MORE SUMMER IN BROOKLYN

1976 - 1979

MORE SUMMER IN BROOKLYN
1976 - 1979

RICHARD GRAYSON

Superstition Mountain Press Phoenix – 2010

Copyright © 2010 by Richard Grayson. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Superstition Mountain Press 4303 Cactus Road Phoenix, AZ 85032

First Edition

ISBN 978-

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

For Richard Kostelanetz

More Summer in Brooklyn
1976-1979

Wednesday, June 28, 1978
5 PM. I was supposed to go into the city and do something with Mikey and Larry this evening, but I’m going to call and give them some excuse. I don’t feel like taking my car to Manhattan in this 90° heat, especially since I’ve just come back from taking Josh to Staten Island to pick up his new car, a ’69 VW. Getting back to the subject of what I did yesterday at the Unemployment office, in chatting up the security guard, I really did think of what Wayne Dyer might suggest I do in that situation. Being hostile is no good, but I can be creative when I’m stuck somewhere for four hours. Suppose I go there next Wednesday with a notebook and ask everyone there I’m dealing with his or her name, saying I’m writing an article. People might get uneasy and get me out of there more quickly. I could take photographs. Or if I want to take another tack, I can enhance that place’s humanity – what

little it has – by giving out bubblegum or lollipops to everyone. If I want to make people laugh, I could wear a gorilla mask or bring along a hand puppet. Next Wednesday I can do a variety of things to make the long wait pleasant. I’m almost looking forward to it with a sense of adventure. And I’m trying to put other “nonvictim” principles into effect. Yesterday I received a form letter from the English Department chairman of Nassau Community College turning me down for a Lab Assistant position. The letter stated that they wanted someone with a B.A. in English and experience in remediation. And after all, I only have two master’s degrees and teaching remediation experience. So I called up the college and asked to speak to “Peggy” (not “Professor Haskell” – Dyer says to use first names and it worked). They said she’d call me back, but then I found out her home number and left a message there. Since I don’t really care about getting the job, I can afford to look silly or nervy; I want to see where it will get me. I told Jonny to do the same when he found out he failed Economics even though he had a 74 average. And talk about being silly: I just sent away to the Village Voice to have this ad put in their bulletin board section: “Learn To Write Fiction — The Richard Grayson Way! Send $1

for first lesson: Grayson, 1607 E 56 St, Bklyn, NY 11234.” It’s worth the $18 to see if I get any responses. I don’t expect to, but who knows? Maybe people will see my name and think I’m an asshole – but they’ll be thinking about me, right? And maybe this will be a good way to sell Disjointed Fictions. Look, we’re in New York City, the media capital of the world. I’m reasonably bright and I should be able to figure out a way to get free publicity. The strategy I’ve got to take must be creative. For example, I’d really like my work to get to Ted Solotaroff, Eliot Fremont-Smith, Harvey Shapiro and Irving Howe – but how to get through to them past the mounds of books and manuscripts they must get every day (most of which end up at the Strand Book Store anyway). One tack – and you could do this only once – might be to send the books to their wives at home. At least it will get into their homes and possibly to their wives – who may feel neglected or whatever and who will mention it to them, maybe just to annoy them. It’s worth a chance, isn’t it? If I sound silly, fine. Tim O’Brien at Bread Loaf told me that he was interested in moral issues, especially courage, and he asked me what the point of a “silly” story like “Joe Colletti” was. Well, Tim-hotshot-novelist-beloved-by-critics, maybe the point was that it takes courage to

be silly these days. My biggest breakthroughs in my work have come when I stopped caring what people thought and went ahead with something idiosyncratic and playful. The galleys of “I, Eliza Custis” arrived from Texas Quarterly and I’ve got to correct and return them by next week; the story looks very classy, and long, too. Impact accepted “Why Van Johnson Believes in ESP,” and the editor said he loved my story in Statements 2 and was about to get in touch with me when he got my submission. Nice, huh?

Wednesday, June 29, 1977
11 PM. I was suffering from boredom and lack of stimulation this afternoon, but I conquered it by getting myself out to dinner and then to showing of Robert Altman’s “3 Women” at the Midwood. It worked like a charm, for the movie haunted me enough that I was able to come home and knock out a pretty good (my opinion) story straight out on the typewriter. Altman is a genius, and “3 Women” is one of his more intimate films; he concentrated on only a handful of characters and the results are beautiful and macabre. Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek are, as always, superb; I could eat them both up, but I’ve always been taken with

Sissy Spacek’s odd, albino-like dumb beauty. God, I would like to spend the night with her. Anyway, my story, a speck compared with Altman’s canvas, is influenced by him; called “Progress,” it’s a surrealistic and subtle (I hope) story of homosexual indoctrination. I spent last evening on the phone with Libby and this evening with Alice. Libby’s mother was pleased to hear that I started getting unemployment checks and we had a nice chat before she put her daughter on the phone. Libby – come to think of it, she has a Sissy Spacek quality – is back at work now, doing everything including taking tennis lessons. She was dismayed about the date of Avis’s party because her friend Tommy asked her to reserve that date for him. Maybe we can work something out. Libby said Mason called her up from Jersey and told her he’s coming in for a weekend soon. “Where are you staying?” she asked. “With you,” Mason told her. Libby and I talked about Avis’s forthcoming visit and we agreed to see each other soon. Tonight Alice told me she ran into the mother of Phyllis (who, having graduated law school, is taking the bar exams and has a job awaiting her with Legal Aid) and Harriet (married and the mother of a baby boy) and Judy (now divorced and graduating Brooklyn College); Mrs. Rappaport sent me her regards.

Alice sold several articles today for $325 and got a $500 assignment from Ladies’ Home Journal, but she’s so jaded by now, she doesn’t bat an eyelash. Her big interest now is her musical version of Alice in Wonderland, and she recited for me some songs she’s written. They were all quite clever, and she said Scott is quite impressed. She read me a Seventeen press release about her promotion and June’s hiring; their credits and biographies sound so imposing, but I guess maybe mine would, too. Alice is even more pragmatic and achievement-oriented than I could ever be. She told me she wishes she had started writing earlier because now she would be “ahead of myself.” I couldn’t understand that, especially when she used me as a “for instance,” saying I “wasted a year” studying literature at Richmond College. Of course that year wasn’t a waste, and I can’t even grasp Alice’s concept of being “ahead of yourself.” If I had wanted to write fiction that badly in those days, I would have. And I don’t really feel that there’s any kind of timetable for success. Alice says she hates the work of writing, she only loves getting the check and seeing her name in print.

For me, the joy is in the act of creation itself. I lose myself, I exist in my present state, when I am creating. Sure, acceptances cheer me up and rejections depress me, and I love seeing the expanding shelves of magazines featuring my stories. But that’s all frills to me. Kenward Elmslie of Z Press told me to submit stuff to him next spring when he plans another issue; he said it’s always a surprise to get an unsolicited manuscript as good as mine. Last night I had terrible insomnia and couldn’t get to sleep until 5:30 AM. I felt sluggish all day, stayed out of the sun, went to the bank, watched TV and put myself into a state resembling a coma until I snapped out of it late this afternoon.

Saturday, June 30, 1979
8 PM. Half of 1979 is over already; it barely seems possible. I had a productive session with Dr. Pasquale today. Ivan’s brother Chet offered Dad the job of salesman for his Florida/Alabama/Georgia territory, and Dad has accepted. He still has another job interview on Monday for a position with a jeans firm in Manhattan, but if that doesn’t work out, he’s going to Florida.

At least that’s what Mom says. With Dad, well, as usual, “it’s not the right time to talk about it.” For Dad, it’s never the right time to talk about anything important and unsettling. He never prepared for the future because he was too afraid to look at it. That’s how he got himself into the position he is now: where, at 52, he has to work for Ivan’s family for $300 a week. Mom can’t be very happy about his being away traveling, but I don’t think she really accepts it. Even now, I tend to doubt Dad will make the move. Of course, he’s broke and he doesn’t have much choice. He’s scared, he told me, and worried about how Marc and I will do on our own in New York. I became furious with him. How dare he worry about me, who can take care of myself better than anyone in the family. And, I told him, if he hadn’t made it so easy for Marc by taking him into the business – the way Grandpa Nat did with Dad himself – Marc would have found something on his own by now. At least I broke the vicious cycle of being dependent on my father for a job. Dad admits that Grandpa Nat did everything to make his life easy. Dad still can’t get out of his father’s shadow. The reason he failed in business with his partner was because Dad thought the man would treat him as a son, the way Grandpa Nat did.

I am furious with Dad for getting himself – and his family – into this position, but I also can’t help myself and I feel very sorry for him. I suppose Ivan’s family will treat Dad well, though of course I resent what I see (psychologically, not realistically) as their control of my father. I always wanted to be like the Reitmans myself. And I will be. Dr. Pasquale says I vacillate between utter helplessness and assertive mastery, and that I haven’t learned that true control isn’t entirely in or out of my hands. Anyway, if my parents move to Florida, that raises a new question: Do I still want to go to Albany for the doctoral program? I am going there, and I’ve never denied it, more for personal reasons than for professional ones. At 28, I wanted to break with my family and live in another city. But if this home I’ve lived in all my life no longer is our home and my family – except Marc – is in Florida, I don’t really need to go to Albany to escape them. In fact, all that change might be too much for me. I’d be giving up my ties to New York City and I don’t want to do that. If my parents remain here, I’ll definitely move to Albany. But if they go to Florida, it becomes an open question. I might be happier (and now

I suspect I would) living on my own in the city I know and love. Dr. Pasquale didn’t think this sounded unreasonable. I’m not worried about making a living. There will be teaching jobs, writing assignments – I’m not afraid of getting a fulltime position doing anything I have to. I have many resources to fall back on, and the change will be easier for me than for any other member of the family. Dr. Pasquale says (and of course he didn’t have to tell me this) that I have to think about how much Albany means to me. Do I really want a doctorate? No. The program looks interesting, but I don’t think that the program per se would make me a better writer; it was the experience of independence I was looking for to give me that. It sounds as though I’ve already decided – but then again, who knows what my parents will do? Inertia has ruled them for so long they have a hard time doing anything new. And as Dr. Pasquale said, I still have a couple of months to decide.

Thursday, July 1, 1976
10 PM. I see we’ve reached the midpoint of 1976; the first six months whizzed by so quickly. Life goes by so fast, I think it’s wise to

remember how fragile life is. I’m proud to say that on Monday night, I lay in bed giving thanks for the precious gift of that day. I’ve come to accept certain things with age; maybe I’m beginning to mellow. There’s very little I can do to change things: most profound thoughts have already been expressed, most good books written, most great deeds done. But I can offer what Sam Levenson at commencement called my “message”: the unique small thing I carry around with me by having lived the life of Richard Grayson and no one else. I am confident that I will die having accomplished little more than a small fraction of what I set out to do. But if I work hard (by my standards), relax, enjoy life and have fun, I may do all right in the end. Uncle Monty is dead, but if he’s in the consciousness of one person – perhaps a stranger to whom he told one of his jokes or even someone who stared at him on a bus – then he still lives. I flatter myself sometimes that the world cares what I put down on these pages when reality is that very likely no one else out there will see them. It doesn’t matter; I have written them; that’s enough. Yesterday at the funeral, Grandpa Herb took me aside to say that his niece Suzi had brought

over a book of Jewish stories – “by some guy named Bellows.” But, Grandpa Herb said, after reading them he decided, “Personally, I prefer your little antidotes.” I smiled at his kind words and the wonderful malapropism. Last night I dreamed that I sent a story to the Ladies’ Home Journal and received a check for $1,250. It would be wonderful if my dream proves prophetic, but if not, it’s nice to know that my subconscious is with me, too. I worked all day today for the Fiction Collective; it’s a pleasure to work. I met Gloria at George Braziller’s office this morning. Mindi Schecter has been fired, and Sam Kleinberg, the sales chief or whatever, helped us out. I am in awe of George Braziller. A distinguished-looking grey-haired man, he seems to be so discriminating and cultured. Gloria had called me last night. She had spoken to Jon Baumbach and he agreed she could pay me something if she ever needs me to come in for a full day. He also said that something by me will definitely appear in Statements 2. Gloria knows that I’m more reliable and hard-working than most of the author-members of the Collective, and I worked pretty hard on the First Novel Contest. Unbelievably, we managed to pare down that mountain of perhaps 400 manuscripts to 45 to be given to the judges (15 each). One charming cover note I must reproduce in full:

“Dear Sirs: I am presenting a novel about a Turkish princess who became a gunfighter and a sheriff in the Old West to protect her Christian Arab people from the hostility of the Anglo-American outlaws during the days of the cattle-boom after the Civil War while riding a camel (sic). I hope this novel will be accepted. Yours truly, Mercedes Penera.” It was very discouraging to read though (even a few first pages) of such trash, but by 1 PM, we were finished. We had lunch on Lexington Avenue; Gloria eats so much because she’s pregnant. I really like her, and after working alone with her for two whole days, I can understand how people caught up in a project together can become very close. We have nothing in common but the Fiction Collective’s work, and yet I think I’m capable of falling in love with her. (Physically, she’s especially cute now, but I’ve always adored pregnant women.) We rode the subway to Schermerhorn Street and I worked at the office the rest of the day, trying to make a dent in the manuscripts plied up and the queries and requests to be answered.

Saturday, July 2, 1977

6 PM. I’m not feeling too bad. Which is a pessimist’s way of giving thanks. I slept well, had an erotic dream about Cara Weiss, whom I haven’t seen in years. In its way, the dream was fairly logical: I was going up Riverside Drive when I spotted Teresa, who invited me in and said I should say hello to Cara. A friendly kiss turned into more passionate ones, and before I knew it, we were a tangle of arms and tongues. Very nice. Aunt Sydelle moved out of her house finally; she got $65,000 for it. She’s still in Cedarhurst, in some very pleasant garden apartments off Central Avenue. She may be happier there than she would have been in Florida, where everyone seems so old. Cousin Robin is still going through her breakdown, but a psychiatric social worker has moved in with her and is caring for her. Aunt Sydelle spoke to him on the phone and he advised her not to interfere, that he knows how to handle Robin’s crippling depressions. Sydelle said that aside from being Gentile, the man is too good to be true. I stayed out of the sun today; instead, I was working on sending out submissions. Writers’ Resources, a very valuable Boston newsletter, arrived today, and it listed several places to send out to. I think that eventually I should have a small press willing to put out a collection of my short stories; that’s my

immediate goal now, to gather the best stories already published into one book, my book. I’m too intelligent and well-informed to have any delusions of bestsellerdom or even breaking even. I know about the poor small press distribution system, the low public demand for short story collections, the lack of reviewing space, etc., etc. But realistically, if I’m to survive financially, I’ll need to exist on teaching jobs – and I don’t mean adjunct positions at LIU. A book, if it’s well-done – and I’ll make sure it is – will enhance my reputation, which is so far based only on stories in various little magazines. Also, it will satisfy my need to hold a book that’s completely mine, one I won’t have to share with anyone. As Alice said the other day, she most enjoys “hustling.” I do, too – that process of making a name for myself in the small press world. I’ve always wanted to be an important member of a community (that’s why I loved my LaGuardia Hall years at Brooklyn College) and I’ve still got the old politician in me. So I subscribe to all the magazines and the journals and I write letters to the big machers like Charles Plymell, Len Fulton, John M. Bennett, Diane Kruchkow, et al. I get to know them and eventually they’ll get to know me and I, too, will be a small press “name.”

That part of the job is just as important as the writing, and I like to push my way to power. I don’t do anything underhanded or sneaky (except perhaps allowing two little mags to print the same story – but I’ll never do that again). Simon could never understand this: he thought my going to the New York Book Fair was a waste of time, for example, and he used to mock all the small-press magazine title names to me. But Esquire and The New Yorker didn’t want Simon, he wouldn’t settle for less, and so he gave up writing altogether. If I had had Simon’s talent, I’d be famous – or at least fairly well-known – by now. Of course more than half of what little income I have goes into paying for paper, xerox, envelopes, postage (I used up a $13 roll of stamps in less than two weeks). But it’s worth it as an investment in the future. Sure, I’d like to be making the $10,000 a year Simon is. But he’s a file clerk in the hospital and he can go nowhere. I, at least, have a chance, and the chance looks better every day. I have diarrhea now, for some reason, but I’m going to try not to let it prevent me from going out tonight. If it does, there’s always tomorrow. (I never knew a guy with diarrhea could be so optimistic.)

Tuesday, July 3, 1979
6 PM. I’ve just been outside, talking with Jonny and a cute little bespectacled boy named Georgie who wants to become a lion tamer. Bologna, he told me, is his “best food,” but he doesn’t like to read or eat bread. Today was a day when absolutely nothing happened – and I wasn’t surprised. I don’t know if there is such an animal as Luck, but I seem to have observed it over the years. There are times when things go well for somebody and even their bad moments turn out to be disguised blessings. My life has always seemed to operate in alternating spurts of great activity and absolute nothingness if not downright bad news. I’ve been devouring Jules Witcover’s Marathon: The Race for the Presidency, 1972-1976; it’s very absorbing. I’m a sucker for presidential politics and always have been. I sometimes think I’d have been happier being a professional politician rather than a writer. Anyway, reading about Carter’s amazing campaign from nowhere, one sees a pattern of hard work and enormous luck. (Mo Udall, in contrast, couldn’t get one break.) Did Carter use up all of his luck in 1976? Today he got the lowest poll rating in history, 76% disapproving, worse than Nixon just before he resigned.

The Carter administration seems to have unraveled completely, and I think it’s too late to put it together again. Carter will probably have to withdraw as a candidate next year. Another lesson Witcover’s book has taught me (though I’d long suspected it) is that politics – any kind of politics: academic, literary or electoral – it’s the perception of an event that counts for more than the event itself. Reality seems to be just a shadow compared with Image. The media can change a defeat into a triumph, a sad event into classical tragedy. Last week I read Nora Ephron’s Scribble Scribble, a sharp, witty collection of her Esquire “Media” columns. I am fascinated with television, newspapers and magazines, which again seem more real than reality. Incredible changes have taken place because of TV, but since I’m of the first generation which never knew anything else, any other reality but a TV world, I don’t think everyone up there has gotten the message. Marshall McLuhan, what are you doin’ these days? I ventured from the house today only to get a haircut, but I know what’s going on in Manhattan and Moscow because of TV, the papers and radio. I know who’s Hot and who’s been indicted. Probably I know much too much and am beginning to feel my circuits overloading.

Just think of all the time and emotional energy I’ve invested in Liz Taylor, Truman Capote, Skylab, the boat people. . . In a year, will any of this matter? Fame and celebrity seem to be instantaneous and instantly gone. Is it worth it to try to achieve fame? Is it more noble, more honest, to work as a graduate student in Albany? Or to take a job in a backwater place like Fort Valley State College in rural Georgia (“Carter Country”) – I got a letter today saying they’re interested in me. God, “bubble popularity” – a term I remember from Thomas Hart Benton in Profiles in Courage – is so heady. A week ago I was Liz Smith’s column and I felt intoxicated. Of course there’s a great letdown, as with any drug. I can probably make myself into a Public Person, but do I want to be one? Well, I guess days like this are good for something, anyway. Tomorrow is the Fourth of July; in no time the summer will be over. I no longer worry about not writing. Something tells me I know what I’m doing.

Sunday, July 4, 1976
11:30 PM. By the time I finish writing this, the Bicentennial Fourth of July will be over. I did just what I said I would not do, of course, and

was an observer at both Operation Sail and the fireworks – if only briefly and from a distance. Now I can rest easy that when, come the year 2025, my grandchildren ask me the inevitable question, “Grandpa, what did you do in the Bicentennial?” – I can look the little tykes straight in the eye (assuming, of course, that I don’t suffer from cataracts or senility) and tell them just what I did. Alice called me at about noon, and she’s mostly responsible for this. She was tired after four hours of playing paddleball, and both her current sweeties were unavailable for the historic day (Andreas stayed in New Jersey “to avoid getting trampled on” and Jim was somewhere in New York Harbor, on a friend’s father’s ferry). So she bicycled over here and berated me for being so unpatriotic as to sit on my porch reading while the rest of America was out doing their part to celebrate. She used the now-familiar “grandchildren” ploy and then proceeded to work on my guilt. She herself felt very guilty, Alice said; her brother dutifully went off this morning at 6 AM, camera and radio in hand, so as not to miss a minute of anything that might occur. Her brother, I explained to Alice, works for the State Department and so must be on some official diplomatic business. He’s currently serving in the fascinating post of Adviser for

Micronesian Affairs, and there must be at least one Micronesian somehow connected with the Bicentennial. But Alice said I couldn’t let her feel guilty about this, and so, good friend that I am, I drove her to Brooklyn Heights so we could glimpse a few of the sailboats from the Promenade. (Alice is a strange girl: she feels guilty about staying home on the Bicentennial but she doesn’t feel the slightest twinge of guilt about seeing Andreas and screwing him last Friday night, then coming back to Brooklyn and then seeing and screwing Jim. We should all be so lucky.) Before patriotism, of course, comes hunger – so we ate lunch at Pica-deli. There we ran into (as I knew we would) Simon with some buddies, including his friend Elliott from The Racing Form, and we were cordial, cheerful and mercifully brief with one another. It was nice to dine outside at a sidewalk table. The weather was magnificent (for the moment, at least) and we watched the crowds and the street vendors pass by. Then we too went over to the Promenade and joined everyone in watching the sailing ships pass by. I’m not trying to be a jaded cynic, but I failed to be impressed. Lightning and thunderstorms started acting up and brief rains came, so we high-tailed it back to my house, where Alice

cycled somewhere for more interesting adventures. Still, I am terribly glad that I had a friend to spend the day with, and it actually was good to be out in the throng, which was unusually good-natured. Tonight, after dinner and rereading on my own of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (seriously), I drove to see the harbor fireworks from the car – first looking on high on the Gowanus Expressway and then from a street near the docks in Red Hook. The fireworks were quite spectacular, the best I have ever seen. The sky lit up with color, and I’ll write no more about it, for I fear that every idiot in the nation is penning some words about his own Bicentennial feelings and experiences. (Alice had said she wanted to do something if only so that she could write about it in her journal.) Back home, I sat on the porch for a while, watching East 56th Street’s annual display of loud noises and bright lights. And I am very grateful – yes – to have been born an American.

Wednesday, July 5, 1978

5 PM. I’m feeling pretty discouraged after a difficult day. At 6 AM I awoke with severe stomach cramps, the kind usually accompanied by diarrhea. But I didn’t really get diarrhea; the cramps persisted by themselves, and even now I have them. I drove down to the Unemployment office and only had to wait an hour today. The caseworker told me (after I had asked someone) that I am not eligible for benefits unless I bring a note from LIU saying I will definitely not be rehired for the fall. I asked how come the law was different last year when I had been eligible for benefits, and he said the legislature changed the law. But I’m sure he doesn’t know. (He wrote out a report on our interview and left out all the apostrophes in the possessives, but I didn’t correct him.) I left the Lawrence Street office feeling ashamed, as if I had done something wrong. What really makes me mad was that I didn’t collect my $11-a-week benefits (the difference between my benefit rate and what I actually earned) all last academic year, knowing how many people (members of my own family among them) collect money they don’t really deserve. I went over to LIU, where I got more bad news. Because of low registration, Margaret doubts that there’ll be a course for me to teach in the second summer session. (There certainly

won’t be two.) I came home feeling utterly dejected. Dr. Wayne W. Dyer doesn’t tell you how to deal with anger and depression of this kind. In fact, he seems to feel there’s no reason to be depressed, ever. He overlooks the idea that maybe depression could be healthy – as in mourning, for example. I find his endlessly cheerful pop philosophy doesn’t suit me, and I’m going to give it up except for those parts that still make sense to me. I really want to cry for a while, but I can come up with anything more than slightly moist eyes. Money is going to be a real problem again. I’ve been spending too freely lately. Let’s see: I have $650 or so in the bank. Assuming that I don’t get a teaching job later this summer, that $650 will have to last me until November 15 or so, when my first adjunct check arrives. That’s clearly impossible. So the only solution is for me to get a job. I’ll wait till after next week, when Margaret should know about the second summer session either way. I dread the prospect of a menial job, and I don’t see that I can get anything else. My typing skills are too poor for secretarial work (which would be horrible anyway). I won’t work for less than $3 an hour, and I don’t think I’m being unreasonably proud – not with two master’s degrees, a hundred published stories, and three years of college

teaching experience. Two years ago when I worked for that crook Fassbinder, I swore it would be the last job of that type I took. I don’t want to again be a messenger, shelve books in the library, wait on department store customers, deliver laundry or flowers or be a bimmie in a nursing home. I’m reading Thoreau now, and he says to “simplify”; I’m certain I can get by on less than I think I can, but it won’t be easy. I’ll have to cut down on all my expenses and hope unexpected ones don’t arise. I lost a total of about $1,500 today – before I even collected it. “Easy come, easy go” is a trite expression, but it’s true. Money is meaningless anyway. And I’m trying. I really am. My ad, “Learn fiction writing the Richard Grayson way – Send $1 for first lesson” appeared in the Voice today. I don’t expect any replies, but it will be nice if they do come. Undoubtedly people will think I’m a jerk, but Thoreau didn’t care about people thinking that about him and neither do I. I just wish I had the consolation of self-respect.

Wednesday, July 6, 1977
7 PM. I want to get into bed early tonight. It’s cloudy and thunderstorms are threatening. I may have to have root canal work done tomorrow. Last Wednesday I broke my tooth, and today, when I went to Dr. Hersh, he fixed it up as best he could but said the nerve may be exposed. From the way I jumped when he touched near the nerve, I suspect that’s true. I dread the prospect of going down to the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building, to that team of endodontists where I had oral surgery twelve years ago. But if I must, I must. Dr. Hersh says my gums are in bad shape, too. If I don’t start taking care of them, I’m going to end up with pyorrhea. My nerve is throbbing now, but that may just be the result of the dental work. By tomorrow morning, I should be able to judge. All I hope is that I’m not kept awake by the pain of an exposed nerve. I still recall the pain of it when I was 14; it was the worst pain I’d ever had or have had since then. Days like this make me feel like I’m falling apart at 26. I had a kind of acceptance today; make of this what you will: The editor of Punch, a new Seattle magazine, wrote, “I’m keeping ‘A Story

for Negroes’ and ‘An Incomplete Story,’ though I don’t quite know what to do with them.” He explained that the three editors of the magazine are all poets, and mine was the first fiction they’d seen which appealed to them. Their second issue is filled; their third issue is to be on the Long Poem; and so my work won’t appear until at least the fourth issue – which could be a year away, or, knowing little magazines the way I do, it could be never. Still, I have hope and patience and I told the editor, a Mr. Cervantes, to go ahead and keep the stories, and I sent seven dollars for a subscription. If anyone knew how much money I spend on subscriptions to little magazines, they’d think I was crazy. Of course, I look at it as a way of paying my dues, of spreading good will, and of getting to know what my contemporaries are up to. Already my small press books and magazines are easing the other books off my bookshelves (and onto the ones in my brothers’ room and in the basement): the Literary Guild and Book-ofthe-Month Club books that were once all that I owned. Who knows? Perhaps one day my little magazine collection will prove valuable – that is, if they’re not thrown out the way my superhero comic-book collection was. Mom and Dad are supposedly leaving on Friday morning, although Dad’s very upset because

they unexpectedly told him to come back next week and sign for his Unemployment check; heretofore he’s been signing every two weeks. Avis writes that she’ll look all over Bremen and try to get me the Rilke book I’ve been wanting. Her parents will pick her up at the airport, but she asks if I can drive her to pick up Helmut the following week. Thank God something pleasant will happen this July. I can’t wait to speak to Avis, to see her again. Ronna’s another matter. She’s now been back over a week and I’ve yet to hear from her. I bet she doesn’t call until late summer. She and her family will be moving out at the end of the month and I won’t know where she is. That will make the third time in a year that she hasn’t given me her address, and I’d say that’s a pretty good indication on what to look for in a relationship with her. Phooey on Ronna, I say. Mikey sent me a birthday card saying, “What’s a month between friends?” Not a thing, of course. It occurs to me: Do I judge Ronna by a different standard than I do Mikey or others? I suppose I do, but ex-lovers are never in the same category as other friends. Vide: Last week Scott was most curious about Avis. And Avis today wrote me to say she was thrilled about Teresa’s party. She asked, “Will Scott be there?” She didn’t ask about anyone else. I rest my case.

