June 2, 2017

"If nothing else, a diary teaches you what you’re interested in."

"Perhaps at the beginning you restrict yourself to issues of social injustice or all the unfortunate people trapped beneath the rubble in Turkey or Italy or wherever the last great earthquake hit. You keep the diary you feel you should be keeping, the one that, if discovered by your mother or college roommate, would leave them thinking, If only I was as civic-minded/ bighearted/ philosophical as Edward! After a year, you realize it takes time to rail against injustice, time you might better spend questioning fondue or describing those ferrets you couldn’t afford. Unless, of course, social injustice is your thing, in which case — knock yourself out. The point is to find out who you are and to be true to that person. Because so often you can’t. Won’t people turn away if they know the real me? you wonder. The me that hates my own child, that put my perfectly healthy dog to sleep? The me who thinks, deep down, that maybe The Wire was overrated?"

From "Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)," by David Sedaris. That passage — from the introduction — appealed to me because it also applies to blogging: It teaches you what you’re interested in. You can set your blog to private, making it just like a diary, something you write for yourself but not without the capacity to think someone else could see this, if I changed the setting. The thing is that if you maintain a daily writing practice, after a year (or so), you'll have worn down, and if you're still there, you can't still be posing for the admiration of your imagined audience. Can you?

And here's the interview Sedaris just did with Terry Gross (on "Fresh Air"), which got especially intense as he talked about the suicide of his sister Tiffany:
Looking back over her life, my mom never really liked Tiffany very much. Tiffany was too much like my mother, and I remember that as a child almost ... I just thought, Ugh, wouldn't want to be Tiffany. ...

The rest of us should've said, "Mom, you need to do something about this, because that's not OK for you to treat somebody that way." But we never said that. We never called our mother on her behavior towards Tiffany. You think, You're 7, what are you going to do? But I wasn't always 7. I was 20 and I was 30. ... Tiffany had a lot of anger at us and a lot of it was really well-founded. We were adults, we could've said to our mother, "This isn't OK." ...
That came after he'd said a lot — and this is only on the audio, not in the text at the link — about how he was his mother's favorite. He made it sound as though he'd acquired much of his own literary power through her.

ADDED: This post had me going back to the starting point of this blog, and I see that in my second post, I describe the moment I decided to start blogging. It was funny to see that it happened in the middle of listening to "Fresh Air":
I was in the midst of cleaning out my office, having just covered the floor with books and papers. I paused the direct streaming "Fresh Air" I was listening to and checked my email, which included a colleague's description of her reasons for starting a blog. I had just emailed her about my admiration for her and my own timidity: "I'll have to think about getting up the nerve to do this sort of thing. It seems if you're going to do it, you need to become somewhat chatty and revealing, which is a strange thing to do to the entire world." Then it seemed altogether too lame not to go ahead and start the blog.
I'm reading some of the earliest posts and — maybe just because I'm reading Sedaris's Diaries — they seem a lot like Sedaris's Diaries:
Next to me at the hair-washing station of the salon was a woman who was ranting about bangs.

"I've always had bangs. Then, not having bangs, I was going crazy."


Sydney said...

A diary can also serve as an examination of yourself. A reflection of what you did through the day that was right and what was wrong and help you make efforts the next day to try to improve.

urbane legend said...

A diary shows your interests, not teaches.

Bob Ellison said...

I heard some of that Terry Gross interview with David Sedaris, including that part about his sister's death, apparently by suicide.

It hit my "this person is lying, embellishing extravagantly, or delusional" nerve hard. Sedaris always does that for me. I think it's mostly delusion. He just comes across that way. Such an interesting life! Such terrible ordeals, such incredible non-stop emotions!

But in Sedaris's case, he makes big money off of this.

I could be wrong. Maybe he has analyzed himself, his sister, his other siblings, and his parents perfectly. Doesn't sound that way, though.

Laslo Spatula said...

A Diary can be good in identifying the Lies You Tell Yourself.

This both prevents and encourages Suicide.

Everyone loves reading the Diaries of someone who commits Suicide: it becomes like solving a Puzzle.

Otherwise you need an E-Meter to rid yourself of the Engrams.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

Effective Auditing is like reading the Diaries of Your Previous Lives.

Don't be afraid to go Clear.

I am Laslo.

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

"Will this pathological self-absorption never end?"

You mean my blog?

Ann Althouse said...


Ann Althouse said...

"But in Sedaris's case, he makes big money off of this."

He deserves it.

traditionalguy said...

Thanks for sharing.

The Cracker Emcee said...

""Will this pathological self-absorption never end?"

You mean my blog?"

Funny self-effacement or defensive indignation? Who knows?

Bob Ellison said...

"He deserves it."

Not if he's presenting fiction as fact.

Guildofcannonballs said...

---“Six kids!” people would say. “How do your poor folks manage?”

There were a lot of big families in the neighborhood I grew up in. Every other house was a fiefdom, so I never gave it much thought until I became an adult, and my friends started having children. One or two seemed reasonable, but anything beyond that struck me as outrageous. A couple Hugh and I knew in Normandy would occasionally come to dinner with their wrecking crew of three, and when they’d leave, several hours later, every last part of me would feel violated.---


This writing sucks. People tell him OMG SIX KIDS! with the exclamation and then he says "yeah that was totally normal where I grew up lots of families were that big" even though it is completely idiotic.

OMG YOU HAVE CABLE TV when everyone in the neighborhood had it? OMG YOU HAVE TWO CARS when everyone else in the county did too? OMG YOU WATCH ANDY GRIFFITH when it was the most watched show at the time?

It doesn't make any sense. This is Obama vs. Alan Keyes kindergarten sex ed in-group signaling: arrribute a crazy-extreme position for your opponent to be mocked for, then acknowledge he is actually right but it doesn't matter just don't think about it dummy.

It does make sense after he refused to see his sister by shutting the door on her as she was pleading for help and she subsequently kills herself that he blames his mom and not his own immediate actions preceding what must have been a very interesting subject for him to get the opportunity to write about, for art's sake and junk not for ego lucre loved more than mere flawed humans.

Sebastian said...

"if you're still there, you can't still be posing for the admiration of your imagined audience. Can you?" You can. Not naming names.

Still, who needs a diary, when you can have a blog? Expressive self-examination plus interactive entertainment: hard to beat.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Here's a video of Tiffany and more required reading.

Sam L. said...

Never got Sedaris. Couldn't get interested.

wildswan said...

I picture the different commenters. But the picture wavers over time like a reflection in water.
One has blonde braids wound around her head and she sits upright at a little desk and types on a typewriter comments that get phoned into her from a black Ma Bell landline phone. She pushes them through the screen into the blog.
Another one lived in a garage because he was too big to get out the door any more and the garage was a massive litter of advanced computer equipment, several monitors, tangled cables. And Lego games. His instructions flashed on screen with a beep to recall him from Lego.
Another walks the mean streets of a dirty city with his bitter face twisted up to the stars, shouting that what was said on date x time y DID NOT coincide with what was said on date z at time a and why did didn't anyone care.
Several more have the same name. They look and dress pretty much the same as television ads and each other. They were always starting through a revolving door, jostling each other like ethernet packets or, in other words, I could never work out what they stood for, although Drago knew.
Another is extremely well dressed in light-colored, tropical weight suits and has a thin black mustache. He works out his thoughts at a cafe table.

Since I came to Wisconsin I've moved four times and spent winters in New Mexico but these strange companions move with me, a straggling, slowly changing crew.

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