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Fri, Dec. 16th, 2005, 01:47 am
On Recording One's Own History


I've found myself thinking about this today, probably to avoid sleeping (hey, who needs sleep when you have your own soapbox on the Interweb?). I feel faintly comforted that I decided to start this LJ - along with the occasional pangs of "How fucking self-indulgent are YOU?!" which haunt me from time to time, of course. Not really because writing it helps me resolve anything. Not even really because most of my posts get followed with a bunch of responses from my mates, although that is nice - it's kinda good to know that people feel they want to be supportive about various things, even though I'm a lot tougher than I seem. Any complaints I have about life should generally be taken with a pinch of salt.

I think I like it because the world is a more interesting place when people leave fragments of their lives in places where they can be found, and over time those fragments can take on a life of their own and trigger different responses in people at different times. I'd can imagine myself reading this in 20 years time and remembering what it was like to write it. I also like that a lot of the stuff in my LJ is fairly personal, but it's stuff I don't mind the world knowing about me, assuming the world is interested. There are no revelations here which could be considered dangerous or secret. I had a secret diary as an early teen but it contained my deepest darkest secrets at the time (namely, that I was suffering from teen angst and fancied a girl in school who I didn't have the guts to tell - banal stuff now, but pretty major to a thirteen year-old), but I destroyed that for fear it would be found. The diary is long gone, but the LJ will live forever. Even if the whole of LiveJournal disappeared tomorrow, entries would still exist, permanently cached in the Google search archives. People think the Interweb is a transitory medium, but it really isn't - these words will probably outlive me, as will the words in every email I've ever sent, for as long as the Interweb exists.

I made a penpal when I was about thirteen, who called herself Sugarplum. We wrote to each other for years and years until we eventually drifted apart and lost contact. Somewhere along the line we forgot how to communicate with each other and there just didn't seem to be any way around the language barrier that grew up between us. I have no idea what she's doing these days, but I still have several boxes of folders of neatly filed letters she sent me, extravagant and verbose expressions of our common experiences of puberty and growing up, written (by her) in purple biro on a vast array of different types of writing paper, and (by me) a Steven Hawking-esque spew of lengthy typed letters printed on an archaic dot matrix printer. I own one half of a conversation in which she talked to someone she trusted (me) about her life, and responded to what I had to say about mine. My words make for a sort of absent hole in that conversation, because she has my half of it, assuming she's not thrown it away by now. Before we lost contact we talked about one day recombining all the letters and creating a sort of joint autobiography of our youth. I guess it'll never happen, but all those words still exist, somewhere. I don't know how many of them I'd remember having written. I don't even know if I'd recognise the person who wrote them, but that person was me once.

Some of the most striking examples of this stuff landed on my desk today, in the form of a couple of books I'd forgotten I'd ordered from Amazon.

This one ( http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0743251148/ref=pd_sim_b_1/103-2153977-9483868?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance&n=283155 ) is a collection of letters, notes, to-do lists, and fliers which were found by various people and show a staggering insight into tiny parts of strangers lives, which presumably they never expected the world to see.

This one ( http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060899190/103-2153977-9483868?v=glance%26n=283155%26s=books%26v=glance%26tagActionCode=harpercollinspub ) is a collection of postcards containing secrets and admissions from people who did want to tell the world, but do so anonymously, and it's absolutely beautiful. The book is a collection of postcards from http://postsecret.blogspot.com/ which I've been visiting every week for a few months now and still find utterly fasicinating.

Both books and the website are thoroughly recommended.

In conclusion? Oh, I don't have one really. Ask me again in 20 years.

Sat, Dec. 17th, 2005 08:03 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous)

This reminded me of this guy I exhibited with last year who collected scraps of paper together and drew little narratives on them (a bit like David Godbold, the election artist). They were kind of sad becuase the narratives were always so hopeful, kind of like romance comics, and the scraps of paper were so abandoned looking. There used to be a man in brick lane who sold old letters and diaries, but I could never bring myself to buy them becuase it seemed like such an invasion of privacy.
Louisa

Sun, Dec. 18th, 2005 09:32 pm (UTC)
electrodruid

Where did he get the old letters and diaries? I guess they'd be really interesting to read, but the idea of being able to buy and sell things like that seems really strange.

Mon, Dec. 26th, 2005 04:32 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous)

I guess he got them from house clearances, I'm not sure. They were pretty old, from the 30's 40's and 50's mostly. He had old photos and postcards and things too.