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From a notebook

In college I was a diarist. In small spiral notebooks I wrote everything from notes for essays to minutiae about my lackluster love life. What I most remember about them is writing for hours on end insufferable page upon insufferable page of interior monologue about telephone conversations with women I was too chickenshit to ask out. It’s because of those pages that I don’t open the notebooks very often, but cleaning last night, I ran across one and on a whim broke it open. I was surprised to find it is ten years old this year; I was likewise surprised to find more in it than pining. There’s some version of me—some version I don’t really remember having been—represented there who wrote about current affairs and debated his future and exclaimed when two people he once knew were charged with murder. (They were minor acquaintances, apparently, so minor the entire episode is lost to me now.) It is out of that spirit of surprise that I reproduce verbatim my entry from ten years ago today. It’s not especially interesting—nothing surprising like in the entry from ten years ago tomorrow which concludes, “I got email from Annie Dillard, today”—but perhaps there’s some charm in its pretension and ignorance; at the very least, it’ll be fun to try to figure out whatever it was I was thinking:

2 March 1997

Is it true? That modern prose has no characters, no depth, but has style greater than ever before written? In a way, yes, I think, although I wonder about its depth—I think that I don’t know, in other words.

But style is a concentration in 20th century writing. Beginning w/James’ innovations, then jumping in leaps to Joyce and Eliot and Hemingway and Faulkner and Orwell.

And yet, how can—especially novel-writers—be expected to have created everything, yet? The novel is really only about 100 years old. Compared to symphonies, to painting, that ain’t much. Of course it draws on older forms of writing—drama, essays, utopias, poetry—but as its own form, as its own identity, it’s new.

[ In developing character, winters and summers can be important, and can help convey roundness and complexity.

When summer came, the world turned red. It was bright. Flowers bloomed weekly. Roses budded always. In July the grass began to brown from the heat that always was there.

But life tripped on. My job kept me away from my friends, yet I heard them…]

As I was waking this afternoon, the most profound thought came to me. I told myself I should write it down because it would solve everything. It was a formula, an aesthetic law that I believed. It explained the universe to me.

But my lids remained shut and I relished the grayness behind my eyes that results from leaving the blinds open and letting the world peek in to watch me sleep. I relished that grayness and then, when I was ready, with the univers’s answer talking to me behind my ears and showing itself to me on the blank side of my eyes, I got up, urinated, and left the room, forgetting the answer, even the question, to all my ideas.

How aggravating.



Kudos to you for having the stones to post that. Seventeen has got to be one of the most inane of all ages, though I think what you wrote is actually brilliant when you think about what you might find on the average teenager’s Myspace page (not that I look at those).

I was 20—that should make it significantly worse, no?

Still applies.

I’m disappointed in you! Here I give rope to flog with, and what do you do? Throw flowers! See if I ever give such a chance again…

I’m sorry my Christ-like behaviour disappoints you.

Alas! It does. But I don’t hold it against you. How could I? I’m the one who once wrote, “I got up, urinated, and left the room, forgetting the answer, even the question, to all my ideas.”

I was an exhaustive diarist in high school, but I slacked off some in college. Almost all those notebooks are at my mother’s house in Iowa City, along with all my yearbooks. Certain things I like to keep sequestered.

I did recently find a whole stack of notebooks from about 1999-2002, but I haven’t been brave enough to look at them very much. Props to you for delving in.

I wasn’t looking for this, but FYI, J/ess F/ulgham is the acquaintance from high school, mentioned above.