Do you have a friend who keeps a diary, a journal intime? If so, you'd better watch your mouth - indeed, watch everything about yourself, the way you dress, the way you eat, and what you eat, how much you drink, who pays the bill, and so on. Be careful, but be careful not to seem too careful:
Dec. 14: Lunch with IH. Shifty fucker, absurdly self-conscious. Ate next to nothing and pretended not to drink. Even so polished off two thirds of bottle. Indifferent muck, thank Christ - not that he'd know. Wants something from me, I'm convinced, but what? Fidgeted throughout. Monosyllabic when quizzed by me re. future. Seemed to know I didn't give a toss. What is he after/up to? I'll find out soon enough, no doubt. Perhaps the bastard keeps a diary.
Most diarists claim that their jottings are completely private, not meant for publication, embargoed for a million years, and all the rest of it. Diaries, they say, are like the friends they never had, and - people being what they are - could not expect to have. The idea is that if you have a journal to whisper to at bedtime, you reduce the temptation to speak out unguardedly, in public, during working hours. You can therefore lead a well-adjusted double life: dissembling all day and at nightfall revealing to your trusty Letts how crooked you have really been. A diary is thus like a priest, an inner priest, an inner ear: it listens but it doesn't care. You can tell it anything, the lot, and it won't make you feel ashamed.
LRB 14 December 2000 | PDF Download