There seems to be a running theme within my last few posts – books. All of them have referenced or used them in some form or another and, as a massive Book Geek, I’m proud to say this one won’t be any different.
I don’t keep a diary these days, although it’s not because I look down on them or believe them to be self-indulgent or anything even remotely negative. I kept one for many years and would frequently write essays on scraps of A4 then stuff them into a folder tucked between the bed and my secret stash of porn mags. Sex and words have always been closely related in my world.
And yet my diary was never sexy, despite the two biggest sources of inspiration for such entries being forever lodged in my brain in a sexy way.
The first, as mentioned in my Sinful Sunday post, was Dracula. A book which beautifully combines sensuality, temptation and fear – feelings which I think have accompanied every romantic and sexy encounter in my life – and painted a grand, Gothic tale which leapt from the pages into my fertile mind.
But although it’s filled with underlying eroticism and themes of submission and power, what I loved most was how Bram Stoker told the story. Through each diary entry and each phonograph recording, I saw episodes of a larger, on-going narrative which allowed Jonathan Harker et al to explore their thoughts and feelings in reaction to what they had encountered in a very honest way. If they were scared or confused, they wrote it down, they did not shy away from their own suspicions or doubts, they used their preferred method to delve deeper into their own thoughts.
This was hugely influential on me and while my own diary never contained events as horrific as Dracula (thankfully), I did use each page as a way to explore and make sense of what I’d encountered, and to be honest about what I felt in response to it. My diary became a sort of therapy rather than just a way to log what I’d eaten or how many times I’d sworn about my mother that day.
The second influential source was a book wildly different to the first in terms of tone and theme – The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole.
Again, there were moments within it which spoke to me on a sexual level because Sue Townsend did such a brilliant job of capturing the awkwardness and the excitement of a boy’s first crush and his awakening sexuality – and there is no doubt that Pandora was my first literary crush – but, like Dracula, it wasn’t the sexy bits I liked the most. It was how Sue Townsend recreated the banality of everyday life and mixed in personal drama without every undermining its importance on the characters.
Sure, she knew Adrian was a pompous little git at times and allowed the reader to occasionally laugh at him, but she never turned him into a clown or made light of the events unfolding around him. She also spoke honestly and chronicled his very personal experiences with carefully considered words and sentence structure to make the most of each moment, whether for dramatic impact or humour, and it was this skill which I tried to lace throughout my own diary, making light of some potentially tragic moments and understanding how to reveal the raw emotion of others through words in a way that might have been felt and understood by a fellow reader.
Of course no-one ever read my diary (I burned it not long after I moved out of the family home) but I think a combination of those two books played a large part in each entry and probably still do, to some degree, with the other ways I now record my life through blog posts and twitter.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but I think writing that diary, and learning the lessons those books taught, helped me get through a lot of shit which I would I have very likely cracked under without.