It is prudent at this juncture to define the parameters of this so-called planned obsolescence. It's not easy to walk away from the outlet into which I have spewed all of my misguided opinions, and so I will need to maintain a certain outlet: the current plan is to confine critical assessments to podcasts but since I haven't actually released one yet officially, don't hold me to that. Don't hold me to anything.
This isn't about practicing law but it's related to that. I've learned a little too late that the legal profession is one of the worst there is. Actually there is no profession that seems "good" except for skilled trades. One thing I do not understand about life is how people get paid fairly. I don't feel good about any job when I get paid more than I think I should. Yet this is not a problem most people seem to have. And I don't want to work any job when I get paid less than seems worthwhile. It is very hard to gauge the reasonableness of legal fees. Courts will approve attorneys fees that are well-documented, and I am developing a fee scale for the cases I feel competent to handle. $100 per hour is basically what I would charge most people for most things. Yet it is rarely easy to determine the value of extraordinary stress and humiliation. Personal injury done on contingency (when I am able to believe there is a worthwhile case to be litigated--which is approximately never), simple bankruptcy for $1,000, complex bankruptcy for $2,000, retainer of $3,000 for various other matters. I could get organized one day but as noted above, I almost never feel it's worthwhile to get involved, and the work I've done for most other firms (apart from doc review, where you know you are worth nothing and low expectations are the rule) leads me to believe that every reason I gave for why I wanted to be a lawyer was based upon a miserable lie. I'm not quitting law because I still have debt. If I can make $100/hour consistently, 2200 hours per year, I'll pay my loans off in a year. Until then, I'll stay on PAYE.
I did not go into debt to start Flying Houses. It did not require an advanced degree, nor investment of any capital other than time. Time, unfortunately, is running low.
I am not sick, so far as I know, yet I am. I often feel as if I will not be around much longer. This is not meant to be a depressing thought so much as an empowering one. It is time to put my affairs in order. I have nothing to give but a small amount of money which will barely cover funeral expenses in today's increasingly expensive world. This post does not bear the requisite will formalities for enforcement. Holographic wills are not recognized under IL law. Yet sometimes one must peak behind the curtain and determine the will of the testator. Here, now, there is no person that I would single out for special treatment, no one I would trust beyond my immediate family, and so dying intestate is not the tragedy I once considered it to be. Suffice to say, I will never be able to repay my parents the debt they undertook to raise me properly (though we will disagree about what expenditure of resources was actually necessary), and they should be entitled to everything I've made. Yet what I've made monetarily hardly amounts to anything.
I often feel as if FH is my life's work, the work of which I'm most proud (even though perhaps 40-50 of the 375 posts are regrettable, and would not be published today). I have done some good legal work of which I am proud, but those instances have been relatively rare and not at all proportional to the enormous strain that the debt to afford the privilege has placed upon my being. FH is a good balance. It's not a great novel and a blog is not as significant as a published novel, and it has paid nothing, but it has helped a (very) small number of people and for that I believe it should be considered a public service. It's not Cliffs notes or Wikipedia but it's real. We turn people onto books here. We try to get people to think for themselves. We try to take the BS out of criticism and work outside the margins of publicity (except for a few notable exceptions, which have always been telegraphed). We try to be honest and we risk ostracism. We try to make people laugh and forget about all the parts to life that turn it into an unpleasant slog. We try to educate people about the great writers of the past and the present, and we have never claimed to be authoritative. We try to recognize the Best Books when we come upon them. We try to define and pin down what makes great literature, and we often make contradictory statements and hold contradictory positions. We try to be even-handed in our assessments, and we often come off as ambivalent or wishy-washy, as if we're not entirely sure of what we actually like or want. We put ourselves on the line emotionally with every review, all too cognizant that every single one of our Facebook friends will be put on notice of every single book we have read and may form attendant judgments as to our tastes and sensibilities (which, to be sure, are not always attractive). We try to show that we have capabilities that have heretofore gone unrecognized. We try to show love to the things we love, and indifference to the things we don't (while recognizing that hate makes for better writing but also leaves one more vulnerable to trolls). We try to be fair and we try not to be mean and we try to stand up for ourselves when others try to knock us down.
I'm stopping because I think my work here is done. I tried, and nobody really seemed to care. Yet I'm also stopping because I want to do better. I've edited others here, but no one has really edited me. Accordingly, 90% of the total word count of this blog is garbage. I've allowed myself to be more disposable and present more problematic viewpoints here than I would be permitted in a major market publication. This is both a blessing and a curse (or a double-edged sword, or another cliche I have lazily allowed myself to dispatch here). I have tried not to sanitize my work for fear of reprisal, yet I have often lost confidence in my critical faculties and avoided overly controversial statements. I've felt lately that just saying you like or don't like something is not enough as a critic. You have to situate it within the larger conversation. To take a recent example, I am reasonably certain that my appreciation for one of our last subjects, Less, would have been enhanced if I had consumed the pertinent literary precedents. The character writes books spun out from classics like The Odyssey and Ulysses (really, modern updates) -- so was Less itself modeled after something of which I'm unaware? We can't all read everything but we can at least be honest about our backlog of literary knowledge (not claiming to know about a book because you read 20 pages of it and heard other people talk about it) and that is what I tried to do here.
