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Diary
aka: Dear Diary

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"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."
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A Diary is a written work chronicling a period of time for an individual or entity. Diaries are similar to Autobiographies in nature, but are written in a daily format and are generally not intended for publication. Nevertheless, many diaries have been published, and give us great insight into the times, people, and places they center around.

The most commonly known kind of diaries are written by private individuals for their own use (also called journals or logs), but institutional diaries, such as business records, also exist. In modern times, the Blog, from the words "web log," has become a medium of choice for personal journals made public.

Diaries have existed at least since medieval times, although they could be older (one could make a case that the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius are a kind of philosophical diary, since he wrote them for himself and did so gradually over his lifetime). The earliest known were written by Japanese princesses and court ladies. Religious devotees, male and female, used them for spiritual introspection and self-improvement. By the Renaissance, diaries held ordinary daily life events alongside personal thoughts and feelings. People also kept "commonplace books" to record quotations and ideas from other people.

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Men and women from all walks of life have kept all kinds of diaries and journals, but they've become increasingly gendered over the last century or so. Partly due to the popularity in the Victorian era of fictional works in diary form, diaries became culturally coded as "feminine", in spite of the fact that some of the greatest diaries by men were written in this periodnote . Even now, diaries tend to be seen primarily as a tool of women's empowerment.note . While both men's and women's diaries are covered in Thomas Mallon's A Book Of One's Own, there are no anthologies of men's diaries, while there are several anthologies of women's diaries. This may be a social issue. Men may be teased for having a diary which forces them to be more secretive or use a Less Embarrassing Term such as "a journal". The Art of Manliness has this to say about diaries and why men should keep them. More on diaries and journals from Wolf & Iron.

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If you keep a diary and don't know what should be done with it after you die, consider giving it to the Great Diary Project. Anyone who has old or unwanted diaries can be sure that Bishopsgate Institute will take them gratefully and look after them.

Diaries are generally Nonfiction, although they can be used as a story-telling device for fictional works as well and may contain works of Fiction within the Diary itself. Fictional diaries are easy to publish in serial formats like the Web Serial Novel.

Diaries actually seen in fiction are odd animals once a little Fridge Logic is applied. They'll often have everything across a person's life in one book, whereas people who actually keep diaries know eventually you fill one book and have to start a new one (depending on how verbose you are being). Also characters may flip through a diary and it will be full to the end, despite the fact that most in-progress diaries could be at any state of completion. When pages are left blank in a diary, the immediate assumption is that something has happened to the diarist; he wouldn't leave his book behind.

See also Secret Diary, Scrapbook Story, Epistolary Novel, Apocalyptic Log, and Captain's Log.


Examples

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    Fictional Examples 

Asian Animation

Comic Books

  • In Cerebus the Aardvark, the tavern owner Pud Withers keeps one in the Jaka's Story arc. Initially it's very dry and repetitive, with each entry almost a carbon copy of the previous, but about halfway through it starts becoming more sinister.
  • Many in the Disney Ducks Comic Universe stories, mostly used as one of the ways Scrooge finds about some treasure.
    • Paperinik (Donald Duck's superhero alter-ego) found his origin when Donald accidentally discovered the journal of Fantomius, the Gentleman Thief that had been active in Duckburg in the twenties. More realistically than in most examples, Fantomius had multiple journals (we know of at least three of them, possibly four).
  • Robin Series: Stephanie keeps a diary of her adventures as Spoiler and briefly Robin. When shes the main character of an issue cursive excerpts from it are used in place of the Inner Monologue boxes Tim gets allowing her time to reflect on the events and describe them after the fact instead of reacting in the moment like him.
  • Blue Is the Warmest Color: Clémentine's diary entries narrate the story.
  • In Twelve Reasons Why I Love Her, both Gwen and Evan have chapters that look like diary entries and add depth to the characters.
  • In her early Silver Age stories, Supergirl kept her own private diary where she wrote down their daily experiences and adventures.
  • Zoey from A Voice in the Dark keeps a diary, which is used as narration for the series. Each time she fills up a book, which includes details on her violent urges and past killings, she burns the book and starts a new one.

Fan Works

Literature

Radio

Web Original

Web Video

    Diaries Appearing in Fictional Works 

Anime and Manga

  • Midori of Midori Days writes in her journal when Seiji is asleep. Plays very important to the plot later on.
  • In Change 123, Kannami suggests that Motoko use a shared diary as a means of communication with her alters. While Fujiko doesn't write in it much, Mikiri and Hibiki certainly do. . . To Motoko's horror.
  • In the RWBY manga anthology Red Like Roses, one story involves Ruby keeping a diary. Weiss mocks her for keeping a diary at fifteen.

