Back to my father….

Back to my father. I’m angry at him. “The thyroid is negative,” I told him.
“I expected it,” he answered. About my doctor, he next said, “But she had to find out for herself–”

As if the doctor who charges $60 is a daughter—Jesus. His next advice—“And stay with Agharian, give her a chance—”as if the point were not my health but her feelings, her attitude— But he continues, “that’s why we wanted you to come home,” still laying on as if I’d made the wrong decision.

Nightmares yesterday about Paola Manduca, today about Shawn and Mrs. Lowenstein calling Shawn, he calling Mrs Lowenstein bypassing Hedda. I’m almost feeling if everything were thrown out of that apartment I was writing in on Kings Highway in Brooklyn where my grandfather used to live it would be ok—though not actually. I wanted to call Jay Manis, Richard, and less than a week now I’m already missing the comedian and that feeling of not really being able to have an affair because my life is in disorder—I’ll live with that constantly. I have to tell Debbie Sisson about how New Yorkers feel about breaking appointments and spontaneity—or rather how I do—I got a Christmas card from Jeff, and from somebody at the class at the J telling me they missed me—–3 references they must have discussed me. Partly that felt strange but nice.

The sunlight around noon through the bamboo shade, the double black lines of the fire escape—it’s pretty.

From my parents’ point of view—both from my grandfather Charley and I, getting a desperate phone call—neither of us wants to go to the hospital.

Further development of the book idea: we found these papers in apartment, from Mrs. Lowenstein. A grammatically poor letter.

Remembered last night when I was studying technique—Mary McCarthy, Oriana Fallaci, et cetera—and here this woman interviewed me. I wonder what she’ll do with it. Me. The white painter pants, the Mexican sweater. The man’s yellow shirt. Bob said, everything was perfect.

I felt like, Harry is setting me up to be his mistress. The truth is, I’d just like to hang out with him. My attitudes have changed this year. Settle down with one person, easy companionship, good sex. Made me feel good to know men do try to get my phone number: David G., David M., Shawn’ boss, the comedian, Jim Dean’s friend.David told me he had called Michael for my phone number; I asked, what did he say? 966-5209. Why was I convincing David I had no interest in monogamy–

Picking up where we last left off…

Saturday. The days are running together. I’m not remembering the distinct quality of each one. Aware of wanting to make a list of the books I’ve read: all the selections in Roth’s Goodbye Columbus, Sheila Levine’s Dead and Living in New York, Blue Skies No Candy. Three books in the last two weeks—and before I went to the hospital I finished Malamud’s The Tenants and Roth’s Professor of Desire. I’m skimming Gide’s Immoralist now, remembering John’s saying: if you’ve read one Gide, you’ve read him all.

OK—Blue Skies, which I finished last night—shows excellently how a woman’s life falls apart when her world comes together, how you want to be recognized for being a woman, for feelings and sensuality, for “being me” when recognition for your work comes easily. Or begins to. Of course it didn’t show Kate wrapped up in her work, pursuing an art, an idea, an aesthetic—and the voice reminded me of Mimi somehow. Twice now I’ve wanted to write her.

On my back on my couch—through the sun-streamed window I can see a jogger on the highway occasionally.

