Monday, January 02, 2006

journal (v. intr.):

Let me declare, first, that this post was composed in my journal. Of course, I was sitting then on a train going from Ranchi to New Delhi, laptop ailing in the suitcase and hundreds of miles away from an internet connection, but even if I were at home with everything technical in place, I'd probably write the first draft on paper. It is about the old-fashioned thoughts flowing smoother on paper yada, but it's also about a relationship I share with my journal.

We try to spend some quality time together everyday, my journal and I. Usually in the mornings, but if I'm running late, and can't, by late evening I can sense a kind of pressure growing within me. Some miscreant words and actions involuntarily part my company.

To avoid this lowgrade consternation, journaling has a crucial place in my life. I pour out many emotions on these pages, much I'd rather not share with another soul. I vent without self consciousness, let my pen travel wherever, however it will. I reproach. I whine. I'm petty and nasty. I write first drafts, redrafts, onlyever drafts. I make peace with myself here - and to get the best results I don't censor anything.

Fastforward fifty years. Say I've written and published and become known. Say I die. And all these numerous journals of mine are published unabridged.

What will the readers read? Who will the readers meet? Not, or not just, Monica Mody the known.

The thought's exhilarating yet dreadful. And this is why, after reading Joyce Carol Oates' review of The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, the journalista in me finds myself obliged to proffer a counter.

For Oates, Plath's journals "present a very mixed aesthetic experience". Is aesthetics the point anyway? Journals are not after all "unrevised, inferior work", they are a space to sift and cleanse the soul. A space where one finds the energy and wisdom to go on living our quotidian and creative lives, where we come to terms with our truths and lies and half-lies.

This -
Confronted with a manuscript so uneven in quality as these journals, Plath would certainly have discarded hundreds of pages in preparation for its publication -- lengthy, breathless adolescent speculation about boys, dates, classes, career (''Can I write? Will I write if I practice enough? . . . CAN A SELFISH EGOCENTRIC JEALOUS AND UNIMAGITIVE [sic] FEMALE WRITE A DAMN THING WORTH WHILE?''); sketches and drafts of stories aimed for the lucrative women's magazine market; awkward early poems (''Down the hall comes Mary, bearing sheets / Crisp squares of folded linen / And, dressed in green, she greets me / With a toothless morning grin''); countless reiterations of physical symptoms (''Woke as usual, feeling sick and half-dead, eyes stuck together, a taste of winding sheets on my tongue after a horrible dream''); petty squabbles with Hughes; and the determination to be a good wife -- must not nag (ergo: mention haircuts, washes, nail-filings, future money-making plans, children -- anything Ted doesn't like: this is nagging).'' Plath's ceaseless anxiety over submissions to Ladies' Home Journal, The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, The Atlantic and other magazines runs through the journals like a demented mantra; the mailman is both the blessing and curse of her existence through the entire span of these journals. Surely such repetition might have been avoided.
- I don't agree with. Readers of journals don't, shouldn't, read them expecting to find precision or brevity. They come to them for - or find - all the murk and beauty of the human mind, in its higgledy-piggledyness. This, I hope readers of journals remember, is not the person the journal-writer is: what would an ubermicroscopic examination of the self yield but a distortion? Neither does it detract from the writer's "major"ness or skill.

My opinion may alter radically once I actually read Plath's journals. As of now, I find the designation "piranha voice" for Plath's journal voice a wee bit unjustifiable. You see, I know. I know I can, too, obsess endlessly endlessly about things big and small.


This book, borrowed and read in college, was what got me to take my "diaries" seriously.


Just finished reading Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang by Joyce Carol Oates and found it truly fabulous.

After ages a book I read at one go not piecemeal five minutes snatched before bed or driving.


TTG said...

Nice meeting you at the blogger's meet.


Now I'll remember.

Consider this a nasty comment :-p

Road Mall said...

ah, so someone has finally blogrolled me. i am touched :)

Monica said...

ttg: hope the nastiness lasts the aussie weather!
shivam: yuss, finally got over being lazy.

Aishwarya said...

Was nice to meet you.:)

I bought Foxfire about a month ago but haven't had time to read it. I'm looking forward to it.