Not that I needed another reason for wanting to be in New York City, but here’s one anyway.
I recently noticed an article about an exhibition currently on at The Morgan Library and Museum, and it caught my eye as a most fascinating collection of insights. On now, “The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives” is a showing of the private diaries of an amazing range of people, John Steinbeck, Bob Dylan, and Queen Victoria to name but a few. There is even the diary of a true-life pirate; I don’t know why, but I’d love to get my hands on that one.
The thing that really got me thinking was the question of the degree to which these journals were written for general consumption. I’m not a big fan of the autobiography, so it would be the secrets, the private, the unscripted revelations of these books of all shapes and sizes that would appeal to me. Do you think anyone really writes a diary thinking that it will never be discovered, never read by anyone? Beyond secret encryptions and codes (which some of the diary writers in the exhibition did in fact use), surely a diary-keeper must assume that even the most private of diaries might one day be read, especially if written by someone of public interest. How does this influence what they include and how engineered the entries are?
It’s been many years since I’ve kept a diary, and I’ve lost count of the number of notebooks entitled ‘My Journal’ that have the first couple of pages completed, have then been put on a shelf or in a cupboard only to be later discovered and greeted with a rye little giggle at myself for trying yet again to document my day-to-days.
But, alas, of late my days have indeed been documented. Although it lacks the secrecy and the careful consideration that sometimes comes with diary-keeping, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have quite nicely recorded (and reported) the dot-points of my days over the last couple of years. Although I have to say that it lacks the intimacy of a lock-and-key journal, and the therapeutic value of hand-writing thoughts on hard, white paper under hand, it has nonetheless been of great value to myself and to those interested in my comings and goings. And as with flipping back through the pages of a paper diary, it is extremely interesting to press the ‘Older Post’ button at the bottom of the page, and go back through the days, months and years to track your own path.
I guess at the end of the day, whether it be for our own sake, or for the interest of others, self-documentation must hold a great appeal. Although the vehicle seems to have changed somewhat, the compulsion remains the same…
Do you keep a diary? Do you think Facebook, Twitter etc., are the same as diary-keeping?
Who’s diary would you most like to read?