The Add-on Value of Journal Keeping


I remember trying my hand at keeping a journal during my first year in high school. Like most of my half-baked ideas, it started out on a high note. I had this tiny diary on which I wrote my impressions for the day. The quality of my handwriting reflected my enthusiasm: at first, the entries were written carefully and easy to read, then degenerated to half-legible scribbles. In time, the gaps between the dates of my entries lengthened until I eventually grew tired of the whole thing and forgot all about it.

A few years later, when I came home for a short vacation I found my small diary among my old books. Without meaning to, I started reading and promptly became absorbed in my scribbled entries. I was not exactly sure what I was expecting but after giggling (and wincing) at my adolescent absurdities, I was surprised at what I had found. Notwithstanding the numerous spelling and grammar lapses, it was like sharing thoughts with somebody strange and familiar at the same time.

Suddenly I was reliving those days again, and since I had practically forgotten most of the details, it was like reading about somebody else’s life — only, its more vivid because they are accompanied by memories. It also elicited a rush of emotions (amusement, sadness, chagrin, remorse, bafflement, etc.) as I began to remember other details. No, there were no extraordinary events detailed in those pages, no life-altering confessions, no earth-shattering secrets — just a series small, everyday things that seemed so important to me at the time.

I have not made any further attempts of keeping a journal or a diary since then, but I feel grateful to my younger self for having the sense to crystallize those days in a way only teenagers can. Your adolescent viewpoint may not be as coherent or as sensible as you wish it could be, but you do begin to understand why things looked the way they did to you back then.

I guess in a way maintaining a blog (albeit at a more sporadic pace) is a continuation of that effort, as explained in a New York Times article by K.J. Dell’Antonia (The Surprising Value of Journaling an Ordinary Day). Another NYT article also notes, “new research suggests that recording our run-of-the-mill, daily experiences rather than just our highs and lows, could bring us unexpected joy.”

Yes, I suppose it does. Although I will probably be more certain about this in a few years’ time (hopefully by that time this blog will still be alive and kicking so I can blog more about it).



Waiting Patiently for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell cast

At last! I am so excited that the production stage of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (JS&MN), a seven-part TV series produced by BBC America, has wrapped up, and the show is slated to be aired sometime this year (2014). Filming for this series, which is based on Susanna Clarke‘s bestselling lengthy fantasy novel of the same title, began in October 2013 and took place in England, and parts of Croatia and Canada.

The cast for this drama series includes Bertie Carvel (as Jonathan Strange) and Eddie Marsan as the fussy elderly magician, Mr Norrell. Arabella (Jonathan Strange’s wife) is played by Charlotte Riley and Stephen Black is portrayed by Ariyon Bakare, while Alice Englert plays Lady Pole and Samuel West plays Sir Walter Pole. The cast also includes Paul Kaye (Vinculus), Enzo Cilenti (Childermass) and Marc Warren (the gentleman with the thistle-down hair).


Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke’s first book, is a superbly written revisionist (fantasy) tale of two English magicians during the Napoleonic wars in the late 19th century. JS&MN, which took Ms. Clarke roughly 10 years to finish, was published in 2004 and was a critical and popular literary success (it stayed in the New York Times bestsellers list for several weeks). It received numerous awards and citations, and won praise from many industry figures including Neil Gaiman, who called it “Unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years.”

JS&MN is directed by Toby Haynes (Doctor Who, Sherlock).

I think it is also fitting that Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is to be presented as a multi-part series rather than a lengthy film because a novel of this magnitude really deserves to be shown with all its layers intact (along with its built-in ambiguities and complexities), which would be downright impossible to fit into a 2- to 3-hour movie.

By the time this TV series airs, I will be tucked and ready in my comfortable chair with a hot cup of coffee in my hand. 🙂