Diary of a Nobody

Reading 'Instant Karma'; or, The Terrorist With a Library Card

OCTOBER 22 • Dear Diary, I did not tell Swartz the following. It's not that I was shy but because it happened after the interview and I didn't want to call him back because it would've meant more diary entries and how much can you take? But I just finished Margaret Scanlan's Plotting Terror; I would have wanted to say, "Oh Mark, you're part of a grand tradition of novelists preoccupied with terrorism—James, Dostoyevsky, Conrad. Remember the 1870s, radicals blowing up political leaders in Europe and Russia? And of course today we have Don DeLillo. I know you love Don, how he takes the writer-terrorist doppelgänger equation furthest in Mao II. The Lebanese intellectual says, "Isn't it the novelist . . . who knows in his soul what the terrorist thinks and feels?" Oh do we.

But let me tell you, Dear Diary. After I finished DeLillo's Players, where the man gets involved with terrorists and has sex with two of them, I had a dream that someone was pouring hot Bolognese sauce on my head so I had to lay off the DeLillo for a while.

OCTOBER 23 • Dear Diary, I woke up this morning thinking, what if Mohammed Atta had gone to Yaddo?

Instant Karma novelist Mark Swartz shines on (pictured at the library of the Grolier Club of New York).
photo: Sylvia Plachy
Instant Karma novelist Mark Swartz shines on (pictured at the library of the Grolier Club of New York).

OCTOBER 23, later than before • Dear Diary, another lightbulb! I just returned from looking out the window and realized what a perfect literary form the diary is for a terrorist. A revelation that certainly should interest you, though does this make me a terrorist? Are you scared? Let's be honest . . . small person in a small room . . . I'm reflecting on the world at large now . . . who wants to do something big, public—little book, little suitcase, big bomb, bursting with emotion, always written in the present, I hate you, I love you. Oh yes.

There's this Hugo Ball quote in Instant Karma: "People who keep a record of their experiences are resentful, vengeful people whose vanity has been wounded." I don't know about that, though I wasn't invited to any Halloween parties. I guess diaries have a lot of whining. Even in The Turner Diaries—the horrendous racist novel that's the bible of all those paramilitary types—the diary writer says, "Every muscle in my body aches. Yesterday we spent 10 hours . . . carrying loads of weapons through the woods . . . "

But as Mr. Pooter says, "It's the diary that makes the man." Mr. Pooter's not a terrorist but a clerk in the Grossmith brothers' Diary of a Nobody, which should be the title of all diaries. (If I were at fancy balls all the time, do you think I'd have time to write to you?)

Dear Diary, we've run out of space and I want to go outside in the sparkling pumpkin autumn afternoon. Maybe I'll go see if Mark wants to take a walk. Goodbye!

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