Comic Books

  • Watchmen: Rorschach's Journal, October 12th.
    Dog carcass in alley this morning. Tire tread on burst stomach. The city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout "save us!" And I'll whisper "no".
  • Shazam: Captain Marvel Junior in his early career was a kind of Dickens character. As Freddy Freeman, he was a poor lame boy who lived in a chilly garret and sold newspapers. Most superheroes had sidekicks so they'd have someone to talk to; Freddy had his diary. It was his one really valuable possession, with gold-leaf decoration on the covers. Mary Marvel's adventures were also told in diary form.
  • Circles: Paulie keeps a personal one to chronicle the events that happen throughout the years. He kept it away from everyone and including Douglas who wanted to read them. Of course, Paulie knew that eventually he would stop and then he would leave the journals for Douglas and the others to read. Douglas was inspired and began to write entries to Jason to pass onto him.

Comic Strips

  • Calvin and Hobbes had one strip:
    Calvin: History will thank me for keeping this journal at such a young age. As one of those individuals destined for true greatness, this record of my thoughts and convictions will provide valuable insight into my budding genius. Think of it - a priceless historical document in the making! Wow!
    Calvin: So who else should I add to my list of total jerks?
    Hobbes: Who else do you even know?

Fan Works

  • Zelda's journal in Zelda and the Manacle of Cahla. Her first entries are mostly about herbal properties, but after leaving her peaceful village to adventure across Hyrule, Zelda makes a point to write about the critical points in the journey. According to the author, Kyouko Joo, if the journal were an element in a real game, the player would have the option of what specific thoughts and feelings Zelda could use to describe the experience.

Film

  • Enda's video diaries, found after his death in Red Roses and Petrol, including a dedicated poem to his wife.
  • Henry & June is based on Anais Nin's actual diaries from the early 1930s.
  • The German silent film Diary of a Lost Girl features the titular diary, the one possession Themain manages to keep through everything.
  • Sam's video diaries in Ways to Live Forever, as well as the book he's writing.
  • Veronica keeps a diary in Heathers, complete with voice-over narration whenever she's seen writing in it.
  • Bobby's diary in Prayers for Bobby.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Henry Jones, Sr. keeps track of all his research on the Holy Grail in a book that both he and his son refer to as "the Grail Diary."
  • In Batman Forever, Bruce Wayne talks about the red leather diary in which his father had written every day since Bruce was born, and how on the day of his parents' funerals he had become distraught because his father would never write in it again. He had the diary in his hands as he ran out into the rain, and fell into what would eventually become the Batcave.
  • The framing device of The Bridges of Madison County is that Francesca's son and daughter are reading her diary after she has died.
  • In Summer Camp Nightmare, Donald Poultry is The Smart Guy who uses a tape recorder to dictate an audio diary of the events that take place during his time at Camp North Pines. The audio diary is later confiscated by the police at the end of the film as evidence regarding the takeover of the camp staged by Franklin Reilly, though Donald does ask if he could have the tapes back when they're through with them.

