Arturo Bandini narrates his life and struggles as a writer in LA
Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town.
“I just got a letter from my agent,” I told her. “My agent in New York. He says I sold another one; he doesn’t say where, but he says he’s got one sold. So don’t worry Mrs. Hargraves, don’t you fret, I’ll have it in a day or so.” But she couldn’t believe a liar like me. It wasn’t really a lie; it was a wish, not a lie, and maybe it wasn’t even a wish, maybe it was a fact, and the only way to find out was watch the mailman, watch him closely, check his mail as he laid it on the desk in the lobby, ask him point blank if he had anything for Bandini. But I didn’t have to ask after six months at that hotel. He saw me coming and he always nodded yes or no before I asked: no, three million times; yes, once.
Oh for a Mexican girl! I used to think of her all the time, my Mexican girl. I didn’t have one, but the streets were full of them, the Plaza and Chinatown were afire with them, and in my fashion they were mine, this one and that one, and some day when another check came it would be a fact. Meanwhile it was free and they were Aztec princesses and Mayan princesses, the peon girls in the Grand Central Market, in the Church of Our Lady, and I even went to Mass to look at them.
The lean days of determination. That was the word for it, determination: Arturo Bandini in front of his typewriter two full days in succession, determined to succeed; but it didn’t work, the longest siege of hard and fast determination in his life, and not one line done, only two words written over and over across the page, up and down, the same words: palm tree, palm tree, palm tree, a battle to the death between the palm tree and me, and the palm tree won: see it out there swaying in the blue air, creaking sweetly in the blue air.
I was twenty then. What the hell, I used to say, take your time, Bandini. You got ten years to write a book, so take it easy, get out and learn about life, walk the streets. That’s your trouble: your ignorance of life. Why, my God, man, do you realize you’ve never had any experience with a woman? Oh yes I have, oh I’ve had plenty. Oh no you haven’t. You need a woman, you need a bath, you need a good swift kick, you need money.
Ten dollars: it will pay the rent for two and a half weeks, it will buy me three pairs of shoes, two pair of pants, or one thousand postage stamps to send material to the editors; indeed! But you haven’t any material, your talent is dubious, your talent is pitiful, you haven’t any talent, and stop lying to yourself day after day because you know The Little Dog Laughed is no good, and it will always be no good.
Here was the Church of Our Lady, very old, the adobe blackened with age. For sentimental reasons I will go inside. For sentimental reasons only. I have not read Lenin, but I have heard him quoted, religion is the opium of the people. Talking to myself on the church steps: yeah, the opium of the people. Myself, I am an atheist: I have read The Anti-Christ and I regard it as a capital piece of work. I believe in the transvaluation of values, Sir. The Church must go, it is the haven of the booboisie, of boobs and bounders and all brummagem mountebanks.
A prayer. Sure, one prayer: for sentimental reasons. Almighty God, I am sorry I am now an atheist, but have You read Nietzsche? Ah, such a book!
Bandini (being interviewed prior to departure for Sweden): “My advice to all young writers is quite simple. I would caution them never to evade a new experience. I would urge them to live life in the raw, to grapple with it bravely, to attack it with naked fists.”
An interesting innovation, peaches and oranges. My teeth tore them to pulp, the juices skewering and whimpering at the bottom of my stomach. It was so sad down there in my stomach. There was much weeping, and little gloomy clouds of gas pinched my heart.
My plight drove me to the typewriter. I sat before it, overwhelmed with grief for Arturo Bandini. Sometimes an idea floated harmlessly through the room. It was like a small white bird. It meant no ill-will. It only wanted to help me, dear little bird. But I would strike at it, hammer it out across the keyboard, and it would die on my hands.
When I got back to my room I threw myself on the bed and wept from deep inside my chest. I let it flow from every part of me, and after I could not cry anymore I felt fine again. I felt truthful and clean.
There was a letter from Hackmuth in my box. I knew it was from Hackmuth. I could tell a Hackmuth letter a mile away. I could feel a Hackmuth letter, and it felt like an icicle sliding down my spine.
Ah, Evelyn and Vivian, I love you both, I love you for your sad lives, the empty misery of your coming home at dawn. You too are alone, but you are not like Arturo Bandini, who is neither fish, fowl nor good red herring. So have your champagne, because I love you both, and you, too Vivian, even if your mouth looks like it had been dug out with raw fingernails and your old child’s eyes swim in blood written like mad sonnets.
Something was wrong with her and it was not alcohol and I wanted to find out what it was.
Vera Rivken, Arturo Bandini. It was not meant that way: it was never meant that way. I was wrong. I had committed a mortal sin. I could figure it mathematically, philosophically, psychologically: I could prove it a dozen ways, but I was wrong, for there was no denying the warm even rhythm of my guilt. Sick in my soul I tried to face the ordeal of seeking forgiveness. From whom? What God, what Christ? They were myths I once believed, and now they were beliefs I felt were myths.
