Wednesday, April 11, 1979
7 PM. Today was a promising start for my vacation. I really feel as though I’m on vacation and can relax.
Last evening I went to the college early. In Boylan I found Neil Schaeffer discussing department politics with Lou Asekoff; Neil said that during vacation he was planning to call up faculty members about his candidacy for chairman. Good luck to him. It certainly wouldn’t hurt me to have a friendly chairman.
Beginning my class early, I let them out at 10:15 PM. At first I couldn’t believe that over two months of the term had ended and that it was Easter vacation. Back at home, I got into bed, watched Gore Vidal on Dick Cavett and read Garp until 3 AM, too exhilarated by the book and my vacation to sleep.
John Irving has done it, boy: written the best novel I’ve read in years. I’d love to read it again and again. His characters are finally drawn with just a few deft strokes; his plot speeds along; his sentences are so well-written that you don’t notice it until you close the book; and I find myself in agreement with Irving’s (or Garp’s) view of the world. I’d gladly die if I could write a book like The World According to Garp.
I was awakened at 10 AM by a phone call from Mikey. Like me, he’s on vacation, and we agreed to get together tomorrow, when he’ll be staying in Rockaway.
Richie, his old friend from Rockaway, died of a heart attack in New Paltz last weekend; he was only 27. Mikey hadn’t seen him in years, and I don’t remember Richie very well, just that he was a cute, chunky guy who was soft-spoken and played the guitar.
Mason was a friend of Richie’s. I wonder if Mason knows.
Next, Ronna called me from her grandmother’s, where she was helping to prepare for tonight’s seder. I asked her how the rest of the weekend went, wanting to know about her day with her cousin Ron.
They stayed at his parents’ house in Mill Basin for dinner, and then he drove Ronna into the city, to his apartment, where she played the flute for him and “my cousin was very patient.”
He drove her home to Canarsie after midnight. Now you don’t go back and forth from Manhattan to Brooklyn twice in one day for just a cousin, but I didn’t press Ronna for details.
I asked her if there was anything amiss when I saw her on Saturday night, thinking she might say I didn’t get close to her. But no, she said, it was only her fight with Alison, and she was grateful I could come to her sister’s party.
When Ronna asked when we could get together. I told her anytime but Saturday “when I’m seeing my friend Denise.”
“Oh, do I know her?”
“No, she’s a new friend.”
“That’s nice,” Ronna said, in a knowing way.
Today was a mild, sunny day – the first in a long while – and judging from the cold, wet forecast, the last in a long while, too.
There were nice surprises in today’s mail. Besides the two new submissions I got to the anthology, I got contributors’ copies of two good-looking but very different magazines: the handsome Blue Buildings with my poem “On Leif Ericson Drive.” And the Dadaist, weird Smegma with the very funny (yes, to me – still) “New Testament Diet”; they added extra material that made it even better.
We didn’t have a real seder tonight, which was fine with me. Today I wasn’t bored for a moment: I read, watched TV, had lunch out, wrote letters and took a day off from exercising. I think I’m finally beginning to flatten my stomach, thanks to those exercises in Coach Jim Everroad’s book.
Tonight I intend to get to bed early and get my first good night’s sleep in a while.
Saturday, April 14, 1979
7 PM. Jacob and Rita called to invite me out to dinner, which was kind of them, but I want to get to sleep early. I haven’t been feeling well since Wednesday night, when my diarrhea began.
Since then, I’ve had diarrhea and cramps off and on. I’ve been taking Rheaban, an over-the-counter drug, but it hasn’t helped very much. This is the rockiest my stomach’s been in years, and I’d consider seeing a doctor if I thought the problem was physical.
But as an old hand at nervous stomachs, I’m certain my problem is nerves. I’d be better off making an appointment with a therapist rather than a physician, and perhaps I will phone Mrs. Ehrlich on Monday.
This is a stressful time for me; I’ll be leaving New York soon, and my book is coming out, and my life is changing as never before. Therapy sessions might help me get through this.
Last evening I called Ronna, who was a bit depressed about turning 26. She liked my card, which featured Pretzel the Clown and said, “This is what our relationship has come to.”
When I phoned, Ronna was waiting for Alison to come over, and today she had plans to help her cousin Ron line his brakes. It must be love, then.
I wonder if Ronna will marry him. It would be the easy way out for her, and I’d be disappointed but not surprised if she gave up the struggle to find a job in journalism.
I don’t want Ronna to end up a failed-for-never-having-tried person, like Mark or Susan or Slade, who didn’t follow their dreams. But of course maybe I’m just jealous.
Last night I spoke to Grandma Sylvia; she’s so deaf, I practically had to scream into the phone. But she did sound better than usual. Grandpa Nat had a good day, and they’ve been visited by Uncle Harry and Uncle Benny and Aunt Molly.
Today was a chilly, rainy day: totally miserable. Aside from my stomachache, I wasn’t too thrilled about going into Manhattan today, as I knew Denise and I would have nothing to talk about.
