I got a surprising and somehow excessive-seeming award from the departmentit was like drawing the Monopoly card that announces you won a beauty contestwhile J. got accepted to a Ph.D. program here at Berkeley. I finished the reading for my orals list, but won't be taking the exam until early April and don't even have to discuss it with anyone until March. So I have strange weeks. Following secondary sources into alleys that may be blind or sighted, reading more Henry James for pleasure, the hopeless but somehow unabandonable task of trying to sing. The gray sky. And if the sky were not gray, would it convince me that I was really on the earth?
The work in progress I am calling Silver State, though it ought to get a better name, something from liturgy. In the absence of pressing material cares it keeps ambushing me, and I keep skirting it, and nonetheless parts of it are getting written. The late James is rising as an influence, and the compositional method has changed completely; there aren’t any chapters or line breaks, but it comes piecemeal in sections of two or three pages, starting with a few notes padded between carriage returns in the word processor which gradually acquire ancillary phrases and uncurl into long sentences which in turn generate their own ancillary notes, and so on until the sea drains from the archipelago and bares the deep structure beneath the isles. I don’t know that any of it is “compelling” (idiotic word, from the bookseller’s impoverished vocabularyyou don’t know what it is to be placed under a compulsion!), but some of the phrases please me greatly and will sit well in the desk drawer.
What did I print my books for, at such expense to my vanity? Surely not to read them all myself, when one copy is too much! If I do not go about asking all my friends to take them, is it not because I know by a very long experience that no one, however charming, will read them without compulsion? I myself read notno! not even the Golden Fount or Mount or Count or whatever [it] is longer than half a page.
Henry Adams to Margaret Chanler, January 27, 1905