No writing today, and a foray into the library to get the creative juices flowing proved hopeless. All I found there was an article called “Ph.D.’s: The Migrant Workers of the Academic World,” about adjuncts. Misery loves company.

Saturday, July 7, 1979
9 PM. I just came back from Rockaway to an empty house. It’s so quiet. It’s hard to believe that in a few months this house won’t be ours anymore. When I went down to breakfast this morning, Mom said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with your father.” Dad was up all night worrying, mostly about Marc and me. “He thinks you’re going to starve in the streets.” He makes it difficult for me to feel angry with him for that, of course – and that makes me angrier. Mom said it’s unnatural, the way he feels. Remember how Grandpa Nat used to cry when Dad and Mom visited him in Florida and then had to leave? Dad is his father all over again. I never knew a man to be so protective of grown children. All these years I’ve believed Mom was the typical Jewish mother who couldn’t let go. Well, it turns out that Dad was the more overprotective parent all along. “He needs a psychologist,” Mom told me this morning.

My psychologist and I talked over the situation today. I’m glad I have Dr. Pasquale; he’s a rational, stable force in my life. He seems to think that all my fears and anxieties are quite realistic. After living in such a close-knit family for my whole life, it’s going to be hard on me, on all of us. As Dad said to Mom, “It’s like breaking up that old gang of mine.” But of course it had to happen sooner o later. Mom, I think, would like Marc and me to live together, but I doubt if that would work out. I’m not close with Marc, and our interests are very different. I’d rather think of him as in the background somewhere in case I ever need help. I seem to be leaning towards staying in the city. Dr. Pasquale doesn’t think that’s a copout. Albany never meant a professional boost to my career; my reasons for going were personal. I told Dr. Pasquale of my reaction to my parents’ announcement about moving to Florida, and he told me that my immediately sending out résumés was a healthy, activist way of coping. I am worried about money, but again, that’s a realistic fear. One fear grounded in fantasy is Dad or Mom dying or getting very sick. While there’s always that possibility, at 52 and 48 they’re both young and in good health, and what happened to Grandpa Nat will not repeat itself.

I am surprised at how positive I feel about getting my own place in the city; it’s exciting. I can still feel comfortable in familiar surroundings, and I could even take my old furniture with me. If people like Josh and Elihu can survive financially on their own, why can’t I? I can survive emotionally, too – with the help of my friends. And Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb will still be around; I’ve always been closest to them. I went to see them tonight, bring my book – which Grandpa Herb insisted on paying five dollars for. (Several people – Ivan, Jay, Marie – have asked to buy the book from me, and I think I’m going to make money that way.) Instead of Grandma Ethel cooking for me, I showed her that I could make cheese omelets for dinner. Grandpa Herb fixed the cuffs on a new pair of jeans for me, and after Grandma Ethel went out “to work” (to play cards), we sat in the bedroom and talked. Grandpa Herb told me that he had an underwear manufacturing and contracting business which he started in 1944. It was all black market stuff, and in a year they made $100,000 profit. The IRS was watching him, and at one point he had $30,000 stashed in a bathroom hamper. Grandpa Herb told me he’s got about $50,000 in various bank accounts now, but he tries to live on his Social Security. I am more and more interested in making money – I never had to

before – and on the way home I bought The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need, which I plan to read now.

Thursday, July 8, 1976
10 PM. It’s Worrying Whether It’s All Worth It Time. It just struck me, while I was making another batch of stories and queries, after another day of hard work trying to promote my writing career, just why the hell I’m bothering. I don’t expect to take success well; I’ll probably become more of an egomaniac than I am now. I’ve changed enormously. Other people see it and tell me I’ve grown too confident, too brittle, too arrogant. Today I got a rejection that said my material was “too distant” for the editor: “”We’re looking for the real, sweaty personal stuff – yours may even be real, but if so, you’re a cold person.” Of course the editor is a moron; judging me by one of my stories is absurd. But still, it hurt – and I guess the fact that it hurt still shows I’m not a total egomaniac. This is crazy: me worrying about success going to my head when here I am, at 25, with $150 in the bank, no job, and living in my parents’ house. But I have the feeling that I can make myself a success through sheer will power and hard work. I do get very arrogant sometimes, as

when I answered a nasty rejection with an even nastier (and very vulgar) note; today the reply came and I dumped it into the garbage immediately, too ashamed to read it. After a day at the Fiction Collective office, working and grasping at every bit of information that could do me some good, trying to get an “in” and ingratiating myself with everyone, then coming home, reading my mail (Aspen Leaves said my writing is “the best we’ve seen in six months” but they’re booked solid; Tom Fisher wrote and said I was the first person to respond to his plea for money and he hopes to get Star-Web Paper out this summer; Coda arrived with much information I can use) – sending out manuscripts all seems rather silly and beside the point. The trouble is, you see, my basic instincts are political, not literary (the old Poli Sci major shows through). I feel I’m getting away from myself, taking myself too seriously, becoming pompous – and in the end that will destroy me as a human being and as a writer, too. I’ve become obsessed with the idea of my own success. I don’t need, at this point, to frantically send stories here and there. I know what will happen eventually: I’ll get two acceptances for one story and then I’ll be in real trouble. Enough about writing. Let’s bring our hero’s (villain’s?) two friends onstage and let’s see what’s going on in their lives.

The latest installment in The Alice Saga is this: Last night Alice tried to write Jim a letter, but it turned out too mushy. Then she got this bright idea: she bought Chinese fortune cookies and took the fortunes out with tweezers, replacing them with her own slips of paper on which were written such gems as “Please reconsider – you’ve nothing to lose” and “In New York the number is 251-6613” and “A short brunette will reenter your life – she hopes.” Alice went to the playground and finally found a teenager who said he’d deliver the box of fortune cookies to Jim’s door – or so Alice thought. He gave the cookies to his pothead friends in the playground and ran away. By this time it was 11 PM and Alice was in tears. But she doesn’t give up easily; she rode around the neighborhood on her bike until she found a Chinese restaurant that was still open, stayed up and did it all over again, leaving the cookies at Jim’s doorstep this morning. So far he hasn’t called. As for Gary, he had an “anxiety-provoking” interview in D.C., had a bad flight in a storm coming back (“I thought I’d never see Brooklyn again”), but he’s confident he’ll get the job – although he’s going to try to get Liz Holtzman to “pull some strings and make it a surer thing.”

Saturday, July 9, 1977
10 PM. Do you know where your children are? Do you know who they have become? I have a sticking pain in my stomach. It couldn’t be hunger. I had a Whopper, fries and a giant Sugar-Free 7-Up not three hours ago. I feel beaten down tonight. Let me take a tranquilizer. If I can have one more good night’s sleep in my life, let it be tonight. God, I’m beginning to sound like Jonny, invoking the Deity. Jonny went to the synagogue this morning and slept the rest of the day. He should write a book: Total Avoidance. Sometimes, not often, I envy Jonny his defenses. I began reading Virginia Woolf’s Moments of Being. I want to read it in small doses because it’s too good to be gulped down. I suppose I’d say it was like a fine brandy if I knew what brandy tasted like. (Brandy, of course, reminds me of Ronna, but by now I’ve completely forgotten about her.) The Postal Service tells me a package sent to me got separated from its wrapper. They thoughtfully sent the wrapper. It had a June 29 Chicago postmark, 55 cents metered mail. It’s probably either the complimentary copies of Mati or of Oyez Review, which are both in that city. So I wrote both editors informing them.

This annoyed me no end. Because. You see, if I’ve got something published, I’ve just gotta see it right away, hold it in my pudgy little hands. So. . . tired as I was, hot as it was (no more air conditioning in my car), I went to Manhattan this afternoon at 4:30 PM, just to see if the magazines had come out and I could find them. Sean Wilentz said hello to me at the Eighth Street Bookshop (I bought a nice little magazine, Works in Progress), but nothing of mine was there. I took a delightfully airconditioned F train to the Gotham Book Mart, but avoided spending any money there. Then I drove down to Soho Books – the latest contender – and I came away with a nice smallpress scene mag, Contact II and a beautifullooking anthology, Taxi Dancer, poems put out by Exotic Beauties Press, whom I am hoping will publish my collection of short stories. But did find “my” magazines. No matter. Stephen Bailey of The Midatlantic Review, a terrible mag, keeps rejecting my work, although in his most recent rejection he allowed as how “you do have a different way of looking at things.” Charles Plymell answered my letter. After I wrote him, I learned he was the first man to publish Zap Comix. He wrote “DIG YA!” to me. He talked about a writers’ union and put down Barthelme and told me he was sorry he didn’t get to the BC Conference; Diane Kruchkow

showed him the brochure and he said it looked interesting. Charles said he just attended his first – and last – COSMEP conference. All these small press names are becoming people to me. This morning I went to the AAA and got a TripTik for my drive to Vermont. It’s only 270 miles, mostly New York State Thruway; at Lake George I cut off to Vermont. Deanna’s staying over for the weekend, sleeping in the master bedroom with Marc. I suppose the reason I don’t mind is that Deanna is so unobtrusive one hardly realizes she’s around. I never saw such a mousy person. But she’s sweet. Uncharacteristically, I went with her and Marc to the Staten Island Zoo today. Deanna wanted to go to a zoo, Marc wanted to take pictures, and I was the only one who knew how to get there. It was fun, especially the Children’s Zoo. Deanna is so naive that I can’t believe the things that come out of her mouth; she’s Gracie Allen in platform shoes and a halter. She was disappointed there weren’t enough “cuddly” animals and Marc had to drag her away every time a baby passed. I had a lot of fun, though; it was a nice change.

Monday, July 10, 1978

10 PM. I didn’t do my exercises today, but then I didn’t have to. I worked hard helping Dad with the goods. My body is starting to ache a little. Last night Elihu called. He got these three HEOP classes in social science at LIU, starting today; they pay an unbelievable $1,500 for six weeks. And there’s almost no preparation involved, since the stuff he’ll be doing is basic, like orienting them to college study, teaching them how to read a newspaper, etc. I’m very envious. Al Orsino is doing the English HEOP classes. Elihu said he’s already fallen a week behind in his American History class and hopes they can get to World War II before the term ends in two weeks. Oh well. I’ve had my share of teaching experiences in the past, and now it’s Elihu’s turn. As I told Elihu, I’m very fatalistic about getting courses: “If God had meant for me to teach, He would have had students register for freshman English.” I slept magnificently, having this monumental dream about Ronna and me working our way through a maze of rooms in her grandmother’s house and ending up in the old bungalows in Rockaway during a July Fourth gala celebration. I was awakened by Dad at 8 AM, and half an hour later I was following him and Marc to Flushing. It was good to be out early in the

morning – but even at that hour, you could tell today was going to be a humid scorcher. Rick Davis, Dad’s idiot of a salesman, was there to work with us. The shipment came in at 11 AM – but one-third of it (19 out of 60 cartons) was missing, and Dad almost fainted. He has more orders for jeans sold than he got in! He’s missing 1150 pair, which were probably hijacked from the pier in Jersey; the truck driver said he couldn’t find them on the dock. They’re probably being worn in South Carolina by now. I can see the problem Dad has in his business: so much can get screwed up between Hong Kong and here, and it’s largely out of his control. At least the reduced shipment meant less work today. It was hard getting the cartons (50 pair to a carton) down the wooden slats on the steps; I was the middleman on the landing and got quite bruised. But opening the cartons, sorting them by sizes and setting them up for orders took forever; it was a combination of busywork and physical labor. I thought it would never end, despite breaks for iced tea and lunch. I left at 4 PM, leaving them there and drove home from Flushing feeling somewhat woozy and pretty smelly. At home, Jonny told me that E.L. Doctorow’s attorney called and said he wanted to speak to me. Evidently Eliot Fremont-Smith told him about the phony letter on “Doctorow’s”

stationery. But I’m not worried in the least and I certainly don’t intend to call back the lawyer. He can’t do anything but scare me – and he can’t even do that. Even if he could sue me, the publicity I’d get out of it would be worth it. At this point I have nothing to lose – not even a reputation. Actually, if this guy (and Doctorow) went to the trouble to look up my phone number, it’s more recognition that I’ve gotten than I ever did for my work. Speaking of work, I got my copies of riverrun today with my “Go Not to Lethe Celebrates Its 27th Anniversary: A Soap Opera Journal Special.” They changed only Mason’s name and left the rest of the story intact. It’s a very risky thing for me to do, but it’s done now, and I think it’s one of my strongest pieces. If I could have only one story to represent my life, I would want it to be this one. I spent an hour xeroxing the story and the résumés I typed up yesterday. I have almost no money now, and I’d soon better get started finding a way of making some. Maybe I should tell Doctorow’s mouthpiece that I’ll settle out of court if he gives me $20,000.

Sunday, July 11, 1976

9 PM. Four years ago I was in Miami Beach, attending the Democratic National Convention with Leon, Skip and our delegate, Mikey. It was an exciting time for me, and I thought I’d try to see what was going on at the 1976 Convention today as long as it’s being held in New York, starting tomorrow. And I did do something I could do in ’72: get a close-up glimpse of the Democratic nominee. Yes, I’ve seen Jimmy Carter in the flesh, bright smile, cool blue eyes and all. I figured the best place to go was the Americana Hotel, the headquarters for the Carter campaign as well as the New York and Iowa delegations. I parked my car on Eighth Avenue and 52nd Street, and as soon as I got out, I was approached by a man asking me where Seventh Avenue was. He had one of those very noticeable non-New York accents (he pronounced his r’s) and I asked him if he was here for the convention. It turned out that he was the chief political reporter for U.S. News and World Report, “that is, I will be if I ever get my credentials.” I went with him to the Americana, where he picked up his credentials and I walked around. There was really no difference from the lobby of the Diplomat Hotel in Florida in 1972 and the lobby of the Americana in 1976: the people looked the same, spoke about the same things, the hotel glitter was there, the hospitality

suites . . . only the candidate and the mood of the party had changed. This year, after eight years out of power, caused in part what they feel were contentious, bickering conventions, the Democrats smell victory and everybody seems ready to swallow (if not love) Jimmy Carter because he can bring them victory. Why did I go there today? I’ve always been fascinated by politics, and conventions in particular: seeing people from everywhere, from all ethnic groups and walks of life, get together and choose a President. And I’m irresistibly drawn to power, to where history is being made. I live in this time, so why shouldn’t I play a role in it, even if I’m only an outside observer? Certain types at conventions were in evidence along the streets of midtown Manhattan, like a red-haired teenager, a button collector trying to get all the buttons he could; and a middleaged, slightly drunk-looking man sitting outside the hotel, his sports jacket covered with green Carter buttons as if they were growing on him like ivy (he was selling them for fifty cents each). There were information desks set up, and downstairs in the Americana, Carter HQ was being set up, with tables for Women, Hispanics, Blacks, Messages, Volunteers, Issues, Southeast – all different Carter committees.

Rep. Andy Young of Atlanta, Carter’s main black supporter, entered and I shook his hand, saying, “Welcome to New York”; like every good politician, he pretended to know me from somewhere else. Bella Abzug came in with State Senator Carol Bellamy after some Women’s Caucus. Bella looked good, having lost some weight – but she’ll always be recognizable for her hats. Then the bright TV lights came on as I stood near the door. Mrs. Carter – Rosalynn – came in first. She’s a pretty slip of a woman. Then Jimmy came in, and the crowd was electrified. I was just a couple of feet away from him, but Secret Service agents would hardly let you get close. My first impression: his eyes were a beautiful blue, very cold and determined – and he seems a lot shorter in person. If Carter was short, Congressman Peter Rodino, who came to chat with him about the Vice Presidency, is a really tiny man, terribly plain and sweet-looking. I chatted with Carter supporters, some very nice Udall delegates from Iowa, and some members of the press – who appear to outnumber delegates. On my way out I saw anti-abortion presidential candidate Ellen McCormick and her supporters marching down Eighth Avenue.

Thursday, July 12, 1979
6 PM. Last night I went to the library again; I’ve been spending time there every day. When I got home I wrote about seven letters to various book critics and reviewers. Perhaps I’m doing more harm than good, but I feel it’s important for me to do something. It’s been nearly two months since the book first appeared, but today was the first time I really read it through, and I felt quite pleased. It’s the book I wanted to write – maybe not me at my best, but I think it’s good enough. All night I was obsessed with thoughts of getting my book publicized, and that kept me from sleeping well. Dad startled me out of a dream at 8 AM; I had to get up for my interview at Queensborough. Because of the gas shortage and inflation, it certainly isn’t my first choice as a place to teach. The ride, however, is pleasant, and the campus is in suburban Bayside, in a new neighborhood. The buildings are from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s – not quite as nice as Kingsborough, but much better than Brooklyn College. I arrived 90 minutes early and walked around campus; then I sat down and read Hitler because there seemed nothing else to do. My interview was not with the English Department, but with the Department of Basic Educational Skills, which would be hiring me.

I was interviewed by a woman professor and Jerald Nudelman, who co-authored the Steps in Composition text I used with the BC veterans’ class. Their questions were straight-forward and predictable: What errors did I find the students making? How would I teach them to eliminate fragments? Did I think anything could be accomplished in one semester? They don’t use the CUNY placement exam as an exit test and their courses are graded Pass, Fail, or Repeat. I think I impressed them. They know I’m looking for jobs at other CUNY schools, and of course they won’t know about course availability until registration after Labor Day. I filled out a long personnel form for them, and they’ll get in touch with me if they need me. It’s really shitty, of course, always getting called at the last minute, never having job security – but I take it all philosophically. The pay, after all, isn’t bad. But in a way I’m glad I’m not teaching this summer. I needed a break. Yesterday I ran across Bruce Charlton, who is teaching at BC now, and he says he needs to recharge his battery. I’ve been very careful with money this week. Yesterday I spent less than five dollars and I sold a book to Peter, so actually I came out ahead.

There was an ad in the Courier-Life papers for community editors; the new editor, Gary Daniels, is looking for one for Flatlands. I thought I’d apply, but then I figured I’d call Ronna and see if she wanted it. She needs the bylines more than I do – not that she had much enthusiasm when I told her about it. Ronna is not like Alice or me; she plods along so slowly. I guess I also called Ronna because I wanted to show her I’m a nice, generous guy despite the fact that she treats me cavalierly. It was hazy today and oppressively humid. I took a quick dip in the pool this afternoon, but mostly I exercised, overate and read in the library. Actually, I think it’s very healthy that I’m more concerned with selling this book than writing the next one. As Judith Appelbaum and Nancy Evans point out in How to Get Happily Published (my bible), some writers think it’s undignified to hustle for their books. But if you believe in what you write, wanting it to get out to as many people as possible isn’t undignified. I feel very sleepy now, filled with tuna and bread and onions and carrots. I think I’ll take a short snooze.

Wednesday, July 13, 1977
5 PM. So much seems to be going on. I couldn’t get to sleep until 5 AM last night, as my mind was whirring away with feelings, thoughts, ideas. I think I was angry with Avis because she didn’t stay the same; that’s what she expected of me too, but neither of us could stop growing in our separate ways. It struck me, tossing and turning in bed, that at 26, I have yet to learn to let go. I’ve always had this awful need to preserve things as they were. That explains much of my life: my writing, my living at home, my keeping in touch with everyone, being the editor of the Class Notes. I couldn’t give up Shelli and till now I’ve been unable to give up Ronna. In some respects I’ve been extremely fortunate. Only one person that I’ve loved – my great-grandmother – has ever died. And I visit Bubbe Ita’s grave, her photograph is the one on my desk, I write her, I track her family in Canada down . . . I’ve never really accepted her death twenty years ago. I realize now that I’ve been half-expecting her to show up at the door one day, looking the same as ever. Perhaps Ronna merely wanted to preserve the memory of our relationship and not put it out of focus with the two people we’ve become in the present. I must accept her desire to

terminate all contact with me, let her go, and let myself go. I want to remember the Ronna I loved, not some stranger. Which reminds me: I wonder how Avis and Scott are getting along together right about now. I’m rather glad I’m not there. Though neither of them would consider me an intruder, I didn’t want to take away from their reunion, however it goes. For once, I put other people over my need to be an observer. And I do have my own life. If, as Avis suggested, we are turning into our parents, is that so terrible? My parents, Avis’s, Scott’s, Alice’s, Libby’s mother – they weren’t bad people. They worked hard and tried to do the right thing; if they made mistakes and behaved badly, I like to think they couldn’t help it. During the late ‘60s we were adolescents and rightfully in rebellion. But now we’ve become more tolerant. We want to change some things and we’re trying to do it: Scott and Mikey through the criminal justice system, Teresa with her tenants’ association, Alan Karpoff teaching retarded kids, even Elspeth working for the police department, who are not quite the fascist pigs we called them – they do help, in many cases. We couldn’t sit around LaGuardia Hall all our lives, dreaming and gossiping. I do respect Avis for her choices, but we all can’t leave the country. My great-grandparents came to America from Russia, where they had been

persecuted, and they got a measure of freedom here. There was discrimination, there were violations of their rights, some terrible things happened to them; they didn’t always prosper. It’s hard to say this without sounding like Bob Hope or a high school civics text, but I think I owe something to America, and to New York City in particular. I spoke to Mikey about it last night. He just quit after a week’s work as a Pinkerton guard at the World Trade Center for a lousy $2.30 an hour, which is terribly demeaning for someone like Mikey, a law student with a graduate degree in criminal justice, and a sign that the system is not working. (There are many signs like that today.) But when I talked to Mikey about the scorned 1970 idea of “working within the system,” he said in effect that there’s no alternative. And he’s right. Enough preaching for a day. Today I wrote some terrible stories (truly awful ones): got some rejections (one was devastating, using adjectives like “flatulent” and “incomprehensible” to describe my writing); got a postcard of Union Square in San Francisco from Laura (“RG – I’m having fun – LF”); had three cavities filled, floated in the swimming pool; spoke to Vito and invited him to the party next week (Scott had bumped into him yesterday). It all may not be me living up

to my potential, but it’s the best I can do on five hours’ sleep.

Friday, July 14, 1978
5 PM. Today I did nothing I should have. I called up Josh yesterday afternoon and told him my E. L. Doctorow story; he thought it was great, but Josh likes thumbing his nose at the Establishment. We went out to dinner together at the Roll ‘n’ Roaster in Sheepshead Bay and afterwards we came back to my house. It’s nice seeing Josh once in a while. We got out my boxing gloves, but Josh refused to take off his glasses. I find it odd that someone who in the abstract digs violence so much can’t stand playful aggression. I would love to have a male friend I could confide in the way I confided in Shelli or Ronna. And I would like to be physical with a guy. Weirdly, when I was punching Josh yesterday for a minute I could imagine myself in a physical relationship even with him. I wish I could see more of Elihu and talk to him, even if he’s so into the gay bar scene, something I’m not sure I want to be a part of. Josh says Allan is working at a bar called The Cockring. I don’t understand why a guy like

Allan, with a master’s degree in urban planning, wants to do that with his life. Oh well, here comes the nonjudgmental disclaimer: Who am I to criticize anyone? Josh and I seem to get along although there’s tension between us. He has such a sour view of people and life in general. Josh thinks it’s very weird that I don’t have a stereo and am not at all into music. I suppose it shows something defective in my character, but I could probably go without hearing another note of music for the rest of my life and never miss it. Why did I never develop a taste for music, I wonder? It certainly wasn’t my upbringing; everyone else in the family is a music lover. I guess I’m just totally tuned into words; the songs I like, I like for their lyrics. I awoke this morning to a cloudy, muggy day. The balance of the weekend is supposed to remain gloomy. I didn’t write today; I didn’t call Dr. Tucker about teaching; I didn’t return calls from Teresa or Mikey; I didn’t write George or Ed Hogan. The IBM broke, but they fixed it – something electrical. The mail brought no acceptances and no Epoch with my story in it, so I was about to go to see if it had come in at the Eighth Street when Marc asked if I’d go with

him to the World Trade Center, where he had to pick up a pair of jeans at customs. So we combined both errands and it went smoothly although I never did find Epoch. On the way back home via the Manhattan Bridge and Flatbush Avenue, I tried the LIU library, but the school is closed on Fridays in the summer. Ronna is coming over this evening, and I hate to say it after all these years, but I don’t like to put a “kinnahora” on the evening by thinking about it beforehand. Pure neurotic superstition, I know, but that’s how I feel. I’m still not content to let myself move along with the tide. Yesterday I lay on the air mattress in the pool and every few minutes I got a twinge of panic to find myself just floating. No wonder I never really learned to swim, although I want to learn badly and wish Libby was around to teach me. Yesterday I got six copies of riverrun at the BC Writing Center; the girl who gave them to me looked at me funny and I felt embarrassed that I had revealed so many intimate details of my life in “Go Not to Lethe.” But she did ask me to submit again next term. I must be an exhibitionist, for I sent copies of the story to Elihu, Mrs. Ehrlich and Brad. I want people to remember me. I’m afraid of being forgotten: my old terror of abandonment.

As I told Mrs. Ehrlich in my letter, I keep thinking that one day I will go back into therapy. I feel it’s necessary for me if I’m to grow beyond a certain point. I don’t need to search out the dark recesses of my past for some secret, because by now there aren’t any. I need therapy focusing on everyday practical things – like why I’m embarrassed to buy condoms.