Literature

  • In Lawrence Block's suspense novel Ariel, Ariel keeps her diary in an ordinary school notebook so her mother won't snoop. She says she got the idea of hiding secret things in plain sight from Edgar Allan Poe's The Purloined Letter.
  • Asta Westerby's diary is the subject and the core of Asta's Book (first published in the U.S. as Anna's Book) a ripping good mystery yarn by Barbara Vine. Asta is a strong-minded young Danish woman living in a London suburb in 1906. She keeps the diary faithfully through the decades, completing about sixty volumes before she puts it aside in her nineties. Her daughter Swanhild discovers it years later and arranges to have it published, finding that it creates as many mysteries as it solves.
  • Lori finds one volume of Lucasta DeClerke's diary late in Aunt Dimity: Snowbound. Through it, Lori learns more of her side of the story behind the theft of the family jewels.
  • The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz, kind of a Pennsylvania Little House on the Prairie, includes a subplot about a diary and its mysterious disappearance and rediscovery.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Eustace's diary in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
  • An old diary found by Leo Colston in The Go-Between revives memories of a traumatic summer holiday fifty years earlier.
  • Green Rider: In First Riders Call, several entries from the journal of Hadriax el Fex, The Dragon to an ancient Evil Overlord, break up the chapters and serve to provide backstory for the conflict that is happening now. It is also revealed to have special significance to the protagonist, who turns out to be his descendant.
  • Tom Riddle's diary in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Riddle's diary is based on how J. K. Rowling views diaries as "really frightening", due to their power to make little girls confide in them only to become paranoid that someone will read them and discover their secrets.
  • A Discussed Trope in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. Henry Tilney gently mocks Catherine that he doesn't believe her not keeping a diary. How else could she tell her friends about her glorious time in Bath? He also thinks that ladies gain their writing style from practising with diaries. This is an early (1817!) instance of the use of the word "journal" as a verb; Henry speaks several times of "journaling", making the whole discussion sound oddly modern.
  • A.S. Byatt's novel Possession has several diaries. The first clue to the mystery is found in the diary of Henry Crabb Robinson (a real person, who often invited famous creators to his home for salons). There's more in the journal of Ellen Ash, who is said to use her book to "baffle" future readers with complex hints. Blanche Glover's diary tells another part of the story. Sabine de Kercoz, Christabel's cousin, intended her journal to improve her writing so she could be an author herself, but ended up telling the story of what happened after Christabel's romance with Randolph Ash.
  • Zoë's diary is part of the story of Alyson Noël's Saving Zoë.
  • A few of the "Super Specials" in The Babysitters Club are written as diaries. In the main stories, the girls maintain a collective journal of sitting experiences; excerpts in their various handwriting appear at the beginnings of some of the chapters.

Live-Action TV

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Dawn Summers is shown writing in a diary complete with voiceover narrating of what is being written. It's presumed that she has done this for most of her life, but could also be an allusion to Michelle Trachtenberg's role as Harriet in Harriet the Spy.
    • Rupert Giles also keeps his own diary, which briefly gets touched upon in an episode when we learn what he thought of Buffy upon their first day meeting. Other Watchers appear to have diaries too.
    • Buffy herself had a diary in Season 1. She thinks Angel read it and blurts out that she wasn't writing about him, before he assures her that her mother had just moved it when she was cleaning.
  • Brazilian show Casseta & Planeta had a frequent sketch called Diary of a Macho, revolving around a violence-loving Dumb Muscle (a stereotype known there as "pitboy") writing one of those. The opening line is always "Dear diary - not dear, because 'dear' is a queer thing! [more manly term] diary...".
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor keeps a 500 Year Diary.
      • The Twelfth Doctor upgraded recently to a 2000 Year Diary.
    • River Song also keeps a diary. Because they keep meeting out of order, they have to compare recent diary entries to confirm when and where they are in their respective timelines, to avoid "spoilers".
  • Doogie Howser, M.D. ended each episode with Doogie writing on his computer diary.
  • Sue Sylvester from Glee is sometimes seen writing quips about important events or characters in a diary, most noticeably Mr. Schue.
  • One episode of The Golden Girls has Blanche discovering Rose's diary, and she and Dorothy are horrified to read entries in which she talks about "living with these two pigs." As it turns out, the diary they've been reading is Rose's old 4-H diary, kept one summer when she raised two pigs for the county fair.
    • In another episode, Blanche pulls out her own diary to try to resolve a plot point. Dorothy is baffled to see the word BED on the cover, at which Blanche laughs and explains that it's not the word BED - it's her monogram, which just happens to spell that word.
  • There's also a diary in the Hawaii Five-O episode "Up Tight". This one belongs to young Edie Hastings, who threw herself off a cliff while on "speed" (though clearly LSD is meant). The trail leads to Prof. Stone, a Timothy Leary Expy, whom Edie's father confronts with her book. He demands Stone read Edie's words, revealing that the two were lovers, before forcing him to take some of his own drugs (he ends up on the same cliff). Stone reads from the front of the book, which looks very new; Edie had only made a couple of entries before her death.
  • Another aspiring novelist is Beaver of Leave It to Beaver. Hearing that Beaver is contemplating a writing career. Ward gives him a diary. He emphasizes its private, personal nature and the fact that some great writers used ideas from their own childhood diaries. Beaver openly despairs of simply recording his "boring" real life. When he is late home from school, Ward and June of course break into the diary, where they discover lurid accounts of reckless, criminal activity. Completely snowed by the Secret Diary stereotype, they fail to realize he is using the book to practice fictional narrative.
  • A worn, stained diary figures in the Magnum, P.I. adventure "Forever in Time". It's kept by the elderly traditional Pali-Uli Keahikapu, once a lady-in-waiting to a Hawaiian princess, who is now concerned about the safety of the princess's granddaughter.note  The last entry, twenty or so pages before the end, is "MUST STOP VICTORIA'S DEATH."
  • Murdoch Mysteries, "Shades of Grey":
    • Lily, the victim of the week, kept a diary, but she wrote nothing important there, only boring stuff. George is probably close to the truth when he says she did it to confuse her potentially nosy mother.
    • Constable George Crabtree says that he keeps a diary himself, which surprises Detective Murdoch. Later in the series, George is revealed to be an aspiring mystery novel writer.
  • Joel, Crow and Tom Servo are shown to keep diaries (the latter two not readily admitting to it at first) in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode The Hellcats. Tom uses an automatic typewriter, Crow records an audio diary, and Joel just writes his down as normal. Gypsy tries to dictate to a typewriter, but it obviously doesn't work.
  • In the ITV adaptation of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (2007), Catherine and Henry Tilney discuss ladies' writing diaries as in the book, and moreover, Catherine is shown as an avid diary keeper.
  • Secret Diary of a Call Girl, which is based on the above Belle de Jour blog.
  • On The X-Files, Scully writes a diary to Mulder, presumably as a means to help them both cope with her impending death from an inoperable tumor. Shown in "Memento Mori".
    • Mulder also finds the diary of his sister in "Closure".
  • Every episode of Mr. Belvedere ends with the title character writing in his diary, with a voice over narrating the contents of the day's entry.

