Thursday 5 August 2010

A Vote....

There are so many reviews I want to write, and I'm always too sleepy! You'll have to do with the tidbit that today I read from a book called The Gaping Pig. Its subtitle is Literature and Metamorphosis, which spoils the image of what could have been an intriguing novel... plots on a postcard, please.

On my blog I've occasionally thrown out little votes, to find out whether blog readers prefer Hardy or Dickens; Charlotte or Emily Bronte; Art or Music etc. Today's might not apply to a lot of people, but it's about writers' (or, indeed, any published) letters and diaries. Do you prefer reading diaries or letters? Your instinct might be to say "both" (or perhaps "neither") but if it is "both", think a little deeper and you might well have a preference...

OK - here it is: Letters or Diaries - post in the comments, with reasons if you like, and we'll see which is the victor!


  1. I don't read much of either but I would have to say that I would probably prefer letters. I think in sharing ideas with another person, the writer tends to give a bit more information and personality. The introspection of a diary can sometimes be a bit bland. Although, there will always be examples to the contrary, right?

  2. Diaries! I love both, but people are always so much more frank in their diaries, revealing affairs and opinions they would never dare to share in a letter.

  3. I prefer letters. Somehow I never read diaries, but I do like letters. Part of it is the fact that I'm sorry I missed the age of letter-writing, so there's a kind of vicarious nostalgia in reading them. I also have rather a love hate relationship with diaries, as I have spent most of my life failing to keep them (a blog is different--I have someone to write for), so I don't really like reading the diaries of people who have not similarly failed.

  4. Diaries (and now I've evened things out so far...) -- I've been a near obsessive diary keeper for years and must say, love a little peek into other people's diaries, whether it's my sister's (ahem) or Virginia Woolf's! I love knowing how people's minds work in private (I've read excerpts from Byron's diary too, which were fascinating, more so than his poetry, certainly), more than how they interact socially. I've never gotten around to reading Jane Austen's letters somehow.

  5. My favorite has to be the Russian mystic, Fyodor Dostoevsky wiht his little book on "letters from the underground" very frank and open somewhat introspective.

    My other favorite has to be " letters of Samuel Rutherford ( an old dead puritan) He writes letters to people he has spiritual concerns for. Bound as a book very enlightening, to read somebody's mail 2 centuries after they died.

    Since I write a lot in my own "online diary" I love daires have kept dairies for the las twenty odd years. Kind of chronicles one own human journey so they have to be my favourite.

    Simon Thomas
    South Africa

  6. Diaries - you get really upclose and personal with diaries.

  7. It just so happens I've been giving this very topic some thought recently, and have come down on the side of diaries. I think a lot of them were written to be read later, either by family or the general public. I know this is sometimes true of letters as well, but I find them more mixed.

  8. I've tried thinking hard about this for you, but I think that it depends so much on whose diary you are reading, and equally I suppose whose letter. I loved 84 Charing Cross Road for instance, and more recently enjoyed the letter between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor. A letter is an expression outwards, whilst a diary should in essence be a memo to self.

  9. Letters. Diaries may be more candid, but I rather like reading as two people reveal themselves to each other through correspondence. Of necessity, letters usually contain a kind of narrative unfolding that is often missing in diaries where the writer has more freedom to choose how to account for oneself.

  10. I think I'll come down on the side of letters. I like the frankness of diaries (especially if not written with an eye to publication), but I absolutely love getting a real letter (& not a brown envelope job). When I don't have one of my own, reading someone else's is a good substitute.

  11. It so depends on the author!
    Chips Channon's diaries: priceless.
    Evelyn Waugh's letters and diaries: not to be missed.
    Joy Grisham Lewis's letters: usually dreary and only occasionally funny or full of insight.
    Often a diary is meant for a distant reader; letters are for a specific audience, and, thus, can be varied and pungent in a way diaries often are not.

    Ultimately, I'd vote for either, since both art forms appear to be evaporating, and I'd support anything to keep the concepts going.

    Perhaps blogs are the ultimate and happy combination of both?

  12. Letters..always. I love letter writing myself but that is not the reason. Its the thought of taking time out to express yourself in words - leisurely- and communicating with the other person - its so beautiful. Its conversing isn't it?
    Letters reflect more of a person's wit and personality. Diaries are slightly narcissist..strictly in my opinion. And they tend to re- endorse an opinion that a person has in their head by putting it on paper and with no one every getting a chance to correct it. I could never keep a journal in my life...

  13. Letters - probably lets out more of the writer's life than what is committed to diaries - _but_, I really do like both, preferably of authors, especially Virginia Woolf (her letters & her diaries), can't get much better than that(!).

  14. I think I've only ever read letters for my doctoral research but I think I actually prefer diaries just so you can really find out what the writer is thinking.

  15. Thanks for all your votes! I should unveil my favourite... which is letters, for the reasons people give - so nice to see the real person, and real relationships.

    Although both make me feel a little guilty, like I'm eavesdropping... also a little ashamed that people like Woolf's idle scribblings are so much better than anything I could ever write!


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