Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Sunday Salon: More Reading in the Rain

Yet another rainy Sunday – real rain this time, with lots of thunder and lightning. What's going on here? Have we been magically transported to Seattle? Or is it just the weather gods amusing themselves with a little springtime mayhem? I know I should stop reporting on the weather, and just get on with my reading (and blogging), but all this rain makes me feel more like napping (yawn).

So, getting on with it.

Today I finally managed to finish Peter Ackroyd's Chatterton. I've had it underway for much, much too long. Don't know why it's taken me such an embarrassingly long time to finish, because I quite enjoyed it. Now I just need to make myself do a little review of it while it's still fresh in my increasingly addled memory.

The only other reading I've done today (besides the newspapers) is from Thomas Mallon's A Book of One's Own: People and Their Diaries. Haven't gotten very far into it, but I like what I've read so far. Diary- and journal-keeping is a subject I've always been interested in. I'm a diary-keeper myself – have been since I received my first diary at age 6 or so: pink leatherette with gold fleur-de-lis decorations and a tiny brass lock and key (although the key was lost and the lock broken long ago).

I recently went back and looked at a couple of my earliest journals, thinking what a wonderful walk down memory lane they'd be. What a disappointment it was to find my 7-year-old self penning immortal entries like "April 29th. Went to school." or "Feb. 13. I'm over my cold." or "June 12. Today was Thursday." And that last one was in the middle of June, ladies and gentlemen! Surely I was doing something on that searingly hot and humid Texas summer Thursday. But we'll never know if or what.

In his introduction to the book, Mallon takes up the questions of why people keep journals and diaries (he also establishes very early on that the two words are pretty much interchangeable), and whether or not they write with an implied reader, other than themselves, in mind. He believes "no one ever kept a diary for just himself," and though he admits that attitude "has provoked more disagreement than any other" he still believes that diary-keepers write with some reader (some "you") in mind:

Your "you" may be even less palpable than mine, but someday, like the one you love, he'll come along. "He" may turn out to be a great-great-granddaughter, one summer afternoon a hundred years from now, going through boxes in an attic – or the man to whom she's sold the house, without remembering to clean out the garage. But an audience will turn up. In fact, you're counting on it. Someone will be reading and you'll be talking. And if you're talking, it means you're alive.

Well, I'm not so sure I agree with all of that. I don't really envision anybody ever reading my journals except myself and possibly my husband. And if he survives me, M. has orders to burn all this massive amount of paper I've accumulated, journals included. So no great-great descendant will ever have the opportunity to slog his way through scintillating stuff like: "May 5. Dear Diary, Played a lot."


  1. I would like to read your journals. If you were playing a lot at age 7 you were likely playing with me and I don't remember it and I think it would be extremely fantastic to read what we were doing from someone that was there.

    I have my first diary -- pink "Ponytail" one, I think, and it has entries from all different dates. I would let you read it if you want.I mean, after all, you gave me the diary so I guess you should be able to read it!

    By the way -- writing this in SA -- I think I REALLY like A's laptop!

  2. Very interesting! I've never been able to keep a journal. I always feel extremely self-conscious and stupid whenever I try. However, I love blogging and I think the difference is having an audience.

  3. We've been having quite a bit of rain lately too. Spring showers I suppose.
    The diaries I kept as a kid are pretty amusing to read now. I'm not sure I'd want anyone reading them either. Nowadays I can't seem to stick with one so gave up quite some time ago although I do occasionally think of trying again.

  4. Thank you for mentioning A Book of One's Own. I have always been a well-intentioned journal-ist and an avid reader of others' journals. I'll have to check this one out.


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