I couldn’t take it anymore. It’s so hard to watch sappy romantic movies on TV. I could change the channel, but I used to like them for some reason— my hand freezes on the remote, paralyzed. The reminder that in some fairy-tale land people are happy and live happily ever after is just too much. Seeing happy people in real life is beginning to have a similar effect. I don’t want to be like this. I just freeze, locked between a sort of vicarious thrill of seeing that happiness is indeed possible— and the fear that I might actually begin to despise people for their happiness. That’s sick. The movie had been on for an hour when I decided I just had to get out of the house.
I went to the bookstore, to buy more books I don’t need. I ran into a woman from one of my graduate classes, where I will present some of the fragments I’ve been writing here tomorrow night. She asked the tough question: “What’s it all about?” If I knew what it was about, I wouldn’t feel compelled to write a book about it. It’s difficult to explain. It’s a picture in my head. Like the fantasies on TV, I can see it scene by scene. I just need to write them down. It sounds more like fiction than non-fiction, when put that way. Right now, I’m not sure that there is a significant difference. I was looking for more Henry Fielding; I’ve avoided him because I don’t like novels the size of bricks. I’m more of a poetry guy. But I read Shamela this afternoon between classes, and loved it. We talked for a while, and then I got a cappuccino and left with Tom Jones, Moll Flanders, The Resistance to Theory by de Man, and Ian Watt’s Rise of the Novel.
I need to write another scene about the emergence of the novel. I’m actually trying to write this to a lay audience, so I don’t want to get too deeply buried in theory. I want it to be readable, above all else. It has to be concise. I have this horrible nagging fear that I’m always wasting people’s time. I’m not that smart. I just read a lot. One of my teachers e-mailed someone in a Ph.D. program she wants me to consider, saying: “This guy reads Judith Butler [a very dense and complex gender theorist] like it’s the back of a cereal box.” Comments like this bother me, but for bizarre reasons.
I wish I didn’t understand it. Butler goes deeply into Lacan and Freud’s theories of identity. I think that’s part of what made me tip over into depression. Though she’s arcing to refute most of it, I haven’t been able to shake the idea that our identities are formed by prohibition, by all the things we can’t have. If that’s the case, my identity is pretty screwed. I’ve had to accept that the things I really want, I’ll never have (based on experiential precedent). That thought hasn’t left my head since I started reading this stuff— I really hope that it isn’t right. I hope the refutation is as convincing as the Lacanian argument. I had an odd thought in class today, as we were discussing it. What if Freud had been a pothead instead of a cokehead? Maybe he wouldn’t have been so damn oppressive in his theories. I’d trade understanding for happiness any day of the week. I really don’t think ignorance and bliss are related, but there is no direct correlation between understanding and bliss either.
I’ve been trying not to write thoughts like this down, and concentrate on more productive writing. It’s not working. The whining just keeps wanting to come out. As I was leaving the bookstore, I looked over at the crowd of chess-players. There was a guy in a green army jacket that reminded me of my first real friend. Everyone in junior-high hated him, because of his strange manner and dark horn-rimmed glasses. We’d sit in the back of the classroom and play chess, and talk about British TV shows. We’d smuggle little bottles of liquor to class, and drink when people weren’t looking. He joined the Air Force, and was never the same. Now that I’ve had the time to read this much, I don’t think I’ll ever be the same either.
I’m not fishing for support here, just thinking out-loud. I’ll cope, I always do. One way that I cope is just writing about it. Writing, I’ve gotten fairly good at controlling. Life, well, that’s another story.