« George Washington Slept (and Tanned?) Here | Main | Great Museums: Fast Food Edition »

Obsessive Diarists of the World, Unite!

diary.jpgSpeaking of diaries, let's take a moment to consider the extraordinary diary of Robert Shields. Here's a snippet from Monday, April 18, 1994:
6:30-6:35 I put in the oven two Stouffer's macaroni and cheese at 350°.
6:35-6:50 I was at the keyboard of the IBM Wheelwriter making entries for the diary.
6:50-7:30 I ate the Stouffer's macaroni and cheese and Cornelia ate the other one. Grace decided she didn't want one.
7:30-7:35 We changed the light bulb over the back stoop since the bulb had burnt out.
7:35-8:10 I had a conversation with Heidi. She is put out that I don't always follow the doctor's directions. When my hips ache, I don't pay attention to anybody but I take my Voltaren. She said she had mailed the Procardia and the Nitrostat. Edie is otty-trained, or at least began potty training today. She says that Klara should never have married Mike in the first place. Granted. But what is she to do now? Heidi's voice is so low and soft on the telephone that I can hardly make her out.
8:10-8:15 I was at the keyboard of the IBM Wheelwriter making entries for the diary.
And so on, and so on... for roughly 35 million words. Shields devoted at least four hours a day, for more than twenty years (from 1972 to 1996, when he suffered a stroke), recording the tiniest details of his life: conversations, meals, television shows, personal health statistics, dreams, and graphic (yet often funny and even poetic) descriptions of every trip to the bathroom. It's an astonishing record, like Leopold Bloom's running interior monologue in Joyce's Ulysses, only raised to the nth power.

The diary is currently held by Washington State University, and only small bits are available online (if you know of others not listed here, please let me know). But these excerpts, together with a handful of interviews and articles are enough to get a sense of the overall work.

Links: The World's Longest Diary (Athanasius Kircher Society)
Robert Shields, World's Longest Diary (interview transcript, at soundportraits.org)
Page from Shields' diary (.gif image)

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.worldalmanac.com/wablogadmin/mt-tb.cgi/281

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

About

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 26, 2007 3:30 PM.

The previous post in this blog was George Washington Slept (and Tanned?) Here.

The next post in this blog is Great Museums: Fast Food Edition.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.