Monday April 13
Finished reading Antony Alpers' Biography of Katherine Mansfield, a book I must have
read a dozen times in my teens and twenties. She was the first adult author I ever read
that I developed a real passion for. All having to do with, for me as with probably most
anybody who's ever fallen in love with her writing, its childlike quality, the record of
direct experience registering on an individual psyche. Other passions followed of
course, V. Woolf, and Kafka, never Joyce or Lawrence, but E. Dickinson and e.e. cummings, Jean
Rhys and many others. And later the Japanese poets . . . But when I first started,
it was Mansfield who fascinated me; I've probably read everything she ever wrote. I
wanted to reread the Biography to see what I thought of her now. My more or less
final assessment is that she never had the chance to completely grow up as a writer, her life
being so truncated by illness and early death. Even so, she left a solid book's worth
of first-rate stories. And her life was a brave one. Still, one thing that stuck
out at me this time around was how many people identified her as being a liar, and sometimes
a hurtful one.
Tell me! Tell me! Why is it so difficult to write simply – and not only
simply but sotto voce, if you know what I mean? That is how I long to write.
No fine effects – no bravura. But just the plain truth, as only a liar can tell
–– K. Mansfield, A Married Man's Story
Tuesday April 14
A difference in what lies inside: Now I can see it, can enter into it, that
pulsation of darkness blooming behind my eyes. I can move around in it – and it
need not be as mysterious as all that. The experience is precisely analogous to that
of turning your attention to the outside world again after having been turned inward for
awhile, working out a problem, daydreaming . . . The world you see when you come out of
your fugue is separate from you, has a reality apart from you. That's what it's
Friday April 17
If you turn off the chattering of the mind, if you achieve silence within, what is left?
The senses only (inner or outer, or both I suppose, to some degree – anyway) so that I
become, at 8:45 on a Friday evening, the sound of something wet outside, a light rain falling
perhaps, and now and again the the more plodding sound of heavy drip-drops falling from the
roof somewhere, and the sound of cars passing by . . . And farther in the background,
when I listen close, there are other strands of sound I can hear – music, notes, the
chirping of birds, staticky noises, hummings, and so forth. Planes of sound, strands of
sound, reverberating within. That's what emptiness can give you.
Stillness, on the other hand, is something else altogether. Stillness is about
discipline, control, grace, power.
Friday April 24
So a provisional back-to-work date has been set; I have I figure nine days left (assuming
some of us go back a week early to get the store ready for reopening). Time to make a
Here's a typical day, and how my time, all this free time, gets spent: Wake
surprisingly early: I used to be a night person; now, apparently, I'm something
else. At this moment in my life it's the early hours of the day I like the best, from
just before sunup till about 8. I like the light. I read, off and on, all
day: Currently, Dr Jekyll (Stevenson) and A Judgement in Stone
(Rendell). Watch old tv shows, off and on, all day: Currently, Agatha
Christie's Poirot. I check on news feeds frequently, or watch political shows
on the internet. Mid-afternoon I often go for a walk – to the local cemetery
(about fifteen minutes away). Sometimes I'll see other people there, singly or in
pairs (the cemetery serving as a sort of ersatz park). We smile shyly, maybe give a
little wave: It's nice to see somebody else who's made it through. Then back
home, fix something to eat . . . smoke a bowl . . . watch more tv, read . . .
I've also been spending some time lately getting to know an orange tabby my next door
neighbors appear to have left behind when they got evicted. The woman who lives on the
other side of me – Alice – has been putting out food for him, as have I.
He's a very decent cat, it's a shame to think he was deserted. He still looks for his
old owners to return to their house. Because of this neither Alice nor I are sure we
should take him in.
Plan? What plan? I feel completely passive these days. I wait for things
to happen to me.