I’m reading the journal of Katherine Mansfield. Every so often reading gives you a jolt of recognition or kinship: some kind of connection to the absent voice. This morning I read:
January 22. Weather worse than ever. At tea-time I surprised myself by breaking down. I simply felt for a moment overcome with anguish and came upstairs and put my head on the black cushion. My longing for cities engrosses me.
January 23. The old man breaking stones again. A thick white mist reaches the edge of the field.
The year is 1915 and a space of exactly a hundred year stands between Mansfield and me. One January is as bleak as another. Why is it so comforting to read about another’s misery? Why is this true about diaries and not Facebook? I imagine this is because diaries are private consolations, places to put despair so that it doesn’t leak into public life. Facebook, on the other hand, becomes a means of redefining a version of the public by one’s despair.
My brilliant, imaginative friend and former tutor Sally Bayley has written a history of the diary. She’s publishing it with Unbound books, a new crowd-funding model which has caught the eye of the publishing industry. Forbes discusses it here. Sally taught me mental breadth; her classes were exhilerating experiments. You can (and should!) support her work here