And—one trick Greene does [Gael Green, in Blue Skies] is compare lovers in bed occasionally. So and so does this, compare his habits to Glass, etc. She picked up neatly fucking the faceless lover at the Algonquin: in the beginning and end. Furthermore, she juxtaposed the ideas of the women’s movement as counter-criticism to her life. They were on the right side—suddenly you had a character critique himself—You can’t love a sadistic assfucker—She did her anger quite well. Women’s novels are full of women with anger not expressing it–Godwin, Lessing.— There’s more of her here too. While I’m an invalid I’ll have to read it. I’d like to try to write a book review, for that women reviewing women publication. The underlying insight was—because she’s in such control of her work, she wants to give up control as a woman—sexually. You have a sense of her distance from the men she’s watching, observing habits. She compares men’s reactions to her habits—contrasts Jamie’s bringing her coffee in the morning to Glass taking her jogging and the cowboy wanting to go to the dining room for breakfast. She and Bellow have the same passivity towards bed fellows describing the other as environment with great atmospheric detail, as if all they have to do is adapt to it. Comparing habits—I’ll be so proud of you in Time Magazine Rabbit—she cracked me up with Jamie’s line, also the call from the daughter, when she reassures, I’ll always be your mom, and sitting with Jamie under the table. The book moved very fast at the end, and you did wonder how she’d get out of it. I liked how she needed to be protected from her life—by the agent and the secretary and the service. Although it was confusing, how did Time Magazine get through at the end. And you didn’t know until the end that what was really going on was that they were releasing her Wonder Woman movie—somehow, shouldn’t that have been mentioned in Cannes? It doesn’t matter somehow, because the effect was tumultuous, like the Wonder Woman show on TV last night—certain stupid things are done, which are all right for the sake of the script, though unbelievable that the people are all that stupid. Another point—all along she’s referring to Super Kate, wonder woman, about herself. Then you find out that’s what her film is.

Lessons learned: for sake of plot, you have to hold back, drop hints—Prof. of Desire ended this way too—the father, at the beginning and intermittently through the book, appears as the major problem at the end—the same with Kate’s work. The underlying problem for everything else unhinging. Daddy never liked me except for my achievement. That realization shows why she leaves the Cannes film festival. The surprise ending—killing Heller’s son, the only positive thing in the novel.

I like sitting in the light…

Friday night. Sixth night of Chanukah. I just lit the candles, swept the floor, and now I’m looking out the World Trade Center window, seeing the lights lit, the one lit window across the street and the reflection of my books, the empty wine bottles, the seven candles burning. I like sitting in the light, under the veil; I feel peaceful. Also because I’m getting back to myself by writing. Lighting the candles I thought of the opening imagery in the novel: singing little songs to herself lighting candles on Friday night alone in her dorm room—Shawn said Hedda wouldn’t let him work Friday night, so they can be together—I supposed if I tried I could continue ritual too—mostly I thought of it as ending material. Didn’t I say once, Duane St. is like a college dormitory, but everyone’s got a bigger dorm room—me and my bottles of Chinese great wall vodka, wild turkey, pink champagne, Beaujolais nouveau, vintage Chianti, blausac brandy, the Chanukah candles that Grandpa gave me one time.

     My father called tonight, said I’d be sick a month or so, that’s why we wanted you to come home—to go home would be to accept defeat again—I felt that way after the rape too, though at least tonight I was able to cry after I talked to him. Family—a group of funny people who cluster around and look preposterous, worsening your crisis, best not to tell them. If I can’t walk three blocks and do my laundry how am I supposed to get to Kennedy airport. Take a cab. Yah sure.


     Breakfast by myself this morning. Then by around two Marsha joined me, bearing fresh fruit god bless her. Tomorrow Debbie Sisson’s coming. John and the Jesuit—I wonder if they’ll run into each other. Hank’s three roses are opening. I figured out I’ll have Shawn call the landlady. After all she has talked to him—John told me eat as much as I can, even if my stomach can’t stand it. He’s there less, but he’s giving and gentle. The comedian’s there but begins the insult hurling—god the grapefruit and banana and lemon and orange look nice. The rose opening, the red and yellow apple, my cat on my couch all do too—in spite of everything with the comedian I did feel a sense of loss watching Wonder Woman and The Hulk, which I wouldn’t have known about without him. I asked my dad—how did all those people get to Charley’s together, who arranged it—he didn’t know. I’d like to get Lizzie to bring me some notebooks—maybe sometime I’ll call her. Talked to Harry today—he gets angry at taking so long writing things too. I suggested—every time you get angry at yourself send me a post card, and I’ll send you one too—you’re gonna be getting a lot of mail he said—and he told me Patrick saw my book in a bookstore in Michigan—we narrowed it further to a Detroit suburb, around Birmingham—my god my memories from school there. I’ve got to get back to that woman too. Read New York Review of Books which came today, job-counseled Marsha, talked to Jaap[1], Viana, Julie—watched John Irving on the Dick Cavette Show—Now I’m angry that my parents so protected me. That I didn’t know about the importance of living your life so that you structure in other people. 


