I attended The Central High School of Philadelphia, school for clever boys. Who would guess it now that I have become such an intellectual mongrel? I never won any awards at school or had a piece published in the literary magazine. Though even then I dreamed of being published. I was a loner in high school. I made no friends in adolescence.
How I longed for a special friend -- someone to share Rilke and Mallarme. Someone to lend me The Little Review. To have a friend, members only, but that was foreign to me. I longed for a friend who would complement my shyness, someone with no natural reticence or modesty. Always thrusting himself forward, must have a different table than the one he is shown by the waiter. Soup has to be made hotter when I would eat it as it came. Someone whose qualities, nay, virtues, I could envy, I could covet. Jealousy. A friendship based on jealousy. Why not? I was such a fake, so half past six. No head, no tail.
I will tell you the feeling -- exactly like listening to my father -- a high school dropout -- talking about his favorite pastime in his twenties: going to court to hear cases argued and fantasizing about a career in the law. Always the smell of something false about him. All rise, the court of the Honorable whoever is now in session. You may be seated. Making an exhibition of his failures and illusions. All the same -- fake is fake no matter where you find it. There was something so shallow in his character.
Like my father, I invented a whole life for myself. The life of an artist, of an aspiring writer. My life embodies true sorrow and pathos. I am a living person, alone, outside literary cliques, outside print, dying, outside humanity but of it. . . . Perhaps I have no literary talents. Yet I do have something of the soft staring brilliance of Franz Kafka; something of Rilke's anguished solitude; something of Wilfred Owen's angry fatalism.
I walk, I live, I suffer -- and I strain to make my inner life accessible to the world at large. I close my eyes and conjure up such a literary mongrel -- a combination of Kafka, Rilke, and who knows? -- composite and cosmopolitan. A person without the protection of the world that comes from living in it. A man outside.