Long ago, in a parallel universe in the ’70s, I kept a charming diary. It is the only diary I wrote that is enjoyable reading, and I would gladly burn my later sad-sack diaries, except that burning one’s journals in a bonfire is banned by the EPA (air emissions).
Much of this charming, funny, girly vinyl-and-silk diary is about my student days. I described the politics of the classics department, flirtations and friendships, my charming soon-to-be-ex-husband’s extravagant dinner parties, a never-ending paper on Jane Eyre, and going to bars to listen to Greg Brown (good) or Chickie and the Dipsticks (not so good).
Here is my mocking inscription on the first page of the diary.
A JANITOR’S JOURNAL:
A Useful Document for Janitors
Aspiring to be Classicists.
One woman’s story.
Her trials and tribulations.
Outer struggles with
clogged toilets reflect
inner mental crises.
I had a satiric outlook, but also described the ups and downs of everyday life. My ex- was the most charming person I knew, but he and his friends were hard drinkers. We once spent Thanksgiving with an alcoholic friend who had lost his English professor job and who became drunkenly abusive to his wife at dinner. But my witty husband, who, even when drunk, brought out the best in everyone, managed to divert him by describing something on PBS as “the Stratford-on-Avon picture torture.” We all laughed, and the friend calmed down.
Occasionally I wrote about books. Well, I must admit, I wrote about books all the time. I loved Anna Karenina, and wrote reams about Levin, who was my favorite character. I wrote about all kinds of books: Edmund Gosse’s Father and Son, Dickens’s Hard Times, Cicero’s Pro Caelio (I was very indignant that Clodia Metelli, an older woman, was blamed for Caelius’s problems), Euripides’s Medea, Colette’s Break of Day, and a trashy French romance series, the Angelique books.
Jane Austen’s Emma was my favorite book, but I wrote disapprovingly of Pride and Prejudice.
Am writing at the laundromat, drinking Pelican Punch tea from a defective Gunsmoke thermos purchased at a garage sale. It leaked all over my purse.
I am reading Pride and Prejudice, and am astonished that I could ever have read Jane Austen as a satirist. For the first half of the book Elizabeth Bennet looks critically at the world; in the second half she learns her mistake and accepts traditional propriety.
There you have it: Gunsmoke and Pride and Prejudice.
Surprisingly, my views on P& P have not changed much. I enjoy Lizzie’s sharpness and wit, but the last part of P&P still annoys me. Lizzie doesn’t fall in love with Darcy until she sees his property, and Darcy, like so many Austen heroes, is a stiff, even if he’s played by Colin Firth. Could anyone really fall in love with Darcy/Knightley/etc.?
But I’m really here to talk about:
I no longer keep a personal diary, but I love my book journal. I recently filled a book journal of five years of my reading. I need to pick a new notebook for my book journal.
Big or little?
So far the format has been easy. It’s a list. And if I want to keep this format, I have two small notebooks that will work.
NOTEBOOK CHOICE #1: The novelty notebook
This small notebook looks like a Penguin edition of On the Road. I’m not a big Kerouac fan, but I saw the exhibit of his typed scroll of the manuscript at the University of Iowa Art Museum. A guard had to warn me not to lean on the glass case. I was fascinated by the scroll.
All I can remember about On the Road is that “the prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines.” This struck me because I’m a Midwesterner.
NOTEBOOK CHOICE #2: The Moleskine reporter’s notebook
I deliberately bought the reporter’s style notebook so I can flip it open and take notes. You never know when Nick Hornby, Michael Stipe, or Dovegreyreader might walk down the street. Of course I’d flip open my notebook and ask them a few questions.
NOTEBOOK CHOICE #3: If I want to change the format to an actual journal with brief critiques of each book, this irresistible Miquerlius softbound journal might do.
I bought most of my notebooks for occasional teaching, but as you know who know me from my previous blog, I have no students at the moment. No one to study Wheelock or Catullus? Dear me!
Do let me know what kind of notebook you use for your book journal. And whether you list books or “journal.”