Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Fictional Diaries

The model of the "real" or original diary serves as the source for the origin of the diary novel. The appearance of real diaries to the public and their subsequent popularity accounts for the development of diary fiction. The real diary gave rise to the genre of the epistolary novel, especially in the second half of the eighteenth century... The modern understanding of a diary usually involves a private, periodically kept text... Such a diary might contain discrepancies, uncertainties, and other fluctuations in emotional temperament. The future of the author is unknown.
~Jessica Natale, Diary As Fiction: Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground and Turgenev's"Diary of a Superfluous Man"

Diary fiction, and its related genre, epistolary fiction, attempt to mimic real life's ups and downs, ebbs and flows, in real time. What draws us to them? Is the attraction the "air of intimacy, immediacy and truth" that one gets from reading in this format, as author Kate Summerscale suggests, with the added piquancy of possibly being hoodwinked by only seeing one version of the action (she also says diaries can be the "most unreliable and corrupting of narratives")? Whatever it may be, we still read diary fiction today, even if the form is not as widely used as it once was. Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole series, wildly popular in England, feature diaries from Adrian's life from age 13 3/4 to age 39 3/4. Wuthering Heights opens as Lockwood's diary. Winston, in Orwell's 1984, keeps a diary as an act of defiance to Big Brother. Bridget Jones is her own franchise. Here are some other novels you might enjoy that are written completely or in part as diaries: 

What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge [eBook]

Diary of a Nobody by Grossmith

Dracula by Bram Stoker

"Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady by Anita Loos

Any Human Heart by William Boyd

The Archivist by Martha Cooley

Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende

The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell [eBook]

Find more titles with a subject search of "Diary fiction" in the library catalog!Or, if you'd prefer novels in letters, check out our Epistolary Novels booklist.


Dear Diary, how did you become part of our literary culture?

Kate Summerscale on fictional diaries

Subject: Diary fiction [LibraryThing]

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