When Terry posts an “Entry from an Unkept Diary,” I look at the title and invariably see “Entry from an Unkempt Diary.” This amuses me, but it also reminds me of the journals, very much kept, of my slightly younger self. They are pretty fat and unkempt tomes, stuffed with bits of paper scribbled on at times when the journal wasn’t at hand and salted away between the pages or, once in a while, scotch-taped in. It has been years now since I’ve attempted to keep a regular diary. I’m still a sucker for a nice blank book, however, and I buy them and try to think of other things to fill them up with than end-of-the-day thoughts, which in my case hardly ever failed to amount to small litanies of complaints–about work, about friends, but mostly about those two great sources of dissatisfaction, boyfriends and me, that is, my own fallibilities and failures. Sometimes I’d try to write about things outside the making-me-grumble and making-me-swoon zones, but those labored entries were always the worst: stiff, studied, insufferable. They always raised the same uncomfortable question when I’d finished: who the hell did I think I was writing that for? Just what audience of distinguished prize panelists did I imagine was going to be rooting around in my nightstand drawer for li-terature?
Yecch. Back to slights and betrayals and crushes. That junk, now–that flowed like Leinie’s at Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap [aside: hellooo, Frommers’ best editor!]. But could anything be more banal? Let’s just say I’m not so sorry I put a stop to all of that.
Still, these days I continue to like the idea of keeping a record of my daily life, but I lean away from the subjective and toward the objective variety. Not so far in that direction as Andy Warhol–no taxi cab receipts or anything–but definitely in that direction. Off and on, I’ll squirrel away my movie ticket stubs. They’re dandy little documents, packing quite a bit of data into the space of a couple postage stamps: the date, the movie title, the showtime, the theater’s name, the price. This, for me, is the sort of artifact that can evoke a whole day besides: the company, the weather outside, the pre-movie or post-movie meal, the comparing of notes after the show. I very much want to have been keeping this book already, but it always feels too late to start. It feels especially futile now, when I’m tempted out to the movies less and less frequently (a subject for another post). Still, I should do it. If I don’t, I’ll think of it next year and wish I had started now.
Another possible structured diary I’m always thinking about starting is the Lake Diary. I live a few blocks from Lake Michigan, and it looks different to me every day. If one day it is the same color as the day before, the sky is probably different. If the sky is the same color, too, the texture of the water surface is different. There’s not a day I see that lake and don’t say to myself–or to whoever is lucky enough to be around–“Look at the lake!” On a day not too long ago, the remarkable visual effect happened to be that while most of the lake surface was soft and nubbly, it turned shiny and glassine in the cup formed where Promontory Point curves back inland to the north. Sometimes lake and sky are both silver-gray, and the horizon is rubbed out or blurred, as if an eraser had been taken to it more or less skillfully. The possible and actual variations within this simple set of elements, lake-sky-color-texture, are infinite. And as certain reading tastes of mine go to show, I’m ever fascinated by subtle variations on a recurring theme (the variable elements in this case being color-damsel-scoundrel-scam).
So what kinds of diaries do you keep or aspire to keep? Tidy? Or un?