Sunday, July 15, 1979
7 PM. Today has been another unbearably hot and humid day. The sky was a sickly greypurple, so you couldn’t even get any sun. It was hard to breathe, and I stayed indoors most of the day, venturing out only to have lunch at the Floridian and to drop off a copy of Hitler at Ronna’s house (she wasn’t home). I spent the day reading papers and magazines and writing letters about my book to people who may or may not be able to help me – people like William Safire, who wrote about the convertible top “up” or “down” question in his column today but didn’t credit me with originating the idea in my previous letter to him. I don’t know if my hustling is going to pay off, but it does keep me occupied, and besides, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. I see it as a deliciously enjoyable game. It doesn’t matter so much

whether I win or lose; the important thing is that I try my best not to let any opportunity slip by and that I keep having fun. I send out stories to little magazines with the same enthusiasm. Getting acceptances was delightful and getting rejections sometimes was discouraging, but I liked the game of it. Alice would understand – she’s a real competitor – but most people I know would not. At this point I have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I answer every want ad, I write letters to everyone, I promote my book with 80-proof chutzpah. A person like Ronna, who lets opportunity slip through her fingers – she’s always saying she’s about to rewrite her résumé – wouldn’t understand. Once I thought so many of my college friends were special: not only Ronna, but Leon, Slade, Stacy, others. I thought they would all be famous or at least push themselves to be successful. Yet most of them never even tried. Alice is the exception. She’s a doer and will continue to push herself, as I will. I like these people, the ones who push themselves, and I can understand why successful people and celebrities tend to want to be with other successful people and celebrities. Crad Kilodney, Peter Cherches, Wesley Strick – these are all people I admire for their selfconfidence and persistence. I admire it even

more in Alice, because it’s harder to do if you’re female. There was a story about Richard Price in the Soho Weekly News in which he seemed amused by the interviewer’s awe of him. From what I’ve seen of him in person and in the press, Price seems like a guy with his head screwed on right. I admire him very much, both for his writing and for the way he handles success. Another young couple came to see the house today, and they appeared to be impressed. But like yesterday’s potential buyers, they need to consult their parents and have them see the house, which means more guided tours of Grayson Manor. Hey, you know, the past week – a week in which nothing much happened – has been one of the most pleasant of my life. I really am enjoying myself. In fact, I’ll bet that trying to achieve success, this incessant struggling, is as satisfying – probably it’s more satisfying – than actually making it. Tonight, after two weeks at Camp David, President Carter tries to save his administration with a very important speech on the energy crisis, the declining economy, and “the national malaise” we are in. Oh, I wish he could rouse us up out of distrust and apathy – I would like to believe in

something, to fight for something – but I think that given the country’s mood, it’s impossible.

Saturday, July 16, 1977
8 PM. Somewhere there is a novel in all of this, if only it would show itself. It was 96° yesterday and 98° today. I haven’t gotten to sleep before 4 AM in nearly a week. My throat is scratchy, as though there’s a film over it. My air conditioner keeps icing over. I am playing with skin cancer, with all kinds of cancer. Virginia Woolf thinks we are all part of a novel, and I suppose them’s my sentiments, too. Let me write about other people for a while. I am sick to death of Richard Grayson. I hate him by now, this smug, overambitious, moralizing neurotic whom I cannot quite make come alive. He exists only on the surfaces of paper. Only I am real. But let’s forget about Grayson for now. A literary exercise: Complete this diary entry without once using the word I. Very well, we begin. (Uh, uh, that’s cheating.) Avis was wearing a long skirt last night. To be cool, she said.

Teresa looked tired. The subway ride home from work had gotten to her. Don, the live-in lover, fortyish vice president of the New York Times Corporation, having left wife and four kids in suburbia, was wearing shorts. He looked the way he was supposed to look: sexy in an avuncular backyard barbecue kind of way. There were some small silences, nothing uncomfortable. The guests arrived too early. They had smoked marijuana on the way to Manhattan – at Avis’s behest, of course. Before she enters Teresa’s apartment, Avis says Teresa’s trouble is that “she never got into dope.” Spaghetti and meat (vaguely tough and too chewy; one almost knew one should have rehearsed the Heimlich maneuver) were served with, strangely, rye bread. And German white wine. After dinner everyone retired to the airconditioned bedroom to make plans for the party. It was decided to serve bagels and white wine. “That should keep people up all night,” Don said, and he informed Teresa that he’d be away that night, visiting his kids. Teresa wanted gossip; there was none. Everyone discussed New York. Teresa didn’t like the photos of the blackout looting going out to the nation. A car’s burglar alarm stayed on for twenty minutes, hypnotizing everyone,

and when it stopped, it seemed that all of West 85th Street cheered. At midnight it was thought best to call it an evening. Driving back on Flatbush Avenue, Avis pointed out some evidence of looting. She was walked to her door – look out for Son of Sam – and kissed on the cheek. Back at home, the garbage pails had not been put out despite admonitions to younger brothers and a note left as a reminder. A party was going on downstairs. Marc and Deanna slept in the master bedroom again (they are in bed at this moment). Today my unemployment check arrived, and it was cashed after half an hour on line at the bank. Alice came over, bringing my “birthday” presents: a ream of Sphinx typing paper and several envelopes for mailing out manuscripts. She and Andreas are going to Paris in late summer, and last night he agreed that they should take an apartment in the city so they can live together on weekends. Alice was so happy she cried. Bad News Department: Dolores has a perforated uterus and has to have a total hysterectomy. She’s really upset, of course, and Alice says we should try to cheer her up. First Janice’s mastectomy, now this: something’s wrong somewhere.

Alice’s brother leaves for Iceland this week, and she’s going to be spending time with him before he goes. Other news about other people: Avis reports that Wade and Angelica have broken up. It’s probably temporary; Wayne is making $230 a week scrubbing bathrooms at St. John’s University on the night shift. Scott’s old girlfriend Sheila was hitchhiking with a friend in South Africa and they got into a terrible accident. Her friend was killed and Sheila broke every bone below her waist. After she testifies against the driver, she’s going to London to stay with her parents, and Scott will fly to England after his bar exams to see her. It turns out that Jonny’s friend at the synagogue is Mr. Denker, father of Milton, Melvin and Mendy. I guessed it when Jonny described the man.

Monday, July 17, 1978
10 PM. Last evening our neighbor Jerry Bisogno came over with some old things he found at his Uncle John’s house in Park Slope. Uncle John was a “second-hand man” and spent his life acquiring old things: his house is full of antique clocks, potbellied stoves, old books, papers, whatever.

Jerry brought over an old set of golf clubs and some remarkable books: a copy of the play Shylock (a version of The Merchant of Venice) autographed by Sarah Bernardt; a navigator’s guide from 1833; a poetry chapbook from 1918; and a collection of pocket-sized nickel books, all classics of literature. I’m fascinated by all that stuff, even by a 1950s girlie magazine which contained what now seem like very tame shots of Jayne Mansfield. I wrote a rambling conversational story last night: “What About Us Grils?” Then I slept heavily and dreamed about TV, about that new invention that enables you to get an insert of one channel while watching another channel. I also dreamed that a kind of instant Nielsen rating told you just how many people were watching each channel and that the Republicans will pick up thirty House seats this fall. I didn’t want to get up till 10 AM. After breakfast, I drove down to LIU, where I ran into some of my old students, which was nice. Somehow to be called “Mr. Grayson” and recognized as a teacher helps my self-image. Margaret said it looks as though all the courses will hold, so there’ll be a class in something for me starting next Monday. I couldn’t call Dr. Tucker until the evening, when I told him it would be impossible for me

to house-sit. He understood and was making other arrangements. He told me he’d call me on Thursday about teaching. I stopped off at Grand Army Plaza on my way home, combing issues of Seventeen for short stories. The narrator in a Seventeen story must be a girl, bright and funny and a little unusual – not Miss Popularity – and there can be no sex. I probably could write a story like that, following some kind of formula. Back at home, I was astonished to find yet another story of mine had come out: “The Life of Katz” in Maelstrom Review (formerly Nausea). That makes four stories out in a week – a record – and over seventy published stories overall. I guess I’ll probably have a hundred stories in print by this time next year. Last night I went through copies of Fiction Collective books and satisfied myself that no one else had my publishing record at 27. So what am I so worried about? Most Fiction Collective authors didn’t have their first books out until they were in their thirties. I called Mikey and apologized for not calling before, and we had a nice chat. Doctorow’s lawyer Paul Asofsky called; obviously my letter, mentioning his wife Maida, had reached him at his law firm. It’s amazing how much trouble I can cause. I kept him “on hold” (I just put the receiver down) for ten minutes and then hung up, saying, “I don’t talk to shyster lawyers.” I bet I receive another letter.

Mikey said, in response to my question about a “hypothetical” case, that it’s fraud to use someone else’s stationery and signature although it’s difficult to prove it. I hope E. L. Doctorow doesn’t blackball me, if he does have the power to do that. More than likely in a year he’ll forget my name. I suppose I have to act “respectably” now that I’m getting more well-known. Boring, won’t it be? Yet I really dislike the publicity-hound aspect of my natures as much as I sometimes admire my guts.

Sunday, July 18, 1976
8 PM. Aside from some heavy lifting, I did nothing but goof off today, and I felt I was entitled to do so. Last night I worked for over two hours and managed to come up with what I believe is a passably good story, “Kirchbachstrasse 121, 2800 Bremen,” loosely based on Avis and Helmut. The idea for the story has been in my head for a long while, and I got the idea for the form while reading Clarence’s Reflex and Bone Structure. Anyway, just to write two ten-page stories in a single day was gratification enough for me; it’s

more than I’ve ever accomplished before and makes me feel somewhat better. All during the week I’d had the awful feeling I was completely drained of ideas and would never write another story again. This shows me that slumps are natural and that creativity occurs in spurts, not on a set time-schedule. At midnight, after finishing typing up the story, I fell into a deep sleep and awakened early this morning. In summer, early mornings are the best part of the day and I’ve been missing them. I drove out to Rockaway and put my car in Riis Park, then walked to Neponsit and lay on my towel at the beach there for some time. Then, restless, I walked all the way to Mikey’s block, where I found him on the porch. He was waiting for Larry and Stuie to come with Larry’s van so they could move his furniture to Larry’s garage, where it will stay for two weeks until Mikey moves into the apartment he’s taken on West 23rd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues across from the Chelsea Hotel. Mikey’s mother is moving to her new place on Wednesday, and today Mikey took five carloads of stuff across the street. Their apartment was a mess, and both Mikey and his mother seemed exhausted and disgusted with the moving process.

It’s something I truly dread, and the logistics of our family moving out of this house after nearly twenty years are mind-boggling and stomachchurning. Anyway, we did a lot of lifting and groaning and complaining but we finally got Mikey’s stuff outside, loaded onto the van and into Larry’s garage. Back at Mikey’s house, while Larry was taking down the curtains – Larry is the ultimate handyperson who can fix anything – Mike and Mandy came over, too late to help very much. We did get some more things done, and Mike and Mandy and I went back to Larry’s, where he was on the porch with friends. Mike’s been working at Financial Aid at the college and this past week he took off to learn sign language for the deaf at NYU. Mandy’s been offered a $200-a-week job at another insurance agency, and she can’t turn down the money even though she likes her present office. We sat around Larry’s house and we got ice cream and then I walked on the beach to join Stuie and Anne and Mikey. Mikey looked very tired; because of the tuition business, he’s been working very late at John Jay and that hasn’t made things easier. I left at 3 PM and walked along the beach to Riis Park. Luckily the traffic was light coming back from the beach at that hour, so I was able to get some more sun at the pool (and I went

into the water some, too). I’ve now revived my bronze look sufficiently. Actually, I know I look really good; I’m finally becoming unselfconscious about my physique. My body is fairly firm and I think I might even be attractive. I know I got a few stares when I passed the gay section of Riis Park, though all the guys there turned me off; they look the same, full of cotton candy and pipe-cleaners. Alice came by today while I was away and left me a batch of Seventeen magazines (so I can look at the fiction) and some review copies of books that came into the office.

Tuesday, July 19, 1977
4 PM. It’s an unbearable 102° now and the temperatures are breaking all records. It was hot when I went to pick up Avis yesterday; her father was talking to her outside. She told me that he had just come from his monthly chemotherapy treatment. He’d taken along his father-in-law, and while they were waiting for the results of his blood test, Avis’s grandfather went to look up some of his old black customers downtown where he used to sell appliances on time.

The 83-year-old man climbed up four flights of stairs to look up a woman known as Mother Brown. She recognized him immediately and got so excited you’d have thought she was going to have a heart attack. Then she started crying: “Oh, Mr. Glass! I’m so old!” “How old are you?” Avis’s grandfather asked. “Eighty.” “Why, you’re younger than I am!” he said. “Not so old.” Avis’s grandfather keeps asking her the price of things in Bremen; he’s pretty sharp for his age. We were at the International Arrivals Building at Kennedy an hour early, so we went to the cocktail lounge, where Avis had two beers and I had a ginger ale. We talked about this and that, lovely little things; the time passed quickly, and by 7 PM, the Laker flight had arrived and we waited downstairs at Customs. One could write so much about the International Arrivals Building, but I’ll just give one anecdote: an elderly lady decried the effusiveness of disembarking Alitalia passengers who kissed and hugged and screamed. “You’ll find the English coming off the Laker flight far better-behaved,” she said.

Marc was waiting for Mom and Dad at the other end of the Customs exit; their flight also arrived at 7 PM, but they came out first and so I was there to see them. My parents looked tanned, young, refreshed: the way I’ve seen them come out of Customs a dozen times over the years. I kissed them, they introduced me to some friends, and I said I’d see them later and went back to Avis, who was starting to get worried. But Helmut soon emerged from the whitenedover doors and Avis gave him a restrained kiss. He was wearing a leather jacket and didn’t want to take it off despite our warnings about the heat. I hadn’t expected Helmut to look so well. His hair wasn’t very long, and it’s such a nice blond color; he’s tall – is he ever! – and thin and very handsome. He remembered my car and we began driving towards Brooklyn. Helmut spoke English slowly, with a terrifically nice German accent I wish I could put down on paper as dialogue. He’s very bright, too; we were driving up Flatbush Avenue (he said, “It’s always easiest for you to go that way, eh?”) and Avis was asking me about the new telephone checking accounts and how they worked. I told her you used a code word, and Helmut said, “A commercial mantra?” – and at that moment I knew why Avis loved him.

We got to the Judsons’ house, where Libby and her mother were watching TV in the living room, and Wade and Angelica – reunited, if only temporarily – came downstairs. Everybody was glad to see us. Libby told me she was grateful to have the chance to ride home with Josh on Sunday because in college she’d had a crush on him. Libby also told me about the problem of her friend (I think it’s Tommy, whom I met at the hospital and really liked) who can’t decide if he’s straight or gay; he tried going to a gay bar and it depressed him, so he’s going to try to put homosexuality out of his mind. (Good luck with that!) We went outside on the stoop, Helmut, Avis, Libby and I, and we ate ice cream and smoked some of the grass Avis bought from Marc yesterday. Helmut told us about his adventures in London with their friends Clive and Wladimir; he’s a great storyteller. We talked about Vonnegut and the SPD and nuclear energy and other things; Helmut asked me what “the trends” were here. We went back inside, and looking at American TV through Helmut’s eyes, I see how ridiculous it all must seem, especially the commercials and Eyewitness News. With Wade at work by then, Helmut and I had to bring the foldaway bed downstairs. As it got

late, I took Angelica and Avis home and got back at midnight myself.

Friday, July 20, 1979
5 PM. I’m writing this now because I have just finished a beautiful novel, Andrew Holleran’s Dancer from the Dance, a kind of Great Gatsby about the ‘70s gay disco circuit, and also because I would rather not watch NewsCenter 4 and hear about Carter’s Cabinet firings and the elevation of the Georgia Mafia; Carter killed any advantage Sunday night’s speech gave him. But mostly I’m writing this now because this is one of those rare moments when life seems more like a novel than life. July 20, 1969, was ten years ago, a Sunday that was humid and when I spent most of the day in the same room I am now, the same air-conditioner humming, the same view of brick houses and London plane tress from my window. That night there were those fuzzy, static pictures of the moon and the clumsy astronauts and Walter Cronkite and Nixon on the phone and someone had diarrhea and Aunt Sydelle called, wondering if she had woke us up. The next day I felt awful, it was dark, Mom drove me to Kings Highway, where I bought the

Times with its headline MEN WALK ON MOON (it is still in my closet somewhere) and the East Village Other with that ad from Brad which I answered: “Hello, I am an 18-year-old neurotic. . .” That day I made Mom drive me to Mary Queen of Heaven Church and I dipped my fingers into the holy water, crossed myself, knelt down and prayed. I have to close my eyes just to think about it. Where am I a decade letter – later – with ten of these National Time-Line Diaries (#55-148) in my drawer? Don’t get melodramatic, baby, just answer the question. I mailed out my xeroxed pleas to bookstore owners this morning. I had breakfast at Jentz with Josh and remembered why I never eat pancakes anymore. Wesley called to say he and Marla were going to his mother’s at Bridgehampton this weekend, could they could here next week, and would I go to his show an East Side bar called Eric’s on August 2nd and try to get Alice to review it for Our Town? Yes, yes, I said, Yes. I got sunburned. Crad wrote me a beautiful letter about how horrible it is to sell his book on the streets of Toronto and face a public of robots, idiots, madmen and machines.

Stacy surprised me with a long letter, a friendly one (she said it was nice to see a familiar face at the Gay Pride March), and she said she was happy for me and that I should get in touch with her at her job at Brooklyn College. I spent two and a half hours reading newspapers and magazines in the public library. Taplinger sent me the second half of my advance. Michelle Herman, a fiction writer, and a friend of Harvey’s, called me after I wrote her to solicit from fiction. She’s 24, from Brooklyn (Madison and BC), edits freelance, has Maxine Groffsky for an agent (she’s sending around an anthology of father/ daughter stories and is trying to get Michelle to write a novel). It turns out that we’ve been living the same life, almost. Rick Peabody thanks me for imagined kindnesses and tells me to call him at Averill Harriman’s house but to ask for Gretchen since she (the Harrimans’ cook) is keeping him there surreptitiously. My father told me about a man he jogs with at Marine Park who is planning, God knows why, to run from Brooklyn to Detroit next year. I got a call from Marie Stein to ask my advice on something I know nothing about: what price she should ask for a technical editing job. The Secretary of State of New Hampshire sent me a package of petitions so I can get on the ballot

in next year’s Vice-Presidential preference primary. Teresa’s going to Fire Island tomorrow and giving a bridal shower for Jan on Sunday; she’s organizing Jan’s two weddings: one in Texas August 4th and a big one for her family back in Ohio in October. I ate, went to the bathroom, squeezed a pimple under my scalp, read until my eyes ached, exercised, stared too long at certain strangers I found attractive, dreamed about some Indian summer picnic, had doubts about the present course I am pursuing. Tomorrow I see my psychologist and get interviewed about my candidacy for Vice President of the United States. Punch line: Has anything changed in the past decade?

Saturday, July 21, 1979
11 PM. Life is going so quickly, but at least I’m enjoying myself. Last night I immersed myself in all the material I’ve received from the Federal Election Commission, so as to prepare for the interview. I thought about the inequities of the present electoral process, the press and media’s attention to trivia, the long grueling obstacle course of primaries, the low voter turnout, and

I decided I wanted to make some Serious Point about the system. At 9 AM, I got a call from Mary Ann Muccio; her allergies were very bad and she asked me to come at 3 PM instead. Fine. I got back into bed for another two hours, as I had slept much too lightly all night because I knew I’d have to get up early. At 11 AM the mail arrived: a manuscript from Carolyn Bennett and three letters. Epoch’s fiction editor asked me to submit a story for their fall issue; I did. The editor of Connecticut Fireside, Albert Callan, said he’s going to do a review of Hitler (I had written him about it). And I finally got a letter from George. I had thought he was very angry at me, but the only thing that he was mad about was that X: A Journal of the Arts didn’t get credit for the jacket copy on Hitler. I’ll explain how that was done after the copyright page had already been set. He liked my book; oddly, the Family and Women sections appealed to him most. George is now working on the morning Harrisburg paper, the Patriot, from 4 PM till 1:30 AM, with only Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. He tries to sleep to noon and ends up “walking around dazedly in my underwear and watching the soaps.” Seeing his byline is gratifying, and the Patriot is more news and less feature-y than the

afternoon Evening News, on which he had been working: “About the paper: No one knows this but a few people at the plant, and I’d appreciate if you didn’t tell Ronna about this. . . I’ll be a staff writer for no more than two years, then I’ll move on to some other part of the paper, business, circulation, then into a management position. I’m being ‘groomed’ for publisher, yes, crazy as that sounds. . . “New York is already aware of my grooming and in favor of it. I think I’d been trying to ignore it, in case it doesn’t work out.” George sent along an article he wrote on small presses in which I was mentioned. I had a good session with Dr. Pasquale; he’s beginning to know me well. We like each other, and he’s bright enough to keep up with me. We talked about how success is in large point revenge, and how I’m afraid people will find out I’m an angry, hostile person, not Mr. Nice Guy. Intellectually, I’m aware that there’s little basis for that fear in reality, but I’m not quite sure of it emotionally. Ms. Muccio came over at 3 PM. I gave her Perrier water and we sat in the kitchen and she interviewed me for half an hour. She took lots of notes, and I tried to sound intelligent. She took a photo of me, I gave her some xeroxed documents, and she said she’d call me tomorrow if there are any loose ends.

It was a pleasant experience, being interviewed; I think I came off well, but we’ll have to wait for the article. I visited Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb tonight. They’ve read the book and are a little embarrassed over the portraits of the grandparents in it. Grandma Ethel thinks they are going to arrest her because I revealed she picks off price labels until she gets to the lowest price. After reading the book, they’re also very worried I will starve to death. Dad’s 53rd birthday was today and he, Mom and Jonny went out to a Charles Aznavour concert tonight. Oddly, Jonny and I ended up separately buying Dad the same exact card.

Thursday, July 22, 1976
8 PM. I feel worn out. I’ve been working pretty hard even though I’m enjoying myself. Sometimes I wonder whether my obsession with achievement is counterproductive. I push myself into doing things immediately; I hate my own discipline, as hard as a Marine sergeant’s at boot camp. But without similar obsessions, would Jimmy Carter have been nominated for President a week ago? Would the athletes be winning their gold medals at the Montreal Olympics? Would we be seeing those awesome pictures of the

Martian landscape, taken by cameras on Viking? The answer is implicit in my selfserving questions. Last evening we managed to make Dad’s 50th birthday a good one. All five of us – including a reluctant Jonathan – went out for a sumptuous dinner at O’Reilley’s Steak House on Church Avenue. The meal was fantastic, from the delicious chopped steak with fried onions to the vegetables and salad and rosé wine and creme de menthe. We ate with real gusto. I no longer worry about indigestion and so I dug in as heartily as anyone. You know with a little more money and class, I might have become a real gourmet (or is it gourmand? I never know). Later in the evening we had a cake and balloons and presents, with party favors and a lot of laughter. The strain of the previous evening was not in evidence, and I think Dad enjoyed himself; he knows age is just a state of mind. But he still has no idea where all the months and years went; sometimes he thinks of events in his childhood happening only last week or even the day before yesterday. I went into the CCLM office at 11 AM this morning, parking my car when it became legal (the alternate side rules are 8-11 AM) on Bank

Street and Greenwich Avenue and walking up to Eighth Avenue and 14th Street. I read through over thirty magazines for the contest today, making my way through the remainder of the undergraduate publications. After scouring these things, my main impression as a preliminary judge is of the enormous talent, energy and wit alive among college students. Some of their literary achievements stunned me with their brilliance, and the “poorer” magazines are generally full of competent work; there are very few dreadful entries. I feel at a loss as a writer to try to compete with creative writers and artists I read; my own work is not that much better than this stuff and in some cases, it’s obviously inferior to these stories and poems. The trouble is that I’m afraid many of these resourceful, talented kids will find no outlet in the “real” world, unless they join the ranks of the small press/little magazine people. Coming home at 4 PM, I typed up a short story, “Triptych,” which I astounded myself by writing last night when I was unable to sleep. A completely instinctive story, I feel it succeeds on its own terms. I got a rejection from Esquire’s quirky Gordon Lish. He said I should “low down – relax – take it easy.” That’s what I mean by trying too hard. Perhaps a writer can write too much.

I’ve been keeping in touch with Alice, who still can’t seem to get Jim out of her mind. Obviously he affected her a great deal. Last night Alice was rereading Howie’s old love letters to cheer herself up; luckily, her job is a wonderful tonic for her. Teresa wrote me from California. She was in New York in June, but her father and grandmother were in the hospital and she went back to Palo Alto soon after they got better. She’s on unemployment now and feels a little out of it and is thinking of going back to school. I wrote Peggy Humphreys in New Mexico and sent her copies of my published stories.

Sunday, July 23, 1978
8 PM. Life is so short. (Why not begin with a cliché?) And I don’t understand it and there are tears in my eyes now and I’m not sure I have been a very good person, but who knows? When I look over the past weekend, I feel happy and sad at the same time. This afternoon and in the terribly obsessive heat and humidity, Ronna and I slept in my airconditioned room, on this bed I am lying on now. I held her and it was perfect; just looking up, with thoughts and colors floating through my mind, I wondered why it couldn’t be like that forever.

My whole life, I see now, has been an attempt to turn those moments into forever. It’s an impossible job, yet I want to go on trying, having fun, writing another nine years of journal entries, living. So I’m not afraid of teaching tomorrow night or of moving to Albany or of doing many things, because I am approaching a level of acceptance of myself and of other people. Not everyone will like me; Michael Largo of New Earth Books thinks I’m a perfect bastard, and I can understand and sympathize with his point of view. I was unfair to him, but I just couldn’t be both fair to him and fair to myself, and I had to pick myself in the end. Yesterday, Saturday, I woke up feeling energetic – until I went out in the oppressive air. (Why did I write obsessive a few lines back?) It was not a day to go to the beach. I did drop by Ronna’s house to bother her for a while. I told her about Albany, and she was pleased for me. She said Susan told her I could drop by for dessert, but she didn’t have enough food to go around to serve me dinner. I told Ronna that maybe I would, so that she wouldn’t have to take the subway home. I came home and went in the pool with my parents and Marc and Deanna and Deanna’s brother Edward, who is 16 and weighs only 80

pounds, and whom Dad was attempting to teach to swim (successfully, it turned out). I surprised myself by having fun, feeling very energized by the water and the splashing and the fun. Deanna’s parents stopped by, and Mom and Dad got to meet them for the first time. At 5 PM Teresa called from Mt. Sinai Hospital. She had been admitted in the morning. All week Teresa had these incredible abdominal pains and a fever; on Saturday they took her to the doctor who found Teresa’s white blood count three times normal. He suspected appendicitis, though Teresa wasn’t nauseated, and put her in the hospital. They did tests and gave her ampicillin; she was taken off food and put on IV so she’d be empty in case they had to operate. I told Teresa I’d come over that night, and so I called Ronna and told her that I could drop her off at Susan’s on my way uptown. (I just found one of Ronna’s long brown hairs on my bed and I have wound it around my finger.) Teresa looked very good when I saw her; her parents had just left, and Lance from next door was with her, as he had been all afternoon. I showed Teresa my Page Six article and joked with Lance that he could have my tan too (he’d envied it) if he didn’t spend all day sleeping and all night sleeping around.