Only yesterday morning it seems that I made a rather long  entry—got me hyped up and speedy, soaring on a false energy. Maybe I should wash my hair tomorrow. It’s been a week actually—a week tomorrow since the Harvard woman was here. Dad said to do a little recovery calendar, to build up my endurance. Tomorrow at least water the plants, put away the laundry.  Call chuck. Type the Pictures proposal[2], the Tenkel letter.



[1]    Van Liere, from URPE, who was a graduate student in political economics at the New School at the time but went on to become a curatorial consultant and art editor handling the estate of artist Lee Lozano, whose diaries, drawings and sketch books he edited a collection of with Barry Rosen published in 2006. Lee lived 1930-99 and sketched sexual drawings of tools, and wrote angry pithy intellectual notebook entries which keep her wit alive and continue her following years after her death.


[2]                                              Pictures of Patriarchy, the title of my second book, published in 1984, which I was still at the time marketing with Fran Goldin, Susan Brownmiller’s agent,  to more commercial publishers, hoping to make money, but which I also gave like my first book which I had just published, for half the advance, to South End.

Me to Hank: I can’t imagine you hurling insults…


I had a dream: a prescription of pills, and the label says each patient is allowed only one session by phone call. This is to Dale. I feel guilty about only calling, not going.


Yesterday, Shawn told me on the phone I was the hit of the wedding, his boss called back and asked for my name, embarrassed to ask for my phone number. Yah I said I had fun dancing with him. Who else I said—he didn’t tell me Bob asked for my number, and I didn’t let on to him.


Hank said, I’m worried about your spirits–you should like yourself, insults happen in any relationship, I’m not a failure, I’ll get better. He feels like a football coach—well I said, every team needs one. How many people get to have their mark on the world, he asked me. How we better hurry and have a baby before I lose my equipment, we’ll put her in storage, we’ll have a Jewish nun and she’ll be a hell-raiser. Betty [his wife] understands where I’m coming from in not wanting a traditional relationship. What do you mean, I want the most conventional relationship in the world, but I’m not able to get one—I’m a failure I said, Hank, you look nice in brown—you are all in brown cordoroy.


Marsha: Are you writing? No? You are too down?


Me to Hank: I can’t imagine you hurling insults, you never did that to me.

Hank: Sure, it happens all the time.


She’s not the first dope-smoking mother I knew….

In the kitchen: That’s a shame, that Minna can’t finish her projects. I’ll never forget when I first met her. She made quite an impression on me—smoking dope when she had a headache.  “She’s not the first dope-smoking mother I knew.”  “Well she was for me. And then the way we could just show up at the apartment, return from a long trip by subway. With me its always a big problem, you have to let them know in advance, make reservations.They have to drive to the airport to get you. I envied you your autonomy. Didn’t we come from Brooklyn?” “Yah—” I’d forgotten that. I didn’t know where we were or anything, Its true now—When did we stop hanging around in bed with each other—when I got so needy. Andrea’s getting on his nerves [his sister I think] doing things that are “bourgeois.” “Like what?”   Having their father over for a drink on his birthday–enough, enough, Michael says.


     But I did realize, if he’s reticent sexually with me, he probably is with everybody, which means he wouldn’t be that good in bed, which is probably what he’s scared of. Being with Michael is like being dipped in silver. Everything feels liquid and good.


I went to sleep last night realizing….

I went to sleep realizing last night: he (MP) fits my definition of what I want in a man: smart enough to figure me out, listens to my complete thoughts and finished sentences, answers my questions, enjoys the mutual process of talking to figure things out—well, that one I’m not sure about. I enjoy that with him. Plus he’s beautiful, soft, warm and attractive. And knows about constructing channels of emotional support, introducing people to each other, although he said he’s not had time since he’s been working to do much of that for himself. You’ve always been good setting that up for yourself, I said calmly. I think I’ll call Dale, and then go do a laundry.


And he also fits Hank’s definition of love—you know the other person, and want what they want for themselves,in the long run, not the short run.

You can say whatever you want….

Only once did sex actually come up: when I said I felt sorry for Len and understood the older generation, that he only slept with seven or eight women in his whole life and it had to be such a confessional, whereas I—Michael laughed too, yes if I wrote mine—then suddenly the conversation has changed, we’re moved to the next room. We had a back and forth over the wine, did I want any or not—I remembered this morning Michael telling me he had a fight with his mother about the kin categories—God that seemed like such a long time ago.

     Lying on my back: God you were always there. I always imagined my insecurites must be hard to take for another person.

     Well, squirming, his back against my New Yorker poster, in the uncomfortable bamboo chair, it’s not that,  not your insecurities about work, but you give someone support in their work, then it transfers over into messing up personal relations–

     Have you read Final Payments?

     Yes. Shallow, flat. Written like a movie script.

     Diane Keaton purchased it.

Everything we do is fun together, even washing the dishes.

     Here, taste this.

     Bite. Nothing.

     You can say whatever you want—be honest. I’m not enough of a woman to identify with my cooking,

     You mean you’re not enough of a cook–

God he’s so intelligent.

We talked of me writing my next book in Jamaica…

Dec. 28. Thursday morning. 8:30-9 a.m. I’m getting in my big chair under the pink and purple afghan, looking at the blue sky, the sun light and the West Side Highway out the window. Yesterday morning I just lay on my back on the couch, watching the white clouds float by, forming and reforming in the window pane, the joggers running.


     I woke up depressed that I’ve been out of the hospital a week already, and I feel the same way I did before I went in. I wake up or go to sleep calculating how many things I’ll do the next day—then I don’t do any; I just go back to sleep. What have I done since I got out? Not enough work, certainly. On work I called the agent, last Thursday; last Friday the Harvard girl [who wanted to interview me] called; last Saturday I got interviewed. Drafted a letter (unsent) to Claire Tenkel for an apprentice; sent for the New Yorker; sent a letter to Mrs. Lowenstein—that’s about all. Finished the stories in Goodbye Columbus. Read all of Gail Greene and Gail Perron—how has the time passed? I suppose I spent a fair amount of it with Bob—last Friday evening, Saturday morning, Saturday night, Sunday morning, Monday afternoon—yes, I suppose that would account for it.


…..Other friends came by: Frank, but let me do this chronologically—first, John, then Amy bringing me groceries. Then Frank, who took a nap and then went out for some too—then John came back again,  and Bob—the next day the woman from tenant organizing. Tuesday Susan Vogel. Wednesday Marsha, Hank, Michael.


     Michael’s so sweet—I woke up wanting to make an entry in the notebooks marked artists but it’s too much energy to find it. He told me Minna’s excited about the book, a big hello from her, a big hello from Ezra and Lindsey. I thanked him for telling me. Well, they were interested in following, we’re your folks, he said. He’s so sweet. I really love him. I love knowing that he likes me. At one point on the couch I said you always believed in what I was doing. You believed I could do it. Well he says, slapping his knee with my book, what’s so difficult about that—I said for awhile I’d been friends with David Giovanetti, who went for a two-week  date to France—I said I was glad to hear of it, that I was proud of Michael. I asked him what he actually did in his work. He said he was enjoying working for Woody Allen on the new film, Manhattan, setting up locations and all that. Shot a scene in Len Giovanetti’s apartment. We compared Len’s book[1] to Something Happened by Joseph Heller. We had fun, Michael washing the dishes, me sitting on the stool cutting the cookies. He’s going to buy my camera, maybe. I could call him back in a couple of weeks and say I need the money, I wished he would. The roses here are from Hank—one pink, two red, each in a separate wine bottle. Michael and I lit candles and said the prayer. He’s so fucking warm and intelligent. Every time he mentioned being friends with another woman I got jealous. We talking of me writing my next book in Jamaica. He said one could read but not write there. I said the heat turns me on actually, because the sensual environement pulls you out, and makes room for space in your mind, whereas in the winter, you curl in. I said I could write the next book in six weeks—he says yah once you figure it out, and figure out yourself, you see how it was possible for all those guys who wrote so much to be so productive–


