out any time you like,” purred Satan, “but you can never leave. Or, to express the same sentiment with a superior genre—the only way to exit, is going piece by piece.”
In the distance, I could hear Margaret’s distinctive clicking drawing nigh. Whether it was reproachful or by rote, I was unsure.
I fully expected to be brained and converted into garden fertilizer then-and-there, but the Professor, it seems, had a far more fitting punishment in mind. He removed my face with the scalpel I had taken to Corvus’s desk and covered my gruesome pate with a sack that had once held his nuts. I am to be ASMRed to death at some unspecified date—not a bad way to go. In the meantime, I shall resume my role as Corvus’s apprentice, but with the knowledge that I shall never be allowed to earn my Plague Doctorate.
The walls and ceiling of my new accommodation are covered in chalkboards. In addition to penning this confession, I must write the same phrase upon them one billion times before I’ll be allowed to die— “TRUST THE PROFESSOR.” Occasionally, while I’m out, Green Man sneaks into my room and erases a few hundred of the lines.
Last Jedi was indeed disappointing, but not unexpectedly so due to the preceding goofiness of Force Awakens. Disney seems quite content to “phone it in” when it comes to the writing of the new episodes for their space opera cash cow. This was apparent the moment they decided to begin filming before the entire trilogy had been written, much less put it in the hands of multiple directors. They–of all companies–should know that it takes the singular vision and leadership of an individual to competently helm a project or series of this magnitude. Handing off the middle-section of the trilogy to a relative nobody in comparison to JJ Abrams produced the expected effect–Rian Johnson set out to reinvent the wheel and prove that he was not just a stand-in. This wrought continuity errors galore, and–in his desperate scramble for originality and the confounding of expectations–what many fans believe to be a desecration of Lucas’ original vision.
While some attribute this to insidious SJW sabotage on Rian’s part, I chalk it up to mere temptation. This episode needed a humble servant of the fandom wholly devoted to helping Force Awakens make sense (how did the First Order crop up? who is Snoke? Knights of Ren? Rey’s heritage? the lightsaber’s journey to Maz? etc). Instead, we got a would-be innovator who tried to fix what wasn’t broken and neglect what was. Rian wanted to leave his mark on Star Wars, and he succeeded…by breaking the fundamental rules of its universe. With hyperspace kamikaze able to deal with any space threat, force-sensitive but untrained individuals surviving certain death with sudden godlike utilization of the force, and force ghosts capable of summoning down actual lightning, all future struggles and victories or defeats are rendered equally asinine. It’s as though Peter Jackson prematurely played the giant eagles card in his Lord of the Rings series, nullifying the world’s immersion by allowing the audience to ask, why all this journeying when the eagles can just go drop the ring in Mt Doom?
I have a feeling this barrage of deus ex machina will be studied in the future as a textbook example of why every story universe, no matter how fantastical, needs to maintain some realism and avoid easy ways out. Rian’s writing has assured that we will never again see a moment as emotionally powerful as Luke Skywalker’s final, successful attempt to save Vader from himself. That moment was powerful because it felt (no matter how unlikely) that he might actually die. Whereas, in Disney’s Star Wars, it’s painfully evident that no character is in real danger until their merchandise stops selling.