A 27-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Early October, 1978

Saloon

Sunday, October 1, 1978

9 PM. October already – and the new Hebrew year 5739. The beginning of the Jewish New Year and the last three months of 1978. The other night Mason said, “Thank God for Rosh Hashona this year.”

Our family’s observance of the holiday has changed to the point where, now, no one goes to synagogue, no one gets dressed up, and everyone but Jonny does everything (drives, watches TV, etc.)

I visited Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb this afternoon. Grandma Ethel told me her new diet is confusing to her: seven-grain whole wheat breads, bran, steamed vegetables, no sugar or salt, lots of nuts and fruit.

I explained that it’s basically a healthy and sensible diet low in fats, cholesterol, food additives and artificial ingredients designed to rid her body of toxins.

“I may get healthy,” Grandma Ethel said, “but shopping in the health food store I’ll go broke.”

Psychology Today Oct 78Psychology Today had an article on the nutrition revolution which has swept America. Certainly our refrigerator looks different than it did ten years ago. But then none of us exercised ten years ago, either. (This morning Dad walked a mile as Mom and Marc jogged.)

Speaking of ten years ago: I sat on their terrace with my grandparents and remembered that it was ten years ago, during my breakdown, that I stayed with them over the holiday while my room was being painted.

I have photographs of all of us on that day: on one, I am a skinny kid in sunglasses looking out towards the ocean.

Obviously I still look young – no one at Kingsborough believes I’m a teacher – but I can see lines around my mouth and eyes. (Too much sun, perhaps?)

Before I finally put my preoccupation with 1968 aside, I must say this: What troubles me about the experience of my breakdown is that after all these years, I cannot say definitely why I stopped functioning and I’m not quite sure how I “recovered” – started to function again.

Oh, I understand that various factors contributed to the breakdown: my mother’s perfectionism and her own agoraphobia, my sexual confusion, fear of leaving childhood, even the political climate of 1968.

But to pinpoint the genesis of my illness, I cannot do. If I could travel back ten years in one of those time-barrier-crashing bubbles I used to see in comic books, I would love to interview the 17-year-old me and find out what I was feeling. I must have been feeling something besides fear, anxiety, humiliation and nausea.

The New Yorker Oct 2 78Oh well. I spent most of this weekend reading, devouring everything in sight: all my little magazines, the newspapers (the three dailies are still on strike and their substitutes are poor), The New Yorker, TV Guide, The People’s Almanac 2, essays from the texts I’m using, anything I could lay my hands on.

One of my students wrote in his self-profile that he “hates reading.” How could that be possible? If something should happen and I couldn’t write another word, at least I could read.

I don’t want to sound like a banal public service announcement, but reading makes life bearable in a way nothing else but other people can.

I wish I had unlimited resources and unlimited time so I could devour all the books I crave. TV is a pal and always there when you’re lonely and bored, but books are trusted friends, people you save for important moments.

Maybe the National Endowment for the Arts should offer $10,000 fellowships to creative readers as well as to creative writers. Or they should subsidize those who buy books the way they do small presses that publish them.


Monday, October 2, 1978

belt pkwy plum beach5 PM. In a little while I’ll be going to Manhattan to see Wesley Strick. I’ll be missing our Rosh Hashona dinner with turkey and sweet potatoes, but last week I told Wesley that I’d come tonight.

I’m a bit ashamed that I did, that having a book published seems to mean more to me than dinner with my family. I’m not certain it does, and if I had more time to think about it, I might have asked Wesley to postpone our meeting.

I’m sure Rosh Hashona means nothing to him; he was probably brought up very assimilated. Now I suppose a non-observer like me sounds like a hypocrite saying that, but Rosh Hashona does mean something to me.

It is a time for reflection and renewal and asking forgiveness for my inadequacies and mistakes (I won’t say sins). For me, this is the new year.

And we have much to be grateful for. Last week Dad was in surgery and today he’s walking around the neighborhood, enjoying the Yankees-Red Sox playoff game on TV.

