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[JULY 2007.]

So that was July. I couldn’t concentrate on anything and J. said, it’s because you do the same things all the time. The same things I do all the time:

1. Write or try to write
2. Coffee
3. Read something by or about Henry James
4. Poke the Internet with a sharp stick until it yelps
5. Turn to J. for comfort
6. Digital audio
7. Coffee
8. Collapse and start anew

You can see that I am not outwardly directed. Not even this is outwardly directed; it only goes as far as the very large, semitransparent mask I’ve made. I live in a secure nest, with the books and records in alphabetical order, and every sunny day is largesse, excessive, precisely because no one will ever expect me to pay for it. It will have been good. The best days are those when I can look at the present as if it were the past.

I always have high expectations for summer and they never pan out, leaving me depressed.

 

There’s a passage in Henry James’s notebooks where he faces up to the awful fact that he’s about to turn forty, and declares that if he does not write something truly great in the next few years, he will have been substantially a failure. (This is after he’s already written Portrait of a Lady.) Future perfect, that worst of tenses.

It’s fruitless to envy people their luxuries; even more fruitless to envy the past, where even if James’s novels tended not to sell, he could make a comfortable living writing stories. Since I can’t write stories, that option would have been closed to me—I would have had to work as a Pinkerton detective or something. If there’s something more humane in the modern system, where writers teach in order to have health insurance, it also produces a lot of inept and unhappy teachers—this isn’t what we signed up for! Fruitless to envy James his Italian hours and London days accountable to no one but his muse—and not because of an inheritance (after his father’s death, he made over his entire legacy to Alice) but because of his work.

Writing is difficult, but it’s an elected difficulty; I know at least that I’m fighting on my own ground with my choice of weapons. The difficulty of teaching is a difficulty alien to my temperament, even if I do a passable job of it. I do not know if this is the best life I can go in for. I’m a retiring animal and I should be making my nest in secret. In the ventilation system.

Around the time of his dread fortieth birthday, James moved into a larger set of London apartments and got a dachshund, which he named Tosca. “Well, that should remove any doubts about his sexuality!” said J. “It’s so gay. And so modern.” Pause. “You, on the other hand,” she said to me, “you’re kind of a throwback.” And by way of explanation: “You don’t think that the world, or art, or anything good, has a future.”

Well, I know that the apocalyptic imagination is usually a lack of imagination; it refuses to face the dull prose of suffering, refuses to understand just how bad things can get without history coming to an end. Empires can limp on for centuries.

I’m spoiled, hoping that when I fall it will be into some soft grass; in my mouth I have one long, monotonous, irresolute vowel, instead of an apothegm.

 

Because I was so anhedonic J. convinced me to put down the novel for a few days. And all at once the days are open! It is summer! This is gloriously unearned and I feel I should be apologizing to someone, but it’s only that I spent the first part of the summer trying to be four things at once, and the shades of those obligations are still whispering in my ears.

 

When the cat sits in the window, attention angled downward, and tries to push her head through the screen into the outer world, I always wonder what she sees out there: another cat? A bird? If I get too close to her she'll squall. Last night she was behaving oddly, rocketing off the bed and darting around the house and sleeping most of the night in an undisclosed location; then at four in the morning we had an earthquake. My framed Ulysses poster fell off the wall and shattered, but I’m the kind of guy who keeps a spare framed Ulysses poster in the basement.

I’m supposed to deploy an update to my mining-company Windows app today. I made a lot of promises this summer. But the summer weather is keeping its promises, so I will have to somehow keep mine. I’m not sure that I portioned off enough cranial capacity for the novel; it needs room to grow by itself in the idle hours, otherwise when I sit down with Microsoft Word in the morning I find that nothing has moved. For a couple of weeks I’ve been tugging at the same knot—I think it might finally be loosening.

 

Try again. I keep forgetting whether I’ve taken my meds or not. Yesterday I’m pretty sure I forgot to take them and it left me helpless in the evening, trying to read and wondering why the half-recorded songs didn’t make sense. A couple days ago we were driving through some hills in Eureka County and saw a half-grown foal lying in a field with the rest of the herd, six or seven adults, standing in a circle around it with their tails swishing. Three hours later we drove back the other way and it hadn’t moved; they hadn’t moved.

You're driving when you're that heavily medicated?

Bottle sez it's safe. As long as I don't forget my coffee.

 

My low E string was going sharp whenever I hit it hard; I spent a good while yesterday messing with the saddle and the truss rod and the nut and nothing helped, then today I went back and listened to the recordings and they sounded fine, so is this just something that guitars do.

I don’t really know what to celebrate. 1776, I guess, but where’s the continuity between then and now? “The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same...”

 

Well, wasn't I feeling like the cock of the walk yesterday; and then we went to Moe’s and I found a crap Cormac McCarthy photocopy novel represented by one of the agents that declined me; and then I couldn’t even enjoy the classics shelf properly. It’s terrible how much I sometimes want to be the center against which everything is plotted. Sorry about that. (One can easily imagine a notation, said Wittgenstein, in which pain [as opposed to pain-behavior] can be correctly ascribed to one person only, so that of others one must say: “He is behaving as P.K. behaves when there is pain!”)

Shape it up! Get straight!

ἤ - disjunctive/comparative, “either”/”or”/”than”/”as”
ἦ - “I was” (imperfect)
ᾖ - “that he/she/it be” (present subjunctive)
ἡ - “the” (feminine singular nominative)
ἥ - “she who/that which” (relative pronoun - feminine singular nominative)
ᾗ - “to which/wherefore” (relative pronoun - feminine singular dative)

 

500 words today. It’s a better practice than 333 a day, if only I can make the effort; not only because it requires me to concentrate for a longer period but because it moves infinitesimally closer to the speed at which a reader actually takes it; my immediate memory extends back over more pages, my immediate intentions can cover a greater area, the compositional unit becomes the paragraph rather than the sentence and sometimes—in the best case—I can even see a bit of motion. If I can keep it up through July and August I should have most of this done before my class starts.

 

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