Theatre

  • Two great quotes from Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest:
    "I keep a diary in order to enter the wonderful secrets of my life. If I didn't write them down, I should probably forget all about them."
    "I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."

Video Games

  • In Umineko: When They Cry, Maria's diary is used by Ange 12 years after the mass murder on Rokkenjima in order to communicate with Maria herself.
  • Each chapter of Wild ARMs 5 is ended with Rebecca reading from her diary entry on it. She also tries to use her diary to explain her real feelings to Dean, but he refuses to read it out of chivalry.
  • Valdo, the protagonist of the PC mystery game Secrets of da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript, maintains a diary throughout the game which provides the player with additional hints and clues.
  • Similarly to the above example, the player character in the PC adventure game Siege of Avalon keeps a diary which the player can read. It's of particular interest as the means of displaying each Nonstandard Game Over which can occur.
  • "Write in diary" is one of the action choices when the player clicks on a bookcase in The Sims.
  • You save your game in Harvest Moon by writing in a diary.
  • There are several diaries in Calling which are needed to help the story move along since you're trying to learn about the mysteries of the game.
  • April keeps a diary throughout the original The Longest Journey, which is an important source of her characterization. How she manages to update it even after being pulled into a parallel universe in just her underwear is never explained.
  • Luke's diary in Tales of the Abyss functions as both Now, Where Was I Going Again? for the player and showing Character Development for Luke outside party interactions.
  • In role-playing games, diaries seem to be kept by an inordinate number of people - even those one wouldn't expect to be particularly literate or to have much interest in chronicling their thoughts or day-to-day lives. The real purpose of these diaries, of course, is to conveniently tell the protagonist exactly how to break the curse, find the hidden treasure, or what have you, without too much strain on the player's (or the game designer's) part.
  • Alexander Morris can keep a diary in Dracula Unleashed at the player's discretion. Writing in it after a trip to the local newsstand will include some newspaper clippings to browse.
  • The Master Detective of the Mystery Case Files games maintains a diary in each game. The plot of Ravenhearst, the first game in the "Ravenhearst" sub-series, hinges around collecting the scattered pages of a young woman's lost diary in order to find out what happened in the titular manor several years earlier.
    • In Fate's Carnival, the Master Detective ends up reassembling Alister Dalimar's lost diary which turns out to be the key to destroying him.
  • It's never seen, but the player character of Dragon Age: Origins can mention staying up to write in his/her diary in a certain sequence of dialogue with Leliana, if she is romanced.
    • In Dragon Age II, it's confirmed that Hawke keeps a diary, although it's not shown. How is it confirmed? Clicking on the desk in Hawke's bedroom will sometimes prompt them to comment that they know Varric has been reading the diary - because he's taken to editing the entries to make them more interesting!
  • While walking about the castle in Paper Mario 64 Princess Peach comes across Bowser's diary and upon reading it learns the location of an important Plot Coupon. Bowser also mentions that he hopes Princess Peach likes him. Luigi also has one that Mario can find.
  • Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days: On Saïx's suggestion, Roxas keeps a journal of his time during the Organization. It serves the same purpose as Jiminy's Journal from previous games by giving small recaps of each day's events (assuming the day is story-relevant), on top of giving some insight as to Roxas' feelings.
  • Persona 5: As part of his probation, the protagonist is forced to keep a log of his activities in a little black book he keeps in his back pocket. However, the game also uses it as a meta-narrative stand in for your Save Point.
  • The first few Dark Tales games have diaries which serve as case notes for the player. This feature was dropped after about the fifth installment, but diaries belonging to other characters factor into the plot occasionally:
    • The Big Bad's mother leaves hers behind in the bonus chapter of Masque of the Red Death, providing the detectives with a clue as to what's really happening.
    • Frederica's diary is of use to the detectives in Metzengerstein as they try to solve her disappearance.
    • Diaries belonging to multiple characters in Morella are instrumental to solving the mystery and freeing the player character from Demonic Possession.
  • In The Sims 2, one optional activity for a Sim is to write in their journal.
  • In Story of Seasons (2014), the game is saved by the player character writing in their diary.

