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On Keeping a Notebook

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Caroline Webb

on 4 March 2014

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Transcript of On Keeping a Notebook

A General Overview/Author's Purpose
Style/Theme/Tone
*memoir-esque, the reader feels like a part of the notebook

*Theme of sadness

*Tone of nostalgia

What writing can do to a person's mind:
In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind.

It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.

.
.
By Joan Didion
On Keeping a Notebook
*Emotion makes the memory significant, for better or for worse.

*Time, date, etc. don't really matter, but rather what is going on inside your head.

*Keeping a notebook will allow you to keep your memories alive exactly the way you experienced them.

From "Why I Write" by Didion
“Since the note is in my notebook, it presumably has some meaning to me. I study it for a long while. At first I have only the most general notion of what I was doing on an August Monday morning in the bar of a hotel across from the Pennsylvania Railroad station in Wilmington, Delaware (waiting for a train? Missing one? 1960? 1961? Why Wilmington?), but I do remember being there.
Early in the essay:
ANALYSIS
“Since the note is in my notebook, it presumably has some meaning to me. I study it for a long while.
At first I have only the most general notion of what I was doing
on an
August Monday morning in the bar of a hotel across from the Pennsylvania Railroad station in Wilmington, Delaware
(
waiting for a train?

Missing one? 1960? 1961? Why Wilmington?)
,
but I do remember being there.
Imagery
Repeated Questions
Questioning herself, then re-affirming
______________________________
Conversational informal tone
"
My first notebook
was a Big Five tablet
given to me by my mother
with the
sensible suggestion that I stop whining and learn to amuse myself by writing down my thoughts."
----------------------------------------------------------------







--------------------------------------------------------------
"
She returned the tablet to me a few years ago
; the
first entry
is
an account of a woman who believed herself to be freezing to death in the Arctic night, only to find, when day broke, that she had stumbled onto the Sahara Desert, where she would die of the heat before lunch."
Pathos
Humor
Imagery
Nostalgia
Introducing the Notebook:
"So the point of my keeping a notebook has never been, nor is it now, to have an accurate factual record of what I have been doing or thinking. That would be a different impulse entirely, an instinct for reality which I sometimes envy but do not possess."
"So the point of my keeping a notebook has never been, nor is it now, to have an accurate factual record of what I have been doing or thinking. That would be a different impulse entirely, an instinct for reality which I sometimes envy but do not possess."



In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind.
..........there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.

On Keeping a Notebook
Why I Write
&
Theme of Identity and How Memories are Used
The Bluest Eye
-Pecola wants to see the world through an illusion, that illusion being her blue eyes
Huck Finn
-Who Am I? How do I want to be seen? How Do I see myself?
The Great Gatsby
-Remembering the past the way it actually was, or living in a fantasy?
-Trying to re-create an ideal image
Richard Rodriguez
-What defines you? How will you make memories going forward?
Brad Manning
-As you or a loved one ages, how does your perception change? How do you think differently? Do your memories change?
------------------------------------------------------------"That's simply
not
true.", t
he members of my family frequently tell me
when they
come up against my memory
of a shared event. The party was
not
for you, the spider was
not

a black widow, it
wasn't that way at all.
------------------------------------------------------------
Personal example
Refuting Didion's memory
I was ten
years old
and would
not now
remember the
cracked crab
. The day's events did not turn on
cracked crab
. And yet it is precisely
that fictitious crab
that
makes me see the afternoon all over again
, a home movie run all too often...............
Juxtaposition between past and current self
Point made using example
Changes point of view/Using objects to stimulate memory/Hyperbolical
The cracked crab that I
recall
having for lunch the day my father came home from Detroit in 1945 must certainly be
embroidery
,
worked into the day's pattern to lend verisimilitude.
"
Similarly
, perhaps, it
never did
snow
that
August in Vermont
; perhaps
there never were
flurries in the night wind,
and
maybe no one else felt

the ground hardening and summer already dead even as we
pretended

to bask in it
, but that was
how it felt to me
, and it
might as well have

snowed
,
could have

snowed,

did
snow
."
Comparing one example to another
Questioning and contradicting
Imagery
It is a
difficult
point to
admit
.
We

are brought up in the ethic that others, any other, all others, are by definition more interesting than

ourselves
"You are the least important person in the room and don't you forget it"
-Jessica Mitford's Governess who would hiss in her ear at any social occasion
Uniting the author with the reader
Humor
Society's Expectations
“It is easy to deceive
oneself
on all those scores. The impulse to write things down is a
peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it,
useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that
any compulsion tries to justify itself.”
Formal Tone
"And we are all on our own when it comes to keeping those lines open to ourselves: your notebook will never help me nor mine you.”
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