The Annotated Rumored to Exist, Hardcover edition

So I wanted a hardcover of Rumored to Exist, because I’m funny about that, so I made one.  Check it:

It’s a hardcover edition of the annotated version that I originally released in 2004.  In fact, it’s the exact text from the 2004 version.  I would have preferred to go over it again, starting with the 2011 re-release and add back in the annotations and do something else with the book blah blah blah but I don’t have time.

Differences in this edition:

  • Hardcover, with a slip jacket.
  • The paper quality is slightly better than standard POD.  It’s more of a cream color.
  • The cover is an alternate of the original cover.  Same location, but taken during a snow storm.
  • The back cover is a bunch of my notes on legal pads and post-its, along with the post card sent from the Astrodome by Larry Falli.
  • A ten-page introduction explaining the history of the book (up to 2004).
  • A facts and figures section.
  • A Q&A about the book.
  • The 2002 first edition text (possibly with some minor changes) in a different layout.
  • 547 footnotes explaining parts of the text.  This isn’t some DFW/Nabokov “the footnotes are another work of literature” thing; it’s just straight-up reference material.
  • No UPC or ISBN.  Only for sale at Lulu.  No digital edition.

I don’t expect anyone to buy this – I just did it so I could have a nice hardcover on the shelf.  If you do buy it, expect a great delay from lulu.  It took them two weeks to send mine.  But I think it’s worth the $20 – it’s very nice to see it with the glossy slipcover and everything.

OK, back to work on the next one.


Rumored to Exist, haiku edition

I totally forgot about this.  A long time ago, I found this program that would scan a text file and generate haiku from it.  I don’t know exactly how it worked; I guess it would find syllable counts of 5-7-5 in the text.  So of course, I fed Rumored to Exist into it.  It looks like it was a copy of the text from shortly before it was published, and not the final draft. Some of these are uncannily funny.  It’s like doing some Burroughs cut-up shit – some of it is hopelessly random, but some of it fits together far too perfectly.

Here’s the best of the output from it.  Maybe I should put this all in Helvetica and dump it into a pocket book.

I could feel the hair
on my head falling out, my
muscles atrophying.

CIA was outside
in a van, or his phone was
ready to give out.

I couldn’t even
email her and ask if she
was the same person.

He couldn’t bring a
gun into a federal
building anyway.

and Latin American
languages blended.

I thought it would be
in Ohio, it turns out
it was in Japan.

Klan was headquartered
less than an hour from the
governor’s mansion.

Nick told me about
a version of MovieLine
that worked for pornos.

Skee-Ball tickets and
a Hubert Selby, Jr.
tattoo on my cock.

I drilled her right there
on the tile. Within a month,
it became mundane.

I was so bored I
masturbated to the JC
Penny catalog.

Doctor McCarthy
will see you now,” the nurse yelled
across the concourse.

RM: No, you dumb fuck,
I said it was like some bitch
puking on your dick.

That’s been my breakfast
every morning for the
last decade, still is.

Carve your name in my
brain if you think it will stop
the fucking nightmares.

I wish it was a
computer, but even my
computer was dead.

They brainwash kids with
angel dust, impregnated
in blue star tattoos.

I should invest my
money in whether or not
I should take a piss.

X-ray comparisons
between the Dark Lord of the
Sith and John Merrick.

Bread, bread… Ghostbusters
caught the holy ghost in one
of those ecto-traps.

I finished the loaf
of bread, and drank a gallon
of flat Perrier.

Marco said. “Not the
film, but a perfect view of
the event itself.

I found myself in
the men’s room of the DNA Lounge
in San Francisco.

God would have to send
back Ahnold to the manger
to try to stop it.

They could even let
the good guys win and it might
be entertaining.

It would make a good
recordable MiniDisc
commercial, really.

And I had hours
to find Nick and get back on
a plane for New York.

Jed cracked open a
cold one while Elrod, well, cracked
open a cold one.

With my extensive
studies in vomit, I can
spot fake puke at yards.

Tito, reading from
a copy of USA
Decay. “Fuck!” I said.

It didn’t feel like
skin-to-skin contact like the
package claimed either.

I could grind them down
and make counterfeit paper
pulp in my bathtub.