I massaged Teresa’s neck and tried to keep her mind off hunger and her pains. Lance and I always fun when we see each other; he likes me and I’ve always had a crush on him. When the nurse came in to take Teresa’s temperature and blood pressure and do other stuff, Lance and I went up to the solarium and leaned against the edge, looking down at the unexpected green lush beauty of Central Park. I discussed my anxiety attacks, knowing that Teresa has had them too, making me worried about her being in a hospital. When we got back to her room, I lay in Teresa’s hospital bed and tried to feel how it would be to be in one as a patient; Teresa and Lance sat in chairs, laughing. Lance swiped a hospital gown and put it in his satchel for me; I have it now. We stayed till 10 PM, two hours after visiting hours ended, and Teresa and her portable IV machine walked us to the elevators. Lance hadn’t eaten all day, so we went to the Burger King on Broadway and 83rd. Lance’s very handsome, but if I slept with him I’d be only one of a hundred or more. And I can’t tell if he lies a lot. He said his album comes out in August and he’s now in rehearsal for an NBC TV movie, What’s a Pretty Young Thing Like You..., directed by David Lean; Lance said he stars as a boy destined to be murdered by a pickup in a Christopher

Street bar (“Sort of a Looking for Mr. Gaybar,” he said). Lance claims he doesn’t like show business and says he’s going to give it up. Huh? I just left him saying, “Find something you want to do and then do it.” (Question: Why don’t straight people have proclivities?) I drove down to the East Side and at 33rd Street, I ran Susan’s bell. They had just finished dinner and I walked in on a strange scene. Apparently Joe, who had been John’s lover, had just stormed out after taking offense to a remark John had made. They thought when the bell rang, it was Joe coming back. I didn’t quite understand it all, and Joe finally came back, but before that I got to eat dessert with the others. It was nice to see Evan again after years; he remembered that we first met on our first day of Brooklyn College on the Flatbush Avenue bus at Avenue N. Ronna was quiet, and when we finally left, thanking Susan and saying goodbye to everyone, we had a pleasant ride home down Flatbush Avenue. She wanted to come back to my house even though it was late, and we went upstairs and of course we’re still pretty attracted to each other and we ended up making love, which was slow and sweet and beautiful.

There isn’t really a future for our relationship, but it doesn’t seem to matter to either of us now. Ronna and I still care a lot about each other. I didn’t take her home until 3:30 AM, which is why I’ve been utterly useless all day, waking up past noon and then doing very little that was productive. But last night was really nice.

Sunday, July 24, 1977
2 PM. Last night’s party left me feeling a little down. Oh, I suppose it was a success in that people seemed to be having a good time. All of my good friends seemed to be present. But here was no need, finally, for me to drive anyone home, and driving back to Brooklyn alone at 2 AM made me feel out of it and useless. Why couldn’t I feel at home in the presence of my friends? And if I couldn’t feel at home there, will I ever be able to feel at home anywhere? When Lance, one of Teresa’s gay neighbors, found out I lived with my parents, he looked astonished, in the manner of one would expect from someone hearing a confession of murder. “Why?”

“Because I’m peculiar,” I snapped, and he nodded his head in agreement. Then Don came over to me with a bottle of beer, pinching my paunch and announcing that he and I were both “fatties,” unlike Helmut, who could put away kegs of beer without putting on a gram. Mikey mentioned that he’d been with Mike and Mandy the night before and that they were preparing for their wedding, which he will attend. Even though I’ll be at Bread Loaf then, I still feel bad I wasn’t invited. (Of course, I didn’t invite them to last night’s party, either.) Do people wonder about my living at home, about my dubious sexuality, about whether I’m capable of love? Well, let me dwell on some of the nicer aspects of the evening: I picked up Avis and Helmut at 6 PM; they were having coffee with Libby’s mother. We drove up to Teresa’s, stopping on the way to buy Beck’s Beer, brewed in Bremen. Helmut worked in the brewery once, and later in the evening he would be drinking out of a bottle and musing that perhaps he’d once seen that very bottle pass by him on the assembly line in Germany. With Teresa, we three got stoned before the others arrived, and I got giggly, which made my stomach feel better. Teresa’s neighbors were pretty nice, and it was good to have Alice

and June there; I hope they enjoyed themselves. They brought a watermelon. Elspeth and Elihu came, and Mikey. Libby arrived later; David Whitman was there; and even Mason showed up, a pleasant surprise. Helmut charmed everyone, I’m sure. If I were capable of being jealous of him, I would be, but he is too nice. We decided that he’s going to win the Nobel Prize in Biology the same year I win it in Literature and we’re going to wear tuxedos, top hats and canes and shock the Swedish Academy by singing and dancing to “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Alice spoke to him for a long time, about her visits to Germany and his previous trips to America; he told Alice how he used to wiggle his ass and let his long blond hair fly in the breeze so men would stop and give him lifts; a tattooed sailor in New Orleans offered to give him money to live on for a year. Teresa was an excellent hostess, and the bagels went over well. When Don arrived, I noticed Elspeth say, through clenched teeth, to Elihu: “It reminds me of Network” – meaning Faye Dunaway’s affair with the older, married William Holden, whom Don, oddly enough, does resemble. Mason said he’s enjoying working at the camp for the blind and deaf; Libby was surprised that Tommy had taken her to see Judy Collins as

their date tonight; Mikey said he’s going to give up job-hunting for the summer if he doesn’t find something soon. June told us of having lunch with Laura, an editor of a trade publication. She confirmed my suspicion that Laura turned a bit strange after graduation. Vito didn’t show up; I was sorry about that. At about 10 PM Teresa and I looked at each other and expressed surprise that the party was going so well. People didn’t start leaving until 12:30 AM, and I was among the last to leave. Nobody needed a lift (Mason, with a car, and Helmut and Avis and of course Libby were all staying with the Judsons in the Slope; Alice got a ride back to Brooklyn with Elspeth and Elihu), and although everyone probably felt I was glad not to have to chauffeur people around for a change, it only made me feel superfluous. I took photos of everyone (did I need proof I have friends?) and lent Teresa my camera so she and Don could use it on their vacation trip to Canada. Grandpa Nat is not responding. Now they think he had a stroke as well as a heart attack.

Sunday, July 25, 1976

8 PM. “Today is always the present; it is sometimes the future; it is very often the past.” That’s the opening sentence of a story. I don’t have the story to go with it yet. I feel somewhat guilty about goofing off this weekend and not doing any writing. I have ideas; however, ideas not carried out remain only in one’s head. Right now I’m more interested in a couple of things. One is “A Conventional Life,” my impressions of the Democratic conventions of 1968, 1972 and 1976, weaving my personal journey with the political climate. I’m afraid most of my writing is terribly selfindulgent. But if I can make my particular situation part of a larger whole, maybe this piece won’t be so narcissistic. I have a title for another story: “The Joe Colletti Fan Club, Joe Colletti, President” – but no story. And something else I’d like to do would be a kind of family journal, taking in the events of the lives of my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents – but I don’t yet have a form in which to place the raw material. I’ve also been thinking of using the Jewish legend of the Lamed-Vov, the 36 saints who live in secret, always there to protect the Jewish people. I have a sense of myself writing in a distinctively Jewish-American tradition. Last evening I went to have dinner at the counter of the Ram’s Horn, as I had dinner the

night before at the Charcoal Chef. I love eating dinner alone at the counter of diners; it gives me a feeling of independence, a chance to think. Then I went over to visit Grandpa Herb; Grandma Ethel was out playing cards, so the two of us sat on the terrace for hours, watching the beach and watching day turn into night, as Grandpa Herb told me tales of the past. I never tire of his stories, and there always seem to be new ones: about his Brownsville childhood, about his Army years in Manila, about his father and mother, who have nearly become mythical figures to me. I’d always known that Grandma Ethel became very ill after Marty was born, hemorrhaging after the Caesarean delivery. Her mind became unbalanced, Grandpa Herb said, and one day the doctor called him to the hospital. Grandpa Herb stood at the bus stop outside the psycho ward of Kings County Hospital and had a funny feeling, a premonition he’d be coming back there. When he met the doctor, the man told Grandpa that Grandma Ethel had attempted to strangle him while he was examining her. She’d grabbed his necktie and the doctor was choking; Grandma’s grip was so strong that a nurse had to cut the necktie with scissors.

The doctor advised Grandpa to put Grandma in the psycho ward at Kings County, that she was too violent to be anywhere else. They took her there in a strait jacket. For weeks she stayed there, and whenever Grandpa came, she begged him to take her out of the “crazy house,” where terrible things occurred. At this time Bubbe Ita was taking care of the infant Marty, and Grandpa’s father advised him to “break up” his house and move in with them, letting Grandma come to stay. Grandpa slept with Grandma with a cord tied around each other’s legs, so he could tell if she moved during the night. She never did anything violent again, “but she had a strange, wild look in her eyes” and Mom was terrified of her. (This trauma might go a long way in explaining Mom’s neuroses.) Grandma would only look at baby Marty from a distance, but gradually she began to take an interest in things. She started to help Bubbe (Grandpa said that his mother was the person in the world whom Grandma loved the most), and finally, one day, she looked out the window and saw that the hired nurse had Marty outside under-dressed, and she went out to take care of him. From then on, she accepted him.

A very strange story. I can’t picture saintly Grandma Ethel being violently insane. Grandpa Herb claims it was from lack of blood, the hemorrhaging at the Caesarean. Today I sat in the sun, read, and got numerous rejections and sent out the rejected stories again.

Monday, July 26, 1976
7 PM. Alice came over late yesterday; Andreas is on another trip to Europe, so she had the evening free. Jim never responded to her letter, not even to acknowledge it, so Alice is gamely trying to put him behind her. She seems totally happy with her job at Seventeen. Alice and her boss, Annette Grant, whom she says is “a living doll,” went to see Saturday Night Live together and they had a good time. Last evening Alice and I decided to see a trashy movie and we went to Georgetowne to see Lifeguard, which was only good for looking at bodies and laughing at the stilted, predictable dialogue. I went to bed at 10 PM so I could arrive early and get to the bank; I’m badly in need of the $150 check from CCLM that should forestall compete bankruptcy for a while. After that, I

went to BC, to get the $6 check from Felicia Weinberg that I needed to have Junction copyrighted. I also xeroxed copies of the Time magazine coverage of the ’68 and ’72 Democratic conventions, to refresh my memory for “A Conventional Life.” I’ve got to be careful not to load it down with news items; I want it to be my impressions (which is why I don’t intend to read the journalism of Mailer or anyone like him). This morning about fifteen phone calls arrived for Marc, from the sleaziest, rudest, stonedsounding people. I have a feeling Marc is heavily into some kind of illegal activity, most probably selling drugs. I just hope he sticks to dealing in the soft stuff. The characters he’s associating with are like the scum of the earth; they’re so coarse and repulsive. Grandpa Herb and Grandma Ethel were over today, and Grandpa Herb said he hopes Marc isn’t making a big mistake. Marc has always had this idea that you can get something for nothing; he believes in making a fast buck without hard work, and that can only lead to trouble. I almost feel like referring to Marc as my “ne’er-do-well brother.” Mom and Dad don’t seem overly concerned. Marc and his friends gamble every night, playing cards until late; most of them are on unemployment and are uneducated. Some,

like Alan, Steven and Joey are pretty nice guys, though. But it’s none of my business anyway. I went to CCLM this afternoon and handed in my final report to Jane. She took me in to meet Eleanor Shakin, the executive director, and we discussed various ideas to make the college literary magazine contest more meaningful. Eleanor left us to take a call from CCLM chairman Ron Sukenick, who later asked to speak with me. On the phone, I told Ron that the Fiction Collective office move was up in the air and discussed the state of various circulating manuscripts and the reviews Jon’s Babble has received. Ron seemed concerned that George Chambers may not want his novel published with us after all, because of the cost. Evidently Ron and George are friends. (I wonder if that came about before or after Ron reviewed George’s Bonnyclabber so favorably in the Times Book Review.) Julie and Jane told me to drop by the CCLM office any time to browse around in their library with its hundreds of magazines. I received so many form rejection notices today it was very disheartening. Tonight at dinner Dad told me he may need me to help him clear out the office this week; he brought home a lot of stationery for me.

Dad sarcastically said he went to see his “brother” tonight; Lennie says he thinks of Dad as his brother. When he got home Dad said that Lennie introduced him to his latest “protégé,” whom he’s taking to The Raleigh next week. Lennie is a “mentor” to all these cute young kids; except for Mom and Dad and maybe George Gilbert and Totie Fields, he has no friends his own age. I guess he can afford to buy the love or whatever of handsome undereducated young men. I’ve wanted to write a story about Lennie for years, but I don’t because it would upset Mom and Dad.

Thursday, July 27, 1978
It’s 10 PM and I think I know where my adult is. I’ve been coping better than I expected to. The first week of summer school is over and there are only five more weeks to go. I was a good teacher tonight and last night, and my students responded as well as I could expect five adults who’ve worked a long hot, humid day in their jobs to, and I’m not nervous anymore. Yesterday I decided to drive to LIU along the Belt Parkway instead of down Flatbush Avenue so I could get the shore breeze. My heart leapt

into my head when a police car began chasing me with its siren going – but it was after some guy on a motorcycle. That got my adrenalin going, and in a funny way it released my all my anxieties about teaching. I parked on Montague Street and had dinner at Picadeli; coming out of the restaurant, I saw Elihu. He almost didn’t recognize me. “You look different,” Elihu said. I know he meant I looked better – and I do: I don’t think I’ve ever looked better in my life. We had a nice long talk. Elihu teaches until 5:30 PM on Mondays to Wednesdays so I may have someone to meet before class. Last night’s class on Bartleby went well, as I said, and tonight’s discussion was even better. Sometimes I surprise myself by saying smart things. Rereading Notes from Underground, I now come to it with a writer’s perspective and I pick up technical things in the narration. Gosh, I would love to reread all of Dostoevsky again, just as I did in Prof. Roberts’ class five years ago. Now I get ideas and questions for my own work; for example, is honesty – no matter how self-lacerating – enough anymore? I think not. Oh, it makes me want to go back to school as a student again. I want to learn so much more. I have a tremendous appetite for learning.

I’ve been sleeping well and my bowels are back to normal. I even went swimming for an hour this afternoon just before leaving, and because it was hot, I drove to school shirtless. I’m not afraid to be myself anymore just because I’m in the role of teacher to older adults. Yes, I am happy. Now that I am aware of my apprehensions about moving to Albany, I can work on them; maybe I’ll even take a few therapy sessions in the fall. I haven’t been writing, but that will come in time – and after all, I did write a 15-pager, a good one, last Friday. I feel more comfortable with the idea of living in Albany. Somehow, when my bus to and from Vermont stopped there last August, I felt I’d lived in Albany before. Or maybe it was that I knew I would be living there in the future. Anyhow, I felt comfortable immediately and that’s a rare feeling for an agoraphobic like me. Arlyne and Marty were upset because Grandma Ethel so passively accepted her doctor’s diagnosis of skin cancer, so they got a dermatologist at the same hospital to look at Grandma Ethel’s chart. On it, he found three possible diagnoses: allergy to medication, psoriasis, and predisposition to malignancy.

Grandma Ethel had heard the word cancer and got frightened and neither she nor Grandpa Herb questioned the doctors. They view physicians (and lawyers and government officials) as gods, not to be challenged. Arlyne said they shouldn’t see doctors alone if that’s how they are. I believe, like Wayne Dyer, that doctors must be challenged. I certainly wouldn’t take a prescription or shot without questioning the doctor pretty thoroughly. Jonny believes that too – as he proved with that dermatologist, Dr. Frank. Jerry Borenstein sent me Irwin Shaw’s address in case I want to write him (I may) and said, “You were marvelous at the alumni meeting.” I was. I am competent, and it’s nice to know other people think so, too. George writes that the New York Post article “amazed” him; he also said that he never saw the Library Journal review of X (it was “recommended”). Well, now I feel that I have a vacation coming up: three days without teaching. This summer term teaching The Short Novel may work out after all.

Saturday, July 28, 1979

5 PM. Prospective buyers have been coming to see the house all day. The 4 PM couple just left, and others are scheduled for 5 PM, 6 PM and 7 PM. I bet Mom and Dad will have little trouble selling the house, though they probably should have asked for more in the ad because everyone likes to bargain. Last night’s dinner with Harvey at Camperdown Elm was pleasant if not spectacularly interesting. Harvey plans to leave Park Slope for Santa Barbara in early September; he’ll stay with his friend Dick, and together they hope to write a screenplay. It seems like a good move for Harvey, who’s in a rut here in New York. I slept wonderfully, having unusually pleasant dreams, including one about a lovable and precocious child. This morning several letters arrived in response to the dozens I’ve been mailing out. The best news came from Michael Alan Fox, Adult Trade Director of Walden Books. Harry Hoffman, the president of the company, told him to write to me after he got my letter. Michael said they’re sorry they didn’t previously take note of Hitler and have now ordered copies of them, which they’ll place in their “large urban bookstores which seem to do well with experimental fiction.” So going to the top paid off, at least in one case.

Felicia Eth responded to my letter rather coolly, saying she’d try to sell paperback rights but “those bugaboos about short story collections are truer than you know.” She’s an asshole who rejected both of Wesley’s novels; she sent him a carbon copy of my letter. Lillian Friedman, who does the column for Arno Press’s monthly Books of the Times said that my title was offensive and my cover was horrible: “After years of buying books for Brentano’s, I should know” blah blah blah. But she told me to have Taplinger send her the book and she’ll do her best. The editor of Western Maryland College’s newspaper Scrimshaw (“Uncle Irving” was first published in their campus magazine) asked for a copy of the book and she’ll be glad to review it. The AWP Job List contained news of a onesemester opening for Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Miami. They’re really looking for a novelist, and I have had no luck with them in the past, but still I submitted their credentials. Supposedly Irv Littman has “pull” with someone high up at the school; maybe that might help. Dr. Pasquale and I had a good session today. It’s very hard to rid myself of old neurotic sets – like the idea that things are either going all bad or all good.

Dr. Pasquale pointed out that I use “selective attention” and focus only on those external events – like cutting myself shaving, missing a traffic light, etc. – that prove my theory about bad things happening, while I ignore events that are contrary. And it’s true: last week I got no mail but I was so happy I didn’t let it concern me. I know I put too much stock in others’ opinions of me. So when I see my name in Arthur Bell’s Voice column, I am not just happy because it might mean sales for my book; I look upon it as proof that I’m a worthwhile person. Conversely, if I am rejected for a job at Baruch, I am not just annoyed because I may have lost a job; instead, I take it as proof of my lacking worth – even though I might have been overlooked for any number of reasons. See, I can’t win playing this game. If I get 99 good reviews, that one bad review will still make me doubt myself. And, as Dr. Pasquale pointed out, even if I could get unanimous praise, I wouldn’t respect it because I’d say it was coming from people unqualified to make judgments. I’ve got to become more aware of these things. The control is within me – not over external events, but in my perception of them. And perception is really all that counts.

Friday, July 29, 1977
5 PM. It’s almost August already. Time seems to be picking up speed and going faster with each moment. Last Friday night – going out to have Chinese food; being with Helmut and Avis and Libby and Tommy; looking at the night skyline from the Promenade – seems like it took place months ago. And the Friday before that – Avis and I having dinner with Teresa and Don – now feels like it happened in another century. I feel peculiar. My limbs ache, my throat is sore, I have little energy – but the feelings are all so vague. I’m not really sick, yet I don’t feel quite well. This weekend looms large and empty, and I dread it. Yet I wouldn’t want to be active and with friends, either. Oh, I know I’ll never be satisfied. No matter how successful I become, it will never be enough for me. What is this terrible compulsion to be the best? I see Jonny futilely trying to be “the best bodybuilder in the world,” and I can recognize the pathos of his situation, so why can’t I see it in mine? My mother has told me throughout all my life that my problem is I “think too much.” I wish

my mind could take a vacation, but no, it’s constantly scheming, analyzing, prevaricating, exploiting. . . What is the brain’s function, after all? I feel curiously dead despite all that brain activity. I looked at myself on the photos of the party and I had dreaded seeing myself. But it turned out I was someone I can barely recognize – I didn’t know I looked like that – tanned, bluff, chubby, so cheerful-looking. The camera does lie – or else I’m not looking at the photos in the right way. The pictures were a disappointment, as usual. No one – not Alice or Avis or Helmut or Teresa – looked as good as they do in real life. It’s a waste to take photos for me. I’d rather have my memories, which serve me better. I called Teresa, and she said she’s not going to British Columbia with Don after all. He’ll be busy with Times business for five days out of seven, and Teresa decided last night that a weekend in Banff just wasn’t worth it. She told me she ran into Slade at a downtown bank yesterday – it was a shock for both of them – and she told him that he missed the party with me and Elspeth and June. He was astonished when Teresa gave him her business card with Wall Street Journal under her name. Slade is still at the same old job with the phone company, and he’ll probably be there for a long

time. He was my idol in college. The first thing I ever had the nerve to say to him was how much I admired his columns in Kingsman. “Are you a fan?” he asked me. Slade was the first person to mention Ron Sukenick’s work to me, and other writers as well. I thought he’d be a great writer for sure. About three years ago, I said as much to Sidney, and he replied, “I don’t think so; I think he burned himself out quickly.” Sidney was right, and I don’t understand how I got to be doing what Slade should be doing. Is it his fear of success? I have it, too, God knows, but my ambitions are limitless, and they scare me more. In the past week, I’ve written over thirty pages of new work, seen three new stories in print, gotten one acceptance – and still I am not satisfied. How can I ever be happy with that attitude? One day my bookshelves will be filled with magazines and books containing my work, and it won’t make me one bit happier. So I might as well learn it now: success will not make my life any better. Hadn’t I better take that into consideration and plan accordingly? Let’s say I was at the top of my field. What then? Then, the answer is, I’d really be in a pickle.

So forget about counting credits, totaling up rejections and xeroxing everything I type. Avis and Helmut and Libby and her family have taught me that life is meant to be lived, that it doesn’t happen on the pages of books. Yet I can’t quite believe that. I know I’ll never be happy until I do – but look how happy I look in the photographs. Marc will probably bring Deanna here for the weekend. Jonny hates the idea, and I’m not wild about her staying over again either, but what can you do?

Monday, July 30, 1979
9 PM. I’ve just come back from the bank, where I paid my monthly loan payment on my passbook loan, put more money in my checking account, and withdrew $100 so I won’t have to go back during the brutal early days of the month, when it’s so crowded. I have $2,000 in savings now, barely enough to last me until (hopefully) my first paycheck in the fall. I’d take a part-time job, but I feel I’m doing more important things by promoting my book. I spent hours in the library today, and I ended up sending out fifteen letters to various editors,

columnists and agents. And I mailed out those Vice Presidential press releases this morning. No tangible results today – and I wonder if Taplinger could miss seeing some of the notices my book may have received. It seems they caught the Los Angeles Times review only because Wesley’s screenwriter friend in L.A. clipped it and sent it on to him. I’ve finished reading Michael Korda’s Success! It’s geared mostly toward the corporate world, but I found it interesting. I want to succeed and I have optimism, endurance, energy, selfconfidence and self-knowledge. I’m also not afraid of failure because I know I can learn a great deal from failure. My failure with the BC publishing and literature conference taught me never to get involved with incompetent and all-demanding bosses, and that’s when I first learned (thorough my “Terrorists Threaten to Disrupt Conference” press release) that bold and “crazy” moves stir up interest and potential publicity. I want to be rich; perhaps this is the first time in my life I’ve felt this way. Money never mattered before. I was committed to Art with a capital A and to teaching. Of course my situation, living in my parents’ house, helped insulate me from the realities of paychecks and bills. For that I am grateful. I didn’t have to struggle in squalor, and I don’t intend to live in squalor

now. New York City is a paradise if you have money, and now I want some of that money. I have nothing to apologize for. I’ve paid my dues with the little magazines paying in copies and the adjunct jobs that paid $675 a term. And where is it written that one has to pay dues anyway? When I picked Dad up at the station this evening, he told me that Ivan sent his regards. Ivan knew who Dad was and introduced himself as “a friend of Richard’s.” Ivan told Dad that he and his wife live in New Jersey now. He asked how I was doing, and Dad told him about my teaching and about my book’s “success.” Dad said Ivan was dressed in jeans and “looks as though he has a nothing job, in charge of photostating or something.” Ivan asked if I was still seeing Ronna, and Dad said I was. But I’m not. I did call Ronna last night. She had just gotten in, and when I asked from where, she said from painting her friend’s brother’s house in Sheepshead Bay. I’m certain Ronna’s pretty serious about a guy; that’s why she’s never home and that’s why she’s unable to get to rewriting her résumé. Ronna, like her friend Susan, who’s supposed to be a writer, is a person who Talks rather than Does.

She’ll never get anywhere, and I’m sure she’ll take the easy way out by marrying and getting stuck in some rut. She’s entitled to a relationship with someone, of course, but she’s not as special as I once thought she was, and she’s better suited to some boring guy instead of me. The end of our relationship had little to do with my gayness and much to do with the gulf between the ways we want to live our lives. Yesterday at the pool Wesley and Marla agreed with me that the biggest success drives come from a need for revenge. Wes said that if a person isn’t given enough discouragement by others, he or she will not be motivated to succeed. More and more I feel like a successful person, and I want to be around other people who are achievers. Am I becoming awful? Where’s old lovable self-doubting Richie?

Monday, July 31, 1978
3 PM. It’s a cool, rainy day – the first day of this kind we’ve had all summer. It makes me nostalgic for September, yet I also miss the sensuousness of summer.

July is ending, and August has sneaked up on us already. A month from today the second summer session at LIU will be over. I have strange feelings of uncertainty. Last year at this time, Grandpa Nat had his heart attack/stroke, Uncle Abe died, Avis and Helmut were here, and I was preparing to go to Bread Loaf. Now I feel uneasy about things. Maybe it’s the weather or having to teach four evenings a week, but I don’t feel like myself anymore. I am changing, and that frightens me. A good part of it has to do with moving to Albany; I don’t think I’ve completely accepted it yet, and a part of me still hopes that something “magical” will happen beforehand that will make Albany unnecessary. But that’s not likely. Michael Largo of New Earth Books called last night, and he was very irate – justifiably so, I told him. I explained that there was no excuse for my not getting in touch with him, but there was no way I could come up with the money for him to publish my book. I felt awful speaking to him, so embarrassed, but it’s over with now; he got out his wrath and I’m glad it’s settled. I don’t blame my parents for telling me that they would get me the $3,000 to subsidize the book’s publication but then backing down. I should have known the money was too hard for them to get now. I take the responsibility

for hurting the New Earth Books collective, wasting their time, money and energy. It doesn’t make me feel very good about myself, and I couldn’t sleep last night. Then again, I also thought about how I treated Kristy Rogoff last week. I didn’t respond to three of her phone calls because I didn’t want to see her and couldn’t bring myself to tell her so. Both of these incidents happened because I didn’t want to be “a bad guy,” but in the end, I only made myself feel much more guilty. I need a psychiatrist. I feel very pained. Carolyn Bennett called and said the CourierLife photographer couldn’t come and would I please send some photos over to her parents’ house and she’d get one of them into the paper. The only photos I had were pretty rotten ones; if only I hadn’t fooled around so much when Marc took pictures that day. Last night I dreamed that Carolyn got sick and went into the hospital, making it impossible for her to write her article on me. My first impulse was going to be, when the article comes out, to send copies of it to everyone I know. I now see that as foolish and vain; my friends won’t like me any the more because of some article. Why do I feel the need to impress anyone? Obviously my self-image can’t be all that great

if it’s necessary for me to gain everybody’s approval. Meanwhile, it’s been ten days since I wrote my last story, and in that time I haven’t written a word, nor have any stories been accepted, nor have I seen a new story out in print. I don’t know how much writing I can do while I’m teaching at night. I feel constrained during the day. I don’t really like going to bed at 2 AM and waking up at 10 AM. I guess I feel pretty down on myself in all ways today; maybe it’s my biorhythm chart. Seven-twelfths of 1978 has slipped through my fingers already. Can moving to Albany make me any happier? But why use that inappropriate, irrelevant word happiness? Happiness has nothing to do with real life. I wish . . . but why bother wishing? I can see I’m not in a good mood, and if it were possible today, I’d stay out of my own way.

Sunday, August 1, 1976
8 PM. It was a sunny and pleasant day today. There were cool breezes that reminded me that it is August. The summer is half-over and even though we still have the dog days to get through, I’m already looking forward to the bright days of September and October, always the best time to be in New York.

I’ve always looked forward to autumn’s crisp weather and the return to activity after a leisurely summer. But this year will be different: I will not be returning to school as a student this fall. Occasionally I’ve wondered whether I shouldn’t have gone on for my Ph.D. or tried to get another degree in anything, just so I could remain in school. But I’m glad I decided to discontinue my formal education after seven years and three degrees; let’s see how I function outside of academia. Speaking of seven years, today I’m beginning the eighth year of my diary-keeping. Seven years of my life have come and gone since that tentative, uncertain summer of 1979. They’ve been interesting years (he said with a knowing smile). I’m not sure I’ve become less scared than I was at 18, or whether I have “become a different person.” There is still within me somewhere the Richard of August 1969. I’ve lived a cautious and lonely and reluctant life, and I suppose I shall continue to do so. I cannot imagine what I will be writing in my diary seven years from now, on August 1, 1983, or what the person doing the writing will be like. I still cannot believe I’m 25, and I know I’ll never be 32; that’s impossible.

Alice came over yesterday afternoon, and since Andreas is still in Europe, she went to the movies at night with me. We saw Murder by Death, which was good for an occasional chuckle, and afterwards we went to The Arch. Alice has become my best friend in recent months, and the person I confide in more than any other. We talk about our dreams of success as writers, and whether fame and fortune can make for happiness. (Alice believes that, while I am skeptical.) Alice tells me she’ll wait for Andreas “forever” and thinks that maybe he’ll marry her after his mother dies. I wonder if I’ll ever love again. I’ve been avoiding the possibility of another close relationship for years, and love and sex aren’t all that important to me. I guess some people think I’m nothing but a saturnine pig, and maybe they’re right. Certainly I’m repressed and frustrated – but not to the point of it affecting my ability to live. Sometimes I’m scared that I am a very cold person with no capacity for loving, having only a nice idea of what love is like. Still, I’ve chosen the weird kind of life I’m living, and I have no regrets. I had a nice time with Alice last night, and during the night had two dreams that were so pleasant that the vague memory of them makes me smile. One dream had me reaching out to both Ronna and Ivan, and achieving a kind of communion

with both of them; certainly for years I’ve wanted to remain close with both of them, something I know is no longer possible in the world of reality. I guess that sums up my Gemini/bisexual need to make contact – or maybe it just goes back to my childhood failure to really get in touch with my mother and my father. In the other dream, I was graduating college, and Lyndon Johnson came back from the dead to address us; he was standing right in front of me and was so tall I could barely manage to see his head. He made a speech which moved me. This afternoon I was in Washington Square, sitting on a bench, walking around, watching magicians, listening to music, looking at people. I discovered Washington Square seven Augusts ago, and one again it seems a good place to go to seek out life. I had a late lunch at The Bagel, severed by my friend the waitress whose name I don’t know. Driving back to Brooklyn, I was signing and yelling like a joyous lunatic.

Tuesday, August 2, 1977
6 PM. It all seems very unreal these days. I just wish this ordeal would end already. Grandpa Nat does not seem to be responding,

and it’s been two weeks since he had the stroke. There can be no doubt now that the brain damage which resulted has left him not quite a person anymore. He’ll never be able to resume any kind of a normal life. It kills me to see Dad so upset. It’s bad enough that he has to deal with the aggravation of splitting up the business with Max, but being here, thinking of his father, praying, despairing, crying – I don’t know how much more he can take. Everyone’s showing a low profile and trying to help out as much as possible and not add more grief to the situation. My father has had such a bad year; the whole family has. First Uncle Monty died, then the business went under, there was all that indecision and discussion this winter about moving to Florida. Everything seems so bleak, it’s hard not to be pessimistic. I had a very bad night; my cold kept me awake. To be sick and unable to sleep in the middle of the night must be one of the closest things to hell on earth that there is. I feel lost, helpless, totally without direction. Writing seems beyond my capabilities now. I’m glad I didn’t have to stay in bed today, that I could go downtown and sign for my unemployment check, that I could go shopping for Mom.

I even rode the bike for a few minutes this afternoon. But those moments of forgetfulness are like oases in a Sahara of despair. I wish I could accept things, but so far, I just can’t. I’m very confused now, so much so that I greatly feel the need to talk to a therapist. I don’t know what I’m going to do about Bread Loaf, and I guess it depends on events. But I can’t psych myself up for going there and I’m unable to deal with my anxieties about it. There’s no one I really can talk to. My sinuses are killing me. I’m sure this cold stems partly from an unconscious need to cry. But I can’t cry naturally, so in the middle of the night I stick Q-tips up my nostrils to force sneezes and my eyes water and that relieves the pressure in my head for a little while. Every time the phone rings, my heart beats fast. I feel more sympathy for the young victims of Son of Sam than I ever would before all this. I pump vitamins and milk and soybeans into my mouth, hoping to keep from getting sicker. I can’t make the slightest plan. Going to the dentist tomorrow seems to be a major effort. Mikey wants me to come with him and Larry to the movies tomorrow, and I’m supposed to have dinner at Libby’s on Tuesday, but I can’t deal with those things now.

I was half-counting on Exotic Beauties Press doing a collection of my stories, but now it looks out of the question. Tessa Marquis wrote me saying the usual things: they’re strapped financially, distribution is a problem, etc. Harvey says he’s been doing nothing all summer and he’s decided that he can’t write except under pressure in a classroom situation – which means he’s not a writer. I don’t care much about the project anymore. Gary tried to cheer me up, and he was a good listener, but he’s so depressed himself about not finding a job. And Betty’s job didn’t work out; it was very unpleasant at that office, and her co-worker, a fiftyish woman started getting very friendly until Betty finally realized that the woman wanted a physical relationship, and that repelled her and she didn’t come in again. Camus said the best way to make yourself useful in a difficult time is to do your job well. I tried to write a eulogy for Grandpa Nat, but no one else could read it but me, it’s so personal – and I don’t think I could stand up at his funeral, with his body in a coffin in front of me, without getting hysterical. I’ve never really known death – I’ve been lucky – but I don’t know how to deal with it. My head is pounding. Maybe that’s how I deal with it.

Friday, August 3, 1979
8 PM. Mikey and I were making arrangements to go to Manhattan yesterday when he mentioned seeing my book listed in the listing of new books in the Times. Sure enough, I had missed that. Mikey came over at 6 PM and immediately after we got on the Belt Parkway, we were pulled over by the police. Mikey’s mother had let her inspection sticker expire in June without renewing it. I was impressed with the way Mikey handled the ticket; I even found myself feeling guilty for taking his car and making the suggestion that we take the parkway, but Mikey himself was calm and philosophical – and he wasn’t trying to hide any feelings, either. It started raining as we drove up to Teresa’s. We found her and her doctor friend Diana in the air-conditioned bedroom. Teresa has the sweetest friends; Diana is pretty, thin (she has great legs) with a cute lisping Southern accent and sharp wit. The ladies got dressed and we drove through the park to the East Side. It was fun, like a high school double date. I liked being out with good-looking people.

We saw Marla and Wes in front of Eric’s Bar – he looked a little nervous and Marla was stunning in a slinky black low-cut dress – and we went into the back room. I stopped to talk to Scott Sommer, who didn’t recognize me at first. Scott told me he’s found an apartment in Manhattan, “and if they don’t sell the paperback rights pretty soon I’m not going to be there very long.” We found seats at a table in the back, were joined by Alice, and we ordered drinks. I saw several of Wes’s friends whom I know by sight – like Steve Zaillian, who sold his screenplay, and the caustic guy who writes for Time – and there were people there from Taplinger. Wes came out in pajamas and handcuffs, led by his friend Josh, who was dressed as a hospital orderly. “You’ve all been asked here because you’ve committed some horrible transgression,” Wes said, “and now you’re going to pay the price – by listening to me play eighteen songs.” I thought it was a great show. Wes’s songs are full of intelligent, sensuous imagery, very Springsteenesque. He plays the piano masterfully, and as Teresa said, “He’s gorgeous; how can he be straight?” Alice didn’t think much of Wes’s voice, but I could listen to him all night. Of course that

may be because he’s my friend and I’m just a little in love with him (and he knows it). Wesley is a great showman. He used stage props effectively (a bus of Elvis, Marla taking Polaroids of the audience as he sang “Photoplay”) and he ended with a singalong to his “Hard Drugs”; Marla handed out lyric sheets and little Maalox pills encased in tinfoil. The place was packed, the sound system was good, and there was a lot of applause. The five of us had trouble dividing up the bill, and we stumbled out laughingly into the muggy night. Teresa and Alice hit it off, and matchmakers that they are, they immediately began quizzing Mikey and Diana on their preferences in the opposite sex. We stopped off at a BaskinRobbins for ice cream and we were having a very good time. But Teresa wanted to go home and Diana had the midnight shift at Columbia-Presbyterian, so Alice, Mikey and I went on alone to 100th and Riverside and Wesley and Marla’s party. It was very hot in the apartment, and we stayed only an hour. I wanted to talk to Scott; Wes gave him copies of his PW and Kirkus reviews, which were very good. Wes said he was thrilled to see his name in the article about my V.P. campaign in the New York Post, and I told him he was great tonight. I hugged Marla, lifting her off the ground, and

spoke with Babs Pinkerton and Ray Thomas, whom I think are alcoholics (neither was coherent). As Alice said as we drove downtown, Wes and his friends are not really our types: they’re hipper, richer, better brought-up and more spoiled – but we did enjoy being with them. Mikey and I drove down Flatbush Avenue after dropping Alice off, and he wanted to stop at the McDonald’s by Fillmore Avenue. We met Carl and Alan Karpoff’s father there on his way home; he supervises six of their Brooklyn franchises. And at the table I opened the Saturday New York Times I’d bought at the Junction and found an intelligent little piece on me, “A Running Mate in Search of a Candidate,” in their Notes on People.

Friday, August 4, 1978
9 PM. “Author Richard Grayson Practices His Craft With Little Fanfare” reads the headline on page 22 of this week’s Kings Courier, Bay News, Flatbush Life and Canarsie Digest. The intro lead I don’t like that much: “Brooklyn Trivia Incorporated.” But the two-page spread, featuring half of “With Hitler in New York,” is quite impressive.

My picture is not a disgrace, although I wasn’t wild about the caption: “ACCEPTED AFTER 20 REJECTIONS [my Transatlantic Review story]. . . A highly skilled fiction writer, Grayson inhabits the nether world of shades, shadows and unsung fictioneers as a very successful writer.” And Carolyn Bennett’s article begins: “Richard Grayson, at age 27, is a very successful writer. Not in the world’s terms, mind you, but in that nether world of shades, shadows and unsung fictioneers.” My favorite paragraph is the second, which begins: “Grayson is hard not to like. Handsome, personable and sincere, he exudes a high-energy level, and he is a highly imaginative writer. . .” I always wondered just what it was I’ve been exuding all these years. And to be called “handsome” in print, by a nonbiased (lesbian) journalist – well, I couldn’t ask for anything more. I’d been afraid I was going to be described as “cherubic.” Carolyn’s article is wonderful, comparing me to Barthelme (I come out on top because my stories are filled with quiet emotion), tying me in with my Brooklyn roots and giving a summary of my career that is so impressive it almost impresses me. Plus we get a plug for Disjointed Fictions. I found the paper when Ronna and I stopped off

at the Junction on our way back from Manhattan. The lady in the candy store wanted to know why I was buying five copies, and I showed the article to her, and she insisted on showing it to everyone in the luncheonette! But I wasn’t embarrassed; I felt proud. Mom and Dad were thrilled, and even Marc thought it was terrific. Ronna, as usual, was restrained, but I think deep down it impressed her. (I was very cruel to her today – for no reason, really – but I’ll write about that tomorrow. It’s not that it’s not important – it is – but tonight is not the time for recriminations.) I don’t want to keep crowing over this, but after all the disappointments and frustrations of recent weeks, it does give my ego a boost. Mom sent copies to her friends the Littmans and to Grandma Sylvia in Florida, and Marc took the paper along when he went to have dinner with Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb tonight. I xeroxed copies of the article, and yes, I sent them to people who I know well enough so that they won’t think I’m obnoxious: Gary and Betty, Vito, Mikey, George Myers, Dr. Lipton, Caaron (for her I used it as a gambit to get her to write me back), Avis, Libby.

I tried to call Carolyn to thank her, but she wasn’t home; I really owe her one now. I’m sorry for going on about this at such length, but after all, folks, this is my diary and I’ll crow if I want to. Besides, it’s good to get it all out now so tomorrow I can completely forget about it. I don’t want to be someone who believes his own publicity. And of course I have to practice my craft with little fanfare. Anyway, it’s a nice lift in this time of uncertainty, insecurity, loneliness, rainy weather, oil spills off the beach, pimples, sinusitis and angst. (Let’s not forget ennui.) Go to bed, public figure.

Thursday, August 5, 1976
7 PM. I’m pleased to report that I’m feeling pretty relaxed now. I worked from 9 AM to 3 PM today, and it was interesting and not unenjoyable. It was rather an easy day, for instead of going back to New Haven Manor in Far Rock, Mr. Farber told me to go to Seaport Manor in Canarsie to assist this woman, Susan, with patients seeing the g.p. and the podiatrist. Susan was friendly and easy to work with, and as the patients were all elderly rather than mental cases, it made things a little more normal. I’m getting the hang of filling out

Medicaid and Medicare forms, and Susan has the Seaport Manor files well-organized and upto-date. It was a bit hectic, shuffling patients between the foot doctor and the medical doctor, but I did well, I think. Some of the old people are fairly interesting characters. I talked with a lovely lady of 90, Mrs. Belinsky (like the Russian critic), who has a room with her husband of seventy years. They seem to fit together so naturally; it looked very tjotjog. I got a free lunch, which was pretty spare even by old-age-home standards, and finally finished up at about 3 PM. I guess there’ll be good days and bad days working for Mr. Farber, but I’ve found it tolerable so far. Yesterday I saw Grandpa Herb and Grandma Ethel at the house, and when I left for work this morning, Grandpa Nat was sitting on the porch waiting for Dad. My grandparents were happy to hear that I’ve got a job. Last evening I went over to Josh’s for a couple of hours and we sat and bullshitted like old times; I’m glad we can still do that. (Maybe it’s because I’ve come off my high horse). Josh says he’s “stagnating,” but he’s doing all right. During the week, he sees Cherille, and he’s got a girlfriend upstate on weekends, a beautiful artist’s model.

Josh is really pissed at Baumbach for going away without changing his grades; Jon really shouldn’t have done that. Despite everything, Josh deserves a chance to graduate with his MFA at least. We talked about Allan, who’s doing okay, among other things. Maybe I’ll be able to relate to people better now that I’ve decided not to come off as Mr. Terrific. In a way this deluge of rejections I’ve been getting has been useful; it keeps me from getting too cocky and overconfident. Amazingly, I wrote another (mediocre) short story in the past few days. It’s called “Frieda Wachsberger Does Not Believe in Happiness,” and the title is probably the best thing about it. Yesterday I got a letter at the Fiction Collective from the editor of the Westerly Review. He thanked me for sending him a copy of Sukenick’s 98.6 and told me TWR #2 will be out in August – which means September, but I can wait. Today I got this marvelous note from Loris Essary of Austin: “Just want to drop you a note that I read ‘Summoning Alice Kppel’ in the new Panache and liked it very much. Your piece in Interstate will hopefully out before September 1.” I can’t believe a person could be that thoughtful.

And today even the mood in the house seems to be lighter. Dad seems more cheerful and optimistic, and he’s psyching himself up to go into a new business. I don’t know if my own sense of renewed wellbeing is real or illusory, but I’m enjoying it while it’s here. Today was an ace day when everything clicked just right. Tomorrow may bring a new disaster, but I’ll hold on till another day comes along. I feel very fulfilled and very much at peace.

Friday, August 6, 1976
9 PM and I’m ready for bed. Today was a long, exhausting day, and I feel like I’m floating on the Wreck of the Hesparus or something. I’m not sure I know what I’m writing. And I wanted to write some fiction tonight yet! I don’t know what I’m trying to prove or what. I just stood on line at the bank in Kings Plaza for half an hour (total standing-in-line-at-the-bank time this week: two hours) among all those nice engaged couples saving up for their weddings. Going to the bank was a foolish mistake, but I wanted to deposit the check Mr. Farber gave me, so I could see my big $236.48 balance. I’m wealthy, by Richard Grayson standards, you see. Anyway, I got soaked walking to my

car, which I parked, with little foresight, in the outdoor lot. Last evening, when I went to get that diet ice cream, I found Alice at the playground playing paddleball with a fiftyish photographer named Mario. (I had seen Alice there the night before, too, on my way to Josh’s house.) I watched their game till its conclusion, and although Alice lost, she’s a very good player indeed – and is one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever seen. Mr. Farber called at 10 PM to tell me to meet him at 9 AM today at New Haven Manor. I was there this morning on the dot, but he was half an hour late, so I sat in the lobby with the residents, watching Barbara Walters. After nearly a week, the residents of New Haven Manor do not seem all that strange, and it occurred to me, lounging on the chair in the lotus position, my finger in my mouth, that if a stranger were to talk into the lobby he’d obviously think I was a mental case like the rest of them. One very demure lady came out with the following delightful monologue: “I have only one ovary left, Mr. Edrich. . . They operated in ’56 – that’s when all the trouble started. . . Yeah, they’ll cure everyone. . . Yeah, they’ll cure everyone. . . I put my trust in God. God is my hero. . . I told him my mental

capacities are excellent; there’s nothing in my head whatsoever.” Anyhow, it was a long day. Dr. Hassan came and this girl Joyce, and I set him up with patients; it was a real hassle completely going over the files. The filling out of the Medicare and Medicaid forms is so dull; it’s not hard once you get the hang of it, but the work is so boring, I began to feel my patience wearing thin. Finally, at 4 PM, Dr. Hassan saw his last patient, and as soon as Mr. Farber took care of firing Joyce – which he’d told me on Tuesday that he would do; of course all day I didn’t let on and when she came out of the medical office with red eyes, I still pretended I didn’t know what was going on – he had me for some kind of important session. This whole week of work, Mr. Farer said, was to give me “an overview” of the way the business operates. Now what he wants me to take charge of is the x-ray work and the dental work at New Haven Manor. He told me he needs me to work on my own and do an effective job so that he doesn’t have to check up on me. Mr. Farber said it’s a very marginal business and it’s important that I get as many patients x-rayed and to the dentist as possible. I’m going to meet him Monday at New Haven at 9 AM (I declined an offer to work on Sunday) and he gave me a check for the week: $62 and change.

I drove home in one of the heaviest rainstorms I’d ever seen; the whole peninsula was flooded. I noted that I was paid on the books and that Mr. Farber lives in Bayswater right next to Far Rock. That’s useful for the future, because something isn’t right about all this.

Sunday, August 7, 1977
10 PM. I know I’ve licked my depression because I’ve written two seven-page stories today. One, “A Hard Woman,” was a straightlaced character sketch (using a fairly oldfashioned device to set the “scenes”); the other, “When the Values Go Up, Up, Up,” was zany, probably too immature and satirical. But I’m writing again, and I believe in myself, and that’s the important thing. I was just reading an interesting article on drama in the Times, about post-Einstein theater. I think fiction writers can no longer pretend we live in a Newtonian universe where cause leads to effect. No, things just happen today. The other three Great Jews said: Follow Jesus of Nazareth and live a good life and you will be rewarded with the Kingdom of Heaven; follow Karl Marx and live the socialist life and we will all be equal and happy on

earth; follow Sigmund Freud and unearth your past life and things will get better. But Christianity, communism and psychoanalysis have all been discredited by now. Einstein’s special theory of relativity hasn’t been: things seem to happen at random, for no apparent reason. Life is much more uncertain and dangerous, but it’s also much more interesting. I spoke to Avis, Helmut, Libby and Mason in turn today as Avis called from Penn Station on their way upstate. I hope I’ll see them on the day before Avis and Helmut leave for Europe. Avis and Helmut have made my summer, whatever else happens. I’m going to miss them terribly. Last night I had a long conversation with Alice. She’s decided to write a book. June convinced her that they both have power as editors at Seventeen and that they should use it. Alice figured a book interviewing teenaged models would be a natural for her, so she started calling editors, using her title and telling them her idea. She was surprised at the positive response she got. Alice had lunch with the juvenile editor at Bantam the other day and will be meeting with others soon. Alice is also anxious to leave Seventeen for greener fields and will be having

lunch with Aaron Schindler, the big cheese at Family Circle to see if he’s got anything (or knows of anything) for her. Alice has totally given up on her show-writing partner Kenneth; she can’t wait for him to get moving on the play, so that whole thing is over. Alice likes writing lyrics, though, and wants to do a musical with someone. Josh called this afternoon and we went to Kings Plaza for lunch. He’s getting more frustrated at his job every day he works at the hospital. He’ll send out the new résumé soon, but he doesn’t have high hopes. Stephanie, Josh’s 30-year-old girlfriend (she’s got a 10-year-old daughter and a husband who lives with her best friend, “a Norwegian goddess I want to fuck”), is in love with him, and he doesn’t like that. Today Josh paid me what was for him a high compliment: he said in a way I was more of a reel than he was. I would never settle for a “straight” job on a magazine or advertising. When Josh says he’s poor and earning $200 a week, when Alice and Scott and others tell me they can’t be satisfied with their salaries which are more than I’ve ever dreamed of, I get depressed and feel that I’m so far behind other people my age. I show no signs of upward mobility; I live with my parents and subsist in New York on my five

dollars a day. But I wouldn’t trade this life for $200 a week and a Manhattan apartment. Three hundred dollars a week? Maybe. No, not really. All I really need is the freedom to write. And I have that, largely due to the understanding of my parents. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to realize how incredibly supportive they are, and how much I owe them. Now I’m well enough physically and emotionally, to deal with the problems of sex. I realize, on a hot and humid day like today, how much I need to be with a guy. All those muscles and shoulders and chests and legs I see all day: I look at them without any guilt, just simple, uncomplicated longing. I got a letter from this guy, Steve, whose ad in the Voice I answered. He sounds really nice: 24, 5’9”, 135 pounds, into Germany, the ocean, writing. I tried calling him several times today but got no answer.

Wednesday, August 8, 1979
10 PM. Ten years ago, August 8, 1969, a Friday, I bought a diary and sat on the grass at Brooklyn College (in a spot which no longer exists, having long since been taken over by a “temporary” building), I proceeded to write diary entries for the first week in August.

Today People magazine called Taplinger to ask for a photo to accompany their review of my book. Wes said the photo may not appear but apparently the review will. “Under ‘Picks and Pans’?” I asked Wesley. “I think it’s gonna be a ‘pick,’” he said. I guess they wouldn’t ask for my photo if they were going to pan it. This is unbelievable. I did write the woman at People who called Wes, but I never thought it would amount to anything. If for any reason the People review doesn’t appear, I don’t want to be devastated. This is getting scary. I may actually get the thing I’ve wished for: isn’t that supposed to be the worst thing that can happen? But I’ve got to focus on the little realities of my life or I’ll go mad. The University of Miami’s English Department chairman wrote to say he’s interested in me for the vacancy next spring; this was before I wrote Dean Jerry Katz, Irv Littman’s close friend. They asked to see my book, so I sent it on down to them. Star-Web Paper #7 arrived today, about four years after “Notes on the Type” and “Mark the Public Notices” were accepted. It was nice to see the latter story in print, however; I wrote Tom Fisher and told him I gave him an acknowledgement in Hitler.

Last evening George Drury Smith of Beyond Baroque phoned from Venice, California. They were typesetting their new issue and discovered they’d lost my contract and the statement I’d written about my two stories. I told George I’d get them out to him right away, and I also mentioned my good L.A. Times review; he was impressed. (I’ve discovered it never hurts to blow your own horn – most of the time, anyway.) My Bulletin Board ad appeared in the Village Voice today (I wonder if anyone will see it) along with a scathing review of the latest Fiction Collective books and venom about the Collective itself, which James Woollcott dismissed as “an academic vanity press.” Now that I’m on the other side, I can’t help seeing the Fiction Collective differently, and I can’t help feeling superior to them. I want as wide an audience as possible now – and I’ve got a feeling my work is going to be, if not less experimental, more accessible. I’d love for Baumbach to come across the review in People. But it may not appear, and it doesn’t make me a better writer if it does appear. I spoke to Vito, who’s moved to a new East Side apartment. I can’t imagine how he affords $360 a month rent. He got all excited about my news.

Jay had news of his own when he called: he and Rita were married last week. It all happened very quickly, Jay said, and it still hasn’t sunk in – especially since he’s in the city this week and Rita’s upstate. This evening I went to see Aunt Betty in the hospital. On Saturday she was dressing Uncle Jack when he wobbled and they both fell to the ground. She smashed her hip against the hospital bed and had to be operated on Sunday. Aunt Betty looked awful; she was in excruciating pain despite heavy drugs. I brought her water and propped a pillow under her. She said it was a freak accident – but look how it ended. She can’t move her toes, and it will take weeks of therapy before she can walk again. That made me realize that nothing is certain in this world. I stopped off to see Grandpa Herb to tell him how his sister-in-law was doing. Grandma Ethel was out playing cards, of course, but Dad was there because he wanted Grandpa to fix the pants he had botched in his first attempt at alterations.

Wednesday, August 9, 1978
3 PM. This depression has been going on for weeks now, and it seems to lift only for an hour or so a day. Everything seems to be going

wrong at once, and I’m under a great deal of stress. My nights are very long. I can’t seem to get a decent eight hours of sleep. I awake again and again after unpleasant dreams, and during the day I crave nothing so much as sleep. My wisdom tooth is killing me; yesterday I was in so much pain I actually had to moan. I went to Dr. Hersh this morning, and he said it’s probably best that it comes out. I’m going to wait a couple of days to see if the swelling and pus and soreness go away; otherwise I’ll make an appointment with the oral surgeon. I’ve been rinsing it out with warm salt water and applying oil of clove, which soothes it a little. But it makes me irascible, the pain, and I’m already depressed. No mail for days. I feel like nothing is happening. If only I could write a story (this is the longest I’ve gone without writing a story in three years) or see one come out in print. My car is acting up again, vibrating crazily when I stop, sputtering when I accelerate. I just don’t know. And Mom and Dad are at the doctor now. I’m sure that Dad needs surgery. Mom says she’s “worried,” as if this all happened suddenly! He’s had that growth for over five years, and three years ago I pleaded with him to see a

doctor, to no avail. His cowardice may cost Dad his life, and that outrages me. I’m thinking of canceling class tomorrow night. If I can finish teaching Conrad’s The Secret Sharer this evening, there’s no sense in going ahead with Lawrence’s The Fox when their midterm is on Monday. Oh, I’m so disgusted with living and with myself and with the choices I’ve made. Every Wednesday at this time I am writing about how unhappy I am. Something’s wrong, and I’m not sure I can work it out myself. I know that if I do, I’ll be a stronger person, but I’m not sure I’m equipped to deal with everything that is troubling me. I would very much like to be in therapy, but I have only $290 in the bank as it is, and I can’t afford therapy. Ironic, isn’t it, that just as everyone is beginning to think of me as a success, I feel like more of a failure than ever. Or is it more than just ironic? Am I reacting to the Courier-Life article negatively as well as positively? I see now how celebrities can be so sad. I feel I can’t live up to the image of the “handsome,” “personable,” “sincere” man (man, “Grayson”) who “exudes high-level energy.” I don’t know what it is I need, but I know I need something.

