“My head is not in the first spring of energy…curse my influenza.”
I have not touched this project, or this blog, in over a year. At first I blamed the beginning of the school year, then a new book project, the holidays, illness, lockdown brain, and months of general distress. But I have lost track. Indexing projects normally take two weeks! The editing will require some extra attention.
I think another reason that I flinched away from pulling entries for these last few chapters of A Writer’s Diary, and the close reading required to do so, is that I realized this will be the last decade of her life, rich and dense, but last. Her productivity despite limited writing time and chronic mental and physical illness is a significant part of why I love her diaries. This year, I have not wanted to think about her final downward spiral.
However. I want to finish this index.
The entries Leonard included for this year start on Wednesday, January 7th. She is on the couch again, getting over the flu again. She is starting to finish Waves, The, and while having a bath, is struck by an idea for a new book that will become Three Guineas, “about the sexual life of women: to be called Professions for Women perhaps–Lord how exciting!” And who hasn’t done this, who couldn’t picture the meme: the new idea throws her off the trail of her current book, and she has to fight free of the distraction to get her draft done.
She turns 49, sees an airplane in a field, and reads the next day that three men were killed in the crash. “But we went on, reminding me of that epitaph…when I sank, the other ships sailed on.”
Most of the year is taken up with her revision process for Waves, The and the start of Flush. Despite her usual anxieties, by September she has gotten her usual raves from Leonard and most of her friends, and the professional reviewers love it too. Including one for a paper called Action. I had to look it up: Oswald Mosely’s fascist newspaper ran book reviews?
“Really,” she writes ” this unintelligible book is being better “received” than any of them…And it sells–how unexpected, how odd that people can read that difficult grinding stuff!”
But then sales drop to “50 or so: after the great flare up when we sold 300 in one day…What has happened is that the library readers can’t get through it and are sending their copies back. So, I prophesy, it will now dribble along til we have sold 6,000 and then almost die, yet not quite.” As usual, she’s underestimating, it will sell 7,000 by the end of this chapter.
Forster’s praise is especially encouraging to her, and in November she is exhilarated and full of ideas. “Oh yes, between 50 and 60 I think I shall write out some very singular books, if I live…What a long toil to reach this beginning…!”