The Arbor, 1965 Fiction, romance. 30 pages. Incomplete. Philadelphia, PA; Age: 12; Adolescence; Conventional narrative.

First page of The Arbor. Mss_0005_01.

PDF: Large image

Spiral bound notebook. Hand written, as with the other novels of this period. Ball point pen. Excellent.

Prose. Fated love, jealousy. The main character loves a man she has known since childhood.

The first page of The Arbor, written out by hand, with a few scratchings, pen trials, and corrections, but basically, a full speed ahead beginning. The stage is set, the main character's voice established, the romantic love interest enters, as he should, on horseback, and so it begins.

Related mss: The Letter, Roddy, "The Arbor" poem.

As I continue to write the novels I have outlined for myself, I take up The Arbor as my next project. The Letter is circulating among my schoolmates. I am in the eighth grade, and I am caught between the life of popularity and success as a junior highschool child, and the chill of puberty, beginning to take hold. I don't show the notebooks to my parents. They are very respectful of my privacy, and never ask to see them, though from time to time a quick aside acknowledges “those notebooks in your drawer upstairs.” Still, they never pry and the drawer is never disturbed.

The transformative event of my young life occurred in the summer of 1964, and already left traces in the notebook pages at the back of the manuscript of The Letter. A girl named Amy has moved in across the street, and since summer, when we first met, she has been the main focus of my interests and desires. But she is two years older than I am, a freshman at Girl's High. I am still in junior high school at Masterman, with classmates I have known for several years with whom I have a tight social network, in which our roles and identities are established. But Amy's arrival has introduced me to the world of pop music, to top forty lists, and to the Beatles. The bubble of childhood is completely broken. Not only is there a world beyond home, family, and school, but it comes into those realms in the form of nighttime listening and daytime conversations. The currency of social exchange shifts from experience to cultural objects, things known and made for consumption and shared reference. My interest in such matters is driven entirely by my drive to become Amy's friend, get to know her, trade in her symbolic systems. I will have to change my writing practice, but not yet.

My interior life does not catch up immediately to those desires. I am the writer. I have other friends who are also writers, but my sheer prolificness is beginning to outstrip them. The Arbor is meant to flesh out the full narrative sketched in the poem that was written in the final pages of The Letter notebook. Though I begin to march through the writing of books I have assigned myself, with some amount of perseverance and deliberateness, my interests change. This manuscript is abandoned, however, since I felt I had outgrown its original frameworks and conceptions. The simple story of love and longing, a girl's wait in a place made special by a romantic encounter, does not have enough room to contain the myriad of new characters and circumstances I want to include. So, this tale of familial and school-room jealousies and intrigues will be eclipsed by the epic Roddy, and then by works composed in a completely new voice.

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