One breezy afternoon in 2001, two friends of mine, Richard and Dido, were mooching around a building site in Cambridge when they came across a battered yellow skip. Inside were 148 handwritten notebooks. Some were crammed into an old bottle box that had jaunty green print on the side: "Ribena! 5d!" Most were scattered across the bricks exultantly. A few had royal emblems from George VI's time. Others were bright, bubblegum colours, tangerine and mushy-pea green. A chalky jotter that Dido picked up broke like chocolate. Inside, the rotted pages were filled with urgent handwriting. Running up one of the margins were the words, "Hope my diaries aren't blown up before people can read them – they have immortal value." There was no name or return address on the books. The diarist was simply "I" who had lived, and then died, and been pitched in a skip.– Diary of a somebody: could I solve the mystery of 148 lost notebooks? is an essay by Alexander Masters about the writing of his new book, A Life Discarded.
Actor Richard Burton's diaries were published last fall, and are reviewed: Richard Burton Was A Great Writer, Richard Burton's Notes To A Modern Journaler, The Great Actor Who Hated Acting, For Love Of Lit And Liz [more inside]
The Age of Uncertainty is my new favorite blog. It's by a gentleman bookseller who works in a warehouse in Sussex processing lorryfuls of used books. He shares the most interesting things he finds, commenting with wit and sensitivity. He also writes entertainingly about his everyday life. Let me point you towards his series of extracts from a diary that came to his warehouse, detailing the life of Derek, an employee of the government who converted to Mormonism. It was a fairly normal life, but the excerpts are fascinating. Here are the entries in order: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. He also posts beautiful images he finds, such as Victorian color plates: 1 and 2. Still, it is the remains of ordinary lives washing up on his shores that most enthralls me, such as this tear-inducing post about a family photo album which was sent to his used books warehouse.
The Numeric Diaries... So cool. After entering, use the side arrows to navigate back and forth, choose from the drop-down menu, or use the thumbnails to view images going back to October 1, 2003. Some images mouse over or click through for further treats or links. And when you're done, you can visit the main site at Trezart for a lot more art and fun. (French language, via the archives of the great gmtPlus9)
Quantum Diaries - follow physicists from around the world as they experience the World Year of Physics 2005.
Secret Diaries from the Lord of the Rings.