Highsmith Quotes: Diary, 2/28 to 3/4/22

Writing when it flows, and when it doesn’t; my way to happiness; pain perception; click bait; Nog and fiction; Pablo does it again; Chomsky on Ukraine.

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Book Quoted


While the writing continues going more or less well, I’m only spending two hours a day on it, and the dictation has totally dried up.  So, back to Prison Diary 4.

I dictated three new pages and did cleanup on two or three others that I had put off.  This is a reasonable amount of work, and my back is tired.  The “office” has its disadvantages and advantages.  Later, I did cleanup on the new pages as well.  It’s still early (3:42); I’ve tried to get interested in a couple of books, and failed.  Pablo will be arriving fairly soon, for nothing much, probably.

Last day of the month, and no sign of my Probation Officer.  Looks like I may “skate” this month.

Today was a good day!  Not only did I start a rewrite of the Fynn novel, not only did I do serious work on dictation, [and] despite finding nothing to read that engaged me, yet I went further and wrote even more pages on the scene that I’ve talked about recently, loving every minute.  My way to happiness is to write, particularly fiction, and I might even say, romantic fiction.  No guarantee that it will lead to anything; yet, I think this is the way to go, at least for now, for me.

I was on the verge of being depressed again; writing took me out of it.  It’s like a dream when it flows.  In retrospect, it seems that I lose all sense of self.  The body is happy.  Is this what it’s like to be Stephen King or Anne Rice, or Anaïs Nin writing her diary?  It’s almost like a drug.

Ask me in the middle of it, and I might say, “No, it’s nothing like that, I’m aware at every moment of what I’m doing, most of it is sentence-construction games and pondering word choices and worrying about where am I going with this.”  Well, yeah, it’s all that too, but only when the dream fails for a moment.  If it comes back, the time just flies by, and the words write themselves, seemingly.

Is there a road to this plateau?  If I’m sitting there in the morning, as I was this morning, struggling, hacking away, hammering nails when I want to be running wood through the buzz saw—what to do?  What did I do?  I quit for a while, had breakfast, puttered around, washed dishes, tried to read, put on the TV, etc.  Then, inspiration.  Fynn sees Apple’s hat lying on the ground, and I’m off and running, running wood through the buzz saw like a maniac (getting a little carried away here).  But wow, if writing were always like this! [Apple is a young girl, Fynn is her elderly neighbor.]

I thought of Apple’s hat on the ground yesterday; it was only this evening that I realized what it meant and how to resolve the mystery.  She had run away!  It was obvious in retrospect.  So Fynn searches for her and finds her, but meanwhile, a storm has come up, they both get soaked, they return to his cabin.  Lovely texture, and they are brought together again by nature.  Does it fit into the story?  It does; that was fortuitous, but to include a scene that I’m in love with, I’d change the story if I needed to and could.  To hell with “murder your babies”—I’ve never bought into that.  Nurture your babies and make more.

Anyway, that feels like wisdom tonight, and tomorrow I’ll reconsider it.


Item from Neuroscience News this morning:  “Viewing nostalgic images of items and scenes associated with childhood can help to reduce pain perception.”

Is such a thing as a “mental orgasm” possible?  I had a dream this morning that suggests the term.

Great fun writing this morning for 2½ hours, writing.

Fell for Microsoft’s click bait of “The Best 100 Science Fiction Movies of All Time,” which is based on the ratings of critics.  All that this list revealed to me was that 1) there are a lot of good movies out there that I’ve never heard of and would love to see, and 2) the critics are full of shit.  That by their system, A Clockwork Orange scores below such bores as Solaris and 2001: A Space Odyssey was proof enough for me of my #2.  However, I bookmarked the link, because maybe some day real soon now (code talk for “probably never”) I’ll want to go back and write the list down.  It would at the least provide fodder for a more than usually lively discussion at the Hemlock Club, though Nog probably would feel left out.  You see, he “doesn’t like fiction.”  ’Course, he hasn’t read The Bros. K. or (I presume) Lonesome Dove or Moby-Dick.  I wonder if he likes Shakespeare?

Visit by my probation officer at 11:00 this morning.  This always sours my mood for a while—doubly unwelcome this morning of all mornings, after such a high.


My pal Pablo does it again.  He called me from the bus stop at Barnes & Noble to tell me that Noam Chomsky is a “useful idiot” for Putin.  He bases this ridiculous statement on “somebody from Ukraine.”  When I try to push back saying that I’ve been reading Chomsky for thirty years (actually closer to fifty), etc., he flies into a rage and says the he doesn’t want to discuss it now, with the usual F-bombs and crap.  Eventually I hung up on him and he hasn’t called back.

I googled “Chomsky on Ukraine” and found two interviews recently published on Truthout; I printed them out.  The search also listed “A Ukrainian translator of Noam Chomsky responds to his recent comments on the Russian invasion.”  If this is what Pablo saw, he’s flown completely off the handle—the translator’s comments amount to nothing more than an insubstantial smear.  Given the translator’s difficult situation, “on the run,” one can understand his haste, but not much else.

Pablo said he would send me a link to what he read; this in itself is unusual (he has an actual source), but it’s a hundred to one that he did not seek out Chomsky’s acual statements, or if he did, that he would not have read them.  I should mention that Pablo also lumped together with Glenn Greenwald and “Matt Tiabbi” (he never gets that name right), calling them “assholes.”  This is what passes for “winning the debate” against the old stubborn one, i.e., me.  What a pal.

I continue extending the Fynn & Apple scene because I love the characters.  It is likely to lead only to wasted paper, but that’s okay—it beats being depressed.  It’s weird how deeply I can get into my own imagination when the words are flowing.

The news from Ukraine is horrifying.


Rain predicted today and tomorrow (Hemlock Club), rain last night.

Some delightful things from Patricia Highsmith, of which I’ll copy just one or two (Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995, Anna Von Planta (ed), Liveright/W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2021):

“To live one’s life in the best way possible, one must live and move always with a sense of unreality, of drama in the smallest things, as though one lived a poem or a novel, attaching the greatest importance to the route one takes to a favorite restaurant, believing oneself while browsing in a bookshop, capable of being unmade or made, destroyed or reborn, by the choice of literature one makes. In one’s room alone, one should be Dante, Robinson Crusoe, Luther, Jesus Christ, Baudelaire, and in short one should be a poet at all times, regarding oneself objectively and the outer world subjectively, compared to which state of mind the reality of the sorrow of a lost love is destructively real and brutal.” p. 326.

“My friends tomorrow—God—it occurred to me today that of the eight, I’ve slept with six. My closest friends.

“1/18/45 The specter of worthlessness, inferiority, inadequacy, haunts, and this is death in guise. Because when he beckons—I will go. But miserable most, not to love unloved, but to die not having drawn upon one’s forces.” p. 327. The previous paragraph is from her diary, this is from her notebook of the same date. [Typo corrected 4/20/22]

Perhaps these weren’t quite as delightful as I thought.  The reason for this lapse may be found in the following note from my Mini-BuJo of last night: “Writing at its best (or worst, re quality): being madly in love with the character(s).”  That is, the emotionality carries over to what one reads after stopping writing. The parenthetical is not a conclusion but a pro forma qualification.

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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