My family and friends are all right, I’m all right, there’s going to be peace talks between Egypt and Israel, the sun is shining, I’m on vacation – so what could be bad, no?

This morning I went to the Junction to xerox “Q & A” and some other things I’d written. At the corner of Flatbush and Nostrand, a young black woman said hello to me. I didn’t recognize her and she said, “You’re my English flatbush junctionteacher.” So I am.

The mail brought the first AWP Job Placement List with openings in colleges for next year. Now I feel more confident applying for jobs; after all I am, like the ads say, “a fiction writer with substantial publications.”

I spent an hour writing cover letters and getting my résumés, bibliographies and writing samples together. I have to redo my résumé to add more publications, my teaching The Novel at LIU this summer, my job at Kingsborough, and perhaps the coming experience teaching creative writing in Harrisburg.

So I applied for jobs at Rutgers-New Brunswick, Rutgers-Camden, the University of Houston, the University of New Orleans, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, the University of Cincinnati and the University of Arizona in UA PostcardTucson.

What would happen if I got a job at one of those places? We’ll see. But I do intend to apply for jobs everywhere, just as I submit everywhere. Eventually something will happen.

Sasha Newborn sent me a card asking why I haven’t had a book published yet and inviting me to submit a long manuscript this winter. That’s one reason that Taplinger is not something that will make or break me; eventually someone – Mudborn Press, Story Press, whoever – will publish a book-length collection.

I don’t want my book to be an ill-conceived project or a premature one. I’m in a position where I don’t have to beg from anyone. Honestly, I’m not all Taplinger booksthat desperate for Taplinger to do the book.

I suppose Mr. Strick and Wesley might think it strange that I’m not anxious. But this way I’m in control. It’s not that I’m unsure of my talent – though I am; in some way, it’s that I’m confident that eventually I’ll be at least a minor-league talent.

Josh phoned last night. He and Simon start work at NYC Community College on Wednesday. Josh said that they saw Laurie at the movies at the 8th Street Playhouse on Saturday.

I spoke to Ronna yesterday and she was attempting to get in touch with Sid and Corinne. Today they’re going to her grandmother’s for dinner and tomorrow she and Susan intend to visit John at Rutgers.

Rutgers clockI still haven’t worked on the Class Notes; there doesn’t seem time. What I need is a complete week off to catch up on all my reading, writing and other work. Things are happening for me, I feel it, but I’m still scared.

Of course I wouldn’t be me if I weren’t scared. Or maybe I’m scared because I think things are beginning to happen.


Tuesday, October 3, 1978

7 PM. Twenty-four hours ago I arrived at Wesley Strick’s apartment. I had the beginnings of an anxiety attack on my way up to East 88th Street.

When I got there, I found I had left his address in my other pants; also, my bladder was about to burst. I found his address after some difficulties by calling Information from a phone booth.

House on East 88th StreetWes Strick was what I expected, yet I was still impressed: lithe, very cool and stylish, dark and handsome in a casual, barely-formed way.

Although he’s 24, I felt like an old man next to him, especially in my schlumpy $2.99 shirt, black pants and scuffed horrible shoes. He was wearing a denim shirt over a Circus T-shirt, white painter’s pants and clogs.

But of course, if I were a sophisticated Manhattanite, I probably would not have been there. What makes my work interesting to Wes and his father and possibly to others is that I’m an original, not stylish, and maybe a bit of a crank.

Circus Oct 78We sat for a while getting to know each other. I told him I was nervous and the paranoid in me thought, absurdly, as I walked up the four flights to his place, “What if this is a trap?”

At first I thought Wes might be gay, but he just talks and moves in that East Side way. He’s seeing a girl (he calls her a girl because he considers himself a boy) and seems very heterosexual.

He took me out to dinner (on Taplinger money) at a Second Avenue bar called Willy’s, and on the way we stopped at one of those new Citibank stores and he used his card and punched buttons and money came out (a new rule in etiquette: one gentleman does not look at another’s Citibank code number).

