by jkatejohnston

23 November 2013

Dear Max,

Still reading my diary and thinking, wouldn’t it be better if I were more angry, more sad, more fragile—and also, of course, hilarious? Yes. But there’s nothing I can do about it. And even if I could choose, I wouldn’t choose to be angry, sad and fragile. Life over art!

One of the many things I love about Quentin Crisp is that he’s very narrow—in feeling, in subject matter, in tone—and it all works, because he’s so witty and, within those limitations, wonderfully surprising. He got beaten up a lot in the first two-thirds of his life because he wore makeup, and people didn’t like it. He never ever fought back. He wanted to live. And about that he wrote, “It would be impossible to live a life such as mine without acquiring a vast unused stockpile of rage.” That’s quoted from memory—I’m on an airplane so I can’t look it up—but I think it’s pretty close. His emotional range is small. He doesn’t write rage. The stockpile stays in reserve.

So I don’t think a narrow range of feeling is a catastrophe, and I’m certainly not looking for reassurance—I like my writing fine. But it’s something to notice.

One of the interesting things about A. Schott’s book about her butt is the very narrow subject (narrow is hardly the word) and the surprising range of feeling and story to be found within that limitation. Again I’m writing from memory, but I think I’m right.

I spent the day in Seattle. I was there for a memorial, and I wrote a long strange thing about that, but it doesn’t belong here. The second day—today—I spent alone. I love walking around in a new city by myself. I kept alternating between wishing Enzo and Teresa were there because of things they would have loved (the aquarium, the science museum) and happiness that they weren’t because that meant I didn’t have to do those things. I talked my way into the aquarium by convincing the ticket agent that I don’t give a shit about fish and that I only wanted to visit the gift shop. I got Enzo a toy eel and some marine-themed gummy candy, and, true to my word, left immediately. Fuck fish, except, of course, as food.

I spent the day walking and eating and reading. My mom told me to use her credit card for the trip, which was lovely. I had a fantastic seafood lunch—bouillabaisse, white burgundy (whatever that is), bread to soak up the broth. I went to the Pike Place Market, which is touristy and completely satisfying. I took pictures of salmon for Enzo and went to an Italian grocery with a huge display olive oils, as ornate and varied as the sake bottles at Oto’s Japanese grocery in Sacramento. And I thought how this eight-foot-tall bank of olive oil was as exciting to me as the three-story-high fish tanks at the aquarium would have been for Enzo and Teresa.


Home now, so here’s the Quentin Crisp passage: