An oddly short chapter. I glance at the complete diaries and truly do not know what criteria Leonard used, so much reading and writing not included. However. She begins with her birthday again. She is 38. “A great deal happier than I was at 28; and happier today than I was yesterday having this afternoon arrived at some idea of a new form for a new novel.” Which will be Jacob’s Room, a new main heading.
“I figure that the approach will be entirely different this time: no scaffolding; scarcely a brick to be seen; all crepuscular, but the heart, the passion, humour, everything as bright as fire in the mist. Then I’ll find room for so much–a gaiety–an inconsequence–a light spirited stepping at my sweet will.”
I have to say, this isn’t exactly writing advice as we know it. But it is helpful to read as a writer, to watch her feel her way toward a new way of forming a novel, how that process is more vision and sensations than hardware.
“The danger is the damned egotistical self…” I’m going to put in a main heading for ego: as obstacle in writing and see if more turns up. Indexing also requires a certain amount of feeling your way, the sense that an idea is important to the author when you first encounter it. Stick it in, see if it comes up again, you can always take it out later when you edit. And I’m going to give ego a see also self-appraisal and again resist “narcissism!” Dang it though, I’m going to put it in anyway because I’ve thought of it twice, and that means someone else may think of it. I’ll just redirect it, as I keep doing, with See self-appraisal and See ego and see where it all takes me. Again, a lot shifts as I go, and will even more in the final edit.
She imagines this new book will take hands with Kew Gardens and “Mark on the Wall, The” and dance in unity with them. “What the unity will be I have yet to discover…” isn’t that a lovely image of an author’s works. Matisse popped right into my head.
But, that’s a free association step too far. Back to Virginia. She evaluates her self, past and self, future and is critical but kind with both.
Others are critical and kind with her new essay on Henry James and she is irritated with an old man (65, she looked him up), who attacked it and insinuated that she must be one of James’ “sentimental lady” friends. She is mortified, but also puts it down to being “a woman writing well, and writing in The Times.” She is philosophical about it too, that there is always a grain of truth in criticism, and she is “damnably refined” when she writes for that paper.
Beginning a new book, and the process of that — so many intertwined thoughts and emotions, so many questions for me on how to phrase them so that others can find them! Emotions I might not index for a client with limited space, but I think they are important here, so I’m doing them. Putting them all in for later editing. Determination, doubts, beginning a new book, new book, beginning a, process of writing, difficulty of writing… I don’t know, time will tell. She compares writing a book to walking a long distance, the excitement at first, turning to doubts, turning to steady determination.
More books, more authors. Some ad hominem about Conrad, Joseph which I will show to my 17 year old. He has to read Heart of Darkness for school this month, and keeps appearing in doorways saying “why?” and “frickin’ racist.”
Some thoughts on entertainment value in Don Quixote and now that I have that main heading I realize she was just talking about that quality in her own fiction, I overlooked it, and have to go back. And then also intention, of writers.
She charges ahead with Jacob’s Room. They have a visit from T. S. Eliot, and she stalls out, can’t write, gets depressed. And then of course she’s depressed about everything: money, lack of children, living so far from everyone, the price of groceries, aging, Ireland… “And with it all how happy I am–if it weren’t for my feeling that it’s a strip of pavement over an abyss. New heading for happiness. I have to go back again and look for where I missed it, because looking back to the start of this entry, there it is! She’s not known for it, though she did have a lot. Good to note where it appears.