When I was a teenager, in the Fall of 1971 just after I turned 16 years old, and just a few months after my family had returned to California from a three-year stay in Illinois, I took a typing course at James Monroe High School, in the 11th grade, and my family (for some reason I don’t recall) acquired a small, portable typewriter, which I immediately took possession of, and kept in my room. To practice my typing, I began a sort of journal. The early months and year of this ‘journal’ consisted of much japery — spoofs of strange meanings of made-up foreign words, riffs on songs and TV lines. Over the next couple years, it congealed, if that’s the word, to a more conventional diary-like journal.
(Irony: the reason I took a typing course was that, entering a new school and despite having exemplary grade reports from my high school in Illinois, the staff at James Monroe was reluctant to enroll me in too many academic courses, let alone advanced placement courses. Thus, between my years in high school in Illinois and California, I never did have a formal American History course, or Biology course. The irony is that having learned typing at that age proved a great advantage in later years.)
In those early years, sitting in my bedroom in our house on Hayvenhurst Avenue, with my parents and three other kids younger than me, I can’t now imagine what my parents must have thought, as I sat banging away on that typewriter in the afternoons and evenings and weekends. (Did my mother peak into my room when I was away at school to see what I was doing? It never occurred to me at the time, but in retrospect it seems inevitable.)
As my typing settled into a conventional journal, I would write as if addressing some hypothetical person interested in what I thought and what I was doing. Is that the typical stance? Who does one write a diary to?
Of course I now, as perhaps I realized even then, understand that the person I was writing to was me, myself decades years later. And I deeply appreciate my early effort.
I’ve been preoccupied this past week — to the point of neglecting posts on other topics on this blog — with reviewing these early journals, in concert with my gathering of old family photos, especially of Apple Valley, and reflecting on what it all means, and how my living there influenced, or perhaps reflected, my personal inclinations and the life I was to lead.
My typewritten journal went through the mid-1980s, until it was overtaken by learning to use computers (at work, at first), and keeping logs and journals electronically, rather than on a noisy typewriter. The typewritten journal got fairly sophisticated over the years, combining the requisite angst of young adulthood with perception and understanding of the greater world that, all these years later, is not dis-respectable.
In particular, every entry in my journal had a title. Trends in titles changed over the years. Early ones were nonsensical, that is playful ploys on languages; some later years used single words, or two word ‘the xx’ phrases. Later ones — by 1980 and following — employed fanciful poetic or philosophical terms, phrases with suggestive meanings but no obvious allusion to the topic under discussion in that post, mixed in with quotations from songs or plays that had come to my attention. All these years later, looking back on them, I’m impressed. How can I re-use them? Well, here’s one.
And some similar ones, all from 1980:
Clouds, from the Four Quarters of the Universe
Science Fiction Distillations [years later, my short fiction review column in Locus, beginning 1988, was called “Distillations”]
The Whiteness of the Dawn
Conjectures on Ships that Sail the Moon
Shadows of Starlight and Symphonies of Mind
Tapestry of Refulgent Fuligin [my review of Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer]
The Last Day of the Old World
Always There Will be Greater
Dreams that Can’t Come True
…and many more. In retrospect, it’s sad, I admit, that I was unable to channel these creative urges, for whatever they might have been worth, to anything beyond my personal journal.