I’ve been reading a new book by my old friend poet Ray DiPalma every night before sleeping. It’s a collection of six “journals and daybooks” from 1998 to 2008 (or maybe I should say “selection” since there are days missing, though that might just mean there was no writing on those days).
I’m digging it and will write a post about it when I finish it, but it’s already one of my favorite books about writing (and reading). Most of it is not very personally revealing in ways most readers might expect from a journal. And there are only a handful of direct comments about writing, but they’re gems and go a long way to explaining Ray’s approach to it, (though all his writing is “about writing” it seems to me).
Anyway, I love journals and diaries and daybooks, even when they’re used as a literary device in fiction rather than a way of recording actual personal history, or some combination of the two. So the night before I left for the Berkshires, where I am now on a gorgeous almost Fall morning, when I was having some trouble falling asleep—my body just wasn’t ready to go there—I thought I should come up with a list that would really tax my mind enough to wear it out and help me snooze, and having just put down Ray’s new book it seemed obvious.
My favorite books that use the diary, journal and/or daybook form, whether fictional or not (though most aren’t). I had an ABC immediately with ANCIENT USE OF STONE topping the list, then Jim Carroll’s (on my mind since his recent passing) and then F. Scott Fitzgerald’s.
This is all I could come up with (I have a feeling I may have done this before, but obviously not with Ray’s book):
ACIENT USE OF STONE, THE by Ray DiPalma
BASKETBALL DIARIES, THE by Jim Carroll
CRACK UP, THE by F. Scott Fitzgerald (the bulk of which is from journal entries)
DIARIES OF A YOUNG POET by Ranier Maria Rilke; THE DIARY OF JAMES SCHUYLER and DOCUMENT FOR AN ANONYMOUS INDIAN by Arn Henderson (a unique book from the early ‘70s that’s a collection of poetic notations, overheard dialogue, facts and photographs about or of various places in Oklahoma, like a completely original trip journal)
EVA HESSE DATE BOOKS 1964/65 (this is what they call a “facsimile” edition, so it’s in her own hand etc.)
FAIT ACCOMPLI by Nick Piombino (poet and friend Piombino culled earlier journals for blog entries, so this is like notebooks within notebooks within etc.)
I’M NOT STILLER by Max Frisch (the bulk of this novel is supposedly the notebooks of the imprisoned Stiller)
JOURNAL OF ALBION MOONLIGHT by Kenneth Patchen (another fictional—considered surreal at the time—“novel” in the form of a journal)
MOMENTS OF THE ITALIAN SUN by James Wright (mainly short prose pieces that read and most likely are entries in a travel journal and one of my favorite Wright books)
NOTEBOOKS OF JOSEPH JOUBERT (edited and translated by Paul Auster, Joubert started his journals when he was in his twenties in the 1770s and wrote them until his death I think, but Auster’s selection covers from the 1780s to the 1820s) and the fictionalized autobiographical novel written partially as notebook entries: THE NOTEBOOKS OF MALTE LAURIDS BRIGGE by Ranier Maria Rilke
OBITUARIES by William Saroyan (a book of daily contemplations on Variety’s list of those who died in 1976, with an entry for each one, a kind of journal of the year’s deaths); OF by me (a book-length poem written as poetic journal and travel diary entries in one notebook from Jan. to May in 1990) and OBSIDIAN POINT by Ken McCullough (a poetic journal by another old poet friend, written as poetry and prose covering a mountain trip in tha Fall of ’75 and a masterpiece in every way for my taste)
PILLOW BOOK OF SEI SHONAGON, THE (or at least that’s the way the English translation has it, though back then the Japanese didn’t have “pillows” (more like a small hard cloth log) and it’s a journal in retrospect the way it’s translated, but it’s definitely the oldest one on this list, written around the year 1000)
QUINCY HISTORY, A by James Haining (another great book about writing, poetry, and being a small press publisher in the 1970s)
ROLLING THUNDER LOGBOOK, THE by Sam Sheperd; REUNIONS by Harry E. Northup (another kind of poetic journal, short poems relating the daily routines and struggles and facts and feelings etc. of this friend and poet covering the years 1995 to 2000—and beautifully done for my taste)
SPECIMEN DAYS by Walt Whitman (the first book to turn me on to this quasi genre back when I was a teenage autodidact) and THE SECULAR JOURNAL OF THOMAS MERTON (his later religious journals are equally engaging, to me)
TRAIN RIDE by Ted Berrigan (a delightful one day poetic journal written during a train ride)
VERMONT NOTEBOOK, THE by John Ashbery and Joe Brainard (Joe’s drawings etc. and John’s sort-of, journal-entry-like, prose entries written during a summer vacation in Vermont)
WINDBLOWN WORDS by Jack Kerouac (early journals ’47 to ’54)