The writer’s nature is “torn between opposing poles of loneliness and gregariousness.”

Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938)

While reading Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again (1940) I came across something I’d like to quote here. As with most of Wolfe’s work, it’s autobiographical and the following comes from a chapter when he – George Webber – meets Sinclair Lewis – (fictionalized as Lloyd McHarg; link). If you’ve got the time, I recommend reading Webber and McHarg’s whole adventure (it’s pretty hilarious).

Meeting for the first time, Webber shows up at McHarg’s room where he’s socializing with two men absent any “qualities of intellect.” Wondering why the great McHarg would associate with them, he’s puzzled that these men are merely international Babbitts – the same people McHarg (Lewis) satirized. Yet, even as the writer distances himself from such people, it’s inevitable all roads eventually circle back.

The reason became plain enough as he thought about it. Although McHarg and Webber could never belong to Bendien’s [One of the Babbitts] world, there was something of Bendien in both of them–more in McHarg, perhaps, than in himself. Though they belonged to separate worlds, there was still another world to which each of them could find a common entry. This was the world of natural humanity, the world of the earthly, eating, drinking, companionable, and company-loving man. Every artist feels the need of this world desperately. His nature is often torn between opposing poles of loneliness and gregariousness. Isolation he must have to do his work. But fellowship is also a necessity without which he is lost, since the lack of it removes him from all the naturalness of life which he demands more than any other man alive, and which he must share in if he is to grow and prosper in his art. But his need for companionship often betrays him through its very urgency. His hunger and thirst for life often lay him open to the stupidity of fools and the trickery and dishonesty of Philistines and rascals. [Bolding mine]

I’m reminded now of a letter I received from Ted Kooser, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, upon asking him about the importance of writer communities. At first I was irritated by his answer, but as time’s passed it’s become apparent how right he is. Writers are the worst.

I gather you’d like to find a community of young rural poets and for social reasons that might be pleasant, but, as for writing quality poetry, that happens not in a community but in isolation. You will write your best poems, alone, wherever you are, and having other poets around will be an irritation. [May 2, 2013].

Posted in Literature | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Minnesota on the Death of Darwin: “If one such man arises in a century, that century is fortunate.”

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

There’s a certain charm about small-town newspapers. In the case of those early publications – long before radio, television, the Internet – this was where a community got its news, entertainment, and gossip. This was Facebook. As an archival historian, let me tell you: there’s always something waiting to be discovered. So, after realizing that April 18 marked the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s death, I thought I’d do a quick Digital Archive search to see how Minnesotans responded.

But, first, I’d like to share something published three months earlier, on January 18, 1882. Now, for those unfamiliar with the evolution-creationism debate, the Nye-Ham debacle was their first exposure to the creationist movement. Far from being a contemporary phenomenon, though, that kind of nonsense proliferated before the ink on The Origin of Species was dry. Fortunately, then as now, there was always someone available to mock the church – before there was PZ Myers there was the small-town editor doing newspaper-vaudeville. One example of this comes from the New Ulm Weekly Review, which published the text of a “sermon” by the fictional Reverence Plato Johnson.

(Now, if you think modern newspapers are radical for even acknowledging evolution exists, understand that articles like this were standard fair – the religious and wealthy being common targets in the Midwest).

Bruddern de drouble wid some folks is dat dere brains is too large. I don’t ‘tend to be pussonal, an’ has no reference whatever to any man in dis ‘sembly; but dere is people in this worl’ who has ‘pression dat dey oughter have created de Lord, an’ dat it was a act of condescenshun on dere parts dat they ‘lowed de Lord to create dem at all …

It’s no wonder this was the land that produced Sinclair Lewis.

Dis Darwin says dat a man is de gran’son ob a monkey, and dat the Bible ain’t go the truff ob de matter at all. You’se all the chillen of baboons, my belubbed. Wat you tink ob dat? How you like your ancestors? In de beginnin’ every one ob you had a long tail – dat was long ‘for you wore trousers – an some ob you got your tails twisted off, an’ some ob you was ‘shamed ob ‘em, an’ rubbed ‘em off against de trees; an’ at lass de tails got so disgusted dat dey refused to grow. Dat’s what you are, an’ dat’s whar you cum from. Now, den, my idea is dat ebery man oughter speak for himself on dis subjec’. Ef Mr. Darwin was born up in a tree while his mother was stealin’ cocoanuts, it don’t follow that my mudder was up anoder tree doin’ the same tin. Darwin is dead shore dat his ancestors were apes, an’ he oughter know. I ain’t goin’ to contradict it. Ebbery man must look after his own family. As for me, I’se a Bible Christian, an’ was made out ob de dust, an’ don’t take no stock in the monkeys. … De fust chapter ob Gensis am good ’nuff for me, belubbed. Pass de box.