Last night, teaching Mann’s Tonio Kroger, I spoke to my class about “the agony of the artist.” But I think my troubles are that I’m a human, not an artist. I just know how to express my sufferings, and in a way that’s a consolation that some others do not have. I don’t know very many untroubled souls today. So I’m not crying out as a special person – I’m not one – but just because everyone else is in pain, that doesn’t take away from the hurt I feel. I would like this to be 1979 and I would like to be looking back at this time with greater understanding than I have now. Because, simply put, I’m not sure of anything. Sure, I’ve solved the aches and pains that afflicted me ten years ago, the things that led to my breakdown. Thank Gold and life and myself and whatever that I don’t get anxiety attacks anymore. But in a way getting an anxiety attack (or a toothache?) is the easiest way of dealing with my problems. My central problem here and now is that I am troubled, yet I can’t quite define my problem – unless the problem is simply life itself.

Wednesday, August 10, 1977

5 PM. A strange day. I’ve just come back from making the funeral arrangements for Uncle Abe, who died this afternoon in the hospital. I went with Grandpa Herb and Uncle Irving, driving them in Grandpa’s car to Far Rockaway, to the Riverside chapel. It was all very matter-of-fact. I was glad to go because I think it’s important to learn how to do something like that. We chose the cheapest casket they had, a plain wooden one, for $185. I wanted to make sure they didn’t rip off Grandpa Herb, who’ll be the one responsible for the bill. So I told the funeral director we didn’t need a limousine or other frills. There’s no point in it to my mind. But still, when they added up all the times, it came to $1,300 and they want Grandpa Herb to give them a $1,000 check tomorrow. God, it seems so expensive to die. I asked about a less expensive funeral, and the man, a guy my own age, said, “Sure, for $400 we can take the body, put in the grave in a cardboard box. But that’s not a funeral, it’s a disposal.” It was eerie to go down in the elevator, the man, Grandpa Herb, Uncle Irving and I, into this room where all the caskets were. Some were plush and magnificent and cost $1,000. Grandpa Herb told them man, “Well, it’s his young kids’ money, and we don’t want to take it away from them,” and Irving said sharply,

rightly so, “You don’t have to explain it to them.” We filled out all the forms: giving Uncle Abe’s next of kin, his parents’ name (I knew Bubbe Ita’s maiden name because of my research on the Katzman genealogy). Uncle Abe belonged to the Knights of Pythias, and they have a plot for him out in New Montefiore Cemetery, in Suffolk (near where Uncle Monty was buried last year). Back at the apartment in Rockaway, Grandma Ethel was very upset; it was she whom the hospital called to tell the news to. Aunt Tillie and Aunt Minnie were crying, but not as much as Grandma Ethel. They’d all seen him in the past two days and he was really bad. Mitch and Eddie couldn’t be located, but Aunt Betty managed to get hold of Mitch’s girlfriend Katje, and finally she called us. Luckily Mitch had planned to come back to Brooklyn tonight; he doesn’t have a phone where he goes to school in Jersey. Eddie is at work, or he was then. Abe suffered so. He got sick eight years ago, then his wife died suddenly; these last three years were pure hell for him. Tomorrow at noon is the funeral.

Dad just spoke to Grandma Sylvia; Aunt Violet came back to New York today, but Grandma Sylvia is managing on her own. A man who also lives at the condominium drove her to the nursing home today. Grandma Sylvia says sometimes Grandpa Nat makes sense when he talks to her, and other times he doesn’t. He waved to her when she left today and then went back to watching TV. I feel crushed by the weight of all this pain, but unlike the way I felt a week ago, I don’t feel like giving up. I was looking forward to meeting that guy Steve tomorrow and now that’s impossible. Probably I’ll never get to meet him now. Tonight I’m obligated to Laura and Harvey go to Ron’s house, and I will go but I’ll try to leave as early as I can. Today was so humid and cloudy. Last night I dreamed Marc and Deanna got married and had a baby. Mom says that dream may come true: marc’s talking about marriage if he can set himself up financially if Dad’s deal with Jimmy ever comes off. I think Marc and Deanna just may just be able to have a good marriage. She’s utterly naive, if not dumb, but a sweeter person one could not imagine. Deanna could become someone like Grandma Ethel, with almost a saintly personality. Of course, saintly people are prone to headaches, upset stomachs and high blood

pressure because they never can express their anger. I feel so confused now. All these unexpected things have happened this summer. Now I’m supposed to be going to Bread Loaf and I’m not sure I want to go there. But maybe getting away is exactly what I need. Today I did a self-interview, a half-serious parody of literary interviews. It’s a style – the whole question-and-answer mode – that I find easy to make fun of and work with. It’s just flexing literary muscles rather than literature.

Wednesday, August 11, 1976
5 PM. See, I knew I’d be feeling better. I did force myself to get out of the house yesterday afternoon, and thank goodness for that. I drove up to Morningside Heights to attend a poetry reading at Columbia. I was early and I walked around Broadway; I had forgotten how fond I am of that neighborhood. The reading was in the Dodge Room of Earl Hall, and there was punch and cookies, and young people with whom I could feel some sort of kinship. The poet, Daniel Halpern, editor of Antaeus, who has rejected many of my stories, is a baby-faced young guy, chubby with an Afro.

He seems very shy and engaging, and his poems were all good. It’s clear he has a respect for words, the one thing all decent poets have in common. Halpern said he hadn’t written in a year until recently, and then he started writing a poem a day. I understand how frustrating it must have been for him. Anyway, I enjoyed myself and left feeling much better than when I had come in. I wish I could’ve expressed it to the poet, how good he made me feel, but I’m too shy when it comes to telling the truth. Anyhow, today I wrote him a letter, thanking him for doing good things for me with his poetry. I lingered on campus for a while, scribbling into my notebook on the steps of Low Library; then I went over to Hungry Mac’s and had dinner. I must go up to Columbia more often. At home, Marc and I tried to convince Mom and Dad that only an idiot would get married these days. I believe that most people get married for only one reason: fear of loneliness. Mom kept saying how ridiculous my arguments against marriage were, and then Grandpa Nat walks in. “You’re a man who’s been married for over 55 years,” I said, putting the question to him. “If you were young today, would you get married?”

Grandpa Nat said, “You’ve got to be crazy to get married.” I turned to Mom as the others were laughing and said, “I rest my case.” Tonight Mom and Dad leave for ten days of looking for a business in Florida; Dad is pessimistic and Mom is desperate to move down there. Whatever happens with them, I know I can see my way clear on my own. If anything, this last week has proven that working 9-to-5 is not the hell I’ve always pictured it as being, and I’ll gladly work full-time to support myself if that’s necessary. There will always be time to write. Last night and this morning I worked on and finished an entirely new version of “The Popish Plot.” It’s less marketable than the first unfinished version, but it’s more me: playful, ironic, a collection of incidents and anecdotes replacing the function of plot. Last weekend I was on the wrong track, trying to study and replicate the stories of Ann Beattie and other “successful” short story writers, when it’s impossible for me to imitate them successfully. I’d rather work at being a first-rate Richard Grayson than a second-rate Ann Beattie. So I won’t get my stories in The New Yorker. Or the American Review, either; I got another

rejection from them today. Luckily I was in a confident mood and immediately sent them a new submission. I am prepared to keep doing that until either the magazine or I stop functioning. Today was a warm, sunny day, and I lay out on the beach at Rockaway – yay! – tanning my cute little body and reading Gorky’s My Childhood. Look, life is not so bad. I expect depression at this point in my life, and I know there will be good times, too. Besides, it’s the only game in town at the moment. Life is unfair, but once you’ve accepted that, it’s a lot easier. I wouldn’t trade places with anyone else for a minute. Tomorrow I have to work, and Friday as well. It’s a drag, but if I weren’t working, not working would be the drag. (The paradox of human nature.)

Saturday, August 12, 1978
4 PM. About an hour ago I was in a car accident. It happened right on my block, on the corner of Fillmore and East 56th, and I believe it was my fault. I was making a left turn and a car seemed to come out of nowhere. Perhaps it came “out of nowhere” because I was thinking too much.

I was coming from the copy center and I was curling the copy center owner’s words around in my head: “You’re a celebrity now.” He had seen the Flatbush Life article. And then we crashed. My car’s side went into his car’s front. Neither of us was hurt. The guy was in a hurry, we exchanged names and phone numbers, he said he’d call (he doesn’t have collision), and that was that. He’d thought I was going to go through the intersection; I’d assumed he was; and overpolite, we both stopped and smashed into one another. At home I told Dad, who immediately started screaming, screaming and stamping his feel like a madman. It seemed he’d just had a big problem with a pipe bursting by the pool. The more he raged, the calmer I became. Mom came up to scream at me: “You’re making Daddy sick; he might have get a heart attack.” I assured Mom that if he wanted to rant and rave and make himself ill, it was his own choice. So, without Dad’s advice, I settled with this guy on my own, giving him $40. I was probably at fault – although I believe it was a mistake I am entitled to. We can say I was sideswiped in a parking lot or whatever, and we’ll collect, though my insurance rates will probably go up.

I don’t care if I’ve done something foolish and irresponsible. Dad didn’t want to help me, and I did it by myself and I’m willing to take the consequences. I don’t really need that car anyway. I really don’t. Strangely enough, instead of feeling depressed, I feel quietly confident. I feel like an adult. The other driver was very nice and calm about the whole thing and so was I. Mom and Dad will rant and rave, as they are now, about my being “an imbecile, a moron, stupid, and a jerk,” but I’ll try not to let their words affect me. I am going to Albany in the winter and I don’t need a car up there. I can manage here without a car until then if I have to. I can handle anything, any crisis, anybody’s death but my own. I see that I’ve handled this accident well. It hasn’t really upset me; it’s only a piece of bent, twisted metal, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a piece of bent, twisted metal make me ill. It’s also shown me that dreaming about being a celebrity can be, quite literally, dangerous. I see now, also, that while I get furious with Ronna for being so low-key, she is right to act so unruffled all the time. I’ve been mimicking my father’s Type-A behavior, the Type-A behavior that effectively, if not totally, ended Grandpa Nat’s life. If I don’t learn this lesson, it will cost me much more dearly than a ruined fender and bumper.

Does my accident a year and a half ago matter now? Not one bit. And there’s no sense engaging in that useless exercise of “If only’s.” I got a letter from Avis today, and she’s definitely going to be home for Christmas. She doesn’t think any drug charges will be brought against her, either. And though she hates her job and her boss, she’ll stick with it. Avis would love to get pregnant, “but now is not the time.” I also got a letter from the president of some New York publishing firm, Taplinger. He read my story in Epoch and asked if I’ve got a book for him.

Monday, August 13, 1979
Midnight. I’ve just gotten home. Mom was on the phone with Dad when I walked in. Marc and Jonny are out. I’m certain Mom misses Dad very much; in thirty years, they’ve never been apart for very long, and they are terribly dependent upon one another. Today was a gorgeous day, sunny and mild. For the last four weeks, each Tuesday or Wednesday has brought some good news about my book: the Arthur Bell column notice in the Voice, Wes’s calls with news of the reviews in the L.A. Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and (hopefully it will come out) People.

Obviously I can’t hope for anything as good this week, but being human, I can’t help hoping. I’m definitely running out of ideas to push my book. I sent out half a dozen letters today, but I’ve done just about everything for the time being. I do feel guilty about not working actively at some kind of promotion, and I found it a bit difficult to just relax today. I got one surprise call: from my old public school and junior high school buddy, Jerry Lowenstein. He saw the Post article and thought he’d look me up; he, too, still lives in the neighborhood although he’s planning to get married soon to a girl he’s been going with for five years. Jerry went to LIU but never finished (he got an Incomplete in English with Dr. Tucker), got interested in radio, ran Crazy Eddie’s Kings Highway store, and for the last three years has been selling insurance. We talked about old times and people from the old days, and Jerry asked me to have lunch with him on Thursday. We don’t have much in common, but I have little to do these days, and it should be fun to talk over old times at school. Dr. Lipton wrote me a wonderful letter and even sent me a check for one dollar as a contribution to my Vice Presidential campaign, saying he hopes it will get me to New Hampshire – “or at least Vermont.” I must visit Dr. Lipton soon.

The University of Portland Review’s spring issue arrived with my story, “A Distant Death” (not a good one, but very traditional, with a protagonist based on Ronna’s mother) inside. I spoke to Ronna this afternoon; she was working on a story for the Canarsie Digest that she had to hand in later. She still hasn’t rewritten her résumé or checked out any newspapers. Yesterday I told Alice I didn’t really care about seeing Ronna, even as a friend, but I must really like her because she’s on my mind a lot. Ronna said she almost called me yesterday; she was feeling very sentimental after finding her 1974 diary and reading about entries about me (“most of them good stuff”). I was heading for Josh’s at 6 PM, and I knew Ronna was planning to meet Jordan for dinner in the Heights and then spend the night either with him or with her sister, so I offered to drive her there. I hadn’t seen Ronna in months. She looked well but older; her hair is going gray and getting thin. On the drive to the Heights, I asked her about her love life. Jordan is in love with her, but she doesn’t want anything permanent so she says it’s just as well that he’s returning to law school in Boston in two weeks. Her romance with that other guy

never really happened, and now their friendship isn’t so solid. I told Ronna I had an affair with a 19-year-old boy (of course I was thinking of Bill-Dale). Why? Part wish-dream, part to gauge her reaction (she was very cool about the whole thing), part to assure her that I’m not interested in her sexually anymore. Perhaps we really can be friends; I’d like that. I visited Josh’s Hicks Street apartment, which is not my sort of place (I’m too middle class) but I found it comfortable and not at all as cramped as he says it is. We then went over to Simon’s on Bergen Street. Simon’s apartment had been broken into today, along with two others in his brownstone, by kids from the block – one of whom was caught by the cops. Simon is insured for theft and we were planning how he could make some money from the insurance. He finally agreed to say the following items were taken: Josh’s saxophone, Simon’s flute, two watches and a clock radio. The last two items actually were stolen.

Sunday, August 14, 1977
10 PM. I’ve just been reading an article in the Sunday Times magazine section on the logician Saul Kripke, the most brilliant of American

analytical philosophers at 36, and Gary’s second cousin. (He’s the nephew of Gary’s father’s cousin Doris, whom I drove to Gary and Betty’s wedding.) As a fiction writer, I’m fascinated by what I can understand of Kripke’s truth theory, and I have a gut feeling the man will become a towering figure in philosophy, another Descartes or Hume. Can we quantify language and human emotions? I’m much too stupid to even ask that question, but I’d like to learn more. Kripke is a true genius, the kind of man who makes me glad I let my Mensa membership lapse. At age three, Kripke was aware of difficult philosophical concepts; at six, he taught himself Hebrew; by fourth grade he had “discovered” algebra and read all of Shakespeare. I’m in awe of such pure brilliance, the Einsteinian kind. Now I may be a clever fellow, but as Soames Forsyte said of one of is duller cousins, I’ll “never set the Thames on fire.” I don’t regret not being a real genius, but I wish my talent were more substantial and less superficial. I have no doubt that I’ll be a success, but in the end the world will have changed little for my being here. Who is it that defined true genius as influencing those who’ve never even heard of you?

Realistically (but what does that word mean?), I know I’ll never get there. I have the energy and the talent, but no solid concepts – no new ones, anyway. Still, I’m a fairly nice fellow and I would like to try my best. It’s been a dreary, rainy weekend. I ventured into Manhattan both yesterday and today, attending a rained-out “festival of soap opera stars” in Bryant Park, wandering through bookstores, looking at people on the streets, being handed cards that urge me to see the “beautiful girls – belles mustaches – only $10 – nothing extra.” I talked to Gary and also Alice, who had been crying after one of her semi-annual spats with Andreas. Grandpa Nat gets no better, and I guess I’ve pretty much accepted the fact that the man I knew is gone. Perhaps this will make is death, whenever it comes, a bit easier to adjust to. I’m practically ready to leave for Bread Loaf. I spent several hours getting my manuscripts in order today. I’m going to have to buy a few things tomorrow, but I’ve got pretty much everything. Part of me wishes I could stay here and be comfortable in familiar surroundings for the next two weeks. I hate leaving my routines, I worry about missing my mail, and about having to share a room with a strange person (for

example, when can I be alone to exercise or, yes, to masturbate?). I’m not looking forward to the regimen of meals at specific hours and no bathroom to myself and other barbarities – including lack of TV, radio and newspapers. I’m going to have to give up some freedom and do things on other people’s schedules. Actually, as I write this, I’m experiencing the sinking feeling that I will hate the Writers’ Conference. I don’t expect it to be very useful to my work. I couldn’t imagine Virginia Woolf of Henry Miller or Joyce or Kafka or Proust or D. H. Lawrence going to something like Bread Loaf. I’m not really excited about anyone on the staff. They’re all competent craftsmen and craftswomen, but no one who astounds me. (I can’t even read John Gardner – and until recently, when I heard the name I would invariably think first of the Common Cause guy.) And I dread the seven-hour bus ride, and the hour before it, and the hour it will take to get to the Bread Loaf campus. I’ve always had a phobia about traveling. Now I don’t expect to have any serious panic (I expect mild anxiety attacks, but I’ll survive them, and re-experiencing them will probably do me some good). But it’s the annoyance of it all.

I know that another part of me loves the sense of adventure involved, though. And if I don’t like it there, I can always get the next bus home.

Sunday, August 15, 1976
4 PM. I’ve just been reading over my diary entries for the first three months of 1971. I was practically rolling on the floor with laughter at my attitudes and what I thought was important. But aside from being sophomoric (which is altogether fitting, considering I was a college sophomore at the time), my writing is filled with a delightful naïveté and innocence. Those were wonderful times: I was falling in love for the first time, I was a big shot in student government, I had nothing to do but schoolwork and attending to the romantic lives of others. Things were so simple then. Nixon and the war was bad; anyone who was against you was a “fascist”; nobody had heard of decadence; you either loved somebody or you didn’t; no one worked or bothered to think that someday the boom would end. For me, and I think for the others I mention in the diary – Shelli, Ronna, Ivan, Elspeth, Elihu, Jerry, Leon and the countless others I keep

name-dropping – it was a magical time of being half-child and half-adult, of having no responsibilities and no burdens. The things I fretted about back then now seem so absurd, yet somehow touching – and the joys of discovering personhood seem fresher than ever. I’m impressed at the readability of my 1971 diary, and I’m more than ever convinced that I have the raw material of a fine novel, if only I could find the right form. The Hamilton Years was perhaps only a fledgling effort to see if I could get all the material down on paper. I must soon attempt a second version of the novel. For half a year I haven’t been able to read through the first version – but now I’m so far removed from the actual events of 1971-1973 that I can work on transforming them into fiction with more perspective. I do have a nice little story about growing up in college, and it’s just possible that it may be of interest to others. Reading my diary from five and a half years ago was kind of spooky in that I wonder how I got from there to here. And it struck me that I’d love to re-live those days; in fact, if I were allowed to live my entire life over again, doing the same things I did, I wouldn’t hesitate a minute before saying, “Yes, I’ll do it!”

I fell asleep watching The Blue Angel last night and woke early today, breakfasted, cleaned, went marketing and then into the city to see The Ritz, which was good for several chuckles. Caaron wrote me again, and I enjoy her letters. She’s been depressed over having no job; I think it’s the old out-of-college blues. Caaron sent me a photo of herself, and while she cautioned that she doesn’t “look so fuzzy in real life,” I can see she’s pretty in a dark, petite way. I wrote her back already. As always, am I too obvious? Also, the main brought my final transcripts from BC; I have indeed graduated with an MFA – and with a 3.83 index, it turns out. I’d love to take courses again this fall; I noticed that the Queens College adult education program is offering a certificate in gerontology, and that might be worth looking into. I’ve always been interested in old people because of the special relationship I’ve had with my grandparents. I can sense a lot of changes to come in my life, and by now I’ve almost convinced myself that the family moving to Florida may be the best thing that could happen. For I’ll be forced to live on my own and support myself; otherwise I might not have attempted it so soon. (Really, so late.) The idea of living alone, taking care of myself and being a real adult at last is very exciting.

Thursday, August 16, 1979
4 PM. I feel kind of down – not depressed, just a bit sad. I got a course at the School of Visual Arts and I turned down two courses at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City in the hopes that I can get two CUNY courses, either at Brooklyn, Kingsborough or Queensborough. I have been reappointed at BC, and there seem to be enough courses so that I could teach two – or at least one. This adjunct business is a terribly nervewracking way to live. What if I did myself in by turning down the courses at St. Peter’s? I wish I knew what I was doing. The president of the School of Visual Arts, David Rhodes, was a blue-jeaned man not much older than I am. We had a pleasant talk and I made a good impression, and he approved me to teach Humanities 108, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 AM to 10:20 AM. The course pays $1,200, which is very good. I’ll have to commute in the rush hour two days a week, but I suppose I’ll manage. It was a cool day, almost unnaturally cool, and today I didn’t feel the same pleasure as I did in the hint of fall’s arrival as I did yesterday. On the way back from Visual Arts, I dropped by Taplinger to see Wes, who showed me the

manuscripts he was working on, one of his last projects before he leaves. Taplinger is gearing up for their fall season; they’ve got Scott’s book and another novel, which is a book club selection – and now With Hitler in New York is just another book from last season. Small press publishing is so much more humane. It hit me today – and this is the cause of my sadness – that Taplinger never really intended to push my book. They’ve been amused by the publicity I’ve gotten, but nothing more than that, not really. Even if People comes out with a rave review, that won’t sell any copies. They never got the book to the bookstores and now it’s too late. I wonder if I could buy the paperback rights to my book and publish it under my own imprint. The only way my book could ever make it is in paperback – and I think I could do a good job by myself. I tried so hard this summer and I did get results, but not good enough results. It’s hard for me to think that I’ve failed and realistically I know that I haven’t. But now summer dreams turn into autumn reality, and I’ve got to get back to teaching. I don’t mind; I’m looking forward to my class at Visual Arts. Yet I feel I’m in for the biggest letdown of my life. I’m scared. I have to worry now about

paying rent and bills of all kinds and shopping and cleaning and everything. Well, maybe it’s for the best. I might start writing again. I guess my efforts to promote With Hitler in New York are coming to an end. As I said, maybe I can go back to writing now. Hey, I got a letter from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts; the mansion at Mount Saint Angelo burned to the ground a few weeks ago. No one, thank God, was injured, but some Fellows lost everything they’d brought with them: manuscripts, clothing, personal effects. If I had gone there as scheduled, I would have lost all my diaries. So stop being a gloomy Grayson, Grayson. You appear to be leading a charmed life. I think I’m going to make a contribution to help the people who lost things in the fire. Susan Lawton sent me the sheet that someone printed the Page Six article on; it’s the work of a nut who doesn’t know me. I called him and he said he just thought that it was a funny article that illustrated one of his crazy points. Judith Appelbaum, co-author of How to Get Happily Published, wrote that she’s going to use my story of the letter I sent to Harry Hoffman of Waldenbooks in their next edition of the book. Jerry Lowenstein canceled our lunch today, which was just as well.

Thursday, August 17, 1978
10 PM. A good deal has happened in the two days since my pen has last met these pages. (Pompous opening?) I’m tired now, but it’s a triumphant weariness because I’ve been busy and life is going on. Yesterday morning I was awakened by a call from Louis Strick, president of Taplinger Publishing. He’d received my letter (“your diffident letter,” he called it) and the newspaper article and a few stories that I’d sent him. He explained that he took over Taplinger a year ago and is changing it from a house dependent upon library sales into a trade publisher. He asked me to come to his office at Union Square; I met him today at 2 PM. Louis Strick is a handsome, instantly likable man of 53 (though he looks much younger). He said he responded to the Brooklyn Jewish themes in my work; he grew up on Avenue D and East 46th Street, went to P.S. 208 and was in the second graduating class at Midwood. He got involved in publishing because he’s always been interested in writing. He and Arthur Cohn were the first to publish Goodbye, Columbus and Gaddis’s The Recognitions in paperback.

He’s married for the second time and has a five-year-old daughter; from his first marriage he has a son, Wesley, who writes for Rolling Stone (who will be joining him as an editor) and a daughter, Ivy, my age (whose first novel he’s publishing this fall). He’s friends with people like John Ashbery and Ted Solotaroff. He explained that Taplinger has always operated in the black, and now that he’s in the driver’s seat, he intends to turn it into a major independent publisher – in the face of the concentration of conglomerate takeovers and “bottom-line” decisions. “I take risks – calculated ones,” he said, “and I can afford to publish books that I like.” He showed me his fall/winter catalogue, which seems fine; it’s obvious he cares a great deal about the books he publishes, like an old-time Alfred Knopf or Bennett Cerf. Mr. Strick told me I was “very talented” and that I shouldn’t worry about not writing a novel: “If you write good stories, that’s fine.” I guess he thinks my work is saleable; he’s more optimistic than I am. I gave him all my published stories in my binder, and he’s going to read them over the weekend in Fire Island. If he likes them, he’ll get in touch with me next week. Being with Louis Strick was an interesting and pleasant experience even if nothing comes of it – which is what I have to believe will happen.

I’ve got to be complacent about this because real life isn’t supposed to work out this way. I never expected a New York trade publisher would ever want to touch me – not, at least, until I was more established in the small presses. And you’re supposed to go through a zillion rejections; the head of a publishing firm isn’t supposed to contact you. It’s very dreamlike. I can’t believe he thinks I’m that good. Secretly, you see, I feel that if I had a book published with Taplinger I’d be a real writer. I mean, I’m beginning to feel disdainful toward the small presses already. No, not disdainful – if it weren’t for little magazines, I’d be nowhere. But I can’t help feeling This is the real world, a business, not something subsidized by the government or a university or an art-loving individual. Oh, I can’t think about it anymore at all – not one more word. I had two brilliant classes on The Metamorphosis and The Fox last night and tonight; I’ve been very pleased with my class (which is now two-thirds of the way through the term). Grandma Ethel may have to stay in the hospital beyond next week, and that’s making

it rough on Grandpa Herb, who’s not taking care of himself well. Dad went to see the chief of neck surgery at Brookdale, and I think this doctor will do the operation, but he’s going on vacation next week. I’ve been writing, oddly enough, and it’s been 95°each day. I feel a bit like a stranger towards myself.

Thursday, August 18, 1977
4 PM. So much has happened in the last 24 hours. It’s all a blur, really, and there’s no time for anything to sink in, but I’m sure these events and the impressions I have of them will be with me for a long time. After writing yesterday’s entry, I smoked some hash with Bob and Charles, then fell into a sort of restful semi-sleep. At 5 PM David came back, and I persuaded him to drive into town. It was a relief to get back to the real world. I hadn’t realized (how did I miss it?) that we are on the top of a mountain. The drive into town was fun; we smoked a joint on the way and that really relaxed me. The sun had come out by the time we pulled into town, and that made it pleasant.

