MOBI Irene Taylor ñ The Assassin's Cloak An Anthology of the World's Greatest ñ

This is an anthology of some of the world's greatest diarists with over 200 wide ranging international contributions It is laid out day by day and a typical date might feature entries from such distinctly different writers as Andy Warhol Kafka Pepys and Goebbels

10 thoughts on “The Assassin's Cloak An Anthology of the World's Greatest Diarists

  1. says:

    Disappointing I have read enough diaries to know that these are not the world's greatest diarists or rather some of them are nothing special and the ones who are good diarists benefit not at all from being taken in small out of order chunks I'm giving up after reading the fourth entry on the Titanic in as many pages I'll stick with just picking people who are actually interesting to me and reading their diaries straight throughFavorite line I never saw Pigg so drunk in my life Rev James Woodforde

  2. says:

    If you love the voyeuristic intimacy of reading other people's diaries and journals or the immediacy of primary historical sources then this is a book to pounce upon It's huge just under 700pp but there are delights to be found everywhereThe breadth of extracts is enticing though given the historicised emergence of the concept of 'the self' the majority of them come from the twentieth century with a fair number from the nineteenth dropping off backwards so that the earliest are from the seventeenth century and comprise solely extracts from Pepys of course and John Evelyn We could then trace the development of interiority from the presence of intimate diaries and the increasing solipsism of modernityThat's not though the intention of the editors Instead they have collected extracts that span chronology writers topics and length They have decided to organise the offerings via a yearly calendar and under each date eg January 1 we find an assortment of extracts spanning from 1662 to the late 1990s and from well known diarists Pepys Alan Bennett Vera Brittain Noel Coward to unexpected voices André Gide Che Guevara Alice James and the unknown to me at least Philip Hone a nineteenth century mayor of New York Edith Velmans a Dutch Jew during WW2 the wonderful Joan Wyndham a dabbler who lived through WW2 in London The chronological arrangement doesn't always work so that we find Wyndham's piece on the VE Day celebrations in June while later months are still throwing up extracts from earlier in the war And to be honest there are probably too many WW2 extracts not just do they unbalance the book overall however significant it was to C20th history but they are frequently accessible in other books Not all the pieces are as grave there are wonderfully bitchy anecdotes from the likes of Noel Coward Evelyn Waugh and Kenneth Williams and first hand responses to big events such as the sinking of the Titanic or the death of Princess Diana This is a wonderful book to either dip into maybe on a daily basis so that you can share a day with diarists across time or from cover to cover I did the latter greedily it's so easy to keep turning the pages not knowing what you'll stumble across next

  3. says:

    Diaries are secret Diaries when shared with intimates make them discreet Discreet diaries are boring A secret diary is akin to infidelity Only good girls keep diaries bad girls don’t have the time These are some of the descriptions of diaries in this anthology of the world’s great diarists among them Samuel Pepys Virginia Woolf Leo Tolstoy Franz Kafka Noel Coward Joseph Goebbels Barbara Pym and Kenneth WilliamsThe importance of a diary as a literary form is that it1 Records history as and when it happened from people who actually lived through those events2 Is direct and off the cuff capturing emotions thoughts and ideas formed in the heat of the historical incident3 Provides snapshots of time frozen years apart on the same day of the year eg contrast a 4th of July celebration in 1832 vs one in 1991Thus we get clear pictures of the carnage of the Great London Fire by Samuel Pepys the filth on the streets of Edinburgh in 1761 by John Wesley the thoughts and emotions of people in England and Germany preparing for war from Barbara Pym and “Chips” Channon and Goebbels’ meditations on how he invented the “fake news” concept back in the 1930’s And if you broke a tooth in 1854 you lived with the gapThis anthology groups entries from a wide selection of diarists that were made on the same day of the year running from 1st January to 31st December over the last four centuries So for any particular day in the year you could get entries taking place on that same day in 1666 1774 1880 and 1991 the progress of history politics science and technology is evident as the centuries roll over The weakness in this approach however is that no single subject is covered in depth although the anthology hovers around many pivotal events in history the two world wars The Great Fire of London the rise of Nazism in Germany the Prince Charles Princess Diana marriage the evolution of movie making and the lives of great writers In going one day at a time in chronological order we come back to each of these seminal events repeatedly at various points of the book Each visit helps to re stoke memory of the last read of that particular subject but at the end of the book you are left with a disjointed understanding of all these great events One tends to skim the entries made by lesser known personalities even though those lesser known ones were selected due to their on the spot visceral descriptions One also has to read each entry to find the good nuggets for not all will interest a readerAnecdotes are generously offered1 Shepherds in Corfu preferred ewes to wives because the former didn’t talk Lawrence Durrell 2 Kafka wrote his diary during WWI but never once mentioned the war3 Marilyn Monroe had a desperate longing to be intellectual but didn’t have the brain to achieve it Noel Coward 4 “Oxford people” expected their peers to read Lady Chatterley’s Lover despite its ban in England at the time5 Virginia Woolf preferred poetry to prose as she got older She also worried about her looks and reviews of her books and she didn’t like people6 Tolstoy lacked modesty but was shy in society self admittedThis is not everyone’s book But as a novelist I got value from being able to immerse myself in the last four centuries and be taken on a guided tour of them by the ghosts of people who had lived during those times feeling their fears joys and frustrations So if you want to know about subjects as diverse and unrelated as how a monk lived in Grenoble in 1927 or how life was on board the Antarctica expedition of 1903 with its tainted food then you may find something in this book

