Samara O'Shea

A Glimpse into Their Lives


As promised, I went to the Morgan Library’s exhibit on diaries. Not as promised, I went on Sunday rather than Saturday. Also, not as promised, I am writing on Tuesday rather than Monday. I’ll get my groove back one of these days.

In any case, the exhibit was intimate and extraordinary. It was in a small room and there were 60 or so diaries on display. I walked slowly, trying to fully absorb each one. It’s incredible to come face to face with the sloppy handwriting of someone you admire who left the world long ago. I copied my favorites passage of the day—some from the diaries themselves and others were posted on the wall throughout the exhibit:

“My journals are callow, sententious, moralistic, and full of rubbish. They are also hard to ignore.” ~ E. B. White

“There are two things in the world—life and death. ‘Art’ is life. ‘Not Art’ is death.”
~ Stuart Davis

“Life piles up so fast that I have no time to write out the equally fast rising mound of reflections.” ~ Virginia Woolf

“I have tried to keep diaries before but they didn’t work out because of the necessity to be honest.” ~ John Steinbeck

“The truth strikes us from behind and in the dark, as well as from before and in the broad daylight.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

[The best aid to memory] is “reading intently—and reading with a pen in your hand taking note of the passages that most forcibly strike you.” ~ George Augustus Sala