Middlebury is so beautiful; it makes you think you’re in some kind of fantasy place. The stores on Main Street are so neat and snug, whether it’s the health food place or the drugstore with a real soda fountain and popcorn machine or the boutiques. We stopped in at Lazarus’ Clothing Store, where David looked at the jackets, comparing them to the ones he and his father make; I know that syndrome. There’s a creek running right across Main Street, and it’s beautiful to stand on the bridge and watch the water flow on the glistening rocks. We stopped at Tony’s Pizza for some drinks. I think it’s cute that even here, there are such obvious ethnic types like Lazarus and Tony doing their thing. Vermonters impress me with their courtesy and their progressiveness – there are no roadside billboards and the soda cans have press-ins, not flip-tops, and there’s a five-cent refund on the aluminum. David and I ate in the Rosebud Café, a marvelously hip place with a nice atmosphere: stained glass, weathered wood, antique stoves. I had a sandwich that was delicious, white meat turkey with mayo and lettuce on pumpernickel in a basket of potato chips and pickles. I had Red Zinger herb tea, and they served it with honey, not sugar.

The drive back to Bread Loaf was so relaxing, I couldn’t believe it. Driving really fast on the curves was exhilarating and David’s tapes were playing and the sun was setting and I felt better than I had since coming here. We made it back to the Little Theater just in time for John Irving’s reading of the start of his forthcoming novel The World According to Garp, which sounds like it will be hilarious; I wasn’t bored for a minute. I walked back in the dark with Kevin, Bob and Charles. Traipsing up the road to Gilmore somehow reminded me of that recurring scene in Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. I looked up and was amazed – almost intoxicated – by so many bright stars, something I’d never seen before in my life. Last night I went down to the study with Rick and Greg and David, and we sat by the fire and read each other’s work. I think it’s neat to be living in a house where twelve guys in their twenties are all reading To the Lighthouse. (Idea for story: A dozen guys, each reading a different Virginia Woolf novel, are living in a house in the woods. Title: “Virginia Woolf Is For Lovers.”) I slept well, and although I had an attack of severe nausea this morning, it didn’t last long. Carl Dennis (who showed me his Brazillerpublished poetry books) drove to the “main” campus and I had breakfast with Leslea Newman.

I attended each lecture today. Toni Morrison spoke about a “useable past” in fiction and read from the new Song of Solomon. Marvin Bell gave a brilliant lecture on receptivity being important to creativity and seemed to stress instinct, readiness, and continuous working – he said the more you do something, the better you get at it. John Gardner got me appropriately riled with his talk of “Moral Fiction,” attacking postmodernist textured fiction (Gass, Barthelme, Sukenick, Barth) for not having any values or philosophy at bottom. I had a discussion group with John Gardner from 2 PM to 3:30 PM and he was fascinating; I did my share of talking and got him to admit that he was using overkill, that of course texture is important – but only if it’s “in service” (my words, with which he agreed) to character, plot and values. Gardner is a strange-looking man with that Veronica Lake-like blond hair but he’s sweet and smart, and he’s leading me to rethink some of my preexisting ideas about fiction. And that’s good.

Thursday, August 19, 1976

4 PM. I didn’t work today either. Last night Mr. Farber called while I was out and then I called him twice and he wasn’t in, so we never got together, which is probably just as well. I haven’t been feeling well all week: just krenks, nothing serious, but I really didn’t feel up to going to Far Rockaway this morning. Later today I have an Alumni Association Finance Committee meeting; I got a notice last week from David Pollard that it will be held in Ira Harkavy’s law offices. But I don’t think I shall go. I hate to give in to my sinusitis (the pressure behind one eye is driving me crazy) but I don’t feel like giving much of myself to committee meetings today. I did not stay up to watch the balloting for President last light; it was obvious that Gerald Ford would be nominated, which he was, at about 2 AM, by a rather small (as these things go) over Ronald Reagan. Reagan and his “running mate” Sen. Schweiker held a tearful press conference today to thank supporters; it was quite touching in a way. It must be hard to devote a year or more of your life in question of something only to have it denied by a narrow victory by the other side. Ford picked Kansas Sen. Bob Dole as his candidate for Vice President; it was somewhat of a surprise, and it will probably make for a

rather dull campaign. One of the reasons I plan on skipping the Alumni meeting is that I want to watch the acceptance speeches tonight. I slept well, and I had one particularly pleasant dream in which Ronna presented me with a baby. Does a paternal instinct actually exist somewhere within my foolish heart? Gary called from his sister’s house last evening and he said he’d never been happier in his life. He and Betty have found their “dream apartment” in a North Brunswick development and they’ve set a date – October 10th – for their wedding. Gary loves his job and he’ll be moving into his new apartment next month, with Betty following after their wedding. I used to put down Gary’s dreams of connubial bliss in suburbia, but it seems to be what he needs. I almost wish I were Gary and could be satisfied with something like that. But for now, I’m willing to risk loneliness, financial instability and emotional security to get where I want to go, to do what I want to do. Basically I’m doing that right now. Alice phoned yesterday and put June on the phone; June is now working at Seventeen too. June is Steve Sasanoff’s brother Richard’s wife and the editor of the Flatbush Tenant, a newspaper distributed to tenants (who else?) in buildings in – you guessed it – Flatbush.

She had asked Alice to do an article on Junior’s Restaurant, but Alice won’t be able to do it because her brother is coming in for the weekend. So I said I’d do it, and this morning I went down to Junior’s to interview the Rosen brothers, owners of the place since it opened in 1951. They weren’t very cooperative, and the 1,000word article I’ve written is a puff piece – but it’s supposed to be, June tells me. Also, I’ve fictionalized a customer and a waitress who gave me very quote quotes. I’m sure Alice’s article would have been a dozen times better. It’s very hard for me to write that kind of an article. Fiction is a lot easier; in this kind of piece, my voice is strained and somewhat unnatural. Still, I’m supposed get $25 if they print it, and that’s pretty good.

Sunday, August 20, 1978
8 PM. Today was dark and cool, although it’s clearing now, just as the sun is being lost. I look out my window and see only a few wispy dark clouds. The street lights are already on. I spent all day today indoors, reading when I wasn’t exercising, eating, or flossing my teeth. (I have to go to the dentist tomorrow and I

don’t want to hear a lecture about how bad my gums are.) The summer is ending; my tan is fading; already kids like my cousins Wendy and Jeffrey are returning from camp. Night falls earlier now. I was just imagining how it must be on Bread Loaf Mountain now. In some respects I wish I was back there again this year. It’s a very pure kind of life, there in the woods. I regret having not gotten away all this summer. As I mentioned, I’ve been reading an awful lot: criticism of Katherine Anne Porter, Richard Wright and Carson McCullers for teaching the last three short novels in class, and Jerry Klinkowitz’s criticism in The Life of Fiction. The more I read, the less well-read I discover I am. I’d love to read more Porter and Wright (I’ve read all of McCullers’ books) and I need to read for myself the books of Ishmael Reed, Hunter S. Thompson, Michael Stephens and others. With no Sunday papers to distract me, I’ve gotten a great deal done. I’ve been making notes for my teaching, too. And I’ve even been writing a bit: nothing great, but the mind is flowing smoothly. I’ve been so absent-minded with everyday things, however. I’ve been giving $2 to pay $3 checks at Junior’s; I let the elevator pass my

floor at LIU without getting off; last night I left the freezer door open and all the ice cream melted. I am beginning to express to myself my doubts about going to Albany, and I need to resolve them. In a way, I almost hope that Louis Strick reluctantly decides he can’t get enough good material for Taplinger to publish my book, for that would make it so much easier to go to Albany. I made the decision to move because there was nothing else for me to do; it looked as though I was just going to continue to publish in little magazines for no money and little recognition, with LIU a dead end, and living with my parents getting intolerable. I can’t, of course, say how I’ll feel when Mr. Strick turns me down, but I hope I will take it philosophically: easy come, easy go. And it does seem too easy to be really worthwhile. This is known as “preparing yourself to get bad news” – or maybe it’s sour grapes in advance. I do, really, want to keep myself honest. Bruce Springsteen keeps himself honest by playing Buddy Holly just before he goes on at a concert. I should read more work by writers I admire, like Kafka. Maybe in graduate school in Albany, I can get it together; personally and career-wise, being away might give me enough distance to begin a novel.

I could very easily see myself becoming jaded and shrill and unbearable if fame and/or fortune came too quickly. Or is Albany a copout, a way to hide from the world and my place in it? Yes, I do have mixed feelings about having a book published; it would complicate an already too-complicated situation. I’d have to start being a real adult. Which reminds me, it’s just about ten years ago that my breakdown began. I remember that skinny little 17-year-old kid from 1968: he was so fucked-up and he was a coward, but I don’t blame him for retreating from the world. I’m hardly in touch with what he/I felt ten years ago. I didn’t begin my diary until August 1969, remember? When I finally complete a whole decade of these pages, when I come to the diary page marked August 1, 1979, where will I be then?

Tuesday, August 21, 1979
4 PM. I’ve just come back from that job interview at New York City Community College. I stopped in first to visit Dad’s cousin Dean Fred Klanit, who was very friendly. In passing, he mentioned that he keeps a file on adjuncts who teach more than two courses

at CUNY; it’s a bad idea “because it puts a black mark next to your name.” I was interviewed for an hour by Fannie Eisenstein, Dean of Continuing Education and Extension Services, as well as three others. I think I made a reasonably good presentation, but I’m sure I don’t want the job of Evening Coordinator. There’s a great deal of detailed work involved, and I’d end up becoming just another administrative bureaucrat. Also, the salary isn’t great, there are no benefits, and I would have to stay virtually alone in the building at night. They told me they weren’t considering women for the job because of “the frequency of pursesnatchings and sexual assaults.” I don’t like the area near the school in downtown Brooklyn and I have no business wasting my creative energies on such a job. I’ve got to realize that there are going to be offers for jobs and fellowships that I cannot accept; it’s a lot better than if it were the other way around. Last night I arrived at Josh’s before 8:30 PM and I waited for him and Simon to come back from dinner. Simon was hired as the night cook at Parker’s, a new overpriced French restaurant on Atlantic Avenue.

I drove Simon home, as he didn’t want to come with us to Manhattan. His neighborhood is frightening at night; I didn’t even like driving through it. Josh and I parked in the Village and walked around for an hour. We ran into Helene, a friend of Simon’s, and chatted with her. She went to Visual Arts and said that most students won’t take my course very seriously. They all think they’re super-hip, which makes me a little nervous. (Last night I had my first anxiety attack about teaching there.) Josh and I went to Kenny’s Castaways, and by chance they seated Josh and me near the tables where Wes, Marla and their friends were sitting. Marla brought out a copy of my book and I autographed it for Jack, that guy I met last fall that Saturday when Wes and I were editing the stories. We sat through several horrendous acts; each performer seemed to be a parody of himself. When Wes finally got on, I was glad to hear Josh say that he was okay; I know nothing about music and it’s hard for me to separate my feelings for a friend and an objective appraisal of his talents. Wes’s songs, like Springsteen’s, haunt me. I love his rich images and his piano playing and his hip, soulful voice. But maybe that’s only because it’s Wes. If I’m not in love with him, I’m pretty close to it; all afternoon I had a sort

of dull but pleasant ache when I thought about his playing tonight. Later Wes asked me about the Village Voice Bulletin Board ad and he laughed when I told him about it. At the end of the evening I kissed and hugged Marla. I can’t help feeling very fond of her, and I know her friendship toward me is genuine because she’s one of those rare people who are guileless. It was a nice drive home last night, dropping Josh off in the Heights and then heading down Ocean Parkway. I love Brooklyn in the summer, especially late at night when it’s quiet and few people are about. No review in this week’s People. I am saddened by the knowledge that nothing more will happen with my book. It’s getting too close to fall to get reviews in newspapers and magazines. I would have loved to have the satisfaction of seeing just one copy of my book in a store or a library, though. I haven’t sent out any letters in days, and I feel rather discouraged.

Monday, August 22, 1977
3 PM. It’s a dark August Vermont day. I’m alone in the house now, sitting in the parlor. The remains of a fire are crackling and a rare

car has just passed by the dirt road in front of the house. I can hear birds singly sharply. Charles estimated that this house and the property around it would be worth from $20,000 to $30,000 on the open market. It’s strange for me to be here, lying on this sofa, the breeze from the open door startling my leg. I feel peaceful. This week at Bread Loaf has been good for me, I think. Perhaps I haven’t exploited the Conference staff and my position as a Scholar. I have barely spoken to John Gardner or Stanley Elkin (who’s dying of multiple sclerosis like the character in his last novel) or Mark Strand or Charles Simic (who told me he just got a card from Jon Baumbach in England). And my work hasn’t really gotten criticized by anyone. But still, I’ve taken advantage of other things that Bread Loaf has to offer. The multiplicity of writers, good and bad, published and unpublished, young and old, male and female, has made me realize that I’m certainly not alone. That is both a relief and a discomfort. The relief comes from knowing all these wonderful, sensitive people who are struggling, as I am, to express themselves and to perfect their craft. But the fact that my quest is shared by many others also makes me feel less unique, and invariably, less special.

My voice is my own, true, but there are so many here who are just as good or better than I am that I despair of ever gaining recognition for my writing. So what if I’ve published thirty stories in literary magazines? Tim O’Brien published a novel when he was younger than I am, and the novel was well-reviewed and made money and is taught. Still, who is Tim O’Brien? I just passed him walking back here on a narrow trail in the woods. He was sitting on plank over a stream with that witty divorced teacher from Plymouth. Tim O’Brien isn’t great; even John Gardner isn’t a great writer. (Tim told me he shares that view about John.) But I can’t believe that a writer has to be great or he’s a failure. If I end up believing that, I will end up frustrated and bitter. I will settle for little successes and try to be the best writer of whatever it is that I write that I am capable of being. Probably some people’s dreams of literary stardom have been shattered here; I heard that Gardner told some people to just give up writing. I never expected to be a superstar, though I’ve wished for it, and while it troubled me an hour ago when the agent Richard Marek told his audience that short story collections are impossible to sell, it was no surprise to me, not

even when he said that the stories “must have appeared in The New Yorker, Harpers and Playboy and not in places like the Transatlantic Review.” Ha, that’s my most prestigious publication. Hilma Wolitzer’s lecture was quite useful to me. She started “late,” at 35, and she’s lived a very quiet and ordinary middle-class Jewish life in Brooklyn and Long Island, a life that must be similar to the sedate life I’ve led. But she said one did not have to experience the unusual to write about it; we are all unique and some of us have great imaginations. The important thing, she said, is to be the kind of person whom nothing gets by, on whom nothing is lost. Maxine Kumin lectured on workshops and exercises in poetry – that was useful to me, too, I think. I had lunch after Kumin’s lecture (I couldn’t touch the chipped beef because the look of it was repulsive) and then went to hear editor and independent publisher Richard Marek. I feel like I’m storing up psychic energy here that will be released in the stories I write when I get back to Brooklyn and resume my routines. The summer is almost over; indeed, with my crew-neck sweater and my sweatshirt, I already feel that it’s fall. I think it’s been a

good summer – the best one ever, perhaps – in spite of myself. Life has a way of forcing you to grow up.

Monday, August 23, 1976
5 PM. I don’t quite understand what’s going on in my life, and I feel at a loss to cope with the changes. It’s obvious something is up with the Farber job. I guess he’s decided to fire me, but I wonder why he hasn’t told me of his decision and why I haven’t received the money owed to me. I shall call him tomorrow night definitely – unless I hear from him sooner. I’d really prefer not to work tomorrow anyway, as June called again last night and said she’d pay me $15 if I do a story on the Fiction Collective. Tomorrow I have to write it and get photos she can use in the paper. It shouldn’t be too hard to write the article, and I do need the money badly. Right now, in terms of money, I’m basically back to where I started four weeks ago. I have $125 in the bank now; these past few weeks I’ve been spending eight or nine dollars a day and this has got to stop. For one thing, I’ve got to limit dining out. I know I treasure the times when I can go to a restaurant and be alone, but I’ve got to

sacrifice that so I can make my money go further. Maybe I’ll stop buying the newspaper every day and cut down on buying books. I’ve got to reserve most of my money for my work: xeroxing stories, buying paper and supplies and postage stamps. And movies over three dollars are out. If I can hold myself to a tight budget, I may be able to make it until. . . until whatever happens, happens. It destroys me inside every week to see Marc’s $75 unemployment check arrive. What I could do on $75! I could live like a king. And Marc does nothing and makes even more money by drug dealing. He flashes around $20 bills like crazy. And he bitches to Jonny for my asking him for five dollars for food shopping last week, saying I’m “cheap.” When you work for an hour and you know you’re going to paid only three dollars for it, you tend to get cheap. Five years ago I had $40 a week and I didn’t know where to spend it all. Now I’m sorry that Dad was so generous with my allowance then; it’s made it that much harder to adjust to the way I have to live now. I went for a job interview at Redbook today – as a full-time clerk/typist at $130 a week – but I

failed the typing test, doing only 43 words a minute with ten mistakes. I feel ashamed to have failed, even though I probably wouldn’t have been suited to the job at all if typing was all that was involved. Failure is a difficult thing to accept in oneself, to say “I have failed” and not try to water the phrase down. Maybe I did fail the typing test, but that proved only one thing: that I cannot type as well as Redbook wants their employees to type. It is no reflection on me as a person. (Saying that seems so obvious. Then why can’t I trust it?) Gary phoned last night. He wanted to make sure I wasn’t hurt about his not having asked me to be his attendant: “But with three brothers-in-law and a cousin who can afford the tuxedo rental. . .“ he started, and I interrupted him: “Gary, you know me, I’m thrilled just to be a guest at your wedding. I don’t care about ceremony.” Of course I’m relieved not to be a part of the thing. (Is that totally true? Would I have liked to be asked, anyway?) I’m glad I can wear my suit again. (Yes, on the whole I am very glad not to be an usher.) Bill Hudson of Dogsoldier wrote me that “The Unknown” will definitely appear in his sixth

issue, sometime after the first of next year; that’s something to be grateful for. I was perhaps more productive this past week than ever before, yet today I feel totally bereft of creativity and writing talent. Why am I so hard on myself? Things are so up in the air now, and I don’t have the familiar to hold onto anymore, not Brooklyn College or my family or my home or Ronna or Gary or a teaching job. And still, after eight years, I still fear another breakdown.

Wednesday, August 24, 1977
5 PM. Today it’s been raining and bonechillingly cold, more like the end of November than the end of August. I really would like to get on a bus to New York tomorrow. I’m bored by now, and after today I feel I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to at Bread Loaf. Yesterday afternoon I fell asleep on the couch downstairs and later Charles came in and we bullshitted for a while. He says he’d like to work on a fashion magazine and he told me that the trouble with Vietnam was that we didn’t go in there to win.

I imagine a lot of young people are pretty conservative today. In 1969, when I was subject to the draft and marching against the war, guys like Charles and Kevin were only 11 or 12, and there’s a big difference between us. I don’t think they perceive me as an older person, though they kid me about it. Actually, I’m at a peculiar age. I don’t quite have all the trappings of adulthood around me, but I’m far from being a college kid. If I teach again this fall – I hope to – doubtless I’ll find that my students have gotten still younger than they were last year and the year before. But white, upper-middle-class kids like Charles and Kevin are pretty different from my students at LIU. Dinner last night was filet of sole, and I didn’t touch it. I probably would have lost weight here, but to compensate for all the poor meals, I’ve been loading up on sugars and starches. I sat outside the Inn with Kristy Rogoff last night; we showed each other the contents of our wallets. Kristy is sweet, but she seems younger than she actually is. Later, I met some old lady from Brooklyn, a retired high school teacher who was once a short story writer – she got honorable mention in a ‘40s Story Magazine contest that Norman Mailer won – and now is working on her poetry, which is probably bad.

She gave me the password “Sholem Aleichem,” and when I responded warmly, she said, “A landsman, eh?” I’m almost ashamed to say how pleased I was to meet another Brooklyn Jew. It shouldn’t be that Jews are sort of a secret club with its own password and special handshake like the Phi Beta Kappa one Prof. Fife taught me, but I like the sound of Yiddish. And Hilma Wolitzer’s reading – from her novel about middle-class New York Jews – also made me feel good. Hearing about lifestyles and characters familiar to me got me thinking about my parents and grandparents and friends and Brooklyn stuff. We went to the Barn afterwards, to an Elvis Memorial Pre-‘60s Dance, but I was a little too tired to get into it, though I did get pleasure out of watching Alice and David rock-‘n’-roll together. After French toast this morning, I went to John Irving’s workshop, which was fairly interesting, and then to Geoffrey Wolff’s, a nonfiction one, which also was pretty good. Richard Marek, the literary agent, was leaving for New York, and I had to restrain myself from shouting “Take me with you!” as he got in his car. Miriam from Texas and I sat outside the Inn and sang, “I wanna go home” and played with Dudley, a cute little boy who assured me that I would not melt in the rain. After lunch, I went back to the Barn with Marie Flagg, another

fiction writer, and Leslea Newman, who’s really cool. So far there’s been only one nervous breakdown here, but he came back and is now rooming with the staff psychologist. This afternoon Tim O’Brien read, as did two other Fellows, and I caught a lift back in Greg’s Jeep. I’m definitely going to leave tomorrow. There’s nothing more for me to do here. I’ve gotten way more than my $135 worth and I’ve enjoyed it, but enough’s enough.

Saturday, August 25, 1979
3 PM. I’m feeling less depressed today. By a freak of nature, we actually had some sun for a few hours on a Saturday, so I sat out for an hour. My throat feels better, and I slept well, except when I got up in the middle of the night and felt like Anthony Newley singing, “What kind of fool am I / Who never fell in love?” The other night I wrote a letter to Bill-Dale after reading his first letter in my diary from last year. He surprised me by writing back. He and Chuck (who got thrown out of his own parents’ house) were both also thrown out of Bill-Dale’s parents’ house. I guess they’re

lovers and it was too much for the parents to handle. Bill-Dale is living, incongruously, at a friend’s fraternity house at Rutgers until the semester starts, and Chuck is living in a nearby dorm for international exchange students. Anyway, Bill-Dale enclosed a New Jersey Monthly magazine article about himself and send he wants Wes to send him a copy of my book. (He says Wes “sounds cool.”) Bill-Dale wants me to come to visit him, but his timing is lousy. He starts school next week, and I’ll be busy starting this week. He writes, “You are by far the most interesting person I have ever encountered.” Anyway, I see now that a guy who was so hesitant to have sex with me is having a romantic love affair (getting thrown out of parents’ houses must make it seem that much more romantic) – while I remain unloving and unloved. But what the hell, right? I’ll find someone eventually. Of course I’m seeing Ronna tonight and that also triggers memories – and she’s got a lover now, too. And I don’t. But I have a full life, more invitations than I can handle, and after all, both Bill-Dale and Ronna

have to be at least somewhat interested in me as a person. Dad’s been away for nearly two weeks and he seems to be doing fairly well in Florida working for Ivan’s family. I miss Dad, of course, but I have not really noticed his absence because I’ve been so busy and because so much else in my life remains the same. On some level, I’ve been pretending that Dad’s dead – not because I wish he were, but to see if I could adjust to that tragedy. But of course it’s not the same because even though Dad isn’t here anymore, I know I could always see him if I wanted to. Dad may be coming up next week anyway, to see about taking on another line as a salesman; then Mom will go down to Florida with him for a while. I’ve got to get moving in my search for an apartment. It would be so much easier if I knew where I’d be working and how much money I’ll have coming in. Mom bought me a digital alarm clock today. I’m going to have to adjust to getting up at 6:30 AM to get to Manhattan on time. Since I’ve been sleeping as late as I’ve wanted to for the past six months, waking up early may prove difficult. At least I won’t have to compete with anyone for the bathroom at that hour.

I spoke with Alice, who’s excited about the house on Capitol Hill that she and her brother are planning to buy as a shrewd investment. Alice will eventually be so wealthy she won’t know what to do with all her money. I got an odd letter from Cosmo editor Myra Appleton. I’d asked her to review my book, and she wrote back, saying she would be happy to look at any article I wrote on speculation. I wrote to Rita Mae Brown and Terence Winch, both of whom review books for the Washington Post; perhaps they would be interested in seeing Hitler. I got a strange card from Opal Nations in Italy and some nice words from Thomas Michael Fisher of Star-Web Paper. I wish there was some word from Avis as to when she’s planning to arrive in New York. This looks as if it’s going to be a busy and exciting week. Maude will be coming back after three weeks’ vacation and hopefully our regular mailman will return from vacation, too. Odd how one gets accustomed to routines.

Saturday, August 26, 1978

6 PM. Last night I felt restless even though I got over the bad feelings I had yesterday. But I somehow felt a bit unanchored as I walked along the boardwalk in Rockaway, up Beach 126th Street and past Mason’s house. There was a fog and the Ambrose Lighthouse was flashing. It was chilly enough that I had to zip up my sweatshirt. The sand looked so new and there was so much of it (see, that’s what the Army Corps of Engineers can do for you); somehow it seemed like a moonscape under the new pinkish street lights. The boardwalk and the benches were all new as well, and they smelled – well, they smelled like this house smelled the first night Marc and I slept in it twenty years ago, just about this time of year in 1958. On CBS there was a special last night: 1968. They put it on especially for the tenth anniversary of what they called the most decisive (and divisive) event of that year, the Chicago “police riot” during the Democratic Convention. I cried at the old footage as I’d cried when I first saw the scenes of the streets of Chicago in 1968. That’s when my breakdown really took hold. Dr. Stein came over and prescribed Librium, bed rest and hot baths. Last night, watching the TV show, I got a new perspective on my feelings at that time. I was young and against the war and of course I

identified with the protesters who were being clubbed so brutally. But I was also very confused and guilty and very afraid of the world. Didn’t the pictures of Chicago tell me, that neurotic 17-year-old, that the world was a horrible place? Now that I look back, I see that Chicago in August ’68 had a lot to do with my not leaving the house for nearly a year; it reinforced my agoraphobic feelings. But it is late August 1978 now after all, and this morning, when the doorbell rang, and I was awakened from a dream about getting rejections, I knew that downstairs a mailman had my little book, Disjointed Fictions. I went to the door half-naked and nearly signed the wrong form. It was half an hour before I opened it because I was scared, but finally, in the presence of my parents, I did finally open the package. And I was very pleased and still am at this moment. It’s my book, Disjointed Fictions: from the transfer type that made the cover to the typing of each letter of the stories. I was the one who selected the stories, placed them in the order I wanted, wrote my biography on the back (though George, bless him, had it typeset really nicely). George selected a nice red cover and a grey undercover and put a design, a small box

containing a hand with fingers crossed (symbolic of disjointed and hoping for the best), on the front – that set off the otherwise dull lettering in the title and my name. Mom and Dad liked the description – “To my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Grayson” – though they didn’t quite get the joke (and I see where it’s a little hostile). My name on the spine was written facing up rather than down, but that’s a minor point. I didn’t have any typos as far as I can see, and I’m proud of that. I read the stories in the book and I am proud of them, too. I actually enjoyed every story; if I had just stumbled upon this book, I would have said, “I wish I could write like this.” So I am very proud. I don’t have anything to apologize for. Also today, I welcomed Grandma Ethel home from the hospital, spoke to Ronna and Alice and Gary, watched the new Pope (a fairly unknown Italian cardinal, now Pope John Paul I), felt a cold coming on, and smiled a lot more than usual.