Never give money
to strangers, unless you know
just how strange they are.

It’s like that Cheech and
Chong movie where they had a
truck made out of dope.

I shove the clipboard
up his ass. Okay, so I
have issues with UPS.

But I won’t pay those
bastards at Time-Warner
for their mind control.

I liked the Behind
the Music on Ice-T though.
He’s pretty funny.

I need you to go
thirty clicks up the river
and catch this frisbee.

I dropped a fiver
on the counter for my drink,
and ran for the door.

The human body
is engineered to fail in
an emergency.

I raped the cancer
surgery reward with a
Dremel moto-tool.

Leisure Suit Larry
with a vibrating pager
attached to your wong.

And you couldn’t sleep
on the beach and bum tourists’
change at this resort.

I never went to
class, so I’d have a lot of
trouble finding them.

Outside, sirens were
going off everywhere, the
riot underway.

Peter Criss threw his
drumsticks to the screaming fans
in the coach section.

Plus when I wore it
all day, I lost five to ten
pounds in sweat. Nitrous…

Pure oxygen rushed
through the nosepiece, and
I inhaled deeply.

The Gremlin didn’t
have AC, or even a
functional vent fan.

I could pick up my
paycheck, and I didn’t have
a dime to my name.

Tito finally
bitch-slapped him and told him
to shut the fuck up.

John Voight would play the
chief, and utter the “I’m too
old for this shit” line.

With some napkins and
a straw that’ll work in the
ambulance, of course.

I’d break em in half
on the first stroke.” “Dude, I think
you’re fucked up,” Nick said.

Shooting Six People
in the Fucking Face with a
Bulldog Revolver.

I checked out all of
those religious books and drenched
them in human blood.

I asked about this,
he said it kept the CIA
from reading his mind.

Weren’t you born in
like ’61?” “Dude, I was there, but
not during the war.

IQ test last night, so
I know I’m not stupid, but
it could be the drugs.

Santa Claus shapes in
a piece of plywood with a
table saw sans guards.

I’m gonna fuck him,
and break that god damned gimp arm
in half with my cock.

I pour gasoline
all over myself and light
myself on fire.

I pushed him, and watched
him fall to his death. Then I
went to 7-Eleven.

Man, and that’s why I
kept setting off the metal
detectors. It worked.

Her only piece of
photo ID was a postcard
of Niagara Falls.

I can’t just write “THIS
IS MONEY” on a piece of
paper and spend it.

I figured they had
to use potent stuff to keep
out the cockroaches.

I got the second
one, and found the first, she could
have it. She’s gone too.



Another story from another kind of book

I’m still editing this book. It’s going to take a while, and I hate this part of the process more than anything, because it’s not the process of creating, of writing hundreds and thousands of words, and it’s not the process of holding a finished book in your hands, so it’s painstaking. And I have all of these crazy ideas popping in my head that don’t fit within this book, for the next one or the one after, and it’s a beast to try and write those down and not forget them while I’m doing the equivalent of removing cat hair from a mohair sweater. But it’s getting there.

I have a 115,000-word manuscript that’s a complete train wreck, something that’s a book like Summer Rain but covers the entire six years I was in Bloomington. I’ve all but written off Summer Rain, partly because that’s not what I write anymore, and partly because there’s a certain pain to nostalgic autobiographical fiction that I like a bit too much to spend all of my time with it. In many senses, I think of Summer Rain as a failure, and use that to justify never going back to that kind of writing. But since the book went to Kindle, a couple of people have read it and said it really resonated with them, which makes me wonder if I was on to something.

Anyway, here is part of a story, or rather an experience, that I outlined and forgot. It’s not a story story, it’s just some loose thoughts.

I used to have a bus pass at IU, when I was a freshman. I guess now the buses at IU are free, but back then, you had to pay some obscene amount to get a little sticker on your ID so you could ride them. You could also pay a fraction of that for a nights and weekends pass, which is what I did. I didn’t have a car, so I’d take the bus out to College Mall all the time. It was a huge pain in the ass, but it beat walking.

I had a really good friend, V, this girl who was also on the computer all the time, and even though she was only about a year older than me, we had this almost big sister/little brother relationship, and she’d always listen to me pule about my various relationship problems. She wanted to be a shrink, and I was crazy, so this dynamic worked well, and we traded emails pretty much daily.