Citibank ATM first ad 78Fool that I am, I had Perrier water as Wes had a drink and chain-smoked. I told him how embarrassed I was to be talking about my work, and so for a while we talked of other things.

I told him about my life, the few things he couldn’t piece together by reading all my stories, and he told me about his 100 acid trips in high school (now he doesn’t even smoke grass), going to college at Vassar and Berkeley, his sister Ivy and her novel, the two he wrote (one is very long and is about Mozart), his work at Rolling Stone, how he feels about being the boss’s son at Taplinger.

Finally he showed me the plan he has for the book: to bunch similar stories together, so that the repetition resonates off each other – stories about writing, women, famous people, “I” and the family. And he wanted to use “Raison d’Être” as back jacket copy and “Notes on the Type” as, well, notes on the type. I sort of liked the idea.

willy'sWhen our waiter brought us the check, I looked him and asked if his name was John Ferro. He said yes, and I told him who I was and that we had gone to P.S. 203 together. It was nice seeing John after all these years; he hardly changed. He said he was finishing up college.

Walking up Lexington, we came across a couple, and the woman hugged Wes. It was his mother and her longtime boyfriend, a famous Broadway set designer whose name was mentioned in this week’s New York. Wes’s mother had been away in the Hamptons all summer and it was the first time New York Mag Oct 78he’d seen her in months.

Back at his apartment, we went through the stories he’d chosen. He left out one or two of my favorites and put in a couple I think are weak, and we discussed changes he wanted made – almost all of which were examples of shrewd editing. This took about an hour, and it was fun; I wish I had Wes as an editor before.

It was 11:30 PM when we finished, and I said, “What happens next?” He said I should go over the stories and make changes and get back to him in a couple of weeks. I don’t know if his father has given him a free hand or a green light on my book, but Wes did tell me that they think I could be “a cult figure.” Ha!


Wednesday, October 4, 1978

9 PM. Reality time, boys and girls. What a miserable day. I got caught in the rain, got two traffic tickets, had a miserable time with my classes and generally felt lousy.

Last night I had nightmares about teaching at Kingsborough. I really hate my immature and obnoxious classes and I have as much difficulty KCC sign Belt Pkwycontrolling them as Mason does with his eighth-graders.

I arrived at school in a foul mood because some cop had to fill a quota and gave me (and God knows how many others) a ticket for making a left turn from a center lane – onto Shore Boulevard, where everyone does it.

And since I couldn’t find my insurance card, I now have to present that at the Motor Vehicles Department or another ticket will stand. Damn! Well, I’m going to plead not guilty and attempt to fight it. One of the little annoyances of life. Shit.

My students are so babyish. Rosa Cordero, while walking with her friend, mentioned that she’s pregnant. How come? her friend asked. “Oh, I think it was a mistake!” she giggled. These are people I’m supposed be teaching college-level subjects!

KCC corridor 3LIU was much better. At Kingsborough, if I put something on the board saying “Due Friday,” they ask, “Is that for Friday?” And when I sarcastically say, “No, it’s due Thursday,” they believe me! They’re devoid of ideas and common sense.

What a far cry from being on the East Side with Wes the other night. I now realize one of the reasons I enjoyed it was just to be with someone literate, intelligent and witty.

Yesterday I did the Class Notes – most of them, anyway, but today Marie Stein called and I’m sure she’s got more for me to do. This weekend is the Book Fair, and I’ll have no time to mark papers or prepare for being NY Book Fair 1978observed on Tuesday.

I met Prof. Depas and told her the class is rough. I just feel so put upon. I can only feel grateful I had the presence of mind not to teach at LIU too.

There’s no time for me to write. I would like to be revising my stories as Wes suggested, but I don’t have time. I need help – in the form of a grant, an independent income, or whatever. Now I see there’s no mystery why my productivity slackened in early August; since then I’ve spent too much time on teaching to be creative.

The period from June to July I was writing good things all the time, because I had the time. I know I could be really productive if I had more time to read and write and think. I am so frustrated.

New York Mag Stanley SiegelMonday night now seems like a visit to a world I never knew existed; of course, I’ve been aware of it all along, but recently I’ve spent so much time in banal, mindless company that I appreciate the Manhattan scene now.

