“Daily Waste of Daily Powers,” Highsmith Quotes, etc.

Diary 5/20 to 5/23/22: Patricia Highsmith quotes; Chris Hedges; a dream; stopping caring; disgraceful eating; neuroscientist quote; fiction writing “my calling”; my best reading and writing; wilted cilantro; Jif recall; Australian climate and election.

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

Chris Hedges

{5/20/22} Continued.

Something from [Patricia] Highsmith:  “It is easier to be a poet today than a novelist. The poet can create healthy prose and simple; the novelist has to write within a framework of a philosophy, and can any novelist today build one? Can he even write about himself with respect, mystery, pride, enthusiasm, joy? The psychoanalysts have torn open his soul, everyone has taken a look, and no one is any longer interested in the little gemlike gallstones the writer may pull out of himself and offer, in however a charming setting.”  p. 596-597.


Chris Hedges, in an article titled “No way out but war,” gives us the symptoms of American decline:  “No high speed trains. No universal health care. No viable Covid relief program. No respite from 8.3 percent inflation. No infrastructure programs to repair decaying roads and bridges, which require $41.8 billion to fix the 43,586 structurally deficient bridges, on average 68 years old. No forgiveness of $1.7 trillion in student debt. No addressing income inequality. No program to feed the 17 million children who go to bed each night hungry. No rational gun control or curbing of the epidemic of nihilistic violence and mass shootings. No help for the 100,000 Americans who die each year of drug overdoses. No minimum wage of $15 an hour to counter 44 years of wage stagnation. No respite from gas prices that are projected to hit $6 a gallon.”

He offers this as a cause:  “The United States, as the near unanimous vote to provide nearly $40 billion in aid to Ukraine illustrates, is trapped in the death spiral of unchecked militarism.”


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A dream:  I’m filling in a sudoku puzzle where each square represents a man.  The meaning of this is lost, but I’m seeking men to fill each square.  Then it changes to two other men, each driving a car, picking up more men.  One driver is a homosexual who makes an advance to the man he picks up.  The other driver has a car full of men.  He is driving through a flock of chickens—all I see are heads of chickens through the windshield—then it’s a flock of sheep, then stone crosses of a graveyard.  The driver, who has a black mustache, is then shooting the men in the car, one after the other until all are dead.  Then we see his face again, the men are still alive around him, and the view through the windshield is of a funeral, and I’m wondering, is it the driver’s funeral, or someone else’s?  I wake up. The imagined killings amount to a movie cliché.

[This paragraph is a conclusion of a long description of a 90-minute conversation with TC about a friend.] When one stops caring about a friend, one’s heart hardens beyond the normal hardness of heart one feels towards strangers in this society.  Or, probably I’m just trying to excuse my own behavior which perhaps doesn’t demand excusing in this case.  It’s not an easy situation, and my decision does not sit easily in my mind, but alternatives seem few given … [etc.]

The morality of my decision is complicated by the fact that I am almost always willing to provide cash—when able, of course—to the needy people I see every time I leave home.  The guiding factor should be to do what’s best for my friend.  I think I would not, however, be willing to put him up in my home if it came to that.

Yesterday was essentially given over to two occupations:  talking to TC on the phone (90 minutes total) and masturbating to (eventual) orgasm; the latter was difficult because I did not use sildenafil.  [See separate article for the rest of this.]

Yesterday’s eating was disgraceful:  chips, Cheetos, and cookies.  And one banana.

Patricia Highsmith:  “She has the distinction of being a failure before we begin.  And it is as if I cling to her, exploring, feeling to the utmost, in order to learn, through pain, all that I saw.  Well, perhaps I have learned something, through the painful, masterful, destructive means of chaos of the mind, the inability to concentrate, the daily waste of my daily powers.” p 630.

The last phrase spoke to me:  The daily waste of my daily powers is an accurate description of how I feel most days, primarily because of something also well summed-up in this quote from Randolph Nesse: Good Reasons for Bad Feelings:  “Is there something very important that you are trying to do that you can’t succeed at and can’t give up?” p. 268.

Fiction writing is my “very important thing”; at age 25 or 26 I decided, and told a friend, that my calling was to be a novelist.  Although I still believe this, I have yet to produce anything more substantial than a short first draft of a novel, of which I suppose I must count two:  Taffy’s War, a science fiction novel that I managed to produce about twenty years ago, and TLC, my current project, which produces much hand-wringing (i.e., whining) but almost no new text.

So I daily waste my daily powers—if this diary is a “waste.”  I’ve often told myself (because I have few listeners) that my diary is “my best reading and my best writing.”  It’s still true, but the possibility of book publication is nil unless I make a name as a writer or a terrorist.  I’ll never be a terrorist.


No particular point; I mostly just wanted to get the Highsmith quote into here.  The book [Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Journals, 1941-1995] is, to me, still consistently interesting and entertaining, and never moreso than the last dozen or hundred pages.  The last hundred covers her love-hate-love relationship with Ellen, which is interesting; the last dozen is more focused on her writing, which is interesting and entertaining, and maybe even useful.

By rights I should now shut the laptop and go write some fiction.

I wrote about a page on TLC.

Then I had breakfast with a smoothie and Cheetos, but I forgot to have a banana.  The smoothie included spinach, a couple of sprigs of wilted cilantro, half an apple, a carrot somewhat the worse for drying on the counter for three days, orange juice, and oatmeal.  It was good but the carrot did not get sufficiently ground up by the blender.  I can’t buy fresh cilantro any more, I end up throwing it away.  Fresh spinach, OTOH, lasts and lasts in the fridge, likewise apples (which I expected).

Recall of many Jif peanut butter products; here’s the link.

Democracy Now! has a very interesting interview with an Australian scientist/writer regarding their recent, shocking climate-catastrophe problems and the encouraging “Greenslide” election results.  Go to DemocracyNow.org for the show.

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

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