March 9, 2012

by jkatejohnston

Dear Max,

It’s 4:27 (a.m. natch) and I’m in my writing fort with coffee and soft lights and no one awake but me.  One thing–I won’t call it a problem–but a thing about my writing fort is, it’s a pretty small space.  If I put my hands on my hips, both elbows touch the walls.  And if I turn sideways and extend my arms, my fingertips are about an inch from the walls.  And all my clothes on active duty are in here (capsule wardrobe, Max, capsule wardrobe) and my shoes, pared down to three pairs, and a big hatbox for dirty clothes and a small one for tights and a shoebox for underwear and a shoebox for socks. (All this is possible because all my work clothes are at work.  I ride my bike and change in my office.)

So we’re all in here together, and in the morning, I seem to have a pent up supply of farts, and it very quickly turns into a cozy little gas chamber. Teresa claims I fart all night long, but I don’t think that’s possible, given my morning production.

One thing I love about writing is it’s so physically simple. You need almost no space and almost no stuff.  Time you do need.  But you can always find scraps of that here and there.

When I read about my 1995 life, one thing I envy is all the time, and I’ll always be grateful to Mills College for requiring almost no work so that I had these glorious stretches of time to read and write. I had an attention span back then and no friends, so–corny as it sounds–books kept me company, and the way you talk back to books is writing. 

Like in my 1995 diary entry where I said to Teresa, “Would you defend me at the point of your sword?”  That’s a borrowing from The Life of Johnson.  I doubt I knew it when I said it or even when I wrote it.  I held those books–I mean everything by Boswell–in my mind back then.  They were just with me, and so things would come out.  A lonely, book-filled life is a pretty good life.  And of course I had Teresa, but I mean before I met her, I had this rich, lonely, lively existence.  (You have to read my 1993 and 1994 diaries pre-Teresa to get the full effect.)

Anyway, the passage I borrowed from: 

In the evening our gentleman-farmer, and two others, entertained themselves and the company with a great number of tunes on the fiddle.  Johnson desired to have ‘Let ambition fire thy mind,’ played over again, and appeared to give a patient attention to it; though he owned to me that he was very insensible to the power of musick.  I told him, that it affected me to such a degree, as often to agitate my nerves painfully, producing in my mind alternate sensations of pathetick dejection, so that I was ready to shed tears; and of daring resolution, so that I was inclined to rush into the thickest part of the battle.  ‘Sir, (said he,) I should never hear it, if it made me such a fool.’  […skipping a bit…]

This evening, while some of the tunes of ordinary composition were played with no great skill, my frame was agitated, and I was conscious of a generous attachment to Dr. Johnson, as my preceptor and friend, mixed with an affectionate regret that he was an old man, whom I should probably lose in a short time.  I thought I could defend him at the point of my sword.  My reverence and affection for him were in full glow.  (Life of Johnson, Modern Library, 745-746, year 1777.)

I just have to add that last night Enzo and I read in one of his books that Saturn is actually a giant ball of gas.  And Enzo, rolling with joy, said “Mama-Kate is actually a giant ball of gas.”