Inner Truth

Friday, December 5, 2003  1:06 PM







Number 61    Inner Truth


For Joan Didion on her birthday


From “On Keeping a Notebook” (1966)
in Slouching Towards Bethlehem:



How it felt to me: that is getting closer to the truth about a notebook. I sometimes delude myself about why I keep a notebook, imagine that some thrifty virtue derives from preserving everything observed.  See enough and write it down, I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder, some day when I am only going through the motions of doing what I am supposed to do, which is write- on that bankrupt morning I will simply open my notebook and there it will all be, a forgotten account with accumulated interest, paid passage back to the world out there: dialogue overheard in hotels and elevators and at the hatcheck counter in Pavillon (one middle-aged man shows his hat check to another and says, “That’s my old football number”)….

I imagine, in other words, that the notebook is about other people. But of course it is not. I have no real business with what one stranger said to another at the hat-check counter in Pavillon; in fact I suspect that the line “That’s my old football number” touched not my own imagination at all, but merely some memory of something once read, probably “The Eighty-Yard Run.”


From a 1994 interview with Tommy Lee Jones by Bryant Gumbel:



Gumbel: While majoring in English, Jones was also an offensive guard on the Harvard football team. Number 61 in your program, his last game, against Yale, proved to be one of the most famous games every played. Harvard scored 16 points in the last 42 seconds to gain a 29-all tie. (Photo of Jones in football uniform, footage of 1968 football game.)


Mr. J: It couldn’t have been a more spectacular way to leave the game that had been so important to me all my life. The grass had never looked that green, nor the sky that blue.


Gumbel: That lucky game was for Jones a precursor of good fortune to come. It seems Harvard

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