Do you know what’s wrong with people? Their brains are too large! They say we evolved from monkeys? How ignoble! We came from dirt! Now pass the collection plate.

Three months later, when Darwin died from illness, the Library of Congress’ archives reveal a wide spread. Across Minnesota most newspapers reported Darwin’s death, acknowledging his celebrity, and occasionally editorializing that “his theories remain unproven.” Others mourned him alongside two other major nineteenth-century figures who passed around the same time: “Three illustrious men in the realm of poetry, learning and philosophy have recently died, within a few weeks of each other, namely: Longfellow, Darwin, Emerson.” (That same issue also printed the bewildered comments of a reverend from the New York Evangelical Alliance: Evolution “excludes God; it excludes intelligence from everything.”)

At least one newspaper got it right, though, when it published the following letter:

The week past is memorable for the death of a man who has not left his equal behind. It is to the honor of our age that it has proved that nature has not yet lost the power to produce those rare men, not born in every generation, who by their genius change the thought of the world. Charles Darwin was not simply the most distinguished naturalist and philosopher of his age; he was a man who ranks by the side of Copernicus, in astronomy, and Newton, in physics, and Linnaeus, in natural history, and Lavaisier, in chemistry, who revolutionize thought, and whose insight discover new principles of science, which shall guide the researches of generations. If one such man arises in a century, that century is fortunate. To such men as these the world is debtor; men of a genius as true as that of its great singers and teachers, Socrates and Plato and Shakespeare and Goethe. [St. Paul Daily Globe, May 7, 1882]

One-hundred and thirty-two years later, this is still true. Of course, in much the same way we’ve expanded the domain of physics to include that which Newton couldn’t even imagine, so too have we expanded Darwin’s theories to include and account for the full diversity of life. Since Darwin we’ve discovered genetics and mapped the genome; we’ve peered inside the skull to study nature’s imprint on the brain; we’ve uncovered the natural bridge between the social and physical sciences; we’ve gotten a whole lot better at saying, “Maybe I just don’t know – but what if?”

“If one such man [or woman] arises in a century, that century is fortunate.”

Posted in History | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Escaping the Dark Forest: Robert Bly on Deep Image Poetry.

Robert Bly and Ekbert Faas

Robert Bly and Ekbert Faas

While spending my Friday Night on JSTOR, I came across the following interview and decided to share it as, I think, it sheds light on the the “deep image” style of Minnesota’s most-famous living poet.

*  *  *

In 1976, winner of the National Book Award and co-founder of Writers Against the Vietnam War, Robert Bly, sat down for an interview with the novelist and literary critic Ekbert Faas. Published in the magazine boundary 2, the pair discuss everything from D.H. Lawrence to Bly’s criticism of Allen Ginsberg’s Buddhism. (Of the latter, beneath the surface one can feel reverberations from the Merwin-Trungpa “Incident” – or, more accurately, The Great Naropa Poetry Wars). What is particularly interesting, though, is the discussion of Bly’s aesthetic.

Bly imagines a poetry “in which a great ‘flowing’ consciousness is present” that is also “aware of [the outer world] all the time.” While he abhors the term “Deep Image,” this is what he’s suggesting and it’s become the traditional label of his work. By going deep into the dark woods of one’s psyche, coming out the other side aware of oneself and the world, only then can one create art that transcends both. Things like Pop Art fail to find this “adult energy of the unconscious” and as a form makes sense only as artistic “infantilization.” Surrealism and open form can be a launching point to discover this energy, but still

[t]here is a powerful magnet over there, not far away, near the wall. It is the magnet of the crib … or “the primitive man.” It is too strong in America; it’s too strong! It pulls art down into the crib, it pulls it backward (679).

