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Long live the diary, blog, journal-thingey.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 26 Oct 2011, 21:55

On dedicated diarists

In the Guardian Review in March 2003 William Boyd discussed the journal. I know this because it caught my eye on 9/03/2003 and I gave it a thorough blogging.

There are many sorts of journal (wrote Boyd):

  • journals written with both eyes fixed firmly on posterity
  • journals designed never to be read by anyone but the writer.
  • journals content to tabulate the banal and humdrum details of ordinary lives
  • journals meant expressly to function as a witness to momentous events of history.
  • journals that act as erotic stimulants or a psychoanalytic crutch
  • journals designed simply to function as an aide-memoire, perhaps as a rough draft for a later, more polished account of life.

But buried within these varying ambitions and motivations is a common factor that unites all these endeavours - the aspiration to be honest, to tell the truth.

The implication being that in the privacy of this personal record, things will be said and observations made that couldn't or wouldn't be uttered in a more public forum. Said Boyd.

(Wherein lies the blogs fundamental flaw. Do you tell the truth? Or skip the truth and become inventive with it?) Say I.

Hence the adjective "intimate" so often appended to the noun "journal". Said Boyd.

The idea of secret diaries, of intimate journals, somehow goes to the core of this literary form: there is a default-setting of intimacy - of confession - in the private record of a life that not only encourages the writing of journals but also explains their fascination to the reader.'

Said Boyd.

Wherein lies the lack of interest in the blog as academic record and reflection; it is your reflection and your record. If on paper it would be in an exercise book or an arch-lever file. Without some truth, some revelation, some disclosure, even exposure, it is but a carapace.

Seven years ago I invited people to comment, formed a group and promised to read the journals given below.

Few fellow bloggers came forward, it's a Long Run, a life-long marathon, not a thing you do as a relay team or with someone on you back.

Seven years on I may read some more of the journals listed below and see what insights it offers this blogger. I suspect I've read everything there is on Evelyn Waugh and Virginia Woolf - and everything they wrote (though I'm yet to jump into the River Ouse with my Gant raincoat pockets full of rocks. A passing thought as I walk the dog most days where the lady drowned herself).


William Boyd's to Ten Journal Keepers

James Boswell

Keith Vaughan

Paul Klee

Evelyn Waugh

Gilbert White

Cyril Connolly

Virginia Woolf

Edmund Wilson

Valery Larbaud

Katherine Mansfield

'It mimics and reflects our own wayward passage through time like no other writing form.' Boyd says.

'You have to be dead to escape the various charges of vanity, of special-pleading, of creeping amour-propre.'

The blog I kept for a decade and a bit more Sept 1999 to early 2000 spiralled a non-chronological 'dump' on 37 themes.

Occasionally I take a visit; it's like digging around in my in-law's attic (they give the appearance og having kept everything they ever read. They are voracious readers and are in their eighties)

A blog for me is:

  • A record
  • A journal
  • An aide-memoir
  • My deleterious exploits
  • The past (every memory gathered in, every book read, every film seen).
  • Dreams analysed
  • Fiction
  • Ill-health
  • My mental state
  • Every stage and phase of growing up dissected.

Its purpose?

Who knows.

This OU Blog does have an educational remit. For me it's an attempt to be bustled onto the tracks from which I became derailed. Perhaps. Or a compulsion to empty the contents of my Brian down any drain that'lll take it.

That, and I don't know what I mean until I've said it.

All this and I'm yet to get my head around the Opinion Piece in the New Scientist. 'Dear e-diary, who am I really?' and the potty idea of slinging a digital camera around your neck to record your every living moment.

Two things it vitally fails to pick up: what you think and how you feel.

Long live the diary, blog, journal-thingey.

12 months ago I was preparing to apply to West Dean College to study an M.A. in Fine Art, perhaps, now that I begin to look at the diaries of Paul Keel and Keith Vaughan this is where I should be.


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