He talked of Minna[2] never finishing projects, going to live with her brother, being scared about less alimony money from Michael’s father, who is retiring from the law firm at 84—though most of those guys work until they are 80. I said over dinner (he said it was good, sorry but he couldn’t cook, and he offered to do the dishes) (he also said Marsha made a good move getting rid of Frank) maybe if I’d stayed at Hampshire College I’d have more friends like him.

     “I feel like I’ve known you through all the stages of my adult life.”

     “Yes. We’re your folks–“

     And he talked of how Minna needed a collaborator. She always had thousands of pages. Now I know why you wince when I say I have 800—Michael’s assurance makes me feel, anything in the whole world is possible. Washing dishes, the hot water ran out. I’m not used to loft living. He says, give me a suite in a hotel.

     The next time I get out of the hospital I want to recuperate in a suite in the Plaza.

     I’ll remember that, give me about 20 years, calmly washing the dishes he says to me.

[1]                                                                                                                   The Prisoners of Compound D

[2]                                                                                                                   His mother, a futurist, whom I had met in Cuernavaca before him actually; she had wanted to introduce us once she had heard I went to Hampshire College because she said her son also went there; he was visiting from the East Coast in MX and she introduced us and we set off for Huichole and hitchhiking back to NYC but I got vivax malaria in Spring 1971 and Michael nursed me through hallucinatory fevers in some god forsaken Mexican hotel room.

on my couch, looking at the West Side Highway…


Dec. 26. 8 a.m. On my couch, looking at the West Side Highway out the window, and ahead of me—my racoon tails hanging down on my bamboo shade, my table of wine bottles, Christmas cards and my book, The Curious Courtship peeping over the corner of Dale’s Christmas card—through the window, the black lines of the fire escape, and the light hitting the sides of the WTC Towers—I’m very tired. I’ll probably fall asleep again, but I woke up with a dream in which I was interrupted in my morning baths (?) with a phone call. I was angry about the baths anyway, getting to a late start because of a fight with my publisher—I’m having a call from Julie Schor saying she’s going on vacation but she’s glad she’s got my material, she’ll take it around Europe—I try to take a bath but Rayna’s in the tub, I go into                                    the next room to take another one. Some how I leave the bath tub with dirty rings in it—or the water left inside and a lid over for some reason, and I’m not sure someone’s going to find it later. Then a phone call–


      Hello, Batya Weinbaum, this is Doctor Mitchell.


      Dr. Mitchell. I’ve been thinking of asking you out but I’d forgotten, then I saw you down in a church as an intake patient.

      (I’m wondering if this is this guy sent to me by Jim Dean, but then why doesn’t he say he’s Mitch, instead of Dr. Mitchell, couldn’t he–)

      I know a friend of yours, Tommy.

      (Tommy, Tommy, I’m straining my brain).

      Tommy Hurwitz.

      Oh, him. Well, what’s the clinic?

      What, where?

      Whereupon he proceeds to (?), I get angry, he says by the way I’m going to get married, I say I hope you enjoy the wedding and want to hang up the phone—then I say, give my regards to your wife for me, and I do, angrily.


And I wake up thinking—some people actually like me, like Hank and Paula and Susan Vogel and Michael—because of the way Bob ran out on me last night.  