I can’t make fun of Alice and her crowd anymore; in a real way, I want to be a part of it. And damn it, yes, I am as attracted to the glitter of the literary world as much as Podhoretz said he was in Making It.

I want an apartment of my own, like Wesley’s or Alice’s; I want a job where I can get respect and for which I’m well-compensated; I want to be with people I can talk intelligently to. I feel as though I’m drowning in idiocy.

The superficiality of Studio 54 may be absurd, but it’s better than the goons 54 78hanging around on street corners here. I’m starving intellectually, getting nourishment only through books and magazines. That’s one reason more graduate school might not be a bad idea.

Oh, I don’t know. Sometimes – like on Monday night, when driving over the Manhattan Bridge, I thought of the phrase “a dream come true” – I think I’m going to make it, and other times I see myself going nowhere.

I’ve had absolutely no sexual desire for the past ten days. As the weather turns chilly and the days end early, I feel myself becoming a sterile container.


Thursday, October 5, 1978

8 PM. On Monday night when I got home from Wes’s apartment, I called up Ronna and she was crying. She’d just gotten off the phone with Susan, who’s planning her honeymoon with Evan.

Modern Bride Oct 78All Alison ever talks about is marrying her boyfriend, and Ronna felt left out and alone. I wish I could help her, but even if I wanted to marry her, she wouldn’t agree to it. Or maybe she feels desperate enough to say yes.

I asked her if she was dating anyone; she isn’t, so I guess Jordan is back in Boston at law school. Ronna said she doesn’t have enough time to see me or other friends.

I suggested that maybe she was crying about not getting married because that’s something she can’t control and thus easy to get upset about; perhaps what really bothered her more was her frustration about her career – something she can do something about.

Blondie_-_Parallel_LinesIn the end, Ronna thought I was right. We talked until 1 AM, and she said I helped her a lot. “I love you,” I told her, and I heard her say, “I love you, too.” If only love were enough!

I feel put-upon and pressed for time. My life seems at the mercy of a hundred different things, none of which I can control.

Unless . . . unless I am being like Ronna and using that as an excuse. (A good therapist might raise that point.) But, to tell you the truth, I don’t want to explore myself now. I’d rather just feel rotten.

My class today went as well as can be expected; Ivy Siegel seems to think the class is a dialogue between herself and me. The class’s comments are usually fatuous, irrelevant or boring.

Time 78 Test Tube BabyThey’re such babies. I’ve just completed reading about fifteen of their essays, and I can’t take any more. Some of them look as though they were written by sixth-graders.

I feel very angry at the whole situation. I don’t think I want to teach at Kingsborough in the spring. I’m not sure I want to teach at LIU, either. Maybe I should try something else.

After all, I’ll have four years’ experience by next spring; that should be enough to put me in a position to get a job teaching creative writing somewhere. I need a change. I’m not sure what it is I want to do, but teaching remedial writing isn’t it. There’s no joy in it anymore; it seems like a hopeless task.


Friday, October 6, 1978

7 PM. It’s a lovely evening, mild and breezy. Last night there was a furious storm going on, and at one point the thunder was so protracted I was sure I kept hearing the Concorde take off or land.Concorde

I spoke to Ronna last evening. She was feeling better; she’s decided to make up her résumés and start sending them out.

This weekend Alison is moving into her own apartment; she has a way of manipulating Ronna, playing “poor little me,” and making herself very dependent.

I’ve been complaining a great deal the past few days, I know, but I’m not desperately unhappy. Today, for example, wasn’t that bad. One of my office-mates tells me that she has a regular freshman class that’s a dream, so maybe I’ve just lucked into a couple of rotten classes.

Perhaps part of it is I don’t feel at home at Kingsborough. I have no friends KCC entrancethere, as I did at LIU – but of course I didn’t get friends at LIU till after a few terms of teaching there.