What I got out of it
Ryan Holiday recommended this book as it is one of his favorites about Los Angeles and having just moved here wanted to see what it was all about it. Great story and so beautifully written
This book will teach you how to make something which stands the test of time, something great, a masterpiece, how to present it in a compelling, way how to market it, and how to create a platform around it
Most artists fail in creating something lasting because they never give themselves the chance. They don’t think they can or they don’t even think too much about it, the incentives are for short term quick fixes, every example and even advice and responses from fans may hurt their chances
Perennial products, regardless of initial success, get more customers and sales over time. People return to them more than once and recommend them to others
The power of perennial sellers is not only that they keep being watched heard or important somehow but that they also get stronger overtime. This is the Lindy Effect in action – the longer they are in the spotlight the longer you can expect them to be around
No matter how much time you spend afterwards marketing your product, if you don’t create a great product from the start, it has zero chance of being a perennial seller
The creator must need to create whatever it is. A burning desire where they can’t stop thinking about it. This intention is what drives great work. A truth and purpose for why this great work needs to exist. These are works that change people, change the world
It often takes great sacrifice to do this. Of relationships, ‘fun’ time and things, short term gratification and more. However, this isn’t only necessary, it is rewarding as you know you have put all you have into it
If you feel like you only have a short window to release something, you’re often worrying about the wrong thing or its not the type of work that will last. Ideas need time to marinate and evolve. Rushing into things destroys this process
Find your itch and scratch it. Trying to be for everyone will likely make you for no one
Being the only person doing something is often a better strategy then being the best at something
Some good questions to ask to see if you’re on the right track is, “What sacred cows am I slaying?” and “what dominant players am I disrupting?” and “what people am I pissing off?”
The best art divides an audience
It is important to know your audience context genre and more in order to know which boundaries to push in which to leave
Doing your best is all that matters. There is no benchmark. No competition
It is crucial to go through a painful iteration process. You need unbiased outside advisors to critique you and give you feedback. This can take years but no first version is ever the best. Polish, test and retest
One sentence, one paragraph, one page – helpful template to be able to succinctly describe what you’re aiming to do and achieve
The best creatives know the critical variables the projects hinge on. They are steadfast on these and more flexible on others
If you can’t be first in your category, create a new category where you can be first
I am doing x for x because of x
Taking the leap requires giving up all other missions or projects and devoting yourself wholly to creating a masterpiece
Marketing is anything that gets and keeps customers
The greats are humble and nervous about their work. The imposters tend to be overconfident
Argues that giving away copies is often a great way to get started as obscurity equals death. Amazon has found the cheapest books sell the most and actually goes on to make more money than more expensive books. Lower the price up to the point where if it were lower it would hurt your brand or reputation. Essential to make the process as easy and frictionless and cheap as possible in order to get people to take a chance on you
Getting influencers on board is important. Understand they are often hyper fans and doing something to help them look good in their field can help a lot. Johnny Carson made a lot of people’s stand up careers and he wanted to be seen as a taste leader here. Always put yourself in their shoes, send them more stuff than they know what to do with as they likely have influencer friends
Advertising is so much more powerful when there is already an established audience and track record
Critical to know a customers lifetime value and their cost per acquisition
Doing something unexpected is almost always a better advertising play than going up dollar for dollar against professional ad agencies
Humor and levity is probably more effective than manipulation or beating people over the head
Your platform is more than social media. It is what you grow and nourish in order to help your creative work expand – reputation, context, friends, etc
Good works compound on themselves, making it easier to sell and advertise each time you manage this
What I got out of it
The power of intention once again. Understanding the time, sacrifice, patience, frustrations that every great work requires will help you get through and manage this process
With short but sweet advice and pointed historical examples, Ryan Holiday envelops you in a Stoic world where people not only can conquer any obstacle, but take advantage of it, enjoy it and become better and stronger people because of it. Holiday is a very interesting guy who has worked closely with critically acclaimed author Robert Greene since dropping out of college at age 19 and I would highly recommend his podcasts with Tim Ferriss.
The most successful people have a method and a framework for understanding, appreciating, and acting upon obstacles life throws at us. Great individuals and great companies find a way to turn weakness into strengths. The greater the obstacle, the greater their/its strength becomes (pair with Taleb’s amazing Antifragile)
Every obstacle is unique to each of us but the responses they elicit are the same – fear, frustration, confusion, helplessness, depression, anger
With the advice in this book you will be able to attack any obstacle by seeing clearly, acting correctly and enduring and accepting the world as it is
Our perception can be a source of strength or our greatest weakness
See things as they really are, without their legend or ornamentation
Live in the present, day by day. Do not always try to figure out what things mean – why they are the way they are.
Don’t waste time on false constructs
Of course you want to avoid negative situations if you can but what if you were able to remember in the moment the second act, that opportunity to improve even the slightest, that comes with unfortunate situations
Action is commonplace. Proper action is not
Genius often really is just persistence in disguise
Stop looking for angels and start looking for angles
What is defeat? Nothing but education; nothing but the first steps to something better
We must be willing to roll the dice and lose. Prepare, at the end of the day, for none of it to work
Will is our internal power which can never be affected by the outside world. True will is quiet humility, resilience, and flexibility; the other kind of will is weakness disguised as bluster and ambition
Love everything that happens – Amor Fati
Death gives life meaning. Having that finite timeline pushes you and inspires you
What I got out of it
As we all know, simple often does not mean easy. The themes in this book not only cover how to face and conquer obstacles, but how to live a happy and successful life. Much of the advice may not be novel, in fact much of it is Stoic and dates back thousands of years, but it is nevertheless invaluable. People are capable of anything as long as they don’t confuse perception with observation, can learn from their mistakes and can embrace the problems everybody undoubtedly will face with a clear mind, acting correctly and accepting the world as it is.