Dear diary blog

[Wow. Wrote this a few hours ago, after having read 100-year-old dead people, and it showed. The language was all stiff and crackly and ornamented. Jazzed it up a bit later on, but some of the mothballed stuff still shows.]

One of the great strengths of the weblog format is the temporality. Weblog posts are not just dead things that sit there, but are set into time. They are writing made specifically for the here and now. Writing as a process.

Lately I've noticed a few blogs which have chosen to focus on this aspect of the format, using it to heighten the experience of existing texts. Some clever people have started posting old diaries and epistolary novels, one day at a time. This causes the reader to experience the work as it was written, and as it was, in some sense, experienced itself, by the author.

The blogs in question:

First off, the epistolary novel Dracula by Bram Stoker, is being blogged. It'll run through the fall until the story ends on November 6th. By coincidence, I'm currently rereading this myself. To be honest, I think that when you drop this particular piece of writing into a blog, entry by entry, the way it is written, it reveals the work's lack of realism [Well, duh. It's a vampire novel]. It is, quite clearly, written to be read, not to be written. Nobody writes their diary like that. There is much in the vein of "but now my life is about to be in danger so I must run. Goodbye, my beloved Mina!" Stoker continually (to the point of repetitiveness) uses the schtick where the character's writing is interrupted by story events, in order to bring the reader "closer" to the story. It works like a charm at first, but does get a bit tedious.

Second, the diary of Samuel Pepys is, as far as I can tell, in its third year. Pepys was a high ranking official in post-Cromwell London back in the 17th century. He is generally acknowledged as the most well-known diarist ever. The blog itself is a fantastic piece of scholarship, with much erudite discussion and a great many explanatory hyperlinks to secondary characters and historical events and customs referred to in passing. The whole hypertext as it presents is very interesting, as a result. A greater text than the original.

The Barbellionblog is publishing the diary of W.N.P Barbellion, a nom de plume of Bruce Frederick Cummings, a young, aspiring zoologist and writer, who died in 1919 at the age of 30 from multiple sclerosis. His diaries, collected as The Journal of a Disappointed Man, are considered to be some of the best contributions to the genre (though they were clearly written with a certain amount of self-consciousness, and edited for publication, this does not detract from its value). I guess today that one can think of him as the grandfather of something that ended up becoming blogging.

Franz Kafka's diaries
awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, to find that they had been transformed into a blog. Both available in German and English, they only date texts when Kafka himself wrote it down (which, apparently, he didn't do very often). The texts don't look easier to understand than the rest of the man's output.

My personal favourite so far: the Blog (so to speak) of Henry David Thoreau, the author of Walden. It is in "reruns" now, but I greatly enjoy the writing. Beautiful, liquid prose, even for the everyday. I'll just post the first, random quote, which I like.
On Conantum saw a cow looking steadily up into the sky for a minute. It gave to her face an unusual almost human or wood-god, faun-like expression, and reminded me os some frontispiece to Virgil’s Bucolics. She was gazing upwards about 45°. There were only some downy clouds in that direction. It was so unusual a sight that any one would notice it. It suggested adoration.
Bing! Temporal poetry. Which is to say, poetry in motion.


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