Sunday, December 31, 2006

And there we must draw a veil...

An interesting collection of observations on diary-writing at the Observer Review.

I have not kept a diary regularly at any stage of my life (I had a traumatic incident at the age of six that involved my cherished little red-leather-with-a-gold-lock-and-key diary being RAVAGED by pen-wielding scribble-on-every-page little brothers and ringleader friend, the fact that none of them could read did not stop it from being a painful violation!) though as a teenager I occasionally scrawled a tormented screed and sealed it in an envelope and chucked it in the closet. Perhaps characteristically I now practice a more compartmentalized form of chronicling: I've got all my appointment books since the early nineties, though it would take some mental feat to reproduce the texture of life from those practical entries on classes and meetings and social plans (but I take notes on actual meetings on the relevant appointment page, I find it easier than keeping track of bits of paper, so you might know what I was thinking on a given day about the undergraduate curriculum or how to streamline graduate admissions), and then of course this blog now provides a record of light reading and casual thoughts about this and that.

In 2007 I am going to start keeping a running diary, in part as a way of getting the cross-training under control--I partly overtrained this fall because I was keeping my running schedule on a separate calendar from my other exercise so that the running coach wouldn't know how much I was doing, I knew she wouldn't approve (and it is a mystery why this was clear to me at the time and yet didn't stop me from doing it...)--and also because I hope I will be running for many years to come and it will be interesting to look back and track progress, problems and so forth.

I think I can say definitively that I will never write my memoirs. I have too strong a sense of privacy to have any urge to put the pieces of my life together in a meaningful way for a reader, though I like the sort of book--Francis Spufford's The Child That Books Built is an excellent example--that uses an interesting and content-driven theme to follow one strand of a life (or in a different sense Lynne Cox's Swimming to Antarctica would be another example, those are two books I found particularly rich and rewarding to read). It would be funny if in later life I wrote my running memoirs! Yesterday I found a reference to a forthcoming book by Benjamin Cheever called Strides, that is a book I most particularly want to read (here's the link for an interesting article of his in Runners World about American soldiers running in Iraq).


  1. But your blog is a kind of living diary in a way, isn't it? Have you thought of creating an (annual?) book out of your blog? There are a couple of sites that can make your blog into quite a nice book for a very reasonable rate, so it is quite tempting.
    I very much identify with what you say about knowing that some "authority figure" is quite sensible and right, but going ahead and doing the not so sensible thing anyway! It is your perfectionism that drives you.
    A very happy new year to you, thank you for all your kind comments and support in 2006, which have meant a lot (especially as you were the first person to comment on my blog). I hope you will continue your interesting posts during 2007 as I am sure I shall enjoy reading them.
    all my best wishes

  2. I also want to wish you good health and joy in the coming year. I only found you a few months ago and your picks (going back thru the archive) and links have led me in so many thrilling directions.

    Wish I could read faster and therefore more, but then again, I'm pretty fast to begin with and even faster reading would negate one of my deepest desires which is slowing time down.

    Running-wise, or in my case power-walking-wise, I did 82 exhilarating minutes a few days ago and felt I could go another 20 minutes. I'm wicked fast for a 63 year old especially when walking the beat of soukous music and salsa. In 2007 I want to enter a 5K race and do it in 60 minutes. A steady 12-minute walking mile. Ooh-whee baby. Different strides for different hides. xxxxxxx ruby

  3. Thank you both, and best wishes for the new year!

  4. that's interesting about keeping the running schedule separate so the running coach couldn't see it. i find the way one can separate parts of oneself from other parts of oneself fascinating. and the idea of putting your comments in your calendar/appointment book. i used to find that i would start to feel like my personality was splitting and disintegrating if i put different things in separate journals so i had to put everything in one journal, drawings, lists, vague diary entries, financial notes. keeping things separate still feels like i'm splitting in peices though weirdly it is more disorganized to put it all in one book. now i find that true of blogging where i put part of myself in a fake name in my blog but leave out many other parts. a memoir that only deals with your life in terms of exercise, running and the effects of running on your body could be quite interesting. i find memoirs that focus on only one aspect of self are fascinating... happy new year!

  5. Jenny, hi:
    I sent you couple of messages before Xmas and before New Year and I do not know if you received them. I never heard back from you.

    Anyway, I wish you happy holidays: Xmas and New Year of course, and let this year bring you great moments, new people, books and whatever you wish for yourself.