16 January 1957
Maybe the effect of “Marjorie Morningstar”, maybe not. But – once again this writing angle haunts and torments me.
The last two nights, going to bed after hearing Kurt read from the book, has found me more and more affected by what is contained in the novel. The Noel Ehrman characterization sets me off – the wasting genius. It strikes a shadowy chord in me and troublesome, hidden doors creak ajar in the cobweb be attic of my personality.
Last night was worse than the night before. The lids have been coming off of long buried ghosts – the desire to write in the various strangulations which have occurred to murder this desire. Whether it is actually a phantom desire which has been murdered, whether it has been locked and chained in jailed in that cobweb be attic of my soul – I don’t know. But, reading about Noel Ehrman stirs it into motion, whether phantom or real.
Whether this desire to write is a phantom or Prometheus bound, the Noel Ehrman characterization stirs my interest again to explore new the causes of my mysterious something in the attic. A few painful recollections, came to me last night as to this plight of mine and my quandary as to whether the desire is real or phantom.
I picked up creative fiction writing yesterday afternoon and read in the first two chapters or three – what a writer’s personality and temperament were. In the margin I wrote: “This is a writer? Then I should be one.”
I will suppose for the moment I am Prometheus bound. What bound me? The first recollection that comes to mind is my mother getting me a bright new notebook and a pencil and actually expecting me, a child of six or seven, to sit down and flood an empty note book with brilliant stories. That was the first rung on the ladder to the hidden attic. The second recollection I had concerned my piano lessons. Seemingly, at least in Wanda’s eyes, I was a talented pupil. She singled me out of all her pupils to take with her to see my first operetta – “Blossom Time”. My music, as I think back to myself at nine and 10 years old was part of my unselfconscious life. It was as much a part of it as peaceful breathing. Between my brother, his violin, and my mother it erupted into pain and injustice and a pre-dawning discomfort. Aside from the pain, I just didn’t know what disrupted my unselfconscious breathing. Why? Even later whenever the subject of music came up around my mother, when someone commented about my piano, my mother made derogatory remarks which filled me with guilt and pain, but I still did not know why, or what I had done.
The next slip, not a real rung, just a reminder, was Eva Risk’s remark in New York about something I had written. I do not recall her saying it was no good. I just remember her long explanation of her writing pieces for the “New Yorker”.
Most of the rest of the ladder steps were made up of Sid. He practically completed the process I am describing. Supposedly he loved me, yet found nothing much to praise, except my comments on shows and movies we attended. Something about me he found interesting – he must have, to give me so much of his time and thought for several years. Yet to me it seemed incredible that I was of any importance to him because there was nothing I did, said, or wore that did not displease him violently.
Another blow was the article I wrote and sent to the Atlantic, and what other magazines – I don’t remember. It was returned with “try again.” To me, even yet, it seems these comments were “policy” rejections – don’t discourage authors; our policy is a polite one. I realize at least now; my ideas may have been most analytical – but it was bad writing.
I have earned $40 writing – two winning letters to the scoop. I handle my publicity for the community center – which doesn’t count. They publish anything of news – even if it is badly written, though my copy wasn’t.
Now – the mystery is: Is my desire to write a sleeping potential yet to be awakened – or is it a phantom I turn to when I dumbly try to seek a creative expression of self to make my own particular mark in the world around me all my own. Am I an egotist that wants to be “someone,” perhaps to disprove the impression my mother, reinforced somewhat by Sid, and seared into my very soul, that I am untalented, no good, and quite impossible.
Sam Rothmore’s comment on Noel Ehrman: “h\He does things with his fingertips… I don’t know what the trouble is. I’m no psychoanalyst. Maybe he so afraid of being a failure he won’t put his back into anything, so he can always tell himself that he’s never really tried.”
Definition of a novel:
Name given in literature to sustained story which is not historically true but might easily be so; its first purpose is to entertain, but it has been used as a vehicle for satire, propaganda, instruction and religious exhortation
Encyclopedia Britannica volume 9 page 121 . . . In Don Quixote Cervantes switched the novel from talking of wholly imaginary people and bards to giving a constructive picture of contemporary life and manners, is now the usual object of the novelist.
. . . English writer Samuel Richardson and the French Jean-Jacques Rousseau created the love story and the social story. Honoré de Balzac combined the two currents. His series of novels gives a complete picture of the ways of living, and loving, and doing business in the France of his time.
. . . The American novelists have created vivid pictures of American life and character.
ESSAY: Formal literary composition, usually in prose and of moderate length, dealing in easy way with definite subject in its relation to writer. An essay is like a theme or composition but with two important differences. The term essay applies to a prose composition with some literary merit. Moreover, the treatment of an essay is extremely personal; no matter what the subject the essayist writes on, he tells a great deal about his own thoughts and emotions.