The Blue Notebook
‘And so do all the others,’ I heard myself muttering.
‘The others, all over the world, who are writing away in secret books, because they are afraid of what they are thinking.’
‘So you are afraid of what you are thinking?’ And she reached out for her appointment book, marking the end of our hour.
[At this point, another thick black line across the page.]
When I came to this new flat and arranged my big room the first thing I did was to buy the trestle table and lay my notebooks on it. And yet in the other flat in Molly’s house, the notebooks were stuffed into a suitcase under the bed. I didn’t buy them on a plan. I don’t think I ever, until I came here, actually said to myself: I keep four notebooks, a black notebook, which is to do with Anna Wulf the writer; a red notebook, concerned with politics; a yellow notebook, in which I make stories out of my experience; and a blue notebook which tries to be a diary. In Molly’s house the notebooks were something I never thought about; and certainly not as work, or a responsibility.
The things that are important in life creep up on one unawares, one doesn’t expect them, one hasn’t given them shape in one’s mind. One recognizes them, when they’ve appeared, that’s all.
When I came to this flat it was to give room, not only to a man (Michael or his successor) but to the notebooks. And in fact I now see moving to this flat as giving room to the notebooks. For I hadn’t been here a week before I had bought the trestle table and laid out the books on it. And then I read them. I hadn’t read them through since I first began to keep them. I was disturbed by reading them. First, because I had not realized before how the experience of being rejected by Michael had affected me; how it had changed, or apparently had changed, my whole personality. But above all, because I didn’t recognize myself. Matching what I had written with what I remembered it all seemed false. And this — the untruthfulness of what I had written was because of something I had not thought of before — my sterility. The deepening note of criticism, of defensiveness, of dislike.
It was then I decided to use the blue notebook, this one, as nothing but a record of facts. Every evening I sat on the music-stool and wrote down my day, and it was as if I, Anna, were nailing Anna to the page. Every day I shaped Anna, said: Today I got up at seven, cooked breakfast for Janet, sent her to school, etc. etc., and felt as if I had saved that day from chaos. Yet now I read those entries and feel nothing. I am increasingly afflicted by vertigo where words mean nothing. Words mean nothing. They have become, when I think, not the form into which experience is shaped, but a series of meaningless sounds, like nursery talk, and away to one side of experience. Or like the sound track of a film that has slipped its connection with the film. When I am thinking I have only to write a phrase like ‘I walked down the street’, or take a phrase from a newspaper, ‘economic measures which lead to the full use of …’ and immediately the words dissolve, and my minds starts spawning images which have nothing to do with the words, so that every word I see or hear seems like a small raft bobbing about on an enormous sea of images. So I can’t write any longer. Or only when I write fast, without looking back at what I have written. For if I look back, then the words swim and have no sense and I am conscious only of me, Anna, as a pulse in a great darkness, and the words that I, Anna, write down are nothing, or like the secretions of a caterpillar that are forced out in ribbons to harden in the air.