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Posts Tagged ‘Journals’

False Alarm

May 27, 2015 | by


Cheever, right, with Updike on The Dick Cavett Show in 1981.

From “On the Literary Life,” a series of excerpts from John Cheever’s journals published in our Fall 1993 fortieth-anniversary issue. Cheever, born on this day in 1912, had amassed twenty-eight notebooks by the time he died, in 1982; he wrote the extracts below between 1974 and 1978. “These were workbooks, a place to take notes, to practice and to fume,” Cheever’s son, Benjamin, says in his introduction. “Please remember that this is just one piece of the man. An interesting piece, I think: diverting, instructive, candid, and intimate. But not the whole guy.”

The telephone rings at four. This is CBS. John Updike has been in a fatal automobile accident. Do you care to comment. I am crying. I cannot sleep again. I think of joining Mary in bed but I am afraid she will send me away. I think I am right. When there is a little light I feed the dogs. I hope they don’t expect to be fed this early every morning, she says. I do not point out that John will not die every morning and that in any case it is I who feeds them. The restraint costs me nothing. When I go into the kitchen for another cup of coffee she empties the pot into my cup and says: I was just about to have some myself. When I insist on sharing the coffee I am unsuccessful. I do not say that the pain of death is nothing compared to the pain of sharing a coffee pot with a peevish woman. This costs me nothing. And I see that what she seeks, much more than a cup of coffee—is to gratify a sense of denial and neglect—and that we so often, all of us, put our cranky and our emotional demands so far ahead of our hunger and thirst. Read More »

Say Stupid Shit

April 30, 2015 | by

Richard Lindner, Boy with Machine, 1954. According to Guattari and Deleuze, the painting validates one of their theses: “the turgid little boy has already plugged a desiring-machine into a social machine, short-circuiting the parents.”

From The Anti-Oedipus Papers, a set of notes and journal entries by Félix Guattari. When Guattari, born on this day in 1930, cowrote Anti-Oedipus (1972) with Gilles Deleuze, readers and scholars were baffled by their process; Guattari’s extensive diarizing pulls back the curtain on their collaboration.


I’m strapped to this journal. Grunt. Heave. Impression that the ship is going down. The furniture slides, the table legs wobble …

Writing so that I won’t die. Or so that I die otherwise. Sentences breaking up. Panting like for what. […]

You can explain everything away. I explain myself away. But to whom? You know … The question of the other. The other and time. I’m home kind of fucking around. Listening to my own words. Redundancy. Peepee poopoo. Things are so fucking weird! […] Read More »

The Diary Diaries

October 10, 2013 | by

manduka journal book

At the end of last year I returned to England after two years working in West Africa. In my bedroom at my parents’ house in Cambridge I encountered my old diaries. They sat in that ancient space alongside a photograph of my intake at Sandhurst in the year I spent in the army before university, and a first edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom that my father once gave me. I was twenty-seven and uncertain of what I wanted to do with my life; I hoped reading my written record might give some better idea.

Reading the diaries in public garnered me strange looks on the London Underground. When a woman inquired I emphasized that that the handwriting was my own; I was not perusing another’s journal without permission. The process took about two months.

My oldest journal is a 1992–93 “mid-year” diary manufactured by a firm called Dataday. After a four-year hiatus, a series of page-a-days produced variously by Collins, Dataday, and WH Smith begins in 1996 and runs until 2002. Next come exercise books, one sheathed in a tan leather cover inset with porcupine needles, and a tranche of Moleskines. The final shift in format begins three volumes from the end of the archive. The books become larger; eight by eleven inches. They are bound in quarter leather and the covers are marbled. The first bears in gilt script Simon Akam and سيمون أكم , which is a rough transliteration of my name is Arabic. New York 2008 appears further down. In short, a slightly embarrassing trajectory of increasing literary pretension.

I first kept a diary in the summer of 1992, when I was six years old. I imagine it was a school project, a record-of-your-holiday-please, which in our familial case was to Brittany in northern France. My writing at this stage is wholly descriptive.