I suppose she was nice. We met at the Village Art Coffee Shop and then took a drive. She’s about 22, a Midwestern WASP who’s never been to college, an East Village punk-type with the pale, sickly skin they all seem to hide behind sunglasses. I think we were both relieved when I dropped her off and we exchanged polite lies about getting together again.
I’m never going to answer another personal ad. And I’m forgetting about Stuart, too. I don’t care if I never fall in love again. If the right person comes along, fine – but no more of this “trying to make it happen.”
That doesn’t work. I’ll be open and willing, but love has only found me when I haven’t been actively looking for it.
I’m monogamous by nature, I decided today, while Denise and I were talking and making the obligatory attacks on monogamy. Although I’d rather have a permanent partner, I could live cheerfully as a celibate.
The highlight of my dreary day, though, was finishing Garp. I’m in awe of Irving; the book is a masterpiece from beginning to end, a totally successful novel which will sustain me for years.
I’d rather read Irving than write my own books; at least I feel that way at the moment.
Yet at the Eighth Street Bookshop today, I looked at all the fiction and felt terribly envious of everyone: Baumbach (who had stories in Antaeus and the O. Henry Prize anthology), T.C. Boyle, Gerald Green, Alice Adams, Henry Bromell, and everyone who’s got a short story collection out.
Monday, April 16, 1979
5 PM. I’ve just come out of the movies and into another cold, hard rain. It seems we’ve hardly had a spring this year. The steam is still on every goddamn night, I’m still wearing my winter jacket, and only a few cherry blossoms have bloomed.
The movie, The Deer Hunter, made me very angry – and partially I feel angry at myself for feeling angry. The Vietnam War was such a waste, and it’s obvious we did not learn the lesson.
There will be other wars in my lifetime; I know this. It is possible I may support some war – to save Israel, say. But war is so stupid and horrible because it turns people into garbage.
Oh, I hate myself for getting so angry; it makes me incoherent and unstylish, and after all, those are the worst possible things to be.
The girl at the Brook Theater charged me student prices; I gave her three dollars for one ticket and she handed me back change after glancing at me. How strange: it’s been years since I’ve gotten in as under 18. Am I getting younger, or what?
This, following the University of Pennsylvania reception with Cousin Wendy when I got mistaken for a high school senior, makes me wonder about my identity.
It disturbs me, but there’s also that delicious sense that I can start all over again. I’m wearing my hair longer than it’s been in several years. I’ll probably get a haircut soon, but I am tired of short, stylish ’70s hairstyles.
Yesterday I went over to Ronna’s because I wanted to see her. While I had steeled myself for rejection, I was greeted warmly: Ronna, her sister and brother were helping their mother prepare a marketing presentation before Oil of Olay saleswomen next week, and they invited me to participate.
Ronna’s mother wanted to make the presentation relate to the theme of the stages of life, and we sat around the table, writing and kicking around ideas for a couple of hours. I truly enjoyed it, as it made me feel useful and part of the family.
Ronna looked so good in her jeans and man’s shirt, and later, when we touched each other and hugged and kissed, it felt absolutely wonderful. I love Ronna’s body, her face, her voice, and she doesn’t want to stop fooling around, either.
I don’t know if it’s serious between her and her cousin Ron or not; that’s none of my business, and until I am told otherwise, it doesn’t affect my relationship with Ronna.
She’s 26 now. Ronna said she still has the birthday present I gave her in the Kingsman office when she turned 19 and said she also remembers that kiss I gave her. I did have a crush on her in those days, six months before we ever dated.
She told me she wouldn’t give up trying to be a reporter, that she didn’t intend to get married now. Ronna and the family asked me to stay for dinner, but I don’t like chili, so I came home.
Stuart called last night; he’d been away for a Transcendental Meditation weekend with his sister-in-law and brother. We talked for an hour. He seems very nice: he was an English major at Queens College, where he edited Phoenix and graduated in 1976.
Stuart said he wants to get out of his present job working for ITT, where he’s bored and doesn’t get along with people. He’s in therapy – after eight years, he said, he finally found a good therapist – and he swims, meditates, and does yoga, but he also smokes cigarettes and “loves to drink.”
He loved Garp and is now enjoying Women in Love. Stuart lives near the Westchester county line and drives a car. We agreed to meet at Shakespeare’s on Friday at 6 PM.
Tuesday, April 17, 1979
4 PM. The sun finally came out an hour ago, and today I noticed a few trees turning green with little buds beginning to bloom. After being on vacation a week, I must say I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying myself. I haven’t been bored at all, and it’s great to forget about school.
I was surprised by a form letter I got from Hunter College, where I’d applied for a job teaching creative writing just for the hell of it; the ad said they wanted “a fiction writer with an established reputation.”
But now it appears that they want me to come in for an interview. I certainly don’t expect to get the job – I’m sure the competition is very stiff – but going on the interview can’t hurt.
Paris Voices came out with my Bremen story – that’s my first continental publication – and Israel Today accepted “Like a Scene from a Great Russian Novel” in a letter praising me to the skies.
I’m feeling confident and optimistic about my writing again, and also about my life.
Crad Kilodney writes:
Let people take you seriously as a writer. Let them idealize as well as idolize you. Just smile graciously and say, ‘Thank you very much.’ People don’t have to know your inner feelings, or your flaws, or the rejections you get, or your hang-ups or anything.
