Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan

A weeklong electronic journal.
Jan. 23 2001 6:00 PM

Jennifer Egan

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Monday was a less than perfect day, for the following reasons:

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1. I never left the house. There is nothing more depressing than having one's husband come home after dark, carrying the mail under his arm because you haven't so much as descended to the ground floor to collect it.

2. (And this, not the baby, is the reason for No. 1.) My book revisions still aren't done. I've been working on this novel for six years, and perhaps I'm subdividing the distance between two points infinitely, but the fact remains that when my editor called in the morning wondering if she should send a messenger to pick up the manuscript, the answer was still no. Yesterday I copied one entire thread of the novel—everything involving a particular character I've had lots of trouble with (or rather, a character I've been consistently enamored of, but whom readers have had trouble with) into one long document, so that I could read through it for development and consistency. I've done this many times in the course of six years, but today I barely got the job done, because …

3. Emmanuel screamed for many hours. Amy Baird, the extraordinary baby-nurse, isn't here anymore (since I thought my book revisions would be done), and so it was I, and then David and I, doing tap dances and pirouettes and animal impressions in an effort to console our tiny, inconsolable son. This went on for hours. Finally, at around 11 p.m., David lay him in the bassinet, still howling, and he promptly fell asleep, raising the question of whether our tap dancing and pirouetting was what had been making him crazy (and who could blame him?)—perhaps all he'd wanted was to be left alone. In any case, when a blissful hush suddenly encompassed our apartment, David finally put the steaks he'd brought home for dinner (Monday being the one night the theater is dark) under the broiler. And then came the day's offering of high comedy: The steaks set off the smoke alarm, which let fly many piercing shrieks, and David and I ran around the apartment in a Chaplinesque effort to disassemble the thing (Oh my God, the chair's not high enough! What about the ladder? Where's the ladder?) before it woke the baby. Which we managed to do. And the steaks were superb, by the way.

There is one enormous compensation for the myopic bubble of book and baby in which I presently find myself: The presidency of George W. Bush does not seem real to me. It's like an awful rumor or a fantasy; a prospect so deeply interwoven with my present surreal and chaotic state that I half believe I will emerge to find that it never even happened.