Thursday 16 July 1992

at school in the morning I did a jigsaw and in the afternoon I palys [sic] with clever sticks and after school I went canoeing with P palyed [sic]

The real, day-to-day effort starts four years later, at ten.

Monday 1 January 1996

I still can’t get to grips with the fact that ’95 has ended, it went so fast. T. H. … came round and rattled on about his Christmas presents, we showed him the end of the The spy who loved me and he piped down, probably scared stiff. In the afternoon Daddy and I fitted my bike computer, the black tape wound around the front forke [sic] to secure the wire gave the bike a mean look. We watched the worst Bond movie I’ve ever seen, On her Majasty’s [sic] secrat [sic] service.

I do not know why my diary began when it did, in the dead time of New Year before the Christmas decorations came down. Whatever its inception, that daily diary persists, with periods of greater and lesser enthusiasm, for seventy-eight months. It peters out entirely in the summer of 2002, when I have just turned seventeen. The last, rather embarrassing entry is scrawled as follows:

Friday July 26 2002

Pulled [British slang for made out with] F. H. in a punt [flat-bottomed boat propelled with a pole] on the way to Grantchester. [Photogenic village outside Cambridge, once haunt of poet Rupert Brooke] Read More »


On This Day

January 25, 2013 | by

“I’ve fallen in love or imagine I have; went to a party and lost my head. Bought a horse which I don’t need at all.” —Leo Tolstoy, January 25, 1851









Queen of the Web

May 30, 2012 | by

Queen Elizabeth has put Queen Victoria’s complete journals online. (Well, in collaboration with Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries and ProQuest.) The 141 journals, sourced from the Royal Archives, chronicle Victoria’s life from the age of thirteen to eighty-one. The monarch was a faithful and articulate correspondent, and while the content is hardly what one might term juicy, there are certainly plenty of personal revelations, domestic details, and opportunities for analysis. (If you can read her handwriting, that is—not every journal is transcribed.)

On this day in 1837, the soon-to-be queen recorded,

Wrote a letter to dear Uncle Leopold. Walked. Wrote my journal. Dressed (as though I was going to an evening party.) ... Saw Dr. Clark. Played on the piano. Wrote. At 7 to 4 we dined.


Staff Picks: Keith Haring’s Journals, ‘Library’

January 13, 2012 | by

I could spend days nosing around the Guggenheim’s online publication archive. The museum has digitized a number of its rare and out-of-print publications and made them available for free. What bounty! Even in black and white, the abstract compositions in the 1940 catalogue for “Art of Tomorrow,” one of the Guggenheim’s first shows, still look revolutionary. —Nicole Rudick

Of the many books I received over the holidays, the only one I have read cover to cover is the new edition of Keith Haring’s Journals. Self-analytical but never narcissistic, the artist writes insightfully about art, death, and his generation: “It’s not an easy time to be alive and maybe an even more difficult time to die.” —Artie Niederhoffer

I moved to Berlin when I was twenty-one, just out of college, and I laughed aloud in recognition when Gideon Lewis-Kraus, in his forthcoming A Sense of Direction, described living in the city as “an infinitely long weekend with your parents out of town … The old crimes licensed you to ignore the claims of the past; the low cost of living licensed you to ignore the demands of the present; and the future was something that would happen when we moved back to New York, where many of us would once more live in uncomfortable proximity to our actual parents.” —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

I’ve been reading Tom Clark’s blogging on Vanitas—check out “Clean.” —Sadie Stein

I can’t help but admire Trong G. Nguyen’s Library. Since 2007, the New York–based artist has been rewriting books, word for word, on individual grains of rice. Very little is lost in translation. —Eliza Martin

I’ve been very distracted by Letterheady today. Gertrude Stein and Ray Bradbury both had particularly appealing stationery. —Emma del Valle

If you’re interested in multifaceted companies, read Interview Magazine’s chat with Jean Touitou, the founder of A. P. C. clothing. Touitou is a sharp man, and he sheds light on his journey to the top. He began his career in fashion at age twenty-six, about which he says: “Basically a man at twenty-six is like a woman at sixteen ... An adolescent.” —Jessica Calderon