Can I Say Something Inappropriate?

by jkatejohnston

12 October 2013

Dear Max,

I’ve been editing Mudrick Transcribed and my 1995 Diary (not very diligently) for paperback and Kindle editions. I know the Mudrick book well. It’s as familiar to me as my own old diary (which sometimes seems pretty strange and remote). And because my diary is so old I feel almost as little right to make changes to it. Chances are my younger self had better taste anyway.

Of course I’m not making any changes to Mudrick Transcribed, just many, many fix-it type edits so that for moments at a time I feel almost as if I wrote it and I’m just correcting a few mistakes, and it’s a wonderful feeling. Because it’s great—I couldn’t write that in a million years—but that voice is in my ears and coming out of my fingers onto the page.

It makes me understand plagiarism, a touching and strange kind of insanity. I think most plagiarists, at the moment they’re doing it, feel as if they really did write that thing. It’s sort of like imitation—which I whole-heartedly approve of—only it’s a really, really, really close imitation.

I like imitation because it’s never successful. You’re stuck with yourself, so it’s just a way of trying new things. It’s also fun.


Yesterday at dinner.

Enzo: “Ew, asparagus.”

Me: “Good, more for us.”

Teresa: “It’s like a fancy food.”

Enzo: “And if somebody were at a date it would be aspara-kiss.”

(Where did he learn about dating? He’s in first grade! Probably the same  place he learned about therapy—Daphne on Scooby Doo.)


This note just says, “With so much weight and so much speed and force,” which is what Enzo said about himself running to the bathroom at school and how he almost ran into some girls and how dangerous he is. I love how his heroic image of himself also happens to be pretty close restatement of: force equals mass times acceleration. I don’t think that means he’s a genius. It’s just that the first laws of classical physics are wonderfully intuitive. You recognize them in the world. And because he’s so vividly physical—a body accelerating—he comes up with stuff like this. It’s accurate description.


Enzo: “Can I say something inappropriate?” I just look at him, trying to project—what do you think?—but I’m not good at hard looks, and I am a bit curious. “Alice Birney sucks.” That would be Alice Birney Waldorf-inspired Elementary.

Me: “That is inappropriate.”

Enzo: “If I said that at school, Principal Horning would totally ground me and kill me.” He seems cheerful about the prospect.

He doesn’t get in trouble at school, but he seems to like thinking about it. And I can’t resist adding that Enzo likes school, and since this comes from Teresa, who volunteers four days a week in class, I think we can rely on it. His protest had a pro forma feel to it, testing the waters.


Enzo: “Did you know I’m sort of like a teenager?”

Me: “How’s that?”

Enzo: “I’m so lazy, and teenagers are pretty much all lazy.”