The Diary of a Dancer
1 July 77 Today I should start my new novel – always the worst
part. Lauren called to APOLOGIZE for our dinner. I said nothing
to apologize for I had a wonderful time. She said she had an
“off” night and they are upping my print run from 100,000 to
110,000.. So I guess I’m “on” again in case I write another Eng
gothic historical paperback they like (don’t hold your breath).
Threw aside Berckman’s Crown Estate suddenly can’t stand
other people’s writing.
Very disllusioning dinner with Chuck Kornowitz. My
piece de resistance crab manicotti in Newburg sauce turned out
exquisitely but he only cared about the booze. When I mentioned
The Great American novel he said it’s been written and offered to
send it to me. He edited it! He only laughed at one thing I said –
he called Athenaeum a “very, very small publishing house” and I
said, “More of a hut, really”. He obviously thought I was going to
have sex with him so that he would read my book. I turned him
down but offered to make up a bed for him on sofa (he really seemed
incapacitated by drink but he blamed it on jetlag.) He insisted on
leaving, looking very cranky. Did wonder aloud who the hell I think
I am? What’s a little sex between “friends” (or supplicants & donors?)
Letter from Devon (I needed it) cheered me up extraordinarily.
Just in the nick of time. I’m a loner, he’s a loner too – do two loners
make a party? Having a hard time feeling beautiful when I am not
dancing and 50 situps a day and one filthy bike ride are no substitute.
But this seminarian writes a mean letter. Loved my novel. Looks
forward to servicing – er surveying Boston in my company. Four
hours on novel produces 8 bad pages. It’s a start. Ms. MacManus
foisting her probate lawyer nephew Henry on me. He came over
to invite me to the beach (and help me walk the dogs.) He’s a pale,
pale Ryder (he’d have to be Peter Frampton to arouse me at
this stage) and I feared he’d get sunstroke but I said yes. Saw
Jabberwocky – very Monty Python.
Wrote a long wailing, complaining letter to Avril. Try to
read Women & Madness but it’s too poorly written and repels
every attempt. Norah Lofts White Hell of Pity – very depressing.
You’re pretty much asking for it if you pick up a book with that title.
11:00 AM Sun 3 July 77
Had to walk Genevieve’s dogs all the way to Columbus
& Ninth to find NY Times. Henry cancelled – I didn’t know why till
Ms MacManus told me he found out I wasn’t Jewish! Now she tells
me! (She’s not Jewish either.) Reading First Person Singular –
actually some helpful dating advice. Is it too crass to count on
having sex with Devon July 20? (That’s as long a wait as I think
I can stand.)
12:45 PM Mon 4 July 77 Almost strangled the dogs today. Sam rolled in horseshit
in the park. Had to wash them both. Then they bothered me so much
during my exercises I had to lock them up. They howled. Penance
all around. Ms. McManus invited me to see New York, New York
. We enjoyed Unsung Cole last night – and she is going to Martha’s
Vineyard so won’t be around to make me her new chew toy.
11:25 PM Wish I could read the future. New York,
New York none too reassuring about male/female relationships.
Reading Leonard Woolf’s depressing Downhill All the Way.
His mind so different from Virginia’s you could call it “antithetical”.
Tomorrow’s excitement – double feature of Shame and The
Passion of Anna.
12:25 AM 9 July 77 Ryder’s divorce final. His relationship with me? Still in
“separation” phase. Trying to hate him but it’s not working. Pity
the petty man who revels in bondage. Feeling sorry for all his
future lovers is the best I can do. He would respect me more if I
was less sexually excitable, and that’s the ugly truth. Totally
resigned that Harcourt will reject Secaire. Went to Patti Smith
concert with Brett’s brother. Kind of fun the way she barks out
her poetry; a little too butch for me. He is an incipient pedophile
remarking on every thirteen-year old he saw (or possibly he was
just trying to annoy me.)
11:45 PM Sun 10 July 77 Loved Rhoda Lerman’s The Girl That He Marries
– never were reviews so misleading!
July 14, 1977 Power out in the whole city! Living by candles. No
elevator doesn’t affect us readers. Doorman up and down the
stairs with flashlights looking for old people. Dogs poop on
balcony. I seize any excuse not to write.
