Tuesday, July 14, 2009


The mayor’s wife has been a notorious person in the news over the past year. She decided at one point to set up an office near her husband and for a time functioned as a sort of office manager. The situation became awkward for many and there’s been a pending lawsuit from a city employee alleging the mayor’s wife used derogatory language. Plenty of drama. Today, the city newspaper released transcripts of her journal which she wrote in the city’s computer system. It will be big news in the paper tomorrow, a breaking bit of fodder for the 6 o’clock news and plenty of dirt for the editorial writers. But it’s a diary after all.

I’ve destroyed diaries over the years. On three occasions I think. Each time I felt like a part of me died. Perhaps not that dramatic, but you know what I mean. You’ve done this too, probably. Now, having your diary read by someone else without your permission, that must be something very hurtful and strange. I cannot imagine the feeling. It’s never happened to me. But I feel that a diary, even a journal, has a certain sacred quality. I’ve filled six journal books since last June. I haven’t re-read them but they must be weird to read. But saving them has become something I want to do for a number of reasons.

This must be very hurtful for the mayor’s wife. Talk all you desire about the legal aspects of this but it’s such a personal bit of writing to have made public without your permission.

Recently, I finished reading Thomas Merton’s diaries covering the last four years of his life, the last two volumes in a seven volume collection. I’ve never read journals or diaries in such an extended manner before and it really hooked me. Merton intended for them to be published posthumously and he apparently, from the volumes I read, kept such a wonderful commonplace book of his life. The writing is frank, honest, confused, ranting and tender. It’s life as he thought about it. I’ve decided not to read the mayor’s wife’s diary. Merton would probably be very upset with the newspaper. I am.

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