Journal of our Characters, 1968 Fiction; 80 pages; Complete; Philadelphia; Age: 16 Late adolescence; last year in high school and family home; Memory, fabrication, commemoration.




First page of the characters; Mss_0019_02.

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Spiral bound notebook; Handwritten; Very good condition; legible throughout;

Prose; Love, marriage, family, romance, death; Many stories appear in these accounts, some from the actual plots, others added from within the characters' points of view; George, Nameless, Nony, Paul, Gideon, Phineas, Katherine, Matthew, Charity and others; Amy and Johanna

The careful handwriting and evenness of the ink are in part the result of the fact that the opening pages of this text are a fair copy of pages in an earlier notebook; I had decided to create a dedicated notebook for the characters, and this is it, filled from beginning to end with each of my characters in turn. The notebook is written only on the recto, and the verso sheet contain notes, dates, and (very occasionally) commentaries on the texts, but they were left blank in order to be used in this way. Already, in 1968, I envisioned this as an annotated text.

1964;   Nameless I, 1970;   Prose, 1968;   Journals from: Summer, 1968;   Journals of: Fall, 1969;   Winter, 1970;   Inventory, 1970;   Amy, 1984.  

Now, after our summer apart and brief, unsatisfying, reconnection for a couple of days in Philadelphia, Amy had left for college. That brief interlude in Philadelphia and the entire last year of my time in Philadelphia were not recorded in a journal. Instead, this project swelled to fill the void.

The initial draft of this project followed in the bound pages of the journal of the summer. But this fair copy was given its own whole journal, a mark of formality and significance. The material autonomy of these objects had strong symbolic and communicative power, and the very clear strong opening of the text, combined with the measured and perfect handwriting, indicates a serious commitment to the project. Interestingly, this transcribed version was written on the recto only, leaving room for notes and commentary on the verso. Only a handful of these notes ever appeared, and they are quite minimal, but the space is notable for its anticipation that this would be an annotated work.

The opening lines spell out the circumstances, and the effort to keep the relationship going through the writing, which has now become the single, sole, site in which any continuity might be obtained. “Tonight I got a letter from Amy. She agreed to write our characters with me. We are going to do an exhaustive analysis of all our characters and relationships.” Plural, relationships, since we knew that our faceted selves had multiplied our connection.

The opening sections are highly synthetic and descriptive. The first page lays out the dates of our intial plots, the formation of the initial characters, and a few structural facts of our lived lives--travels, places, interruptions, events. By the second page the analysis of characters takes over, and the assessment of gender roles, stereotypes, and other aspects of their qualities as features of ourselves comes into focus. By the third page, the confessional strength of the manuscript is clear, and surrogacy of writing this project is stated without any hesitation. “Because I cannot, will, not live without her and because I cannot be with her now, I am going to write this. To be them and not forget. I want only to let this be my whole life, there is nothing more beauitful for me in life, nothing more satisfying. I can never love anyone as much as I love Amy.” That was September, 1968. Writing was not commemorative, it was active engagement, the way to keep love alive. The bulk of the manuscript is written as Nameless, as lover, wife, mother, widow. And then it ended.

The passages are richly written, from inside the characters. No distance separates the point of view of Nameless, for instance, from the conditions of her narration and her interiority. She is a complete persona, an inhabited and fully developed individual. So her writings are as clear as accounts. No fictional contrivance or disturbs their coherence. The entries are all numbered, listed under the character and point of view. Nameless's writings about George and their marriage are extensive. Entry 67 reads: "It is so quiet. Even the insects and the baby have stopped. But things are hanging out of half-open drawers and the room is messy. George, I need you to be here beside me in the bed, at the table, on the porch. You have become such a part of my conscious existence that even my unconscious existence is partially yours. You are not sleepy tonight. You have left the house and gone to ride out softly, quietly, on the moonlit moor. Just for awhile, I know you want to be alone. But even you no longer have illusions of an independent self. Almost without struggling we are now each other. But that does not mean we will not struggle again, we will, you know too. But for now I am happy to wait in the clean, unwrinkled sheets, waiting for you to come back to me, without impatience."

So the entries are produced, one after another, without any sense that they are anything other than the interior thoughts of the characters, expressed, and recorded.

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