Bly then goes on to target the New York School as being especially victim to this. Holding up the Chinese artists who “moved for a thousand years into adult minglings of Yin and Yang, of mist and discipline. We go a little way away from the patriarchal and start to curve down.” To resist this pull, defeat the “lethargy in the colleges,” one must (switch metaphors and) go deep into their own “forest” – their psyche, the deep unconscious. Unfortunately, what many artists do

is we find a gingerbread house in the forest and stay there. We never bother to put the witch into her own oven. We just ask for more cookies (680).

To kill the witch and find where the forest opens to wide fields and open sky, the soul must go into the part of our being that suffers “and into the body, into a deep sexual life.” In other words, we must embrace our humanity. As Americans, he argues, we have yet to do this – and don’t want to. We would prefer to stay in the gingerbread house, getting fat, instead of growing up. As has been made clear, Bly’s aesthetic is also a psychology, and it’s one he uses to diagnose his fellow-countrymen:

We went into the Vietnam War and did all that … killing and we now refuse to go through the … grief (680).

In that war – and the many others that followed – we carried on without resolution. Sure there were agreements written on paper, rallies on carriers, a few second-page articles in The New York Times, but before we could understand what had happened the silence was only a pause and the drums beat on. A little drummer boy marches us in circles through the forest and nobody’s got the courage to tell him to stop. So around and around we go.

Sources/Further Reading:
Faas, Ekbert and Robert Bly. “An Interview with Robert Bly.” boundary 2 4 (1976): 677-700.
Faas, Ekbert. “Robert Bly.” boundary 2 4 (1976): 707-726.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Sinclair Lewis and Floyd B. Olson at Breezy Point Lodge

Overlooking Minnesota’s Big Pelican Lake is a lodge, a large one, renowned for the visitors it’s attracted in its long history. Everyone from actors to governors have stayed there, planting themselves on Breezy Point Resort’s long, lumber decks overlooking the lake. It’s some of the state’s best fishing and also the spot where the author Sinclair Lewis met future-governor Floyd B. Olson for the first, and only, time.

Sinclair Lewis

It was 1926 and, spending the first half of the year in Kansas City gathering material for his next book, in June Lewis headed to Breezy Point to write. His choice of the northern woods was twofold as it “offered a sophisticated inn where he could get a good meal and drink with Minneapolis’ business elite, as well as rustic isolation” (Lingeman 282). When he wasn’t writing, Lewis could be found in the lodge doing impressions (as he was known for) or leading guests “in hymn singing around the piano” (Lingeman 285). Many of these he knew by heart since childhood but some came from his time shadowing ministers for what would become Elmer Gantry.

It was during this same period that Lewis’ alcoholism consumed him, worrying his wife and publisher that the famed author of Main Street, Babbitt, and Arrowsmith would quite writing all together. His alcoholism was such a problem, in fact, that when the Breezy Point bar closed an employee was assigned to take him home. Still, Lewis persevered and by the time he left in August to attend his father’s funeral half of the manuscript for Elmer Gantry was finished.

Floyd B. Olson

While Lewis stayed in Breezy Point, one of the Minneapolis elite he met was a young Hennepin County Attorney named Floyd B. Olson. Having lost his first bid for governor two years before, in his head were plans for another campaign that within four years would make him the state’s first Farmer-Labor Governor. Regarded as a organizational mastermind for his capacity to build coalitions of competing (and opposing) parties, his success came as much from his natural political genius as his charisma. Yet, according to his biographer, in Olson were “strands of energy and sloth, ambition and carefree gaiety, … woven together to create a complex, contradictory personality” (Mayer 5). To illustrate this complexity his biographer cites a 1926 trip to Breezy Point.

Riding with his friend George Leonard to a meeting of the Minnesota State Bar Association in Duluth, Olson suggested that since the two had left a day early they could afford a detour west. As Breezy Point was one of Olson’s favorite relaxation spots, Leonard, who was an officer in the association, acquiesced. While there

he and Leonard encountered a noisy crowd centering around Sinclair Lewis, then at the height of his fame. Leonard’s weak protests failed to dissuade Olson from introducing himself and joining the party. Eventually it moved to Sinclair Lewis’ cabin, where Olson exchanged yarns with the novelist for some hours. Lewis was working on Elmer Gantry at the time, and the convivial evening ended with the singing of hymns (Mayer 6).