9 PM Fri 22 July 1977 – Mrs. McManus’ condo
Pevensey Old Farms
New deal: all I have to do for luxe pad is write an
article for Mrs. McManus’ real estate mag. I think rich people
are masters of bait and switch but of course I say yes.
Contemplate novel about homicidal house-sitter called Other
People’s Houses but I see from Books In Print it’s been taken.
Lying here making new breakthroughs in the art of
writing sideways; disinfecting my ear from swimming. Wanted
to write about Monica Dickens’ Man Overboard or N Ephron’s
Crazy Salad or at the very least make a New Plan for My Novel
but find I can’t. Was very “good” today – swam, bicycled, some
writing. Allowed to eat anything here luckily her food is not too
outrageous – hamburger and zucchini salad. Marinated artichoke
Refuse to shred my nerves further by hating myself.
My body’s not perfect but I do feel on the home stretch to self-control.
Give me six weeks and I’ll be flying. Emotionally, I’m a mess.
Devon brought up marriage and I am smotheringly certain that I
can’t live up to either of our expectations or be parson’s wife.
Be fun to try – but that’s not the point. I fear the idiot side of me
that just keeps coming out. Can’t seem self-assured, playfully
grave instead sexually voracious and maniacally ridiculous.
Anyway Intuition told me he would call tonight between
8-10 as soon as he could be reasonably sure the Oldsters are out
of the way (he is visiting his parents who have “lights out” – i.e.
are blitzed – by nine pm). However Experience says if I expect the
call, he won’t call. (Learned this from Ryder).
He called at 8:30. I cracked too many jokes – conversation
painfully bizarre. He seemed calm and unfreaked. He got a new
job that gives him more “room” (he’s a waiter- he’s sick of teaching
people) asked when he could “show up” and suggested tomorrow.
Moving a lot faster than I expected from my memories of
Shy Boy. Do I want to have my fantasies played fast and loose with
in this way? (Am I over Ryder?) Do I want to get over him? Or
are mismatches of Time & Desire my Fate?
I am certainly NOT turning down D’s offer to see what
there can be for us. Companion? Lover? Second self? Brother?
Alas he is too blindingly handsome for me to be rational.
If he comes tomorrow there won’t be time for more than
necking (has to get to new job by 4.)
Forget “July 20”, entered on my calendar as S Day.
I WILL NOT MAKE LOVE TO A SCHEDULE. We have to have
a night alone to make things happen. I can be patient – can he?
Well, I can be honest. Best anyone can do.
10:45 PM Back from a walk, reliving my years as teenage
prowler. And peeper. These walks are very informational as I spy
couples hanging plants & merrimekkos, having fights and pouring wine.
Macramé is de rigueur. Try to imagine Devon & me in similar situations.
Maybe he won’t be a parson forever.
Celebrate my freedom from R. Nice to know I can go to parties
without fearing R’s paranoia & restrictions mixed with his exhibitionism
& flamboyance. Freeing me maybe to be those things. Fantasize
pleasurably about long drives with D – my hand on his thigh – separate
but equal thoughts unfolding with the journey. My emotions a difficult
horse to ride.
Interrupted by phone call from R. (got this # from my
parents.) Offered to send me money. What is wrong with him?
He said, “You were right the way you always are. When are you
coming back to me?” Loves me, misses me, wants me back. He’s
been sick – Emmys a complete bust – his TV show cancelled – 2
directors actually fired (25 people in total.) Today’s the first day he’s
been back to work, amazed not to get a pink slip. He’s taking a two
week unpaid leave to go to the Finger Lakes and find his soul. If
they fire him so what. He refuses to take out of town job.
He really worked me over – gave me a bird’s eye
view of what life with him would be like. For example, said, “his
place is my place.” If he means “move in” he knows I’ll say no
because his skyscraper doesn’t take dogs. He asked, “When
do you come down to get your furniture?” I don’t like him having
all this information. Thank God for D. Six weeks to decide
whether I even want to return to Washington. I write a poem for Devon.
You are like a ripe peach
Swollen in the summer of your life
And as the peach surrounds its stone
Your skeleton enwombs your soul
I often see it shining
Through the hollows in your cheeks.