Webcomics

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Doug uses the title character's diary entries as narration. He prefers the term "journal", however. It becomes the focus of one episode in which it goes missing.
  • The Barbie Diaries features this, making the movie the franchise's most low-key fantasy endeavour.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy "For Your Eds Only" results in Eddy getting hold of Sarah's diary, and the plot of the episode is them trying to put it back before she finds out.
  • In season 4 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic the Mane Six use a diary to tell the friendship lessons they have learned in that week's episode. The journals are later published in a Season 7 episode, which does not end well for the ponies.
  • As Told by Ginger has the title character write in her diary and narrate her adolescence.
  • Smurfette in The Smurfs has a diary that she writes in that appears in a few episodes.
  • Recess: School's Out - TJ blackmails his sister Becky into driving over the state to pick his friends up by threatening to publish her diary on the internet. The friends later read Becky's romance novel-esque description of a date with her co-worker. Gus and Spinelli find it hilarious, but Mikey is moved by it.

    Nonfiction Examples 

Literature

  • The Diary of a Young Girl, the diary of Holocaust victim Anne Frank, is probably the most famous diary ever published.
  • The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 1660-1669 life in London as experienced by one of Britain's top officials. It's considered one of the most important primary sources for the English Restoration period, especially since his account of the Great Fire of London is considered skin-crawlingly vivid, and is sometimes analyzed in classes studying British literature. It's not nearly as boring as it sounds, either; he has quite the sense of humor, and also, um, talks about his sex life quite a lot. He would have written more, but he, writing in dim light at the time, suspected his eyes were being damaged by his writing, and reluctantly stopped writing the diary out of concern he would go blind if he continued to do so.
  • The second most famous childhood diary is probably that of Marjory Fleming (1803-1811). Begun to improve her handwriting, her diary became an attempt at internalizing proper feminine moral character, supervised by her beloved cousin Isabella. But Marjory was a Little Miss Badass whose feisty spirit came through on page after page. After her sudden death at age eight, she was mythologized and edited heavily by Moral Guardians. The most factual account of her life and writing is in Alexandra Johnson's The Hidden Writer.
    Marjory Fleming was discovering that every writer has a critic shadowing her shoulder. The drama of her journals is watching who won.
  • Mary Chesnut's diary of Southern life during The American Civil War, published under various titles
  • Diary of George Templeton Strong 1835-1875. New York lawyer and musician, also writing during the Civil War, detailed descriptions of culture, politics, current events. Both Chesnut's and Strong's diaries were heavily used in Ken Burns' documentary The Civil War.
  • Naturalist Emily Shore kept a prolific diary from 1830, when she was eleven, until her death eight years later. She had been so frank and honest that her sisters cut out a good four-fifths of her writing (a common practice in Victorian days) to make it decent for publication. "They placed a self-representation on a Procrustean bed and tailored a narrative to suit their own taste and times." Fortunately two volumes survived intact and were later incorporated into the published work.
  • Journal des Goncourt (Goncourt Journal), 1851-1896 by brothers Jules and Edmond de Goncourt, about the French Second Empire
  • Diary of Marie Bashkirtseff 1873-1884 by artist/early feminist Marie Bashkirtseff, published by family members after her early death.
  • Edith Holden, Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. Its original title was Nature notes for 1906. Artist Holden wrote and drew this lovely diary for herself alone, and it lay forgotten until its discovery in 1977. Her illustrations have appeared on hundreds of tie-in items and premiums.
  • Diary of Anais Nin 1914-1974 by author Anais Nin, her personal life and detailed portraits of her friends and family.
  • Naturalist Opal Whiteley wrote diary notes from the age of five (about 1902) which she edited into a bestselling and controversial book, The Story of Opal, first published in 1920.