Friday, August 27, 1976
5 PM. A terribly gloomy day. They say the air quality is unhealthy, and I feel it. My sinuses

throb; I sleep leadenly. I awoke this morning filled with charley horse in my neck, my back, my shoulders – the result of yesterday’s heavy lifting. All night I had erections that made me so uncomfortable that finally I had to sleep without my briefs. What I hate most is when I have a rock-hard erection and have to go to the bathroom very badly at the same time: I stand over the toilet, waiting for gravity to do its work, but more often than not, after several minutes I still point to a spot on the ceiling and I have to urinate using really hard hand pressure on my cock to keep from splattering all over the bathroom. I don’t know why I’m writing about this. Last evening I wrote a short and probably very poor story. I have very little inspiration these days, but it doesn’t bother me. Yet there are times when I think I am not living if I am not writing. I spoke to Mandy last night when I called Mike’s house and he was in the shower. Mandy is getting used to her new, better-paying job in a small office, but she says that she thinks life was not meant to be lived traveling on the subways each day to work in Manhattan. Everyone on the train looks so depressed in the morning, Mandy said, “But what can you do? The money has to come from somewhere.”

She and Mike have taken a place for their wedding – Temple Sholom, in Mill Basin – a year from tomorrow. Originally they had planned to wait until Mike has a job, but they realized that could be quite a while and that they could make do on Mandy’s salary if need be. The job situation today is very depressing. Mandy said she and Mike are happy that Mikey is finally doing what he always wanted to do and is starting law school, but she said Stevie Cohn graduated from law school in Philadelphia last year and the only job he could get was part-time, a few hours a week at $5 an hour at a local law firm. Mandy said that Mikey told her and Mike that he’s been going back and forth between his apartment on West 23rd and the beach, and that Larry’s been looking for his own apartment. When I told her I’d bought them an engagement present, Mandy yelled at me – typical of her. She and Mike are so unpretentious and comfortable. One hesitates to predict this couple or that one will be one of the few to make a marriage work, so I won’t. . . This morning I awoke with great aches and pains, as I said, but after a shower-massage I felt better. I went to the New York Public Library on 42nd Street, checked out their collection of literary magazines, looked at an

exhibit of early American manuscripts and literary curios, and took out two more volumes of Anaïs Nin’s diaries, which I’m really getting into. This afternoon I went to visit Grandma Ethel, who looks drawn and who has lost weight. Grandpa Herb called the doctor while I was there, and the lab tests turned out well. Grandma Ethel’s cholesterol is low, the x-rays clear, and there’s no trace of diabetes. But the angina is very painful, a steel vise of pain in her chest, her shoulders, even her jaw. The nitroglycerin tablets relieve the pain, but they give her headaches. We watched Dinah Shore and then I left for home to join my parents for dinner at the Floridian. It’s really depressing to watch the decline of our favorite neighborhood restaurant. Tonight it was emptier than ever, and everyone there seems to be in a state of despair. Four years ago we would have had to stand in line for twenty minutes before getting a table, but now all the competition has taken their customers away.

Sunday, August 28, 1977
8 PM. It was good to see Avis and Helmut yesterday. They had both just bought jeans and boots. We went uptown to Teresa’s and on the way they told me about their trip.

Ellen and David have moved to this terrific farmhouse outside Charlottesville, on a very quiet dirt road. Avis and Helmut arrived in the middle of a heat wave and there was a tornado that tore down a 100-year-old tree, knocked out the electricity, and moved an iron in their room about ten feet. Then the four of them went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where there was nothing to do but lie in the sun. All of them got terribly sunburned and they were grateful that it rained on the third day. But Avis said she had a nice visit with her sister, and she repeated Ellen’s invitation for me to come down and stay with them. I thought I might make the visit to Virginia with Elihu, but Avis said Ellen thinks Elihu is such a night person, he might be very bored there, especially with no TV. Elihu had a pretty hard time visiting the McAllisters when they were living in Middlebury (hard for me to understand after being there; I think it’s wonderful), so Ellen and David had to spend all their time trying to entertain him. Teresa wasn’t in when we arrived, but a note on the door told us to ring next door. Wanda, the Haitian pianist who teaches at Rutgers, told us that Teresa and Jane, her old roommate from Palo Alto, had just gone to the store for some groceries. Avis, Helmut and I sat in Wanda’s living room as she graciously

entertained us and told funny stories about faculty meetings. Teresa and Jane finally got back from the store, and we had cheese and crackers and drinks. Teresa’s grandfather finally died a couple of weeks ago and she had to go visit her grandmother later that evening. Grandpa Virgil died at home and it was pretty awful. Teresa said he looked like a monster the last few days. But dying was all he wanted to do; at 87, he had just tired of life. Don wasn’t around last night, for some reason. Jane, it turns out, works with him in the Times Book Division, selling video cassettes to teachers – so that’s how Teresa met Don. Jane is very sexy in a big-boned, freckled California way; she said she’d send me some workbooks on teaching basic writing skills that might be valuable to me. While I was chatting with Jane and Helmut, I could hear Teresa in the background telling Avis about her problems with Don. His wife isn’t making it easy for him to get a divorce, and if she ever finds out about Teresa, that will only make things worse. Don’s daughters want to visit him in the city, so he’s either got to “borrow” a friend’s apartment or else he and Teresa might get a bigger, three-bedroom place. (Teresa would

stay in Williamsburg with her parents when Don’s daughters come visit.) But I think Teresa really likes her building. People kept dropping in: Lance from next door, to borrow a pot (his roommate – lover? – Ari was cooking dinner); and Connie from downstairs came by to check out Teresa’s new stereo. Teresa said she’d tried to call me while I was in Vermont and Jonny just said, “Oh, he’s gone.” Avis and Helmut said goodbye to Teresa, and she returned my camera, and the three of us went downtown and had dinner (my idea, their treat) at 125 Prince Street in Soho. Helmut has really gotten himself hooked on TV and I told him I’m going to test him on commercial jingles. They gave me Libby’s tent and camping equipment, which I put in my trunk so I can return it to Libby’s house when I’m in the Slope this week. Helmut was anxious to take a ride on the Staten Island ferry, so we put the car on it. I hate the ferry, but it really wasn’t so bad. I thought I might have an anxiety attack, but I didn’t even though I tried to induce one. You really don’t feel any motion on the ferry at all. We drove back over the Verrazano and I dropped them off at Avis’s parents’ apartment in Sheepshead Bay. Back at home, I read the Sunday Times and finally fell asleep.

Helmut’s flight, which was supposed to leave tonight, was delayed until tomorrow morning by the London air traffic controllers’ strike. Avis phoned early this evening and we went to dinner at the Arch. She wanted to hear all about Bread Loaf and I told her everything; it’s fun to be able to tell someone about my trip for a change. While we were waiting for a table, I noticed Ronna’s sister in the restaurant lobby. I went over to kiss her hello, and I told her how beautiful she looked. She did – she’s tanned and she’s lost weight; Sue’s face was always pretty. She told me that they’ve moved, that she’s graduating BC in January as a Health Science major, that she had a summer job at the city Health Department. Ronna, Sue said, was at Susan’s house with Susan and Evan, and Mrs. C and her boyfriend went with Billy to Montauk on vacation. Of course, I didn’t mention Ronna to her sister; instead, I told Sue about Vermont, and when the hostess called “Grayson” to say that our table was waiting, I just said, “Give my regards at home.” Over dinner, Alice told me about her nightmarish weekend in Washington. That guy she corresponded with, Bill Hartford, has something wrong with him. His face, Alice

said, was actually so grotesque-looking that she couldn’t eat in his presence. He must look very gruesome – I can’t imagine it – but Alice said his face gave her nightmares. Alice tried to be her natural irascible self (if she was kindly, Bill would have been even more hurt) and let him down as gently as possible. “It’s not a question of his being unattractive,” Alice said. “To me, he was repulsive.” Good news, though: Doubleday is definitely interested in doing Alice’s book.

Sunday, August 29, 1976
7 PM. It strikes me that I do not know how to proceed with my life. It is the end of August, the end of the summer. Wednesday is September and where am I? I have a whole week in front of me and absolutely no structure to it at all. I am not going to school, I am not working, I am not traveling, I am not involved with anyone. I write – but that’s not enough for me. Maybe if my family life were fixed, I could begin to make

decisions. But my parents and brothers are, if anything, more up in the air than I am on. And we’re running through money with little appreciable income. If I were sure Dad and Mom were moving to Florida by a fixed date, I would make plans. What plans, I don’t know. For the first time in my life – with the exception of 1968, when I had my breakdown – I find myself facing a September without classes and books and learning. This is preposterous, I want to say. But that does no good, nor does my envy of Ronna beginning graduate school or Mikey beginning law school. Oh, I’m relatively certain I’m not going to crack up; no doubt I’ll fall into something. For one thing, the lack of money makes doing something a necessity. But I’ve never lived life like that: “falling into things.” Thank the Lord I have my fiction and this diary to preserve my sanity. Oh, how does one go about preparing oneself to be a cult figure? I want to be famous and rich and have admirers and produce good work and be a part of the world stage. I want to play a role in literature, in politics, in society. Now I feel cut off from the world. It’s as though I’m trying to get across my message (what Sam Levenson spoke about at

commencement) and there’s nobody there to hear it. I’m not making contract with anyone. Today I had lunch at the Burger King in Hewlett (the one I mentioned in “Roman Buildings”) and behind me on line were a beautiful blond couple about 17. They were so cute and so fresh-faced, so boyish and girlish and playful that I cherished the moment that I shared a bemused smile with them over somebody making a scene in the restaurant. I wanted to be them, to be a part of things and 17 again, to feel the first pangs of living as an adult. Now, at 25, I’m already old. I’m a baby still, emotionally, that’s true – but I’m a world-weary, cynical, old-maidish, avuncular baby. How I’d love to be innocent again. Why, I’d even love feeling that stifling adolescent guilt again! But I fear I’m growing repetitious here, and I can’t stand that. I pleased myself (but not enough – it’s never enough) by writing a story yesterday, “The Domino Theory,” the most Kafkaesque of my stories. Last night Alice and I went to the movies, to see The Omen, which bored me a little and frightened me not at all. Before we left, Alice had me call up the home for the blind where Jim works and pretend I was a person with a

blind uncle and find out the address of the place. I did so, mostly because I love impersonating people over the phone. Alice wants to “prove her love” (no, strike love – she’s adamant that she does not love Jim, she just can’t get him out of her mind) by showing up at Jim’s place of work. I think I convinced Alice that in the long run it would only be self-destructive, but she’s such a baby about her crushes that I expect her to go there during the week. Unlike me, who goes away at the slightest hint of rejection, Alice has no idea when to take no for an answer. I was at the beach for a bit today with Mikey and his mother; they’re both getting settled in at their new apartments. Now that he’s no longer working, Mikey has little to do but await the start of law school next week. He said Mason is home, but he didn’t speak to him. I wonder how Mason is keeping himself together these days.

Wednesday, August 30, 1978
10 PM. Life seems good tonight. I feel very alive.

This evening I taught my last class at LIU, finishing up Seize the Day and delivering an impromptu lecture on Post-War American Fiction And Where It Is Going – probably pompous, but I enjoyed myself. Then I drove into the Village to talk to Laura at the bookstore. She just came back from her vacation and looks tanned and rested. Jon Baumbach is back in Brooklyn, and when Laura called him up, he said, “Did you hear what Grayson did?” (So I’m Grayson now.) Jerry Klinkowitz felt he had to tell Jon about the story I wrote about him. Jon was outraged, but after a while, he calmed down and decided he’d had pretty good luck lately, what with the Guggenheim, and eventually he rather liked the idea of being a character in a story. Laura thinks Klinkowitz enjoyed turning the knife a little; he must dislike Jon a bit, or why would he have accepted the story in the first place? Anyway, I wrote it, but Jerry is the one who’s publishing it. Laura said Peter Spielberg looked like he’d been going through a depression when she visited him at Wellfleet. But he has his writing routine, and he’s happy that Twiddledum Twaddledum just found an English publisher. Peter is a bit pissed that Baumbach got this Sukenick protégé from Colorado to take over

the first-year MFA program class; I keep up on these things, but I’ve never heard of the guy. He may be a great teacher, but I’m probably just as qualified. Laura said she doesn’t want to teach composition at Brooklyn, but Stanley Hoffman has first dibs on the creative writing class she wants. I was in Boylan Hall on Monday and noticed that two evening writing courses have no instructor, so I wrote to Neil Schaeffer, the SGS deputy chair, about my teaching them. Of course my name is mud at the BC English Department, but what do I care? I’ve got to live up to my reputation as a man with chutzpah. Harvey recently called Laura because he thought he was dying of leukemia; it turned out, as he discovered in the emergency room of Methodist Hospital, that it was only a virus. Laura told me to tell George to send six copies of Disjointed Fictions to the store. I had called George last night; he was groggy from too much Contac taken for his bad hay fever. George told me he’d sent me a letter about the book; he’s pleased with some parts of it and displeased with others. Neither of us feel comfortable discussing “business” over the phone, so we stuck to small talk.

I told him that if he takes a table at the New York Book Fair next month, I’ll man it (person it?). So much for literary gossip, although at the bookstore I did run into Prof. Jones from Philosophy (I have a slight crush on him; he’s 30, blond, tanned, well-built, very cute and gay) and Lynne Rosen, whom I hadn’t seen in years. She’s still working for Social Security and isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life – maybe (what else?) “go back to school” She saw the thing on Page Six in the Post and knew I’d been with the Fiction Collective at one time. She still sees Renee, who’s working at Downstate and has been living with some guy for years now. What surprises me is that people I don’t really know seem to notice me. In a way, a small way, I’m already something of a public person. But who cares what people say about me? It’s only a few people who count. One of them, Dr. Abraham Lipton, sent me a reply to the Courier-Life article and letter I sent him. My old psychiatrist said he would be “honored” if I would visit him to chat for a while. Last night I stayed up till 4 AM and wrote a soap opera parody, which I sent off to TV Guide.

Friday, August 31, 1979
2 PM on the last day of August and the start of the Labor Day weekend. My head is very heavy; it must be the humidity affecting my sinuses. Yesterday afternoon I drove out to Rockaway and went to the library there. The new Publishers Weekly had the fall announcements. Taplinger had a full-page ad, and Ivy Strick’s The Home Makers got a fairly good review. It’s still pretty sad that hardcover books have such a short life span. Crad Kilodney encourages me to write an article about my experiences with commercial book publishing and my own attempts at promotion. I’ll get around to it eventually, maybe in a month or so when I’m sure it’s really all over. I still have hopes that People will come out with a review, but if it’s not this week, then my hopes will fade considerably. Today I went into Waldenbooks and saw that all five copies are still unsold. Enough about my writing career for now. Why don’t I just resolve to forget about it for the rest of the weekend and concentrate on other aspects of life? After dinner at McDonald’s yesterday, I visited Grandma Ethel and Grandpa Herb. Grandpa has been having trouble sleeping.

“I think a lot about D-E-A-T-H,” he said. “I spell it so your Grandma won’t know what I’m talking about.” Grandpa Herb is 75 now, and he’s going to die within the next few years, so I guess it’s natural to have that fear. He says he can’t explain it to me because I’m too young. And I am. For all my brave talk, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be old and approaching death. Grandpa Herb has seen his much younger brother die and now his older brother is completely senile and helpless. Grandma Ethel says Aunt Arlyne’s mother Hannah is also going senile; she forgets and calls Arlyne or her sisters three times a day. When Grandma went out for her nightly game of canasta, where she can’t lose or win more than thirty cents a game, I stayed to watch TV with Grandpa. He gave me a 1979 proof set of coins for Marc, and after an hour I left for Brooklyn. It was a gorgeous drive home from the beach. I called Avis and spoke to her father, who said that she mailed her passport to Frankfurt so she could go to Israel, but now she may not have gotten it back in the mail. I’m a bit worried about Avis.

After marking half of my Visual Arts class’s papers, I realized that they don’t write much better than my remedial students at LIU or Kingsborough. There are comma splices, fragments, run-ons, awful spelling, no apostrophes on possessives, poor transitions, weak sentence structure, and an absence of specifics. I’m going to have to teach grammar; they’ll complain, but they need the discipline. This morning I got our early and did errands, getting money at the bank, decongestant at the drugstore, gas at the gas station, and stationery supplies. Next week I’m going to begin searching in earnest for apartments. Hopefully, I will hear from one of the CUNY colleges about some additional courses. I didn’t get the job at NYCCC, thank goodness. Mom is very glad that Dad will be coming home tonight, as she’s missed him terribly. Next week she and Jonny flying back to Miami with Dad to stay with him for a while. Mom again brought up the idea of my taking an apartment with Marc, but I told her I didn’t want to have to put up with drugs, Deanna’s constant presence, loud music, and Marc’s creepier friends. I love Marc, but our lifestyles are irreconcilably different. I want privacy, anyway.

I’m looking forward to my session with Dr. Pasquale tonight. Afterwards I may drop by Alice’s, where some of Peter’s friends are gathering to watch him as an imposter on To Tell the Truth.

Thursday, September 1, 1977
9 PM. It’s September already. Coming up is Labor Day weekend, then Jonny goes back to school (I think he’ll be grateful for it). The next week is Rosh Hashona, and I should find out if I’ll be teaching this term. And then it will be autumn. This summer has been a remarkable one. Not everything that happened was good, but I feel I’ve grown. Grandpa Nat’s illness has taken a terrible toll on all of us, and the crisis is far from over, but I could accept it – indeed, at this point I’d almost welcome it – if he died. Grandpa Herb told me something that Dad has been unwilling to: Grandpa Nat’s nursing home is costing Dad a great deal of money. Grandma Sylvia is still unwilling to leave Florida. Grandpa Herb says she’s wrong if she thinks that when her brothers Daniel and Bernard come down in a few months, they’ll be at her beck and call.

“They have their own lives,” said Grandpa Herb, and he knows the brothers all pretty well from when they were kids and lived next door to each other. Grandpa Nat doesn’t really know what’s going on anymore, and I can’t help thinking how simpler things would have been had he died. But back in July, I prayed for him not to die. I think I’d like to see him again, although I know it would scare me and though he probably wouldn’t know me. It might be best just to remember him as he was when I saw him last spring. Grandpa Herb says he’s got a lot of problems left from Uncle Abe’s death. He’s been running around to the Transit Authority, to Social Security, to the Veterans Administration and other places, trying to see what money there is. Mitch and Eddie, Grandpa says, are so negligent. Mitch is breaking down emotionally, and Grandma Ethel wants him to see a psychiatrist. His girlfriend wants to leave him (if you ask me, that’s probably a blessing, as she’s a stupid, shallow girl; Abe never liked her, and neither do my grandparents). Mitch is not going to school anymore, and he and Eddie don’t get along at all. Grandpa Herb feels they need some guidance, but he doesn’t know from where they can get it. They’re on welfare now.

Last night Marc took Grandpa Herb and Grandma Ethel to Oceanside for dinner, and Marty gave Grandpa Herb Arlyne’s old car, the ’73 Mercury Montego, which has only 12,000 miles on it. (As the owner of a ’73 Mercury, I say good luck to him.) Today, after she got back from shopping, Grandma Ethel made me dinner, and I tried to repay her by washing the dishes. She said Wendy had a fantastic time on her crosscountry trip but didn’t grow even a quarter of an inch. Last night Wendy’s boyfriend, 16, called; I think he’s a little person, too. I think I forgot to note in my diary that on Monday I had my first moped ride, after I got back from the beach. Marc rented a moped from the place on the corner and let Deanna, her brother and me ride it around the block. It was noisy and I was unsure of myself at first, but gradually I speeded up and could control it. Vito called again last night, and I’m glad we’re getting close again. I liked his remark when I told him Avis and Helmut left for Europe on separate flights: “Yeah, well, they probably don’t want to leave the kids in the lurch.” Vito won’t take me to a gay bar. He says he doesn’t want me to have a gay experience, but I told him I would like to have a relationship with a guy. I really had this crush on Vincent, the waiter at Bread Loaf, and now that I know

Libby’s friend Tommy is bisexual, I’d like to get closer to him. I’m convinced it will happen, too, sooner or later. I’m not going to fight my feelings – any feelings, for that matter – any longer. That’s one of the things I learned this summer. I coped so well with Grandpa Nat’s illness and Uncle Abe’s death and the blackout while Mom and Dad were away. I learned a lot from Avis and Helmut’s visit and from my stay at Bread Loaf. I’m closer to being a mensch than I ever have been. I’m beginning to like myself again, to trust my feelings and my strength. If I haven’t been as productive this week as I might have liked, well, that will come eventually, too.

Monday, September 2, 1978
4 PM. Yesterday’s depression was short-lived. I feel proud that I’m learning to control my depressions. They aren’t as frequent or as deep as they used to be. I’ll never completely eliminate depression from my life, of course, but I know more now how to lessen its effects and its duration. Yesterday I got this book by Dr. Manuel Smith, Kicking the Fear Habit. He advocates the

counter-phobic behavioral approach that I now subscribe to. I only wish that ten years ago I had known about it. But I don’t regret anything. My tooth stopped bothering me. I bought a shirt in Macy’s and ate out, I read, I chatted with Evie and Jonny on the porch, and I was very relaxed and about to make a cup of tea for myself when the phone rang at 9:30 PM last night. It was Marc, and immediately I knew something was wrong. He and Deanna had gone shopping at Kings Plaza and when they returned to level 6 in the parking lot, his car was gone – stolen. I told him to go down to the security office and I’d be right over. Dad, when he heard the news, acted true to form. He raged at everything anybody said, so much that I refused to take him with me. Dad again has this attitude: Why me? “Of all the hundreds of cars in Kings Plaza, they had to pick Marc’s,” he moaned. I don’t see that as a very helpful attitude. Nor is Dad’s trying to assess blame: “Deanna and her shopping! It’s her fault!” “The mall’s security! That lousy place!” As my lenses were in the Aseptor, I put on my glasses and drove to the mall. Marc and

Deanna were in the security office and they were searching all levels for the Camaro. But the security people were swamped: a heart-attack victim had to be taken away in an ambulance, a robber resisted arrest and bit a guard (whose shirt was splattered with his own blood), a half-dozen other crises. I went to a pay phone and called the police; then I phoned Mikey, who said he’d drive over. Meanwhile, another girl came in and said that someone had broken the lock and ignition in her car, also a blue Camaro. As it appeared unlikely the police would get there – they were changing shifts and there would be a delay – Dad, who’d come over, drove Marc and Deanna over to the 63rd Precinct. Mikey and I followed them there and saw that it was all reporting bullshit, so we left and drove around the likely dumping grounds of Gerritsen Beach and Bergen Beach, spotting nothing. Perhaps someone had ordered a blue Camaro and it was stolen for him. Maybe it’s at a neighborhood chop shop. Anyway, I thanked Mikey for driving in from Rockaway to help; it was very nice of him. At midnight I went to bed. When I was in the mall earlier yesterday, I left my car door unlocked, as I always do. But of course no one would steal my heap of junk.

Marc treats his car royally, shining it, waxing it, take care of each little scrape – while I just let my car deteriorate. Maybe I’m not so stupid, after all, in viewing the car not as a possession but as a convenience to get me from here to there. In a way this proves that there are no real possessions; we expect we “own” things, but we don’t – we can’t. Because of this theft, I feel less smug, and feeling less smug is always helpful. (In his letter Bill-Dale said he hated smugness and loved “whatever its opposite is” – yet he also said he was “smug about bisexuality being the ideal state.”) Marc is depressed, of course; he had a lot of money and a lot of himself invested in that car. Let’s hope the police find it. I spoke to Grandma Sylvia, who was positively kvelling over Disjointed Fictions; she even found her name in it. She told me, “I just know you’re going to be rich and famous. I only wish Grandpa could read this book.” Her reaction was the nicest I’ve had. I found a campaign poster of that BC student government ninny Bruce Balmer. Below and above his photo were BRUCE BALMER and FOR THE DEATH PENALTY. Only in small letters did it say what he was running for: state senator. God. And Chester Kravitz is running for assemblyman.

Monday, September 3, 1979
5 PM on Labor Day. I’m not looking forward to going back to work tomorrow. I regret the end of summer. Dr. Pasquale said that when I first came to him in June, I had been worried about how I’d fill up my time. It turned out so well that I learned to love not working. If I had my druthers, I wouldn’t be teaching at all this term. Well, maybe that’s not true. I just don’t like feeling so harried. I’d like to have just a couple more weeks of summer without any worries about working. Last evening was perfect. Mikey came over at 6 PM and we went over to Avis’s parents’ in Sheepshead Bay to pick her up. Then we had a good Italian dinner at Collaro’s on MacDonald Avenue. I became slightly silly afterwards as Mikey drove us into Manhattan. We were all collapsed in laughter as we went over the bumps on East Houston Street. I called up Alice, who told us we could come up; Peter had gone to Philadelphia to review a show and wouldn’t be back for several hours. Alice showed us a copy of her book, Roller Fever, which doesn’t look nearly as bad as Alice had said it did. The paper is cheap, but

I’d be proud of it if I were Alice. It’s the selection of Scholastic Book Club this month and they expect it will sell 300,000 copies. Avis had brought $35 worth of grass she’d bought from Marc (I was the delivery boy) and Alice brought out her rolling paper; she’s begun to smoke since Peter moved in. Mikey abstained, as usual, but Avis, Alice and I got fairly stoned. When we’d come in, Alice had been working on an article idea about different celebrities who came from Brooklyn, so we spent time trying to think up names. Avis and Alice are such opposites: Avis, the last of the flower children, moving to Israel to try to “find herself,” a committed socialist and very Europeanized after all her years in Germany; Alice, the quintessential tough New Yorker of the ‘70s, hard-driving, interested in getting ahead, getting rich and getting famous. I don’t think they can understand each other, and yet they’re both good friends to me. Avis disapproves of much of our lifestyles: she makes fun of Brooklyn, American TV (what else can you do with it but make of fun of it, I guess), and “dressing up.” She said she’ll always live in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. I like having Avis shake up some of my values; we have spirited arguments about politics, but I love a good argument.

I think Alice thinks Avis is pretentious, but when we’re stoned, we all get on well as we did last night. Mikey? Mikey is always there, it seems, but never noticed – until you realize he’s gone away. He’s cynical – in college his byword was “It sucks” – but more honest than anyone and about as down-to-earth and decent a person as you can find living on the island of Manhattan. I love the view from Alice’s window, especially the Empire State Building (the lights were all white last night). I love being in the city at night in summer; even Avis admitted it felt magical. Alice told me she went to see Sean Wilentz at the bookstore. He’s got a job as Assistant Professor of History at Princeton and is taking his dissertation to publishers. Sean said they’ll carry Alice’s book, and when Alice asked him about my book, he said, “We’re sold out on Disjointed Fictions.” Alice said no, she meant the hardcover Hitler; Sean had never heard of it and he asked his father to carry it. Alice, in matchmaker mode, said Scott Sommer did call her friend Ellen, and she’s trying to fix up Renee’s ex-boyfriend Billy up with Kathy Winters after Billy asked Kathy to go to bed with him.

Well. Summer’s over. Tomorrow I have my class at SVA, a rush-hour subway ride, and maybe that interview at Brooklyn College if I can reschedule it. I’m probably going to very disappointed when People comes out without the supposedly scheduled review of my book, but perhaps I’ll be too busy to be depressed.

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