. . . other Charlie Smiths . . . i am not even on the fucking list . . .

Charlie Smith’s novel, “Men In Miami Hotels”, is reviewed here at The Millions, a website of literary interest I once upon a time trolled daily (1. more on that later.) Before I exited Facebook – and, frankly, one of the many reasons I exited Facebook – I was receiving daily posts on my wall from his publisher about this wonderful book.

Charlie Smith is not a famous novelist. That one. Or, this one. But he’s more famous than me. As in, published.

charlie smith not famous and google never heard of him not living in new york not published and no guggenheims

charlie smith not famous and google never heard of him not living in new york not published and no guggenheims

This confusion of “Charlies” is hardly a new thing. I learned early on I would never be the only Charlie Smith in town. That whole, “This town’s not big enough for the both of us” trope being rather a joke in my case. I mean, after all, my name is SMITH. In my youth, I longed for some more exotic appellation. The only way I could have been LESS exotic would have been had my first name been John. And then, when the whole “terrorist watch list” thing happened and suddenly I could no longer do on-line or curbside check-ins for flights (back then when I was still going places – 2. more on that later) because – of course – there were any number of Charlie Smiths on those lists – my name became not just embarrassingly common but ANNOYINGLY so.

I learned about this novelist Charlie Smith when I spent a few months at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. I left that group of people absolutely CERTAIN I would find a publisher, that I was, indeed, that thing I wanted to be: A Writer. They thought I was great. They hated me. They had no doubt that I was a writer and that writing was what I ought to be doing. I went home from Iowa and thought I would find the same sort of support from people who claimed to love me. Instead, what I found mostly was resentment, doubt, and anger from others that I might – just might – for the first time in my life feel as if I ought to be able to pursue my dreams. Those others were put out that their agendas might be interrupted by my need to live MY life instead of their story of my life.

Coming back from Iowa – which was one of the very best times of my life – led to one of the very worst periods of my life, a time during which I was repeatedly shown that I was not so much loved after all, but rather, a convenient prop in the lives of people who only wanted me around as long as I was serving their purpose; people who ultimately didn’t give a shit about anyone else, especially me, who wasn’t actively doing their bidding and bowing and scraping to the roles they had assigned themselves as Queen and Prince and other royalty.

I was pretty shocked. Pretty hurt. Pretty fucking pissed off that asking anything was too much to ask of almost anyone, when I had spent decades answering “YES” to almost everyone – and especially those few who tore at my guts so viciously because I dared to say “I NEED THIS”, and then they eviscerated me and slandered the offal of me left behind after they had bled me out.

Anyway. I finished a book. I wrote a column for a few years. Edited others’ stuff (I can’t call all of it writing, so, yeah, stuff) and became increasingly disheartened seeing what was gaining traction on-line and in publishing. I think there’s room for all kinds of writing – I like nice, fun, flashy, fancy kickass books myself – I am even working on some (or, WAS working, when I was still writing, but 3. more on that later) but – holy mother of all that is Balzac – there is so much truly horrid, awful shit getting published that I can barely enter a bookstore or turn on my Kindle. The things being recommended make me SICK.

We are living in a post-literate age.

A photo of Charlie Smith not me the real writer with the fellowships and grants and books

A photo of Charlie Smith not me the real writer with the fellowships and grants and books

And someone else – another writer – has my name. Here – read all about him. He writes literary fiction in a lyrical poetic style. And, he even looks a little like me (I know, he’s better looking than me – STOP IT.) AND HE LIVES IN NEW YORK CITY! I mean . . . what the fuck, universe? And you couldn’t at least make him REALLY successful, so I could, you know, bask in his glory. So when someone asked, “Oh, are you THAT Charlie Smith? The writer?” I could say, “Yeah. I am.” And for just a minute . . . maybe get all the support and love and such for my writing that I thought I’d get on my return from Iowa – you know – from people who loved me, who, mostly, couldn’t even be bothered to say, “Could I read your stuff?”

Fuck you. Fuck them. Fuck everything. But in the fucking, let’s make THAT Charlie Smith famous and a bestseller. Here’s a link to his latest book – which we should ALL buy – new. Not used.

So, I get up this morning and flip open my laptop and there he is on THE MILLIONS and frankly, I could barely read the review – though I’m definitely buying the book – and as a distraction I look myself up on Google. As in, my name in Frederick County, Maryland and – holy shit – there are a million of me. I’m not even the ONLY one with my middle initial.

BUT YOU WANT TO HEAR THE FUNNIEST THING OF ALL? I am NOT EVEN one of the ones LISTED. Yep. All the Charlie Smiths floating around and I’m not even on the fucking list.

(AND MORE ON THAT LATER:

1. I don’t check sites every day any more. Sometimes I never even get on line. I’m better off the further away I am from the world. I think. Which is good, since, apparently I don’t exist. Maybe I am dead already and don’t know it?

2. I don’t go anywhere any more because I am too poor. House-sitting is my new travel. While I live alone with pets and plants and such, I PRETEND I am somewhere exotic. I borrow other people’s’ homes and dogs and lives for a while.

3. I am barely writing anymore. I try. But I am fairly certain some irreversible process of emotional and intellectual deterioration has begun which I seem powerless to stop, undo, or, frankly, even give much of a shit about. I’m sort of in a “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” existential phase, waiting for something or someone to come along and finish me off since I’m too lazy to do it myself.)

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