Sunday, January 28, 2007

After Birthday Letters

After Birthday Letters

After last year's birthday letters it fell to how I was going to celebrate DA's second birthday. If for Birthday Letters I was (moderately) lazy and got others to do the work for me I felt that this year I'd better get my typing fingers ready and put together something myself.

I suspect I've always been a prime candidate for having a blog; from the age of 13 I've intermittently kept diaries, some just everyday internal ramblings written by someone I don't quite remember, others more self aware structured accounts of holidays I've taken with chapters and epigraphs and everything. As a reader I gravitate towards Diaries, I particularly have a penchant for that strange beast - the writer's diary. I fell in love with Sylvia Plath not through her poetry - which I do adore - but through the words of her sprawling, angry, idiosyncratic, sometimes beautiful, sometimes profoundly not, diary. I came to Ginny Woolf's Diaries fairly late in my relationship with her, not until I came to study her for my special author paper and my tutor suggested I go for a slightly left field angle did I open the pages of her diaries. I spent the next eight weeks carrying those huge volumes to and from the library, jealously hoarding them, not only for the sake of my final essay grade, but because I'd discovered something else within them. I'd fallen a little more in love with her through them.

A Diary is a curious mix of immediacy and distance. The act of writing automatically separates you from the event you're writing about, however immersed you might be. Articulating events, feelings on to a page allows you to box them, draw lines, see patterns. This, however, is not to deny the validity - or the honesty - of the diary entry. If you are happy or sad, disappointed or optimistic, pushing forward or hopelessly retrospective it will show. And in turn you choose to write of these things because as you see the blank page and begin to write this is what you're feeling. At this moment in time this is your world view.

A blog by its very nature of being a public record distorts further. How might this best be phrased? Does the joke have a sufficient punchline? How does the blog scan? I have laid in bed and put together a blog entry in my head on more than one occasion, searching for the best phrasing, the most unexpected twist. I have lost count of the number of times I've uttered the sentence 'can I blog this?' because - in my head at least - I've seen the makings of a good blog in something otherwise insignificant. I never ask if I can blog about big things; invariably I know the answer already. And a blog is probably more attuned to retrospect than any other diary -at the click of a button I can read what I was doing this time last year. It's a dangerous and yet rather thrilling experience.

If the present is never quite the present in blogging terms then this opens up whole new arenas for blog entries. What, I wondered, would I have written at various significant points in my life if I'd had this blog? And, maybe equally interestingly, how would I blog them now?

It's that question that I've tried to answer in honour of DA's second birthday and which I'll be publishing over the next week. The moments that I've chosen are by no means exhaustive and aren't necessarily the ones that I'd have chosen to blog if I'd posed the question last month or, I'm sure, if you asked me in the future. Where possible I've read any diary entries that correspond to the correct period, elsewhere I've had to rely solely on the vagaries of my mind. Unlike DA and my normal blogging approach I've allowed a degree of literary polish in so much as I've sat on them for a few days before publishing them, changing the odd word here and there, playing with the structure in places. On the whole, however, they are much like they were when they first spilt out. In each case I knew the subject I was writing on but wasn't quite sure where it might go. Every single one has surprised me a little.

Gatsby & Me


"Let Me Entertain You"

That Goddam Big Suitcase

"All That I Am, All That I Ever Was"

"Patch Me Up Boys, Take Me Home"

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