Nothing much happened today: I taught, I got three rejections, and I went to the library, where I had a pleasant, literate conversation with a young librarian who just moved here from Syracuse and wanted to know where she could find a literary bookstore.

I have a three-day weekend ahead of me. The Book Fair starts tomorrow and I tried to call George last night but couldn’t get him in. I’ve had no word from him as to where he’s staying, whether here or at his friend’s house in Manhattan, and I don’t know if he’s driving in or coming by train.

Editor's ChoiceI look forward to the Book Fair, of course, but there are some people I want to avoid: Jon Baumbach, Michael Largo of New Earth Books, a couple of others. And it’s embarrassing to introduce yourself to people who’ve rejected your work.

Every year the Book Fair turns into a bigger event, and this year, at Martin Luther King Jr. High School will probably get a lot of media attention. (The Post is back while the Times and Daily News are still on strike.)

Dad had his stitches removed today. The scars are not that unsightly, but it will take time for Dad’s face to fill out; also, it’s going to be a year before enough nerve ends grow so that the side of his face won’t be numb anymore. But Dad’s been working since Wednesday, and aside from twinges of pain, he seems fine.

Teenage DesiresWhy is it that we can’t remain grateful but always want more? Two weeks ago I would have given anything as long as my father’s tumor was benign. Now, with the surgery successful, I am annoyed when I get a traffic ticket, enraged when my students act up, and depressed because of some little setback – or even the weather.

Candida Donadio, in a New Times article on the mysterious Thomas Pynchon, whose agent she is, said that no one can write a novel till they’re 35: that “today we have seen too much and been trampled too much and can’t recollect the passions of youth until the tranquility of early middle age.”

And as if to prove her right, an old man, Isaac Bashevis Singer, won the Nobel Prize: a surprisingly good choice. I loved The Family Moskat.


Saturday, October 7, 1978

the family moskat10 PM. The Book Fair was today and I’m all book-faired out: too many people, too many books, too much money I’ve spent.

George called me from Manhattan, where he spent last night at his friend Stuart’s place. Stuart used to work with him at the Patriot-News and now writes for Soap Opera Digest.

I told George I’d meet him at Martin Luther King High, and I drove into the city right after breakfast, getting there just as most people were just setting up. This is the biggest Book Fair yet, but it’s an out-of-the-way place and didn’t seem to draw much of a crowd.

I helped Martin Tucker set up the Confrontation booth; he doesn’t seem annoyed with me at all. All of a sudden, George grabbed me from behind; God, it was good to see him.

confrontationHe’s working hard, hoping to get into the editorial department (when I told him I’d typed up a Class Notes item on the paper’s editor, Saul Kohler, BC ’48, George told me to write Saul a note about him).

Susan Lawton, George’s printer and co-editor with him of the Tigris Journal, soon arrived. She’s a very classy lady who lives with a fortyish artist in Westchester.

Walking around or sitting at the table, the day was a sea of faces. Some impressions:

George’s friend Lynne of Gravity is a sick lady, sort of the whore of the small press scene; she was cozy with A.D. Winans, who doesn’t look as crazy as I thought he would.A.D. Winans & Len Fulton

Len Fulton of Dustbooks looks like the Marlboro Man, too eminent a figure for me to approach.

Raymond Federman could rival Yves Montand with his Gallic charm. Russell Banks, on the other hand, seems standoffish; he’s working on a nonfiction book about Jamaica, he told me.

Ed Hogan of Aspect is as nice as I’d thought he’d be. His co-editor, Miriam Sagan, is very funny – one of the sweetest people around.

Remembering Ed HoganHerb Leibowitz told me Vincent is on his honeymoon; when I told Herb I didn’t want to make a life of connecting comma splices, he said that’s all he’s doing this term. Peter Cherches of Zonepress is in the MFA program at Columbia now, hoping to get a job at BC or LIU.

Ken Bernard came to help Martin, and he brought his wife, children and father-in-law. Richard Meade of Story Press flew in alone; he seemed a bit lost with only one book to sell.

I met Lee van der Velde, who accepted something of mine for Helen Review, and when I gave them a donation, I got a free cookie.