I used to call her dorm a lot, and she’d never be there, because computers cost more than cars, and nobody had them, so you’d go camp out in a computer cluster to get your fix. And I used to leave messages so much with her roommate L that we started chatting, asking each other about our days, and that led to conversations, and that led to me calling L just to talk to her, and not V. We’d have these marathon phone sessions, even though we never met in person, maybe because we never met in person. In these strange, protracted, intimate, three or four hour long confessionals, we talked about love and sex and partners and life and fears and hopes. And we’d flirt, and joke around, but it never became a “hey, let’s go grab a drink” or “let’s put a name to a face” – there was never an attempt at conversion, in crossing over to the other side. And we did have these insane talks about sex every once in a while, at two in the morning, where she’d confess that she could have twenty-minute orgasms or I’d talk about how I was certain my English teacher was trying to fuck me. But it was all in this strange meta-platonic phase, where we were more than friends, but never attempting to become more than friends.

I always say I never seriously became a writer until 1993, but there were fits and spurts where I’d try to knock out a short story, or I’d do something for a class, and I’d want to get serious about it. And I took the freshman writing class that first semester, and read a lot of Vonnegut, and I was an insomniac, so I’d bang out these depressing science fiction stories, and email them to her, and she’d be incredibly interested in them. And I still have some of them, and they really suck, so who knows what she was smoking. But if you want to be a writer and you show someone a story you can’t even show your girlfriend or best friend and they completely swoon over it and ask you questions about it and are genuinely impressed by it, that’s like the biggest thing they could possibly do to push a latent infatuation over the edge.

I eventually met L, ran into her at a computer lab with V, just a quick hi/hello/good to see you. She was far more beautiful than I expected. It put me in this awkward situation because she confided in me, and we talked almost every day about incredibly intimate things, but that safe place was possible because of the physical disconnect. Now we knew what we looked like, and I found her absolutely stunning, and I couldn’t really do anything about it. And I would normally email with V about these things, but this was the one person I couldn’t talk to her about. (And I was in a relationship, albeit a bad one. And L had a boyfriend too, although he was a jerk and treated her like shit, of course.)

My brain was stuck in this lurch, but I never admitted it, because I think I depended on L so much to get through that year. We would email or chat online pretty much all day every day: good mornings, good nights, the day’s frustrations, the problems with partners. I could tell her things I could not tell my girlfriend or best friends, and she was the same. We kept this line we would never cross, but it many ways, we went way past the line. It was all so comforting and supportive and wonderful, but it was also something I always feared would suddenly end when she found out how I really felt about her, or I did something stupid, or she somehow found out how much of an idiot I really was.

Anyway, the bus. I went to College Mall one night, a Friday night right before the holiday break started, when me the loser had nothing to do but go to the mall and buy Christmas candy. I went to wait for the bus, which only showed up every half hour or so, and the one person also waiting out there in the dark and cold was L. Even though our couple of in-person meetings prior to this consisted of a few dozen words while we sat at computers, we had a long time to talk, waiting for the goddamn bus to show up, and it ended up becoming another one of those long brain dumps, where we both bitched about the problems with our respective partners. I’d had a hellish Thanksgiving with my then-girlfriend, and seriously wanted to break things off with her, but instead I either invited her or got talked into inviting her to spend a week at my mom’s, which I dreaded even more than the prospect of spending the holidays at home. L had some similar turmoil going on, and we talked about that. It was back to our old pattern though, the deep dive through emotions, which felt strange while we were sitting right next to each other, but was just as immersive and familiar as when we used to do it in the middle of the night over the phone.

The bus came, and we got on board, grateful for the warmth, but because of the weird bus route, it had to go out away from the mall and then sit for 15 minutes behind the Kroger grocery while the driver took a break, before it started the loop again and went back to campus. I shared my Christmas candy with her, and we talked more, flirted, but mostly just enjoyed the time sitting next to each other, alone on this giant GMC bus. When you spend that much time in a relationship with someone, even this accelerated, half-friends half-whatever relationship, you develop your own shorthand and inside jokes and patterns and ways of speech, and we had so much of that. We could finish each others’ sentences, and had a kind of intimacy that I didn’t have in my “real” relationship. It was like some Meg Ryan movie, like I was the Billy Crystal, like we were the just friends that were so much more, and at the end of Act 3, she’d meet me at the top of the Empire State Building and we’d have the happily ever after.

