•I'm in Research City, spending long, concentrated days in the archives, enjoying hours spent seemingly inside the head of the authors whose letters I'm reading, and wondering if, with all this typing and transcribing, absorbing words and sentence structure, I'll start to sound like these authors once I'm done.
•It may be easier, on the whole, to be a tortured creative genius and fill notebooks with tiny handwriting in black ink than to decipher that handwriting years later.
•No matter how much energy I think I have, it is never as much as that of an author who likes to write letters.
Some of the most intellectually energetic weeks of my life were the three months I spent doing groundwork for the LZ biography at the HRC in Austin. One can intellectually accept, even endorse, all of the post-structuralist arguments about the death of the author, all the substitutions of an "author-effect" for the old-fashioned author, & still get swept away with a kind of immediacy when you're actually holding in your hands the letters, the drafts & notes, that a given poet wrote. (I've written about this before.)
As Undine's specific comments above: 1) Yes you will, at least in bits & pieces; part of what Leon Edel calls "transference" (tho I think he presents a severely emaciated version of the process); probably in the end not a good thing, so be aware. 2) Of course it's easier to write the notebooks than to read them; hell, I'm not even a "creative genius" & I can't decipher my own handwriting from six months ago. 3) I wonder if the species as a whole hasn't declined since the 19th century, energy-wise. God knows Ruskin seems to have churned out a couple dozen pages of manuscript & correspondence every day, & he didn't have to resort to heavy doses of caffeine, nicotine, & amphetamines (like Sartre). Then again, I suspect the absence of radio, television, electronic media, & telephones – plus the fact that all cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. was done by others – added to his writing time.
Random LZ archival notes:
•A prominent LZ scholar once opined to me that Zukofsky's increasingly "crabbed" (LZ's own word) handwriting, beginning mostly in the 1950s, was due to the psychological constraints of his marriage. Interesting theory, but Occam's razor suggests something more prosaic: the invention of the ballpoint pen. LZ, you see, was a lefty, & in the days of fountain pens would perforce have to write rather slowly & carefully in order to avoid smearing the still-wet ink. Once a "dry" writing instrument was invented, he could follow his natural bent & write as microscopically as he pleased. (This is clearly evidenced in a long early letter to Carl Rakosi, written on a train from Chicago to Madison, where his pen runs out halfway thru & he finishes in pencil – in much smaller script.)
•One thing that hit me more & more as I read thru the correspondence – & not merely the HRC's collections, but various other collections around the continent, along with bales of photocopies sent from various hands – was the extent to which every letter is in some sense addressed: that is, every bit of "evidence" you glean from a writer's correspondence has to be weighed & calibrated on the basis of the writer's relationship with the addressee. Probably necessary to extent this to most notebooks & journals as well (as Claire Tomalin does in her brilliant Pepys biography): even if the journal is entirely private, somewhere in the writer's mind there's an intended or ideal audience, & the writing is to some degree addressed to that audience.