GULF COAST BLUES: A MONTH IN THE LIFE OF FLORIDA CHRONICLER CONTENDER RAZZ HEAP, THE HAPPIEST MAN ALIVE. November 16 - December 9. 44,000 words. I drive over to Florida's Forgotten Coast, and spend the night in the Wakulla Lodge. The editor of The Seaside Times reprints an excerpt from my last book in her paper. We spend Thanksgiving at the Magnolia Tree House in Grayton Beach with Balder and Jennifer and Owen and Jean and the grandchildren. Jennifer's family are there. The Saunders Brothers and Kyle Ogle play at Pandora's, outside, in the chickee hut. I drive up to Sneads, to Lake Seminole, and stay at the Seminole Lodge. I am hassled for taking a photograph of the water tower at Malone CI. I drive over to Florida's Emerald Coast, on several day trips. I buy a discarded copy of The Florida Handbook at the library and apply for the position of Chronicler Laureate again. There's a new Secretary of State, and a new governor, since I last applied. This book is about the mullet culture versus the corporate cubicle dot com culture, or Florida's Forgotten Coast turning into Florida's Emerald Coast, before our very eyes, while the government looks the other way and the media run booster ads for the developers, rah-rah pieces for runaway growth. Unashamed greed. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
SQUIBS AND ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: HEAP LETS-FLY. December 9 to February 12. 100,000 words. Spend the week between Christmas Day and New Years Day at Graytona Lodge in Grayton Beach. The Saunders Brothers play at Cerulean's, in WaterColor. I pitch SQUIBS to LSU Press. I send the first week's work to Andrei Codrescu, Exquisite Corpse. The rejection slips for GULF COAST BLUES dribble in. I send the complete MS to River City Publishers. I am invited to enter a show called Texts at the Gallery Above. I write a pamphlet, Texts. I will sell it the next day at my book-signing table at booksALIVE 2007! I write a second pamphlet, Plagiarism. Brenda and I drive to New Orleans, New Iberia, and Ocean Springs, Mississippi. In New Orleans, we go by Dr. Bob's Bywater Studio. Be nice or leave. Dr. Bob is in Memphis, recovered from the beating he took when the police mistook him for a looter, and disarmed him, protecting his property from looters. Hazel plays a Dread Clampitt song, "Granny Brown," on her radio show, and Brenda tells an anecdote about the song. We see the Hurricane Katrina devastation firsthand. It's still there. The Walter Anderson Museum of Art is closed for renovations, but I buy a documnentary, Walter Anderson: Realizations of an Artist, at the train depot. Pottersville Press says they'd like to publish my Charles Willeford book, but don't have the money. They will publish it cooperatively with me if I have the money to pay the printer. I don't. I order 75 copies of Adventures in the Underground, at a 40% discount off the retail price of $15.95, to help with the printing bill for that book. It won't be ready in time for booksALIVE 2007!, but will be available in weeks, rather than months, and I will have a picture of the cover to take preorders for, at the book fair. A man who studied pottery with Jack Neff at Alford looks him up in Google and gets a hit on my website. He emails me. I had been thinking about Jack Neff since I saw the manuscripts of my stack in Larry's outbuilding. What happened to Jack's life's-work, or oeuvre? Did moths and rust get it? Was it thrown out? Is it moldering in some lonesome grave, like John Brown's body? How lucky I am to have a reader who treasures my work. Who has read every single word of it, and knows it like I do. Maybe better, now that my powers are fading. I pitch a column to the Panama City News-Herald and the Tallahassee Democrat, a novel, I ask them to serialize a novel, online, as I write it, two 500-word columns a day, or twelve 30,000-word books, in a year. Help Wanted: A Year in the Life of a Roving Correspondent. I start writing the first book, WORD MECHANIC. My production creeps up to three, and four 500-word columns a day. And no one wants them. They're too much. It's more of the same. I attend the Text show at the Gallery Above and booksALIVE 2007! I sell one Root Doctor. No Text, no Plagiarism. I apply for a job as customer service associate in a video store I can walk or ride my bike to. Owen and Ella visit. Balder, Cale, and Rowan come over. We drive to Thomasville, to hear David Davis and the Warrior River Boys play. Then we go to The Red Bar Sunday to hear Dread Clampitt play. I think my hard disk is about to crash. River City Publishers reject GULF COAST BLUES.
RETIREMENT. February 12 - April 19. 113,000 words. RETIREMENT is an account of 50 years in the workplace, scuffling. The jobs range from laborer in a feldspar mine to senior information development specialist in a fiber-optic cable factory. I end the book taking a job as a handyman at the L. A. (Lower Alabama) Folk Life Center in Panama City, Florida, where I am a retiree, on social security. I don't make enough, on social security, to pay the bills. I am a writer. My last book, Adventures in the Underground, is published while I am writing RETIREMENT, and looking for a job. I am an underground writer. A legend of the underground, in fact. If that is not a contradiction in terms. Being retired and working full-time as a handyman is a contradiction in terms. I reckon I'll work until I die. Or sell a book. RETIREMENT is an SOS. Like all of them. I have written 292 books. That's too many. They can't be any good. Not RETIREMENT, not any of them. They're all bad. I was wasting my time. I must have been nuts. The survival-testimony of a nut-case. Who wants to read that? That can't happen to me. That isn't happening to me. Who cares about a handyman's tale? Why should I? Everything is copacetic. This is America. We're No. 1. It isn't over until your brother counts the votes. Charles Willeford wrote Something About a Soldier as a novel, went back and changed the names of characters to their real names, and published it as a memoir. That's why it reads like a novel. That's why I say autobiography is fiction. Or fiction is autobiographical. I go back and forth between autobiography and fiction in the same book. Between past tense and present tense, the first person and the third person. I conflate genres. Daily typewriting, or enema vérité, or the paranoia-critical method, is a new genre. Just as my stack, 40-Year Run, is unprecedented in ambition, scope, and accomplishment. And RETIREMENT is a platonic example of the form. Think of it, arising out of nowhere like a coelacanth, its eyes bugging out from the pressure. America has a passion for the inédit, and it causes a succès fou when a writer like me sneaks past the gatekeeper. Comes off the bench to win the game. Comes out of retirement, as you might say. Out of the sticks. The subtitle of The Daily Bulletin, my web site on the worldwide web, is A Newsletter on the State of the Culture, or, How To Write World Literature from Parker, Florida. I am a living fossil. A throwback. Sui generis. This makes it hard to place my books. They break the rules. I discover the rules. As I go along. It's exciting to read. To watch this happening. It's what people read for.
JACK THE RAVER: HEAP DRAGS UP. April 21 - May 6. 30,000 words. The book is divided into two parts, Delray Beach and Panama City. Delray Beach discusses Screed and Forty. Panama City discusses Bukowski Never Did This: A Year in the Life of an Underground Writer and His Family and Postcards From Pottersville, Vol. 3, Adventures in the Underground. Don Imus is fired and Kurt Vonnegut dies. The Virginia Tech massacre happens and Alberto Gonzales testifies before Congress. Life goes on. I work as a handyman and write nights and weekends. We go to Potterfest, at Lake Seminole. Itís been a year since the crew completed principal photography on the secret project and went into post-production. What are they doing a secret project about you for? Well, I am Americaís greatest living unpublished, or underpublished writer, perhaps the greatest unpublished, or underpublished American writer ever. I start thinking about the 50th reunion of my high school class at Seacrest, the Class of í57. The Class of í57 Had Its Dreams. Will there be one? Will I be invited? Will I go? I dream about being able to afford to go. Having my way paid to go. To write a book about it. Dream on. The last time I was there Barney Fife died and I watched Andy Griffith on Larry King in the Clewiston Inn, thinking about Mayberry. My secret project has been in post-production for a year. But my do-it-yourself book is out. Sneads hadnít changed much. The Dairy Queen is now San Marcos Mexican Grill. It was good seeing old friends. When we started going to hootenannies our kids were our grandchildrenís age. Now our kids are taking their kids. I quit drinking when Balder was a baby. Well, I still have a drink, now and then. But mostly at weddings and funerals and bluegrass festivals. Iím not a daily drinker and a sometime blackout drinker anymore. Also, now, I have published four books, with independent presses. When we started going to festivals I was still unpublished. I have made a lot of progress. Ornette Colemanís CD Sound Grammar wins the Pulitzer Prize. The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959) was prophetic. Was Screed the shape of writing to come, when I wrote it, in 1979? It was the shape of my career to date. Try to buy a copy of it in a bookstore. Or Forty, or Bukowski Never Did This, or Adventures in the Underground. I change the name of Tales From the Redneck Riviera: A Florida Quartet to TALES FROM THE REDNECK RIVIERA: A FLORIDA NOVEL, and end the book. Itís not a series of four books, itís a 287,000-word book, in four parts, written in under six months. Whewówhite folks!
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