  • Bruce Frederick Cummings' The Journal of a Disappointed Man, written from 1902 to 1919 (as W.N.P. Barbellion), vividly chronicles the life of an energetic spirit doomed to die from MS. Another diarist who wrote about what it was like to live with chronic pain was the poet William Soutar.
  • Mein Widerstand (My Opposition) 1939-1943 by Friedrich Kellner, life in Nazi Germany
  • Owenita Sanderlin's Johnny (1968) is comprised partly of diary entries by young Mr. Sanderlin, who died of leukemia at fifteen, outliving his doct alors' predictions by five years.
  • Prayers for Bobby (1996) has sections of the book that are diary entries of Bobby Griffith, an actual young man who committed suicide after being subjected to Cure Your Gays.
  • The Reagan Diaries, published in 2007 and an unexpurgated version in 2009.
  • Accused of murdering his wife Virginia, Alvin Ridley's life and reputation were saved by his dead wife's hypergraphic diary in 1999. Turns out they really were just an eccentric but happily married couple who kept to themselves. She had passed in her sleep because of an epileptic seizure, but her family were firmly against their marriage and wanted to blame Alvin for it, thus the murder charge. On You Tube, look up "Death in a Small Town" or "Virginia Ridley".
  • The longest diary in the world is that of the Reverend Robert Shields, who spent a quarter of a century in his retirement years starting in 1972 documenting all the minutia of his life, right down to the timestamps - the temperatures of certain points in his office where he wrote, the weight and contents of the day's newspapers, the price of certain products at the grocery store, his bowel movements, his medications, the weather, what he ate, the conversations he had, musings on God and life, his dreams,note  what he was reading at the time, and of course that he was writing the diary itself. Entries in the latter category all read about the same - "I was at the keyboard of the IBM Wheelwriter making entries for the diary" - and exist solely to account for all the time he did exactly that. While he might have had a neurological condition known as hypergraphia, in which affected individuals have an insatiable urge to write, Shields defended his writing and resulting reclusiveness by arguing that perhaps his extremely detailed work would matter one day: "Maybe by looking into someone's life at that depth, every minute of every day, they will find out something about all people." He suffered a stroke that stopped him from writing any further ten years before he died - though he had said much earlier that if he stopped writing it, he would feel as if he'd "turned off [his] life" - and while his long-suffering wife did try to continue his work via dictation, she of course didn't have the drive that he did and quickly stopped. Shields' diary was donated to Washington State University, where it remains stored in 94 cartons. Doorstopper? This thing could stop every single door in his hometown of Daytona all at once. It's estimated that the journal has 37.5 million words in it, but Shields mandated that an exact count cannot be derived for fifty years after his passing; as he died in 2007, we'll never know how many words are actually in it until 2057 at the earliest.
  • Before Shields, the world record holders were Edward Robb Ellis at 22 million words, and Arthur Crew Inman at 17 million words. They couldn't have been more dissimilar. Working-class Chicagoan Eddie Ellis began his diary as a teenager and kept it for 70 years, during which time he was a newspaper reporter, historian, served in the US Navy, and wrote four books about American history. Arthur Crew Inman came from an extremely wealthy Southern family and was a white supremacist, Jew-hater, misogynist, and wannabe poet. He was also paranoid about his health and never went anywhere; he hired "interesting people" to come and talk to him while he concealed himself behind dark curtains.
  • Carolina Maria de Jesus, who lived with her three kids in a shack in the favela slums of Sao Paolo, Brazil almost her entire adult life, was a prolific diarist, writing the honest truth about her life and ambitions. She composed poems, plays, novels and short stories as well. The diary was published as Quarto de Despejo (Place of Trash) or Child of the Dark, in 1960 after a journalist found out about it. An unexpurgated version is now available along with her later works and childhood writings.

Web Originals

Alternative Title(s): Dear Diary

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