Great news that writer Mavis Gallant’s private journals will be edited and published, though not so great that we may have to wait until 2014 to read them! A teaser set of excerpts from 1952 appears in the July 9 issue of The New Yorker, where Gallant also published more than 100 stories over her lifetime. I’ve not yet seen the issue (the copy someone bought at my request from a bookstore across town yesterday turned out to be the July 2 issue!), but teaser bits from that teaser set have appeared here and there on Facebook statuses and in blog posts (such as this lovely one by Janice Gray over at Richard Gilbert’s blog Narrative), all enough to make it clear how full of personality, wonderful writing, and compelling detail the published journals will be. A 1959 treasure quoted by editor Steven Barclay is an example.
…we took the train and walked in the royal park at Marly, and lay in the uncut grass under a sky as warm as wool and blue as itself. The chestnut trees looked as though nothing could oblige them ever to shed their leaves; and when the wind bent the grass around the barren flat, submissively, the grass went all one color, silvery, like the underside of leaves, as if it might rain.
Gallant wrote nearly every day and the handwritten journals comprise thousands of pages. They are “really, really quite personal,” Barclay says (in the Globe and Mail report above, “full of many, many details.” They were, he says, a “flexing of her writing muscles.”
Does anyone keep a diary like that anymore?
It got me wondering, then, whether anyone keeps a diary like that nowadays, or do we set down our observations, our notes on what we do and see and read, in other ways now, in places like blogs, tweets, FB statuses? Or, to consider it another way, would Gallant, if young and making a career as a writer today, have kept a running, public log of her life, rather than saving it up in notebooks? Somehow I can’t quite imagine her not doing exactly what she did, but then again, perhaps it’s not just the character of the writer that determines the practices of the writing life, but the times.
At any rate, I’d be curious to know from writers and/or diarist types: how do you flex your writing muscles? Have your habits changed since the advent of social media with its many venues to record your life and make observations?