Sunday, June 11, 2006

Black pages

The story of Arthur Crew Inman's diaries (via Metafilter) - 17 million words in 155 volumes - suggests, above all, a pathological disorder. A neurological explanation is that he had "hypergraphia, a compulsive urge to write detailed diaries and poems". I wonder if there's a condition that compels people to become neurologists?

An introduction to an abridgement of the diary offers mitigation. It says that Inman had motives for his madness:
He calculated that if he kept a diary and spared no thoughts or actions, was entirely honest and open, and did not care about damage or harm to himself or others, he would succeed in gaining attention beyond the grave that he could not attain in life.
Living beyond death is often regarded as the gift of literature for the writer. But the gift of death is also delivered.

Today, exactly 21 years ago, Jacques Roubaud began writing the first part of The Great Fire of London cycle:
... this piece ... will be black, composed in minute, close-packed letters, without deletions, regrets, reflection, imagination, impatience, promising nothing but their ensured existence line after line on the page of the notebook in which I am writing them. And I am writing only in order to keep on going, to elude the anguish awaiting me once I break off.
Does this desire to fill pages with black ink explain your attraction to literature more than anything else?

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