[Journal Menu]

[Home Page]


[100 Books]

[Other Sites]

Here In Oakland

Art & Life

Today at the pump

My sister!


Under here.

November 28, 2010

The Creepy Diarist

Sunday. Got to bed reasonably early, awoke at eight: the sky clear, the sun shining, the air cold. Well, cold for here. To breakfast and the papers, back just after nine to futz with yesterday's entry in a not quite successful attempt to make it readable. Palatable. Sense, making sense, we'll leave to the ages and the more competent. We define what constitutes a decent entry around here. Not an attitude that got us to the moon, of course, but fuck it, I'm retired.

Cranky, are we?

Probably a good sign. Better things come when the energy is up (hup! hup!), even if it shows itself in a Sunday squawk. Of course, if I were sitting here somnambulant, I'd easily invent a rationalization for somnambulant We are in the mood to be up, even if we can't quite figure out the way there. Like Alice after her rabbit. Where's my rabbit? I have everything anyone may need to capture a picture, but where is it? What is it? Does it have a vest and a pocket watch? Floppy ears?

Best to not go any further with this. Remember the issues you had yesterday.

Later. A walk down the way to have a cup of coffee at the morning café passing by the lake and standing, thinking, how do I get an image of this that shows the number of birds floating out on the water, the activity I'm seeing on this brisk, but sunlit day? And I took a couple and moved on. Didn't translate to an image what I was feeling from what I was seeing, but that's the norm. Not often you get it right.

After coffee, a look through Walden books, actually buying one this time through. So many books on shelves in the apartment, so little reading going on, but this one appealed, not just because it was marked half price: Diary of an Amateur Photographer - A Mystery. It was published in 1998, so I'd guess we're talking a film diary here, medium format cameras from the one or two pictures I saw thumbing through it, but what I read when I picked it up was interesting (if it's a mystery novel it's an off the wall photographer's diary kind of mystery novel, off the wall in a way I liked) and I may actually read it. And it's Christmas. Sort of. A reason to acquire stuff. At half price.

Back now at two thinking maybe I'll get out again with the camera, maybe down to Jack London Square, but suspect I won't. An odd sort of energy in place, a little bit inside the bubble, but not so much so as to be in the way. Play something on the guitar for a while, see if that doesn't bring things into focus? Practice those chords. They say they will come together one day so I can play them one after another. In, say, six months? Not the complicated stuff, but some of this simpler stuff? More? The rest of my life?

Now, now.

Just fooling. As said, the head is in a bit of a bubble, but nicely, so no complaints.

Later still. A walk down to the local convenience store to buy ice cream, a short enough walk, deciding when I got there, to settle for two bottles of diet Coke instead (tasteless, but for some reason, now and again, I like the carbonation in small amounts), taking a couple of pictures of a truck I've passed now a number of times, thinking I certainly do need to take a photograph of the image on the back. So I did.

I've surprised myself by getting well into the book I bought this morning. It is indeed a mystery novel, excuse me, a diary, a mystery written in the form of a diary, a somewhat oversized book with pages made to look as if pieces of photo copied typewritten paper had been taped into a scrap book, these typewritten snippets interspersed with ads, photographs and articles cut from magazines along with photographs taken and printed by the diarist himself, all of which follow along and illuminate the narrative. The author has both managed to impress me with his achievement and creep me out.

The format allows the writer to effectively lay out parallel realities: the diarist's monologue, his description of his day and how he interprets it, his own actions and thoughts, and the various clippings and photographs that contrast with the diarist's monologue and put it in relief. You realize from about page one there's a disconnect here: this guy's reality was constructed on some other planet known only to psychiatrists and Oprah. As a way to tell a story it's both unique (hard to be unique, I'd think, in the mystery genre) and brilliant. I have to admit I'm impressed (and creeped).

It's not quite clear what kind of animal this diarist might be - arrested development, psychopath, three cups of flour short of a loaf - but he comes across from page one as someone you'd want to watch should you run into him on the street, make sure you've positioned yourself between him and the kids. Not that he's particularly dangerous (he could turn out to be, remember I haven't finished the book yet), but he's rather, well, creepy. The local police have recommended he find himself a hobby of some kind, something to get him outside the house, something allowing more social contact so as not get into any more of these odd situations. Odd situations? What odd situations, one asks?

Anyway, I'll finish the book later and know. Again, published in 1998, a first edition that's obviously been remaindered, but a very good piece of work. I suspect, given the author's choice of a diary form to frame his story - a brilliant rendition in this case - when read by a photographer who's keeping a diary himself, makes it more creepy to read than it otherwise might.


So far it doesn't involve small children or anything totally over the top, my comment on keeping yourself between him and your kids aside, but the victim of a thirty year old unsolved murder shows up in an image on an old roll of film the diarist has found inside a camera he's just purchased. It's soon obvious the dead man has something to do with the diarist, the diarist's father and mother and perhaps others from his past. The diarist was seven years old when the murder was committed, but the connections becomes obvious to the reader well before they're recognized by the diarist himself.

The diarist is creepy in the way he dodges and invents his rationales, in his obsessive internal narratives about pictures (with or without their heads clipped from the image) taken from old photographic art magazines, in dodging what's obvious to the reader by following the clippings and newspaper stories that parallel the dialogue, obvious connections he's not willing to face, the extremes to which he's willing to go and the self rationalizations he invents. As in creepy. This guy is not someone you would want around the house. Which works well as a piece of writing, but really good writing designed to creep you out will indeed creep you out. It's obviously creeped me out.

Half an hour on the guitar. The fingertips get quite sore playing the chords, so we'll do scales for a while before we return. I was obviously kidding myself in saying the fingers had toughened up. I just wasn't playing enough. New chords this week, the fingers all scrunched together on the frets. I'm not the first one to gain such knowledge I would suspect.

Still later still. OK, a good long guitar session followed by watching The Twilight Samurai online on the computer, a movie I've seen before. Netflix has a section of movies on their site you've seen and rated (I gave this one four stars) in the past, allowing you to watch them online. What's somewhat odd is how little I remember of the movie from that first viewing. I recognized the scenes as they evolved, but couldn't recall those scenes until they arrived or the whole story until it had been told.

A excellent movie, by the way, but instructive, not so much because this memory lapse is happening now as I get older, but because I've always had this particular lapse with movies and books (I can reread any one of the twenty or so Ross McDonald mysteries I have up on the shelf without a clue as to who done it or how it was done until I'm finished). Watching The Twilight Samurai just brings it home.

Watching the movie, of course, I didn't go back and finish the book. Avoiding it do you think? The creepy diarist?

The photograph was taken in Union Square in San Francisco yesterday with a Nikon D3 mounted with an 85mm f 1.4 Nikkor D lens.