Planning to leave for Duluth the next morning to make the first sessions of the meeting, Olson further convinced his friend “that the opening sessions at conventions [are] always dull” and suggested one more detour. The next day this happened again while Leonard was “slowly driv[en] to the realization [Olson] had never intended to reach Duluth” (Mayer 7).  They didn’t.

Yet not all of Lewis’ evenings were so jovial. As Lewis’ biographer records, on one occasion

A man from a nearby small town began drunkenly hectoring Lewis, accusing him of having a swelled head. Lewis ignored him. Finally, in frustration, the man yelled he was as good as Lewis and unleashed a left hook that sent Lewis sprawling. Lewis quickly sprang up and went at the man with flying fists (Lingeman 285).

It is unknown whether Lewis remembered this early encounter with Olson, but he was surely aware of Olson’s stature in American politics when in his novel It Can’t Happen Here the Minnesota governor makes an appearance. In it, after the demagogue Senator Buzz Windrip (a stand-in for Huey Long) takes the 1936 Democratic Party nomination away from FDR, several radical politicians join Roosevelt’s Jeffersonian Party including Olson. Unfortunately, this hypothetical party was destined for failure as “it represented integrity and reason in a year when the electorate hungered for frisky emotions … all the primitive sensations which they thought they found in the screaming Buzz Windrip” (Lewis 85).

Sources:
Lewis, Sinclair. It Can’t Happen Here. New York: Signet Classics, 2005.
Lingeman, Richard. Sinclair Lewis: Rebel From Main Street. New York: Random House, 2002.
Mayer, George H. The Political Career of Floyd B. Olson. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1987.

Posted in DFL Party, History, Literature | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Minnesota’s “Mrs. Peter Oleson is Mrs. Peter Oleson.”

“Mrs. Peter Oleson,” Anna Dickie Olesen

Upon ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote, overnight the electorate doubled and the political landscape changed forever. Here now was a huge community, organized, and finally enfranchised. Because of this the history of women’s first foray into politics is a fascinating tale of evolving gender norms, coalition politics, and renewed activism on the local level. What is sometimes overlooked, though, are the practical issues raised by this sudden shift in American politics. For example, while researching in the Library of Congress’ digital newspaper archives, I came across one “amusing complication from the entry of women into political affairs.”

In the early 20th century it was not uncommon for women to identify with their husband’s full name and so when women started running for public office it raised an interesting question – how should their names be listed? In Minnesota this question was answered when, in 1922, DNC-member “Mrs. Peter Oleson,” Anna Dickie Olesen, announced her candidacy for U.S. Senate. In what would be the state’s first direct election of a senator with a full electorate, it was an open question which name would appear on the ballot. At last, the attorney general stepped in. As reported in The Evening World (“Where Peter Counts,” April 21, 1922, 34):

Mrs. Peter Oleson, wife of a schoolmaster in the little town of Cloquet, plans to oppose Senator Kellogg in his campaign for re-election. The Attorney General has ruled she must make the race as Annie Dickie Oleson. If this ruling is upheld it will prove a serious drawback to Mrs. Oleson. She is well known all over Minnesota as Mrs. Peter Oleson. Minnesota has thousands of Olesons, probably hundreds of Peter Olesons. But Mrs. Peter Oleson is Mrs. Peter Oleson and would be so identified. The other Mrs. Peter Olesons haven’t ventured into public life. … It is a question of a woman’s right to choose and use the name under which she has become best known to the public.

(That’s right, in 1922 “a woman’s right to choose” meant whether she could use the name of her husband on the ballot).

While campaigning in her Ford sedan, Anna Dickie Olesen was soon endorsed by the Minnesota Democratic Party thus making her the first woman to receive such support (although she was not the only one that year). By her own account she had not sought the endorsement but “Now that I am nominated I will do the best I can for the party. It is for the common people I stand, the true democracy of the land.” In a three-way race against incumbent Republican Frank B. Kellogg and Farmer-Laborite Henrik Shipstead, Olesen placed third but not after being thrilled she could “pioneer a trail for women in politics.”

I presume she meant more than the name thing.

Primary Sources:
“Where Peter Counts,” The Evening World, April 21, 1922, 34.
“Woman Nominated for U.S. Senator,” The New York Times, June 21, 1922.

Posted in DFL Party, History | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness” by William Styron

BOOK REVIEW: Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron (1990). The full-text is available on the Internet Archive.

"Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness" by William Styron (1990).

“Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness” by William Styron (1990).

Suffering from depression and dwelling upon old memories of Paris, the author William Styron recalls a startling conclusion he had: “I would never see Paris again.” Never again would he see the land Camus who, he notes, once wrote that the must fundamental question of philosophy is whether life is worth living.

This certitude astonished me and filled me with a new fright, for while thoughts of death had long been common during my siege, blowing through my mind like icy gusts of wind, they were the formless shapes of doom that I suppose are dreamed by people in the grip of any severe affliction. (28)

Soon he would need to answer Camus’ question. How he did so is detailed in his short book Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (1990), an extension of a 1989 essay he wrote for Vanity Fair. Perhaps best-known for his novel Sophie’s ChoiceDarkness Visible is more than an account of his descent and eventual recovery: it’s a beautifully-written meditation on how we engage and respond to mental illness as not only the victim but as a community. While disappointed in the stigma associated with it, Styron understands that “the horror of depression is so overwhelming as to be quite beyond expression, hence the frustrated sense of inadequacy found in the work of even the greatest artists” (83). He can hold the reader’s hand but there are some places he cannot go – not by choice but because language fails us.

Styron’s descent begins with an aversion to alcohol that makes him anxious and submits him to a despair that “comes to resemble the diabolical discomfort of being imprisoned in a fiercely overheated room” (50). What follows is the loss of self-esteem and his own self-reliance, comparing himself to a

four and a half [year old] tagging through a market after my long-suffering wife; not for an instant could I let out of my sight the endlessly patient soul who had become nanny, mommy, comforter, priestess, and, most important, confidante … (57)

As things grow worse he becomes tired of the platitudes of psychiatrists and “[t]he failure of these pills to act positively and quickly” (55). Everything he is told begins to feel like empty promises and so he writes, “There is a region in the experience of pain where the certainty of alleviation permits superhuman endurance” (61). Lacking it, he feels he has no other options.

Having already planned to destroy his private diary on his way to the nursing home, he realizes now that day will never come so he disposes of it feeling his “heart pounding wildly, like that of a man facing a firing squad, and [I] knew I had made an irreversible decision” (64). It’s only when he’s standing on the edge that everything changes. After his wife has already gone to bed, Styron puts in a movie where off-screen there is “a sudden soaring passage from the Brahms Alto Rhapsody“:

This sound, which like all music – indeed, like all pleasure – I had been numbly unresponsive to for months, pierced my heart like a dagger, and in a flood of swift recollection I thought of all the joys the house had known: the children who had rushed through its rooms, the festivals, the love and work, the honestly earned slumber … (66)

Rushing to wake up his wife to tell her of his revelation, the next day he is admitted to the hospital. Appallingly, in the early stages of his treatment, his psychiatrist had advised him against this “owing to the stigma I might suffer” (68). Rightfully upset, he discusses his rehabilitation and chastises a system that, nearly thirty years later, hasn’t changed – and Styron was writing before major antidepressants like Prozac made it onto the market.

Many psychiatrists, who simply do not seem to be able to comprehend the nature and depth of the anguish their patients are undergoing, maintain their stubborn allegiance to pharmaceuticals in the belief that eventually the pills will kick in, the patient will respond, and the somber surroundings of the hospital will be avoided. (68)

This may work for some, he acknowledges, but had it not been for one brief, lucid moment this memoir would have not been written. Styron was one of the lucky ones, which he makes poignant by naming those who weren’t: Albert Camus, Romain Gary, Abbie Hoffman, and a handful of others. This is to say nothing of the thousands who live and die without even a line on Wikipedia.

Pulling from psychology, history, and his own experiences, Styron’s concise and elegant prose makes Darkness Visible a fine little book for anyone who’s ever asked, “How could somebody commit suicide?” To many it’s incomprehensible, but as Styron explains it relies upon a logic foreign to our frame-of-reference. This is his attempt to explain the suicidal logic, the language, the way of seeing the world that taints everything we are taught to revere: a beautiful day, a loving family, human life. It’s an impossible endeavor, but in publishing an intimate account of an uncomfortable subject one gets the impression that he is speaking past you and I – the curious reader – and to those, like him, who have approached the edge. His message to victims is the same Dante had rising from his melancholy, ascending at last from the depths of hell: “And so we came forth, and once again beheld the stars.”