  4. says:

    “There are few things quite as capable of inducing guilt as an empty diary This dip in doorstop sat tenaciously on my bedside table for many months waiting to catch me between far shorter and physically manageable books I enjoyed reading a few entries each night before settling down to sleep the only drawback being the sheer heavy weight of the damned thing – nodding off with it propped in front of my bespectacled face proved to be something of a hazard I’ve always taken pleasure in ‘eavesdropping’ on the private thoughts and opinions of creative people – not celebrity types I might add – but writers artist and other engaging characters from the past The Assassin's Cloak which is chock full of diary entries from the pens of esteemed and fascinating folk throughout history was therefore my ideal choice for bedtime readingAs one would expect the likes of Samuel Pepys John Evelyn and Queen Victoria are included in this collection but there are also figures such as Florence Farmborough a young woman who went to Russia and became a Red Cross nurse at the Front for the duration of First World War the Irish writer and film director Neil Jordan notorious ex con Jimmy Boyle and even Sam’s missus Elizabeth PepysThere are entries for every day of the month and every month of the year so if for example you turn to 2 April you will find extracts from the journals of Simone de Beauvoir 1947 Eleanor Coppola 1976 Andy Warhol 1980 and Alec Guinness 1996 To pick another random date on 22 September you’ll discover Fanny Kemble 1832 Robert Louis Stevenson 1878 Harold Nicolson 1936 and so onIn my copy which was published in 2000 and possibly in later editions too the diarist’s name is given at the end of each entry making it something of a chore with a collection of this size nearly 700 pages to keep flipping ahead in order to establish the person’s identity I found this mildly irritating as it was inclined to disrupt my concentration Establishing authorship from the get go would have been practicalIf you are a keen reader of biographical works there is every chance you will be familiar with the complete versions of some texts but no matter you can simply skip an entry moving on to the next Besides re reading a few choice extracts from old favourites can be funThe Editors of this anthology Irene and Alan Taylor say that “all human life is here But not every diarist” Apparently some individuals were excluded for being “dull” George Gissing for example and others because their diaries weren’t dated Fyodor Dostoyevsky to name but one Nevertheless every extract has been thoughtfully selected for its wit and percipienceI will emphasise once again that The Assassin's Cloak is probably best consumed in bite sized chunks but you may well prefer to bolt it down in one Either way you’ll find it filled with risqué anecdotes humorous stories unintended hilarity and intriguing revelations “I saw the most extraordinary tricycle pass today A bath chair made of wicker work in which reclined a smart lady and behind where one should push a gentleman treadling puffing and blowing and looking very sheepish I wonder any one will make such an exhibition of themselves How the bicycles swarm now and yet a few years since every one turned round to stare at a velocipede” Beatrix Potter 21st February 1885You can read many of my reviews and other literary features at Book Jotter