      I’m leaving, I can’t take it, he says in my kitchen.

 He actually moves to the door, to leave.    I call out  after him: If you ever calm down, call me.

He shoots back: I don’t think the problem is me being calm. He pauses. He quips: You said something to me when you were were sick, about you being a taker—now I believe it–


I didn’t respond. I didn’t bother to get angry, because I saw his pathetic attempt to hurl an insult out of context, and I remembered my talk with Paula, remembered he doesn’t really have anything that interests me—and last night I went to sleep thinking I want more than a man who is smart enough to figure me out—I want a man who will listen to me talk in completed thoughts and finished sentences, who will answer my questions, and enjoy the mutual process of figuring things out about the world and each other as the talk rolls back and forth and gallops around—I remember going to sleep thinking, this is not a man, this is a woman—and if this is what I am attracted to, its intellectual, the body and sexual attraction is anyway way down there—hardly high on my priority list, almost as if it doesn’t matter.


Tommy coming up in the dream threw me back to Barbara: the film-maker’s adjunct/wife. I got angry watching TV, he’s telling me the under-history, the hero-worship, muttering about it’s a perfect film—so and so went to Washington, rah rah, Jimmy Stewart—I’m reminded of telling Julie I only watch TV with men, their so superficial. Then I asked him several times to describe his family. He got barely through his aunt. He asks me questions in the kitchen. I say I’m going to play your game and not answer.





     You said yesterday was very upsetting, but you refused to talk about your family.


     That’s something different, that’s personal—I’m talking about something that’s going on between us.


     I almost laughed. “That’s something else, that’s personal–” and I remember Paula–but there is nothing in male culture that supports immediate levels of intimacy—-

     “But Paula, he asks immediate questions of me–“

     “Do you answer them–“

     “Well you know me, I like to analyze everything, get it all out, but I’ve put my defenses up and refuse to talk –because he won’t talk to me.”


     And I heard much about Larry: Oh I can see you two are going to have a wonderful relationship…Larry, Louis, Bob: Jewish men act so similar. What’s the good of a personal relationship where the other person won’t talk about anything personal and you have to put up a wall to protect yourself? But the dream shows I am still disturbed—Rayna[1] gets in the bath before me. I’m covered up and leaving dirty water and I check back into my room, someone has checked my sheets and changed them. I say I’m not used to having my dirty work done by somebody else, maybe I feel guilty about having taken so much from the other women—the ones in my head, supporting me in this conversation.

[1]                                                                                                                   Reiter-Rapp, taught feminist anthropology at the New School, edited Towards an Anthropology of Women, in MF II.

He leaves, I go back to dissecting novels (by women) for tricks.

Dec. 25. around 6, 6:30. Christmas evening. I’ve lit the second Chanukah candle. What was so boring, pathetic about Bob was watching him use all my own defenses–


        making a joke

        throwing a question back without answering

        taking a remark out of context

        threatening to leave, to throw me out—wanting a response

        when he’s angry, making a character assassination, an ugly portrayal–

        critiquing the person, etc.


Tie-ins would be to original therapy sessions, the assassination I did of Richard, points mentioned in text that Dale said to me.


He leaves, I go back to dissecting novels (by women) for tricks.


The fights in his apartment about analyzing the process—he’s superstitious.


Last night as I was going to bed I began to think about the peacefulness of going back to your work, the peacefulness (in some way) my father must feel as a doctor. The powers of concentration. That’s definitely where I got it from—focusing in through that microscope, seeing that small encased world, the serenity I used to feel in the dark room. And watching the show on television (about Chanukah) –that’s where I got it from, this feeling of dying for principles—all of Hannah’s sons died rather than eat food outlawed to the Jewish people. So with the rapist, that’s where I got the idea I shouldn’t have fucked him on the small hope I would stay alive—the conversation with Sharon about contemplative life, the metaphor of going to the desert—that’s going to Brooklyn.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.