Edward Robb Ellis (1911-1998) maintained a diary for almost 70 years, starting in 1927 when he was seventeen-years-old. He was an ordinary guy who lived through turbulent times and met some amazing people in the course of his life.
I came across this book at a bookshop in Boston a few years ago while on vacation. As one who loves keeping a journal, I remember reading the introduction by Pete Hamill and falling in love with the simple beauty of journaling he describes:
“The diarist has one essential goal: to freeze time.
“With each entry, he or she says that on this day, a day that will never again occur in the history of the world, I lived. I lived in this city or that town, upon which the sun shone warmly or the rain fell steadily. I ate breakfast, walked city streets or country roads, drove a car or entered a subway. I worked. I dreamed. Other human beings said witty things to me, or stupid things, or brutal things; or I the same to them.
“I laughed. I wept. The newspapers told me about the fevers of politics, distant wars, and who won the ballgames. I experienced a work of art or read a novel or heard music that would not leave my mind.
“I was bored. I was afraid. I was brave. I was cowardly. I endured a headache. I broke my leg. I loved someone who did not love me back. I suffered the death of a loved one.
“This day will never come again, but here, in this diary, I will have it forever. Casual reader, listen: I, too, have lived.”
— Pete Hamill, “Introduction,” in Edward Robb Ellis, A Diary of the Century: Tales from America’s Greatest Diarist, reprint (orig., 1995; Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Sterling Publishing Co., 2008), p. 1.