I'm very excited about my most recent library find. And it is a very recent find--I only grabbed it off the shelf yesterday. I was pulling books for a display I am making in my library and was looking for something else (this often seems to be the case when I find these little gems--serendipity plays such a good role in bookish discoveries). My usual haunt for my lost in the stacks books is the P call number ranges (and there are quite a few of them--Language and Literature), but I was in the Cs--specifically the CTs, which happens to be Biography. I saw this little paperback with the title Revelations: Diaries of Women (edited by Mary Jane Moffat and Charlotte Painter) on the spine and had to take a peek at it. A peek turned into a slightly longer perusal during my lunch break and then it ended up coming home with me at the end of the day. This particular edition is from 1975, but in case you are curious, it is still in print in a nicer trade size edition and readily available.
I've toyed with the idea of reading diaries in the past, my most recent attempt being to begin reading Anaïs Nin's earliest diary a few years back. It wasn't lack of interest so much as lack of available reading time that kept me from my project. Should I attempt it again? I think this would be a perfect place to start, and the perfect sort of book to dip into now and again. This collection is divided into three sections: Love, Work and Power. It is literally a collection of diary samples from women (thirty-two in total) from the early nineteenth century through the 'recent past'. The youngest diarist is seven and the oldest eighty.
"Why do women keep diaries? (Or journals or notebooks.) Dissatisfaction with the way love and work have been defined for the female is the unconscious impulse that prompts many to pour out their feelings on paper and to acquire the habit of personal accounting on some more or less regular basis. The form has been an important outlet for women partly because it is an analogue to their lives: emotional, fragmentary, interrupted, modest, not to be taken seriously, private, restricted, daily, trivial, formless, concerned with self, as endless as as their tasks. Confusion about the conflicting demands of love and work in relationship to the authentic self leads to loneliness, by far the most common emotion expressed in diaries; loneliness stemming either from physical isolation from normal outlets of discourse, as with Anne Frank, or from psychological alienation from one's own milieu, as with Fanny Kemble, or from lovelessness as with George Sand."
Each sample begins with a short biography of the diarist and then several entries of the woman's diary. I'm not familiar with all the women in the collection, but I do recognize a few: Louisa May Alcott, Anne Frank, Sei Shonagon, George Sand, Sophie Tolstoy, Dorothy Wordsworth, Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield and Emily Carr. I'm looking forward to reading this (will be dipping into it this weekend as a matter of fact), and learning more about these women and the others not already familiar to me. I'll let you know how it goes. I think this is a book that will lead to another, or even another few...
Out of curiosity do you have a favorite diarist (man or woman)?