Posted in Literature | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

“The Basketball Diaries” by Jim Carroll

BOOK REVIEW: The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll (1978)

"The Basketball Diaries" by Jim Carroll, 1978.

“The Basketball Diaries” by Jim Carroll, 1978.

First published in 1978, The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll is a slightly-fictionalized account of growing up in New York City. Spanning the Fall of 1963 (when he was 12) to the Summer 1966, the reader follows Carroll as he wanders the streets,  shoots heroin, and makes love. Although much has been made of his drug and sex life, which in fairness is most of the book, what’s often overlooked are the themes that slowly rise from his experiences. Rather than being merely “the classic about growing up hip on New York’s mean streets” (the person who wrote that should be imprisoned) it’s an account of maturity – sexual, emotional, and even political. As these all run parallel, they soon converge at a point that transcends any one person’s experiences: we are our lost innocence.

Diaries is at some points funny, at others discomforting, but it’s an opportunity for you and I to look in on a lifestyle that, I’m presuming, is foreign to many of us. The fact that Carroll is able to write of it so well by blending the sensual with the indulgent is a testament to his abilities as a punk poet. This is the first of Carroll’s books that I’ve read but I’m planning on checking out his other work (he has two memoirs and at least two books of poetry).

Rather than his diary being merely a tally of his adventures, what I found the most fascinating was his burgeoning political consciousness. In his early entries Carroll’s politics don’t extend past his disdain for the police and the occasional red-baiting he faces because of his long hair. It’s not until he turns 15 that this changes. Slowly, reflecting upon his childhood memories, a certain awareness creeps into his writing.

I used to have horrible dreams of goblins in tiny planes circling my room and bombing my bed most every night age six or seven; every time a fire truck or an ambulance passed the house I was pissing with fear in my mother’s arms with the idea that it was the air raid finally come …. (Fall 1965; 126)

Yet it’s a complicated fear. Growing up in Manhattan, he has always lived “within a giant archer’s target … for use by the bad Russia bowman with the atomic arrows.” This thought at one point gives him “a strange rush of unknown sex giddiness” and what follows is an example of his more colorful prose.

I thought of the explosion’s eye as one giant plutonium red cunt that would suck me up and in and just totally devour and melt me into its raw wet walls of white heat in pure orgasm. (Fall 1965; 114)

This relationship with death doesn’t subside and Carroll merely learns to live with it. In fact, life on the archer’s target was a plateau where he annihilation was inevitable but he hoped the end could be pushed back a few days or weeks at a time. For example, expecting the worst from the Cuban missile crisis he hoped “we could delay taking action on the … crisis so I’d play in a really important basketball game on a Friday night.” Years later, having grown into a young writer, this hasn’t changed much:

I don’t give a screw about … basketball games two weeks from now. It’s just gotten bigger now … will I have time to finish the poems breaking loose in my head? Time to find out if I’m the writer I know I can be? How about these diaries? Or will Vietnam beat me to the button? (Winter 1966; 151)

It’s in this new mindset that he also becomes aware of his own writing – he needs to write. Poetry for Carroll is “just a raw block of stone ready to be shaped” and he wants to be the one to shape it (Winter 1966; 159). Thus throughout Diaries we see the coming-of-age of not only a man but a writer. We see the loss of innocence, which we ought not mourn, and from it we see a maturity that is overtly political and proudly resistant. Yet even as witnesses to this metamorphosis, Carroll waves his hands and says something telling: the central character of his personal diary was never him but “this crazy fucking New York.”

Soon I’m gonna wake a lot of dudes off their asses and let them know what’s really going down in the blind alley out there in the pretty streets with double garages. I got a tap on your wires, folks. I’m just really a wise ass kid getting wiser and I’m going to get even somehow for your dumb hatreds and all them war baby dreams you left in my scarred bed with dreams of bombs falling above that cliff I’m hanging steady to. (Winter 1966; 159-160)

I really like this entry because it’s a conscious shift from the inward to the outward. His diary is now about more than just himself. It’s a letter to the city. Although spiteful, Carroll now understands that even introspection is society studying itself. With this in mind he wants to be more than some expose on the seedy underground, a catalog of injustices. His writing is now a weapon and his diary a mirror to the city, the nation, the world.

Posted in Literature, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment