When I was in my mid-twenties, my friend Bobby G. said to me, “every time I see you, you look desperate, you have desperation in your eyes.” He was trying to tell me to calm the &%$# down. It was a general theme of the time. One was supposed to be “mellow.” And “mellow out” was a frequent admonition. It wasn’t my style and I used to mock that line by saying of someone who had recently died that he had “mellowed out.”
Later, in an adjoining era, another friend who was a frequent guest at “perpetual dusk,” as he called my loft down by Chinatown in Manhattan, loved to complain that I expended ninety percent of the day’s energy in the first ten minutes of the day. Actually, what he was really saying was that I expended ninety percent of the energy that he would expend in a day during the first ten minutes. I was prone to ramping up my energy throughout the day.
Back to when I was a student journalist, editing the campus newspaper, I had a friend who had great natural talent as a cartoonist. Not words, but images. So I was always over at his place going through his notebooks and asking what he had for me. Eventually he said, “you’re the most demanding person I’ve ever known.” He didn’t quite mean it as a compliment. But the horrible thing is that I was probably the last person who saw his work the way I saw it and hence the last person to ever demand any art from him at all. See how it works?
When I wrote the novel Corpse in Armor, the first draft took three months. It was the best time I’ve ever had as a writer. I loved every minute of it. It was the year that followed, the re-writing and editing and production of the novel that I described as like dragging a barge across dry land.
But if you’re wondering why the sequel has never come, that’s another story. Corpse scared me because even before it came out, parts of it started to happen in real life. When I was writing it I kept asking myself whether I was going too far. Five years later it’s obvious that I didn’t go far enough. I told another writer, a friend who has been at it his entire life, that in the past two years I’ve completely revised my understanding of history and politics, and it’s the greatest revision I’ve ever experienced. Greater, far greater, than my transition from Left liberalism to being a conservative. Not to mention far more frightening than anything I captured in Corpse. More about that another time, maybe.