FD has never been able to keep a diary (too self -conscious).  But FD has loved reading other people’s diaries, especially those of Virginia Woolf.  Even when a poor graduate student, who wasn’t studying English modernists, FD bought the VW diaries in hard cover and moved them from apartment to house to house.  Alas, trying to read Pepys’ diary didn’t work out as well. There is a great on-line source for Pepys’ diary, that began many years ago,  (2003 or earlier, not sure of the exact date).  FD tried to read along but gave up rather quickly.  There didn’t seem to be enough time to start at the beginning, between the footnotes and the commentary and everything else that FD was reading and doing, Pepys was soon abandoned, with the same kind of regrets that accompanied FD’s attempt to read all of Montaigne’s essays.

Anyway, last night, FD finished Tim Jeal’s new book about British explorers in Africa (nice piece here on the Yale Press blog). It would not have been possible to write that book if the explorers themselves had not kept detailed diaries.  Jeal was able to include a lot of information that the explorers did not disclose in what they wrote for publication or even in letters.  It is mind-boggling to imagine those men (and women!) keeping diaries in the very difficult situations they describe.  Sickness and injury, hunger and fear, none of it sounds at all pleasant, and yet they were also able to write about beauty and wonder and the goodness, as well as the evil, they encountered.

FD is not surprised to have seen nothing to match those diary entries on Facebook.  Perhaps there are blogs that rise to the level of the best diaries, but perhaps not.  It may not be possible that blog posts written for an immediate audience to have the same depth that is found in diaries.  Diaries, even when the writer intends them to be read later, or to provide information for what they will write for publication later, are  written with an understanding that (in most, if not 100% of cases) that they will not be read.  Surely, this results in more “truth” — or perhaps more truth-revealing lies.

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