To diminishing returns. We started with the oeuvre rule and we ended with the referral rule. It became more about publicity and my willingness to play guinea pig than literary contextualization and my desire to design a new system.
There's also very little original thought in the posts. Clearly, the best parts of FH are the excerpts, the parts I have not actually written. This is potentially a copyright violation ~x315. Nobody has come after me for that, and I thank them.
However, people have come after me for certain other things. And not for the things they should. Life is bad enough as it is, we don't need anyone making it worse. Nobody wants to see you succeed on the internet. There is too much insecurity and desperation and envy. They want you to fail. They want you to be as pathetic as they are. There's not enough economic space for the two of you. There is no easy way to get paid and build a respectable life and so when someone seizes upon an idea and makes it for themselves, there are naturally copycats. No one wants to copy FH because they know there is no money in books (unless it's about the White House).
I told a friend today that I made my own Hell. I literally founded another plane of existence post-death. FH is that. Another place for me to live forever, fixed though it may be, and one day unable to respond to comments. And it is not a heavenly place at all. We leave the bad stuff there for anyone to see. I probably can't get a good job because of FH. I should probably remove the link from my LinkedIn.
That's always been our aim in literature, hasn't it? To achieve immortality, to play beyond the grave, to leave a breadcrumb trail or mystery to solve, some other form of interaction.
Before, I wrote to try to show people something I thought was beautiful. Now I've learned that is no longer necessary. No one cares what I think. My perspective is best nurtured through pathos and destruction. Or nothing at all.
I digress! Let's not stoop to feeling sorry about our demographic plight and using that as an excuse for our failure to obtain an opportunity to achieve success. We make success our own way. On the whole, it is patently ridiculous to claim that failure comes as a result of discrimination. For certain individuals that is no doubt true, and has been true for decades (women who didn't get a job because they had self-respect). For others such as myself, maybe we're really just not any good. Or "difficult."
No, the prose itself is weak. If I wanted to be a true literary critic, I would have completed an English B.A. and gone on to graduate school for that. I don't have those degrees, but I have other pretty useless ones. Still, my problem with English was that it was boring. I didn't get why it mattered what Canterbury Tales said about queerness or feminism or subconscious desire. Maybe that these issues had always been part of the cultural conversation, and never spoken aloud for fear of reprisal.
Now we fear reprisal but it is of a different sort. We're not worried about someone seeing us at an I.W.W. meeting. We're worried about saying something on Facebook that could be interpreted as having a conservative stench. We write people off without digging deeper into the context of understanding their viewpoints. We applaud the victims and we denounce the powerful as unworthy (or incompetent--sometimes rightly so). And sometimes we just don't want to like anything someone does, because we've made up our mind that they're a garbage person and they can live out their days in shame.
I can no longer wield this responsibility on my own. That is why I have decided to stop seeking your attention through my reading history. What I say doesn't matter. Obviously I think it should, but I'm not sure it should in this realm. I don't know if there is any topic that I can adequately speak to as an authority. I've always had a bit of a problem with that anyways.
There have, however, been some wonderful moments here over the years. The authors themselves have sometimes popped in to offer a "gotcha" moment (side note: I really hate how people have started to use that word to me, though I'm sure I've misread the tone). Most everyone has been charitable, and there have only been a few trolls who have tried to take me down on my own blog. The comments, by and large, have yielded several beautiful exchanges.
Most of us will never amount to anything beyond our small social circles. Everybody will have their 15 minutes of Fame, but for me it has only been shame. I remember when there were only 265 million people in the U.S. Now it's 330 million--maybe 340 million. We have to make peace with the fact that we are Insignificant to the wider world. Really, the only people that care about what I do are the people I know (and many, I imagine, wish I had never been there to infect their lives and waste their precious breath and attention). There's probably about 50 people that regularly read the posts and most all of them are from Facebook. I really don't like using that platform for publicity. It is a necessary evil in this day and age, but it is not one that I wish to continue to entertain.
I have enjoyed self-mythologizing and referencing prior posts with links and interacting with literary culture, though my name (and brand, as it were, which again must be credited to Scratch Acid) will never be uttered in hushed tones and reverential gestures. This may not be the appropriate vehicle for me, and I thank everyone for forcing me to figure that out on my own, rather than telling me that I couldn't. I'll always love books and I'll always read but I won't force myself to write about them any longer. My work is not done, but I feel that I have harvested everything out of this exercise that I can. It is time to say goodbye. I do not know what the future holds but my hope is that one day I will, in fact, do what I love, and not only in my spare moments.