That never happened, of course. V went to Germany the next year, or maybe it was Austria, and when she came back, it was a lifetime later, five or six iterations of the college friendship cycle, and we only talked one or two times since. I don’t know when or how I lost touch with L, but I did. This was 1990, and people didn’t check their email over the summer unless they were really wired in and their parents had computers with modems, which was pretty much nobody in my circle.  We could have written letters, or made long-distance phone calls, but we didn’t.  And in college, sometimes you are closer to a person than you have been with anyone in your entire life, and then six months later, they’re yet another stranger among the 40,000 other strangers on that big ten campus, and you’re dumping your heart out to someone completely different.

In the fiction story version of the tale, something would have happened.  Our hands would have touched, met, joined, and we would have known what had to happen next.  Something illicit and unsaid would transpire after that bus ride, a quiet walk back to a dorm room where a roommate was out of town for the weekend, no exchange of words, a torrid exchange of pent-up energy in the darkness. And even if the happily ever after didn’t happen, there would be a long night where our real lives didn’t matter, even if would end with the heartbreak of her going back to her stupid boyfriend and me dealing with the girl I’d end up dumping a few months later.

In reality, I saw L maybe three years later. I was in the back of my favorite record store, and saw her enter. She looked completely spent, different than the innocence mixed with sophistication of what I remembered, beaten by life and dreams unfulfilled. She was in the middle of a fight with some beardo guy, a boyfriend who followed her around like a trained lap dog, apologizing profusely for everything and nothing while she hurled insults and complained about the imaginary. I didn’t talk to her; I didn’t even want to acknowledge that it was her, for fear it would kill that perfect memory of what we had and didn’t have before.

And that was twenty years ago. All of those emails with V are lost; all of the memories of L are slowly fading from my brain. The record store is gone, the owner dead. I’m here, thousands of miles removed. And I’m writing this crazy book about a bizarre reality that’s a laugh a minute, and exactly what I want to write, but thinking about these distant episodes and revisiting them in my head makes me wonder not only what could have been, but what could end up being another story in another book that I might or might not someday finish.


I do not give a god damn about the book industry

I often get dragged into discussions about the book industry, mostly because people are too stupid to know the difference between Jon and Joe and blindly throw a @jkonrath into a tweet about how publishing is dying or some dumb company is fleecing even dumber authors who did the equivalent of paying $10,000 cash for head shots.

(Side note: It’s somewhat ironic that the term for this kind of shit is “joe job” given the name of the other person involved here.)

This is annoying on many levels, mostly because it distracts me from what I’m really trying to do.  But more than that, all of this talking head parroting sometimes makes me wonder why I don’t keep up with what’s going on in the publishing world.  I don’t read trades or spend time on publishing news sites, throwing down my opinion on whatever catastrophe is currently making the rounds.  I don’t take sides on publishers versus “indies” or who signed with who or who decided to leave their publisher and self-pub or what the guy who wrote Wool ate for lunch or any of that.  I don’t care.

I do not give a fuck about the book industry.  I mean, I like to read books, and I publish the final output of my work so you can see if you want to read it.  But I am a writer.  I’m not a shameless self-promoter, and I’m not an industry insider.  And I don’t want to be.  I don’t write books for maximum profits.  I write books because they’re trapped in my soul and need to be excised like the pus from a wound.  I know it sounds pretentious to pull the “I’m an artist” card, but I’m definitely not a businessman, and I do not care about any of it.

I recently read a book called Post-Digital Print, which was one of the most inspiring books I’ve read in a long time.  It outlines every “publishing is dying” screed that has happened since 1894, and I guarantee you that about a dozen of them are things you’ve never heard about.  Almost every one was invented by a company that wanted you to buy their shit instead.  Did you know that people thought radio would replace printed books?  At the turn of the century (or a couple of decades later, I guess) part of the population thought books were turning everyone blind.  It probably had some causal relationship to the rise in optometry technology at the time, and everyone was getting glasses, whereas before that only rich people got monocles, and everyone else squinted.  Anyway, some industry geniuses said that radio would replace “the burden of reading” and save everyone’s eyesight.  And we know how that turned out.

