February 6, 1995

by jkatejohnston

Dear Max,

About a week ago, the day before Teresa arrived, I went to see Queen Margot, and as I walked away from the movie–and somehow I think all the blood and lusciousness must have influenced me–I had a fantasy about being attacked by a Very Evil Person, and Teresa coming along just in time to save me, and she got out her knife and killed the person.  (Her knife is a serrated utility knife, so I guess she just sawed the person to death.) Then she was arrested and convicted and sentenced to a long term.  And when I would go to visit her in jail, our fingers would steal under the glass divider.  I replayed his again and again, getting everything perfect.  In one version I was her lawyer, in one version she killed the Evil Attacker on purpose, in one it was an accident, in one version we called 911, in another we didn’t. 

On the bus home I was still going over this, and when I got to the part of her going to jail–no, no, she was coming out of jail–I started to cry.  And for several seconds I had no idea that I was ridiculous. I was simply devastated and thoroughly enjoying myself, though not conscious of that either.  Then I started to laugh and wipe the tears away. Luckily it was dark. Later I told Teresa about all this and she said, “What?  No appeal?”

I’m still reading On Creativity and The Unconscious.  It’s sort of embarrassing, and my roommates think I’m desperate. But I’ll always be grateful to Freud for insisting that play is serious.  From the inside it’s absolutely serious.  He has an article called The Poet and Day-Dreaming, where he says this.  He also observes what your present diarist has often written:  that other people’s fantasies are, I think he says, repellent. I would say just funny and odd, not repellent.  But it’s true that you have to be inside a fantasy to feel its seriousness.  The odd thing about good writing is that you feel its seriousness, even from the outside.  I don’t think fantasy is really conscious, but good stories are.  Also, in good stories you feel that you’re on the inside anyway.

Of all the weird and repellent things about my writing class, I think the worst thing is the rule about not commenting on content.  We are concerned solely with execution. And I’m sure if Hitler were in our class–Oops! he’s a man, but just say he were in our class–we’d all be helping him write the very best Mein Kampf that he possibly could. Trouble with that: if you’re supposed to adopt the values of the story for the time that you’re talking about it, don’t you point out ways to make it more anti-Semitic and sentimental?  I mean, what’s good?  All directions suddenly seem equal.