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⚑ September 15, 2015

Above Criticism πŸ›€

A photograph of me in my Princeton graduation gear, 1979.

A photograph of me in my Princeton graduation gear, 1979.

The need to chronicle and to record runs very deep, and in the early Fall it’s ever more so. You can smell it in the air – that damned crispness. I welcome it a little after the really hot and humid summer we’ve just experienced, which included never turning on the air conditioning once. Because: the unyielding budget. And we’re old and getting frailer by the hour.

The chainsaws whine loudly, the temple suggests you calculate your sins and make reparations; the linens need ironing, and my online reputation must be rebuilt, to accommodate my old work and new.

Hi Kevan! Hope you are well. This is a scan of an old New York Times mention of Cleaning House by Anatole Broyard.

This is a scan of an old New York Times mention of Cleaning House by Anatole Broyard.

So, I’ve been digitizing my pre-computer working life and making sure the building blocks of a solid biography are put in place here on the web properly. To do this, I’m typing in word for word the old reviews that my first novel Cleaning House received at the beginning of its publishing history, which was circa 1980. Once I’ve captured the review history from 1980 to the present, maybe then the lousy Wikipedia will allow my name to remain there, worthy of existing.

My arguments and evidences are recreated by scanning the actual pages cut out of magazines and newspaper articles and sometimes even ripped unceremoniously from my old scrapbooks when they first appeared. Looking back, my filing routines, whether obsessive or Warholish, have turned out to be prudent. It’s nice to have the real things to work with. Also, it should be noted that we used to move house frequently, which meant packing everything we owned into sturdy liquor boxes and lots of canvas bags and then unpacking and arranging the same stuff in record time in the new place … and we’ve moved plenty of times in the last 39 years.

It was probably wanderlust camoflauged as our second business of real estate investment. We moved nineteen times, to be exact, which means I’ve packed and unpacked 40 times in the past 40 years, give or take. Once a year is how it averages out, but as we now know, life is never about averages, but instead about moments. No moment can be average because it is unique in the snowstorm that is life.

Your tendencies toward cowardice don’t matter if you’ve done one brave thing in your life. I can think of myself as lazy to satisfy the cultural hag in my head that berates me endlessly, but in reality, a lazy person could never have survived and thrived through all those packings and unpackings.

In fact, I actually welcomed the task of packing up because it gave me a chance to make a grand inventory, and I also welcome the task of all this unnecessary typing of my reviews word for word. It’s been a lesson in pride and humility; typing the occasional high praise and checking the temperature of critical hate foaming up on my favorite forum Bellgab.

None of it is real. Although no amount of praise will get the next novel written, the opposite is true when it comes to negative comments. And in this new, porous world of the internet, the negatives don’t just stop at the piece of work being presented. Not at all. Now we have microphones tuned into the mob, and we hear all the things they mutter as they prepare their pitch and feathers.

None of it is real, and now the trick is to deny it residence in the castle in my mind. πŸ”