Story PressSuzanne Zavrian said they’ve been getting a number of unsolicited intelligent reviews for her American Book Review and she thought that was a hopeful sign.

Bob Hershon of Hanging Loose Press wore a John Greenleaf Whittier nametag, and his co-editor Ron Schreiber told me to submit some more things.

Richard Peabody Zenon SlawinskiRick Peabody from Gargoyle came down with a bunch of friends; he’s broke and working as a stock boy. (He’s a friend of White Ewe Press’s Kevin Urick.) I avoided Gallimaufry’s Mary MacArthur, whom I once insulted in a letter.

Susan Lawton and I had lunch at a new expensive Broadway place, The Saloon, where the waiters were on roller skates. When I ordered Perrier, she said, “Ah, I was right when I assumed you were an ex-alcoholic.”Assembling Assembling exhibition

Richard Kostelanetz left early because his Assembling Assembling show opened at a downtown art gallery.

I found a copy of Junction with my “What Guillain-Barré Syndrome Means to Me” in it.

Michael Lally autographed his book for me and we talked about the heat and the crowd at his Ear Inn reading.

I spoke for a long time with David Gershator of the Downtown Poets’ Coop, who used to teach at BC’s School of Contemporary Studies; we talked of their crazy dean, Carlos Russell, now Idi Amin’s man in the U.S.

Assembling AssemblingGeorge is staying at Barbara Howard’s house in Old Westbury tonight. I dropped Susan off at Grand Central and got home at 8 PM.

I bought $25 worth of books and magazines. My feet hurt and my eyes hurt.


Sunday, October 8, 1978

9 PM. George never showed up at the Book Fair today. I went there at noon and left with Ronna at 6 PM, mystified by his disappearance.

It’s okay: George just called. He had gone through a real bummer of an experience but it was his own fault. I’d told him to call me if things didn’t Catch My Breathwork out with Barbara Howard and I wish he had.

Of course she never showed up. George waited till after 8 PM and got locked in the school. He kept calling the guy who knew Barbara but got no answer.

After being let out, George went to Penn Station, thinking maybe he would take the LIRR out to Old Westbury, but he was so disgusted, having sold only one of my books and none of his magazines, that he decided to take the Metroliner to Philly.

The only problem was that the next connection to Harrisburg wouldn’t be for 13 hours! He dialed his friends in Philadelphia, but no one was home. Going into the men’s room, he was followed by some black guy who poked 30th street stationthrough the bottom of George’s stall.

He spent the night lying on a bench like a bum, unable to fall asleep because he was afraid his admirer would bother him.

He caught a cold, of course, and when he got on the train to Harrisburg this afternoon, he discovered he’d gotten on a local going somewhere else; in his anxiety to leave, he hopped on an earlier train.

They let him off at Ardmore, where he had to wait (outside – and today was very cold, with a high of 50°) another few hours until finally his train came.

Harrisburg train stationHe drove straight from the Harrisburg station to his parents’ house, where he collapsed – and where he discovered his address book was missing. That book had all the addresses of his friends and X subscribers.

Shit. The trip was a disaster for him. I feel terrible, but of course if he’d just called me from Penn Station, I’d have picked him up and he could have spent a comfortable night in this house.

I went to the Book Fair at noon, as I said, and waited and waited for him. Ed Hogan and Miriam Sagan went out to lunch, and I took care of the Aspect Aspect Magazine No. 69table for an hour.

Then I went out to lunch by myself, and when I got back, Ronna arrived and kept me company and we walked around.

Michael Lally autographed his book for Ronna, and she thought he was licking his lips at the sight of me. (“You’re just projecting,” I told her.) Once I fantasized about sleeping with Michael, but I’m not really attracted to him.

Peter Cherches told me the Columbia MFA program is a joke, and Louis Parascondola, who was taking care of the Confrontation table, said he’s teaching English 10 this semester.

A Full HeartEdward Field signed a book for me, and Ronna was impressed, as she and Susan used to stay up late reading his work aloud. I met Geri Reilley (who was there with her twin Terri), who said she’s still working for Social Security. She’s pleased with her writing but hasn’t been published yet.