I need your body
Need to know its shadows
Sound its pleasures
But as the stone
Though small at first
Must grow; feed off the dying peach
So your spirit must transhume your flesh
Disgorge it in
A thousand peaches a thousand summers a
Thousand eternities more beautiful than
You or i
7PM – Sat 23 July 77 D and I went for a long walk today, had a great
talk. He told me all about his passionate relationship with English
girl – asking “Do you really want to know?” I did – I managed to
be very hands off. Said he’d written her “lyrical love-letters” and
she is saving money to come to US at Christmas.
Bit of a downer to find other people have split
minds like me. I told him a little about R and more about my
husband. I had to hope he wouldn’t see it “retaliation” for what he’d
told me. (R would have.) Fantasies can be ugly if they prevent you
from experiencing reality.
We hugged – he left – I know he thinks I’m too
“intense”. I was stupid enough to read him my peach poem. On
the other hand, if a guy can’t handle my poetry where am I? R only
likes poems he knows are about him.
Wrote a whiny letter to Avril (who usually can handle
whiny letters). Good today – bike, swimming, walk with D. Long letter
to Mom and Dad.
Reading Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm –
can’t stay grumpy – laughing too hard. Settling into my spaceship –
my own body – first day of the rest of my life. Listening to wonderfully
crazy modern opera on the radio.
Sun 24 July 77
Reading E. Ogilvie’s Theme for Reason. How can
people still write novels interspersed with long nature descriptions – the pert chickadees and the blue moiré sea. I think it’s immoral for a writer of
any talent to inflict this stuff on an overstuffed world. Shape now the
key (used to be all about time-wasting.) I pledge to concentrate on
making each day a triumph.
The First Word
The First Page.
The First Day.
Wrote 4 pages of A Demon Roused. Horribly
dissatisfied. Patricia Highsmith on the suspense novel no damn
help at all. Everything I’ve ever written pure dunder written by a
dunderhead. Restrained myself from calling R.
Face facts. Left DC June 4. This coming
month has to be gotten through. Feel I suffered my “breakdown”
last spring was a crisis of identity. Attacked by the writing thing
(no money, no approval, no relationships) attacked by the relationship
thing (R too critical, wanting to “change” me.) Starving myself. Long
mad midnight walks rampaging thru Chevy Chase with dogs. The
ENDLESS Devon situation only explicable when seen in this light.
(He’s TOO good looking – it’s like a fantasy.)
Now about my book. New beginning ALL wrong and
I couldn’t figure out why. The characters seem alive.
1) First Person Difficult. My husband always said
2) omniscient narrator no longer possible, making
3) me want to do it. However, I have to admit you
4) need to be somebody – an extra character and that’s a
5) bigger pain in the neck.
2) Scene Problematic. I’ve GOT to get out of England.
It’s artificial. How about if I don’t say where it is? Will the specificity
cops come after me?
3) Format (Suspense novel) rough because I have to be
the one who knows what’s going on and I want to write my first draft in a
narcoleptic state. Means I have to be happy making a huge ness with a million
false starts and then write the thing ALL OVER when I know what’s going on.
But I feel time running out on me. Goddam it.
I should be happy to explore. Why all this pressure? Two novels
unaccepted, why write a fourth? Am I deliberately trying to drive myself to the
brink of insanity? Also I HATE Sunday because the pool is packed, no stores
are open, and there’s no mail.
Devon and his roommates Blair & Brian drop by and I
struggle to appear sane. Hard for me.
Called R. to yell at him. He wasn’t there – thank GOD.
Maybe I just want to punish him. He certainly deserves it.
1:30 PM Mon 25 July 77 Dark night of the soul finally over. Very athletic today –
feel deliciously tired. Decide I should go back to Washington no
matter what. My choices are my choices. My happiness can’t be
dependent on how people treat me. I plan to use my time to become
powerful – to be the person I’m supposed to be. In the drugstore line
I was reading up on the showbiz personalities – nobody interesting
before 30 and I have a few years yet.
Forget about weight – just follow & learn to love
“virtuous routine”. (I’m a size seven – that’s pretty good.) Today it
POURED rain – night baseball Devon wanted to attend out of the
question. He suggested we switch to a movie when he called this am.
Still feel stilted with him unfortunately.
Theme for Reason’s sole interest is that it was
written by a lesbian. Still, she isn’t very forthcoming. “Marriage of
Assault on library. Planning to ransack the place.
Leafed through Helen Hayes (poor woman); enjoying Thurber’s
My World and Welcome To It .