Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan

A weeklong electronic journal.
Jan. 24 2001 6:00 PM

Jennifer Egan

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Tuesday was hardly different from Monday in many of its essentials: I left the apartment only briefly, and after dark, to do some very pedestrian errands (bank, Duane Reade, Federal Express), and once again there were strenuous baby screams in the evening. However, a crucial difference will cleave Tuesday the 23rd from Monday the 22nd forever in my mind: On Tuesday, I finished my novel revisions and handed my manuscript (50 pages shorter than its last incarnation, which is always a good thing) to a messenger.

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The impact of this has not yet settled over me, but I think there will be tangible results:

1. I can occasionally nap when the baby sleeps during the day, rather than lunging for my desk, thus mitigating my pink-eyed rabbit-y look and also (hopefully) my general state of near hysteria.

2. I can take the baby outside during the day, rather than lunging for my desk, thus broadening both of our horizons and (hopefully) reducing crankiness and near or outright hysteria in both of us.

3. I can read baby books, rather than lunging for my desk, thus reminding me (hopefully) that many of the things my baby does (such as scream in the evenings) are normal for a not-yet-month-old child, and do not portend his immanent death.

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4. I can clean up our apartment, thus reducing (hopefully) the degree to which my internal hysteria is outwardly manifested.

5. I can resume reading books other than my own, thus increasing my pleasure in being alive. Of course, there is also a downside:

6. I can resume my heretofore-daily ritual of reading the newspaper, thus forcing me to acknowledge the presidency of George W. Bush, which until now has seemed a figment of my whacked-out hormonal state.

When David came home from the show at around 10, we drank Veuve Cliquot to celebrate. He made lemon sole, and the baby was finally asleep, and the smoke alarm did not go off this time. I felt more exhausted than I have since Emmanuel was born; the relief of having this project off my hands is so immense that I guess the adrenaline tap, which has fooled me these past weeks into believing that three or four hours of sleep a night is acceptable, was turned off. I came close to falling asleep at the table.

The Invisible Circus premiere is tonight at Sundance. I have no regrets about not going, yet I'm mildly frustrated that in this virtual era, there isn't some way I can have the experience of being there without actually engaging in the messy details of travel. My dear friend Ken Goldberg, a professor of computer science at Berkeley, has a concept that addresses this issue directly: the "Tele-Actor," or "a skilled human equipped with cameras, microphones, and wireless communications systems who moves through and interacts with a remote environment." In other words, a human being attends an event (or whatever), and other interested parties control his movements and witness his sensory perceptions via the Internet. In Ken's formulation, the movements of this human robot would be controlled collaboratively by thousands of participants, but another application would surely be that of the interested party who cannot attend the party, such as myself.

I'll have to settle for a long phone conversation with Adam.