Ron Sukenick and Steve Katz were walking around, but they’ve never been too friendly to me and are not likely to be now, so I didn’t say anything to them. But I did meet Hal Jaffe, whose novel is being published with the Fiction Collective this spring.

I saw Michael Braziller of Persea Books and Les Von Losberg of Junction and the Poets’ Union. Richard Meade of Story Press looked very alone (still), and Napoleon St. Cyr of The Small Pond looked strange wearing a The Small Pondpaper hat.

Ed Hogan and I reminisced about the McGovern campaign; I feel like I’ve known Ed for ages. There are very nice people in the small press movement. This may sound crazy, but it’s almost the way Student Government was in LaGuardia Hall was for me. In fact, it’s exactly like it: the place where I fit in.

Ronna and I drove home and it was oh so good to hold her, talk quietly with her, kiss her. She’s beautiful. Today I first saw her from a distance, and what registered immediately was that she was a beautiful woman, not the fact that she was Ronna.


Tuesday, October 10, 1978

8 PM. It’s Yom Kippur now and I feel quite relieved. My observation went better than I could have expected. I spent hours preparing the lesson, I wore a sport jacket, I was “up” and loose, and the class, God love them, really came through for me; they must like me after all.

KCC students cafProf. Depas showed me her form after it was filled out and she checked all the “good” and “excellent” boxes and had no adverse criticism. In fact, she asked me how long I had been teaching.

I felt jubilant afterwards and had a hamburger in the cafeteria overlooking the beach. Suddenly Kingsborough seemed a delightful place, and I was filled with affection for the school and for my students.

Today was a kind of turning point. For the next two months, I won’t have to worry about being observed; I can get down to business.

blackboardEven my 3 PM class went well; I let them out early for the holiday. I handed back papers today, and though the marks were low, nobody complained to my face.

I spoke with Stephen Farber and Steve Antelli, and both of them expressed the same frustrations I’ve been having with my classes. So I’m not alone, and not getting through to the students isn’t my fault. I feel 100% better about teaching at Kingsborough.

The rest of the week is easy, and I’ve just got to keep on trucking until the end of the semester. Friday is finally payday, and I think that will ease my sufferings considerably. I feel good about myself again – as a teacher, anyway.

aerogrammeAs for myself as a writer, well. . . Avis wrote that she didn’t like most of Disjointed Fictions: “too much I, I, I,” she said. I’ve got to cut out all this super-self-conscious stuff; Avis is a fairly representative person.

I got three rejections today, plus the invitation to participate in A Critical Assembling. Kostelanetz and Korn got an NEA grant (the panel probably figured it would shut Richard up) to do an Assembling where they would print the camera-ready material – it’s all supposed to be on criticism of avant-garde or experimental literature.

a critical assembling excerptAmong those invited along with me are Ed Hogan, Ron Sukenick, George Economou, Clarence Major, Dick Higgins, and some really heavy hitters: Susan Sontag, Allen Ginsberg, Ihab Hassan, Northrop Frye, Marshall McLuhan, John Cage. I’m very flattered to be in such company and I look forward to the challenge of writing something that’s not fiction.

I’ve discovered since I did the piece on Susan Fromberg Schaeffer that I enjoy doing assignments and that I enjoy the intellectual challenge of rewriting a dozen times.

Avis told me all about her French vacation in her letter, and I got a card from Teresa, who went to London with her roommate Mary. Ronna phoned me this afternoon and asked if I could come over and help her make up her résumé, so I’ll leave in a few minutes.

typewriterLast night I typed up a new dossier to include my job at Kingsborough and new publications; I’ve got to send it off to Rutgers-Camden. I feel that my getting somewhere is inevitable; sooner or later, I’ll have a writer-in-residence job or a publishing job or something.

Working is not so bad. If I hadn’t worked today, I wouldn’t feel this glorious sense of accomplishment and also the relief at not having to work tomorrow. TC mark

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