Dear James Diary, 1965 Journal; 49 pages; Complete. Philadelphia, PA Age: 12; Adolescence; A difficult time; misfit and lonely; Bad confessional writing.


Page of Dear James Diary Mss_0010_01.

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School notebook; Handwritten; Ballpoint and paper. Good condition, fading slightly, paper still supple.

Prose; Daily longings, banalities, notes on Amy, others; Amy;

Though this is the opening page in the bound journal, it comes late in the entries of the Diary, which began after the middle of the notebook, no doubt to keep them hidden. By the time I have arrived at July, the journal entries have to be written in the front of the notebook. But I recall that even at the time of writing, I found this a forced and contrived work, and I was uncomfortable with it, a bit ashamed, as if it were insufficient and unsophisticated in its expression of more complex conditions.

Related mss: 1964; Later diaries: 1968, etc.

I am filled with fanasties and longings about which I know almost nothing, so I have invented a character I imagine will be my future lover, husband, mate. His name is James Peter Wheeler, and I believe he lives in England. Because I have become a Beatle fan, and because this part of my life connects me to Amy and my aspirations towards friendship with her, I write to this imaginary character as if our future were assured. This is one of the ways in which my belief in fate manifests itself. The diary is childish, it is filled with emotional outpourings and banal details, statements about how I cannot "live without" this James to whom I am writing, and then notes about buying an album or seeing a friend. The hyperbole of expression careens from extremes of exaggerated intensity to flat-toned statements about the most ordinary events. The external references to songs, to books, to things I am reading and writing, are concrete points of reference within the otherwise somewhat indulgent stream of sentimental statements. Occasionally I put a poem in here as well, such as the one right after the February 18, 1965 entry. Titled, "My Room," it begins, "My room's a tomb, / Wherein I lie / And buried here / Beneath each sigh/ Is I."

The shift in tone from this work to the more developed Amy writings is marked. But this is a harbinger of writing to come that is grounded in the lived experiences that are increasingly absorbing. The fictional imaginings that filled the pages of the earlier novels and stories is about to be channelled into the relationship with Amy and the plots we improvised, characters we invented, inhabited. While this diary feels contrived and constrained, those writings are more raw, passionate, and, over time, far more developed as accounts of the multiple dimensions of that complicated experience.

I didn’t keep other journals or diaries again until 1968, when Amy leaves for camp and college. But in the intervening years, I wrote constantly and extensively from within and about the relationship. The terms were sometimes coded, and sometimes clear, but the kind of fantasmatic yearnings involved were of a different order than those in this naive seeming journal, with its pleadings and emotional outbursts. The Amy writings are written under a sentence of silence about the relationship, and the last piece that named our connection explicitly is this next manuscript, 1964.

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