Thursday, March 31, 2011

Morgan Library: Diaries

R and I went to the Morgan to see the Diaries exhibit.  Thought of the difference between diary and journal.  Both keep records, but diary implies daily, more everyday events, keeping track of what you did, who you saw, what happened.  Journals keep for writers records of what they mean to do, experiments, drafts of things, even. 

Examining three centuries of diaries made us want to begin keeping a diary right away. You could tell how successful the exhibit was by the expressions on the faces of the visitors.  Many were smiling that blissed out smile of surprise that comes with unexpected pleasure.

Some highlights:

--an oversize notebook of John Steinbeck kept while writing the Grapes of Wrath. 
His goal was to write two pages a day, so simple. 

--diaries of Thoreau whose beautiful penmanship wrote each carefully chosen word

-- E/B White's typescript of writing about his childhood every day which  led to the opening of Trumpet of the Swan.

--Walt Whitman's tender record of the wounded soldiers in the Civil War

--Samuel Pepys' writing in shorthand about the London Fire

--Charlotte Bronte's griping about her job as a teacher in a boarding house

--American record of the Boston tea party

--Hawthorne family diaries

Whether writing down history, or recording what your family had for dinner, diaries bring to life what has passed. 

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