You’re a lot like me. We don’t feel we deserve anything because we’re not perfect. For this there is a cure: Greed!
Crad states he’s giving up literary writing indefinitely:
Where is it getting me? Fifty small press publications, and I’m still totally unknown. Do I really aspire to be ‘big in small magazines’? I might as well go piss in Lake Ontario.
Last night I spoke to Gary, who was feeling tense and pressured because of his job; it’s no wonder he has stomachaches all the time.
Today Josh and I had lunch at Jentz and spent the afternoon shopping. Josh is still very unhappy: he’s in debt, isn’t sure of what he really wants to do, and is having a bad time disciplining himself as a writer.
People have such frustrations in their lives; by comparison, I’m not so bad off, and at least I have something to look forward to. My oppression is mostly of my own my making.
I spoke to Pete Cherches, gossiping about literary politics. Pete has the arrogance of Simon, but he also has savvy. He’s much more opinionated than I am, and more confident about his writing.
Today Deanna went up to Ronna’s office for an interview for a secretarial job Ronna told her about. Ronna’s very sweet to try to help Deanna.
I’ve been thinking of taking one of those casino tours of Atlantic City for the day; they have buses which leave various locations in the morning and return at night. But I don’t think I’ll do it this week. I haven’t been to Atlantic City since Christmas 1960, when we stayed at the Traymore while Mom was pregnant with Jonny.
Last night I strained my chest muscle exercising, and so I’m laying off today; I suppose my body won’t fall apart. Actually, I’m a little anxious about Stuart not finding me attractive. I also wonder how we’ll get along; I don’t know about things like his smoking and drinking.
But Ronna and I manage to get along despite our many differences in habit, temperament, and opinion. And Stuart and I do seem to have some things in common. My problem is I’m looking for a duplicate of myself: that’s narcissism for you.
This girl Louise has been calling for Marc for the past week. Jimmy introduced them, and she’s been pursuing Marc without letup despite the constant rebuffs she’s been getting. Jonny and I have been warned not to tell Deanna about Louise.
Friday, April 20, 1979
2 PM. I’m feeling better mentally, if not physically, today. I have a slight cold, but my spirits are higher. Today’s mail was helpful. Hanging Loose accepted three of my stories and sent me a check for $20; Bob Hershon wrote “Hello Richard” on the check.
And I’m beginning to get excited about some of the stories I’ve been getting for the fiction anthology; I’m really pleased at the number of good pieces coming in.
Today I got two things which I plan to hold: one very good story about Yale roommates from Zack Rogow, the gay guy Ronna and I saw at the Park Slope reading, and Brad Gooch sent four pieces that are not quite fiction but are very good narratives with himself as the central character. And I don’t just think it’s good because I have a crush on Brad, who finally thanked me for the review of his book.
Now if I could only get pieces from Richard Price or Ann Beattie – though I’m sure they’ll want money. The under-30 anthology is definitely a good idea for a book. I don’t know if Taplinger will be interested, but I’m sure someone will. Maybe I should get an agent to handle it.
Last night I got into bed at 9 PM, watched The Glittering Prizes (the most intelligent TV program ever made), and slept soundly from 11 PM to 9 AM.
My sinuses hurt and my throat is sore, but everything else is all right. I’ve been reading Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet: the things he says are timeless.
Avis sends this postcard from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam:
Indian, vegetarian and Israeli restaurants, space cakes, Van Gogh, boat rides, long walks, steep staircases, Dagmar, Petra, Zbyszek’s apartment, Heineken in coke glasses, the last hippies, no tulips, flirts in bars, whores in store windows. Today and tomorrow more. Wednesday home and Helmut. – Love, Avis
On the other side, a view of Arles. It sounds as though she’ll have lots to tell me about her trip.
Jonny went to Kingsborough today to take the CUNY placement exams. I gave him some tips on the writing assessment test, and I do hope he passes.
When I called Seventeen, I was surprised to hear a male receptionist. When I asked for Alice’s extension, there was a second of silence. “Is this Grayson?” the voice asked. “This is Peter. . . Alice’s friend.”
Times are hard, he said, and so he’s been filling in at the switchboard to make extra money. Peter said Alice wasn’t feeling well and left work early.
I’m a little nervous about meeting Stuart tonight.
10 PM. I’ve met Stuart, and he’s not the person of my dreams. Oh, he’s very nice, and I was not bored with him, but he’s too old for me even though he’s four years younger.
He looks old, about 35, with close-cropped hair and a trim beard, and he drinks a lot and smokes cigarettes, and he’s just not my type, either physically or psychologically. The minute I saw him, I knew nothing would come of our meeting.
I think I didn’t click with him, either. Well, I’m no Adonis. But it didn’t matter. I met a new person and I learned something from him; we had a pleasant dinner at Shakespeare’s and walked around the Village, and we sat and talked in Washington Square Park.
Then I drove him to a friend’s house in Brighton Beach; he was tired, but I’m glad I’ve gotten home early.
It wasn’t a bad experience, but I’m giving up on Village Voice ads.