May 23, 2007


Dined with a merchant captain who told me a curious fishing story about Japan. There the fishermen train young cormorants to fish for them. They take them out at night, tie a string to their legs, put a ring round their necks to prevent them swallowing the fish and then with lanterns to attract the fish set them free from the boat. The queer thing is that the fisherman seems to know by the feel of the string whether the bird has its fill of fish or not. In this way they can fill a boat with fish in a night.

Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart
Diary entry
May 23, 2007

Someone was as much a stranger to the land as I was, and I found her crying under the quivering shade of the Dao tree. Lovely. Yet I thought it stupid that she loved the young of the place, but she did. Because I sat with her, she told me what she knew of the elders.

The elders train the young to speak and act, to sing and dance. They take them out at night, whip them with dogma and emotion, put their grades around their neck to prevent them from growing enough brain to protest, and then, with footlights and requirements to fill the seats, they set the young free to pour their hearts out on the stage. Strange, how the elders know the heft of their purse even before a single ticket is sold. Strange, how the cormorants fly all night for props and solicitations and art to swallow nothing. In such a wise the elders gather five figures tax-free.

She was crying, and it was already a well-fed tree as it is, so I spoke to her. Hey look, those young had their pictures taken, and didn’t they smile? They got their memories, didn’t they? They got their precious experience, practicum hours. That’s payment enough for slave labor, I guess. And the marine zoo audience, weren’t they happy? They got their fill of capital A art, didn’t they? So why weep? Only you remain unhappy, I told her. And that’s moronic – please excuse me but it is – because you are an elder, one such fisher of children. Until you have given back what you have taken, you cry stolen tears.

I drank every tear from her eyes until her lashes bristled with fury. It wasn’t acting, and I knew it. I told her, I hear what’s left in you, and I hear you name it righteous indignation. I wish I could tell you you’d been quite precise, I said. She was lovely, and I wished I could tell her she was right on the money. I wished I could tell her she was right, period.

May 22, 2007


Lunched with folks and sat in their garden. Heard me on the radio doing ‘Desert Island Discs’. Not bad, really. Voice came over a bit common and pouffy.

Kenneth Williams
Diary Entry
May 22, 1962

1. Last week, a few days after a workshop, I finished another story. I had humble little dizzy spells whenever I stood from the seat before the PC. Romantically, I thought it was a writer thing, and that my story of pages had such force to throw me into vertigo. But it could have been the weather.

2. Szymborska hit it sidewise but right on the head when she said in her Nobel Prize acceptance speect that it would not be pleasant to make a movie about the writer, especially if we were going to be authentic with the depiction of the writer in process. I mean, it’s wonderful to watch Ed Harris play Pollock over the expanse of his canvasses. It’s lovely when you see him hit on the idea. But a writer?

3. Everybody hates hearing writers talk. Writers hate this most of all. That is, except when they’re hearing themselves.

4. Great to see dancers, singers, and of course movies about actors (one on Peter Sellers comes to mind). Entertainment value for your money. But a writer? It’s all snot and throwing things and not catching things.

5. Last year, I invented another author just to watch me write. In less than an hour – less, mind you – he dissolved into tedium. To this day, I suspect he uninvented himself. My friend, a sculptor, he said that rather than waste time on a Galatea, he made another Pygmalion in his own likeness. The Pygmalion knelt enrapt at every stroke of his hammer, every choice angle of his chisel. Solid awe. Good for you, I said. But for a writer, what?

6. I finished a couple of pages that agree with me. I nodded at them, they nodded at me. Hung them out to dry in my Friendster blog where they wouldn’t stop nodding. I turned up the volume of the Media Player and, as I suspected, the pages were head-banging. I quit all applications and stood to erase myself with work on the syllabus that waited on the table. What do you know! I lost so much balance I had to pawn my head, and quickly, before I fell. But if it was a gamble, it did not pay off.

7. Good writers, they get their readers to swirl down vertigo. Bad writers, dance by themselves on the way down.

8. Once there was a girl who I forbid to meet me after ROTC training. Even without mentioning Eve and Pandora, you would know she eventually did come to see me. And when she kissed me after my six hours of dust and sweat and odors, the thought of marriage occurred to me. Another girl watched me write. After I cursed her for disrupting the flow, she kissed me. I had brochures, and I most courteously asked her to consider an asylum.

9. It’s bad for writers. They work a great deal behind the reel, but they don’t get to cut a pretty figure out front. Bad for the whole lot of them: but how would I know?