I’m not saying print isn’t suffering.  But it’s not going away, either.  There’s going to be a whole generation of artisanal printing, letterpress chapbooks and boxed sets of limited edition prints with high-end art book covers and over-designed interiors in esoteric fonts that makes Helvetica look like Comic Sans.  Look at what happened with vinyl records.  The 8-track was supposed to kill them, then the cassette, then the CD.  There are now vinyl-only stores, limited-edition LPs with extra tracks and slick printed gatefold sleeves encasing art books and 45-remastered dual discs on 200-gram virgin vinyl.  Yes, the airport reader is going to gobble down murder mysteries on their kindle, but book collectors aren’t going to be forced to shred everything and go to e-format.

What I am saying is that these talking head industry-mongers are not authors – they are inflating their own egos for their own industry, which is fear-mongering and hand-wringing. It doesn’t help your writing.  They’re the people selling the ten dollar loaves of bread to the people who showed up late to the gold rush.  It’s all bullshit.  It’s all inconsequential.

Speaking of, gotta get writing – trying to finish the next book.  I’ll end with a quote from my buddy George Carlin that pretty much sums it all up.

I figured out years ago that the human species is totally fucked and has been for a long time. I also know that the sick, media-consumer culture in America continues to make this so-called problem worse. But the trick, folks, is not to give a fuck. Like me. I really don’t care. I stopped worrying about all this temporal bullshit a long time ago. It’s meaningless.

-George Carlin


Ode to a busted cell processor

God damn it. It is broken. Again.

My PS3 is in a shop somewhere in Missouri, getting the yellow light of death beaten out of it. It went south in November and got all of the solder stripped away, the whole mess ultrasonically cleaned, then reflowed. Or something. Now it is dead again.

I am at an deadlock with this new book. 100,000 words and I don’t even know what it is about, what order things should happen. I feel like that scene in the Naked Lunch movie where Ginsberg and Kerouac show up in Tangiers and Burroughs is strung out on junk, unaware that his apartment is filled with notes and routines that would later become his most popular book, but it’s this fucked mass of scribbles and jumbles.  I wish I had a Ginsberg that would show up and unfuck this book.  I keep at it though — it will eventually make sense.

This is the time where I would fire up Black Ops and walk away for a bit, let things ferment.  This is what’s staring at me when I want to do this: loose cables and a controller hooked up to nothing.

I would go out and buy a new PS3 slim, but that’s basically paying $300 to not write.  $300 when a PS4 is months away.  And it wouldn’t even play my old PS2 games.  I’d have to pay another $100 to get a PS2 also.

I have this sick attachment to this PS3, a heavy nostalgia, because back in 2007, when S worked 80 hours a week and I was jobless, I spent hours and hours writing this book I never finished, and working for a friend’s startup for free.  But then as day became night, I would fire up this PS3 and play it for hours.  I formed this stupid emotional bond for a piece of hardware that would someday become obsolete, someday die.  I sometimes fall in these deep nostalgic k-holes for the recent past and think about Denver a lot, and one of the top five things in those memories involve this black monolith of a video game system, which is why I struggle to keep it alive and UPS it to some dude in Missouri to get it re-repaired.

I have all of these dumb games for the iPad, but that’s just tapping on a screen.  The PlayStation creates these immersive worlds I get lost in for hours.  Back when Vice City came out, I would play it for hours, like it was my full-time job.  I’d come home from work on a Friday night, order a pizza, and fire up the machine, just to wander, to get a motorcycle and drive through neighborhoods and try to jump off of stuff, watch the people walking, find secret entrances or ways to climb on rooftops.  This was after I finished Rumored, when I was in a funk about dating and meeting people, when that postpartum depression after finishing a big book really kicked my ass.  I’d hole up in my Astoria apartment for entire weekends, at the DualShock controller.  It wasn’t healthy, and it wasn’t productive, but it was.

I can’t do that anymore, but I sometimes wish I could.  I should probably ignore this and get back to this goddamn book.