Writing a Novel

It is June. This is what I have decided to do with my life just now. I will do this work and lead this life, the one I am leading today. Each morning the blue clock and the crocheted bedspread, the table with the Phone, the books and magazines, the Times at the door. It does not help to remember Rand Avenue in Lexington and old summer rockers still on the gray, dry planks of winter porches. A novel is always written on the day of its writing.

I begin, seeking distance, imagining or pretending to imagine thus:

“She often spent the entire day in blue, limpid boredom. The caressing sting of it was, for her, like the pleasure of lemon, or of cold salt water. This lovely boredom one saw in her eyes, in those pleasant, empty, withdrawn and peering eyes—orbs in a porcelain head. At such times she looked her best, very quiet, her face harmoniously fixed, as if for an important camera. Her skinny brown cat stared at her, hardly blinking. His yellowish-gray gaze was very like her own. They looked at each other, unseeing, into a mirror of eyes, before the cat fell asleep, his lids suddenly closing, tightly, quickly, strangely. ‘That cat has been here with me for seven years and has never looked at television. They are indeed a different species,’ she thought.

“Then she took a cigarette from the pocket of the smock she was wearing. She drew on it, as if it were opium; adding to the opium that was within her, the narcotic of her boredom, as we are told we carry our own heaven and hell within us. Immaculate drugs, hazy drifts of dreams, passivity pure and rich as cream.

“After a dreamy day, she went into her nights. Always she insisted they were full of agitation, restlessness, torment. She was forever like one watched over the whole night in the deepest sleep, who nevertheless awakened worn, with a tremor in her hands, declaring the pains, the unutterable, absorbing drama of sleeplessness. The tossing, the racing, the battles; the captures and escapes hidden behind her oily eyelids. No one was more skillful than she in the confessions of an insomniac, in those redundant yet stirring epics, which she intoned with the dignity of ritual, her hypnotic narration like that of some folk poet ‘steeped in the oral tradition.’ ‘Finally, sleep came over me. … At last. … It was drawing near to four o’clock. The first color was in the sky. … Only to wake up suddenly, completely.’

“Unsavory egotism? No—mere hope of self-definition, the heroism of description, the martyrdom of documentation. The chart of life must be brought up to date every morning. ‘Patient slept fitfully, complained of the stitches. Alarming persistence of the very symptoms for which the operation was performed. Perhaps it is only the classical aching of the stump.’ ”

An impasse. How can she, opiumstill, a dramatic star of ennui, with catlike eyes and…


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