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As warned, this will be a weak week for Bleats, since I’m steeped in Fair Duty. Never done something quite like this. Every day. Every day. I’m one-third of the way through.

At least I don’t wake up in the morning wondering what I’ll write about today.  Or, for that matter, what I’ll film today. In addition to the daily entries, I’ve been doing a three-minute vidcast. It’s good practice. They take about 35 minutes to do now, which seems too long – but there’s copying the files from the camera, importing into the program, editing, doing the titles in Photoshop, then making a couple passes at a passable voice-over. Then export, then upload. The latest is up by now. It has sheep!

From today's trip: Horse Barn Art, c. 1940.

It's like a frieze from an ancient Perisian city, recently unearthed:


Speaking of the Writing Life: this. (via Insty, and happy birthday to the prof, incidentally.) Remarks on a  post on Teachout’s blog I missed, excerpted at McArdle’s new digs. Still with me? Attribution's a cold hard mother, as they said in the sixties. Anyway. It’s about the pros and cons of Fitzgerald’s life, and contains a defense of F. Scott’s latter years. Read it so you know what I'm babbling about. If not, well, bottom line: he managed his decline with haphazard grace, which bespeaks a certain decency.

I agree, I suppose; Fitzgerald’s life had its redeeming qualities, but they were the qualities of a kind drunk, a romantic drunk, a drunk who, by an ancient quirk of character, was more inclined to punch the mirror than lash out and slap others. But I’ve always had the suspicion that he wasn’t a very interesting drunk. He probably had a golden moment six beers in, but then came the totters, the self-recriminations, the throwing-up-in-the-bathroom-sink. (Only hopeless drunks used the toilet.)

I put it to Teachour once that “Appointment in Samara” is better than “Gatsby.” He did not agree, which makes me suspect I am wrong. But perhaps it’s the absence of the mythic quality that appeals to me, the broader spectrum of the characters. The lower classes in “Gatsby” exist only to move plot-points around; they’re wheels on an elegant auto. A tiny slice of America lived like Gatsby in the 20s. “Samarra” was closer to the truth, without the thick coat of cant that satisfyies the English Lit profs eager to find the roots of Berkeley in the coal seams of Pennsylvania.

As for Megan McArdle’s remarks about being a dramatically doomed artiste sliding into the glamorous abyss: I never had that urge. If you feel as if the abyss is looking for you, you learn to take alternate routes. Most of the writers I knew in college did lots of things – smoke, drink coffee, have long loud boozy disputes over Art, shoot pool and all the other things artists did to relieve the maddening pressure of sitting alone in the garret, staring at the empty page for an hour before screwing up their courage and banging away with inspired zeal, channeling the great bright fountain of glory within, danting the Gods: I, too, CREATE! But most of them left out the “writing” part.

Perhaps I was lucky; my models were all self-absorbed types who wrote in the first person – Perelman, Leibowitz, Allen, etc. – and when you’re writing about yourself you’re always fascinated by your subject.

Then again, the first published novel wasn’t autobiographical, or first person, and I will never forget writing that one. Pure joy. (The first unpublished novel was a thick sheaf of bad John-Irving knockoff dreck; I see it in the basement sometimes when rooting around for old documents, and it makes me wince.) Someday, I’ll do another. When I’ve no idea. How, I’ve no idea. Some days I almost wish I’d quit the paper – the sort of thing you say when you’re still happily employed, human nature being what it is. I long for the great broad empty space; I get tired of chatter. I feel like a guy standing on a corner in a gigantic metropolis doing a strange frantic Cossack dance. But no, that’s not quite right. If the dancing guy you see every morning on your walk to work disappears, you don’t alter your route.  If I left for a year, I fear that 11 years of Internettery would evaporate. I mean, how do you tell everyone you’re back?

Well, it’s been done. Successfully. Not saying I’m leaving. But the last few days have been . . . interesting. The end of the day usually has two big hunks due by 1 AM – the Bleat and the morning note. Fair Duty has relieved me of the latter for a while, and it’s made me feel giddy with freedom. I'm back to where I was four months ago, more or less - but now it feels like vacation. Even though the weekend was spent working. Times like this make me wonder what exactly I'm doing, and what it's leading to.

Maybe it’s good; it’s wonderfully gratifying to meet people at the Fair who read the stuff and enjoy it. (One fellow came up to the Official Porch today, and told me he reads the Bleat on his Blackberry while taking the train into NYC. To Rockefeller Center! Made my day.) In the Olden Times it felt sufficient to write something for the paper once a week. The advent of the Internets changed that: once a day was now the norm. Blogging changed that: several times a day isnow the norm. Now it’s all that plus a little movie. It’s an accelerated version of the same impulse I’ve felt since I started my journals, 34 years ago: fix the day in amber, and you’ve justified your tenure on the right side of the dirt. That used to be a general principle; now it’s my bloody job description.

No complaints. Don’t take it that way. Just saying.

Then again: a year to write a noir novel – ahhhh, what a prospect.

Anyway: off to upload the next vidcast. I love these things. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity. Think of it: I can’t imagine doing something like this for, say, a TV station, because you’d ever have the Consultants hovering over, or at least the threat of Consultants. Ten years ago I was in the newspaper, on radio, and on TV; I stepped away from two by choice, one by circumstances – and now I have my site, my podcast, my videos, with 100% creative control. Which either makes me a totally modern 21st century globally-connected media operative, or the equivalent of a guy who puts his Xeroxed ‘zine in the racks at the newspaper stand when the clerk isn’t looking.

New matchbook; new vidcast at buzz, and big whomping updates starting tomorrow around noon. See you there! And thanks, as ever, for the patronage.