  5. says:

    a former roommate of mine bought this back in 2003 or 2004 i borrowed it from her for months but never finished it it's a monster of a book over 700 pages long it's excerpts from famous diaries throughout history from john evelyn samuel pepys in the late 17th century up to brian eno alec guinness writing in the 1990s every day of the year is represented with a sampling of excerpts written on said day i love diaries i write diaries myself i like reading other people's diaries with permission like published diaries so this book was a really fun treat for me it was heartening to find so many famous diarists struggling with their diary habits hating their diaries getting down on themselves for not being faithful to their own chronicles it made me feel better about occasionally skipping days or weeks in my diaries but it took me forever to slog through the book about two weeks that's A LOT for me because it has no narrative structure no thread pulling me along making me turn the page aside from idle curiosity the desire to finish reading like other reviewers have pointed out there was so much stuff in here about world war two it didn't bother me all that much because i can recognize accept that living through world war two of course not all the diarists in the book DID live through the war had to be a trying experience if i'd been there i probably would have written about it a lot there are accounts from people who had been sent to concentration camps soliders in POW camps politicians trying to make decisions about the war journalists reporting on the war people who have been displaced from their homes because of the war etc the folks who put the book together are scottish as far as i can tell so there is an emphasis on european mostly british isles diarists oh so much about the royal family including queen victoria's diaries even some of the diaries that recounted life in the united states were written by visiting europeans marveling over how different in good bad ways the united states was so as an american that was another element of the book that was kind of tough for me but i got over it some of the diarists were really fascinating i looked forward to their entries such as william soutar's accounts of life as an invalid others were absolutely insufferable thoreau i'm looking at you so glad i finally picked up a copy of this book for myself it did not disappoint

  6. says:

    24 DEC 2015 spied on Margaret's feed Sounds interesting

  7. says:

    I don't know if I finished this but after 3 years of long runs of reading the days as they passed I decided to give myself the credit today of having finished this This is one of my favorite books and probably belongs in any guest room An anthology of diaries some repeated authors some make an appearance and never return Every day has 5 6 different entries The dates are all over the place though all are in English and most of the entries are from England The topics are heartbreak mundane home matters disease war worry frivolity sex the stuff of life You can't pick up a day and not find 1 2 entries that stick with you somehow I have no favorite entry but today's most amusing one was this1934 At Marks and Spencer's I bought a peach coloured vest and trollies to match with insertions of lace Disgraceful I know but I can't help choosing my underwear with a view to it being seen Barbara Pym

  8. says:

    Fabulous book It begins on January 1 There are 3 4 entries approx per date The dates range from the 1600's to the 1990's Some of the diarists are well known to us such as Samuel Pepys Andy Warhol Lord Mountbatten Queen Victoria Some I had not heard of but soon wanted to know about them like James Lees Milne Many historic events are commented upon the great London fire World Wars 1 and 2 etc The editors included a short biography of each diarist at the back plus another list of entries by author in case one might just want to read all the entries by Beatrix Potter instead of going day by dayIt's the kind of book you can pick up read a few entries and put down again A good book for a year challengeI loved it

  9. says:

    The Assassin's Cloak An Anthology of the Worlds's Greatest Diarists ed by Alan Taylor and Irene Taylor GoodThis is an anthology of diary snippets written in date order so I decided to read them day by day There is an interesting mix of diarists Pepys Housewife 49 Queen Victoria Frances Stevenson Lloyd George's secretarymistresswife Barbara Castle POW's Actors Actresses Politicians a range of eras types of people and viewpoints All give you a perspective into their times some interesting than others but all a window into what people were thinking at that timeReally enjoyable way to start or end my day dependent on how busy I was

  10. says:

    As a serial diarists who never finishes her dairies I really appreciated this anthology It is such a fun read and perfect for skimming when you don't feel like committing to a book properly It's been a goal of mine to better my relationship with words to write in a authentic style and to write without an audience in mind Better yet to write for myself as the audience as academia has primed me to await critique for my words This anthology reflects the efforts of my favorite writers to do the same to overcome blockades and write freely for the love of writing