Early this morning I began reading a new (to me) collection of Cyntha Ozicks’s essays.  I never begin at the beginning when I read essays. And, I have given myself permission to drop a book if it bores me, or speed read if I am only looking for highlights in an otherwise verbose offering.  Cynthia Ozick never disappoints.

 I first became captivated by her when I read The Shawl which she wrote years ago. The essay I read this morning was “Who Owns Anne Frank?” a probative piece exploring the many levels of Anne Frank’s story, and included in her collection Quarrel and Quandary. While each of us might think we already know Anne Frank, especially if we saw the movie with Natalie Portman, or visited the Prisengracht in Amsterdam as I have done, Ozick shows the reader the many angles of Anne’s story.  Ozick’s thorough and literary historical analysis begs the question, Who Owns History.” 

If I learned nothing else in my history program, it was history is complicated and not fixed. New investigators are constantly turning up new material. For my MA research, I investigated a murder case that occurred in East Anglia in the UK in the late nineteenth century. I analyzed it from many angles.  This meant I explored much secondary information and and uncovered primary information. My experience persuaded me that even so-called primary information can be tainted and that those who wrote secondary works may have used selective judgement.  Conclusion: we can be really stupid if we jump to a conclusion about any person if all we know is from a biased POV we “trust.”  

In addition to conflicting sources of information and selective memory, accident and active censorship also play a role in preservation.  Miep Gies, the Dutch heroine who sheltered the Frank family in hiding for two years came to the house the day after the raid.  She found Anne’s diary on the floor, and placed it unopened in a desk drawer. She said later if she had known what was in the diary, she would have destroyed it because it named names. 


A while back one of the bloggers I read asked “How honest can we be in writing a blog?” This is a tough question. I kept a diary when I was a teenager, but ever fearful of someone reading it, I did not write everything I was thinking, feeling or experiencing. I don’t know what happened to the diary after I left home. My Dad had a clear out and got rid of most of my stuff. I suspect he burned the diary.

I have kept journals as an adult, and many of them lie on top of an upright desk in my study collecting dust.  Some day, I will burn them.

Like most bloggers, I am somewhat circumspect in what I write about my life, and if I write about a friend or family member I am cautious. For example, my DIL has a birthday this week, but I won’t post her age. That’s her below with her girlfriends on a night out, and with grandson Sean.  She looks wonderful for someone who will hear from AARP next year, don’t you think?




9 thoughts on “Happenings

  1. Hadn’t realized how much time had passed since I’d been here until I discovered all your posts I’ve missed. Couldn’t let this one go by as the topic is of particular interest. I’ve revealed far more than I might have once thought I might, but I’ve also drawn a line on many items. I’d have no objections to revealing some information to other bloggers, but I seriously resist doing so because the information is being carefully collected by Internet entities who are gathering it all for commercial purposes I resent. Now we get a hint of one small way in which we’ll be exploited as MAC subscribers find they’re assumed to want more expensive accommodations, so that’s what they’re offered. I could easily expound at much greater length on how that will all play out in the future with health care companies, etc., etc.

    Yes, history is far from fixed and about as “objective” as any one person’s perspective can be when historians try to pull together the “facts” about another person — however public a figure might be.

    As for keeping a journal — I’ve often thought about it, did not since I never felt confident others might not somehow see it — though I didn’t really have anything that others couldn’t know — except ….. I would be tempted to share my thoughts about people, and was concerned that some might have hurt feelings were they to learn what I might say. Then, when I was in my fifties a good friend gave me a journal when we were both going through extremely challenging times in our lives, quite independent of each other. So, I finally wrote a page — but in very guarded code-like language. Guess what! Our house was broken into and my journal was stolen. Needless to say, I’ve not begun another journal, but was greatly relieved I had not been more explicit.


  2. The beauty of blogging is the cloak of invisability we drape ourselves in.—until our family reads our posts. Your DIL hides her pre AARP year quite well. I’d never have guessed.


  3. I like your approach to reading because mine is the same. Life is too short to read what we don’t enjoy.

    I was interested in what you said about history being censored; I believe Queen Victoria’s daughters heavily censored her diaries.

    I am careful about what I blog. I make fun of my family, but nothing I wouldn’t say to their faces 🙂 We are a teasing family, but not hurtful. I try never to write anything offensive. I am not politically correct, but my blog is deliberately lighthearted, and I don’t want to provoke. My poetry blog is not constricted by the same rule.


  4. Lovely person. Not lovely you if you burn your journals. If you donate them somewhere, you will be the primary source of something someday far, far in the future.


  5. Either she discovered the fountain of youth or she has lived an untroubled life. What a beauty! Your son certainly has good taste in women.

    As a graduate student, did you have to pass translation exams in German and French? That’s often necessary so students can read primary source materials in the original language rather than read secondary sources about the same event.


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