Conversational Diction In On Keeping A Notebook By Joan Didion

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It is often only after a person’s death that their notebooks hold any significance for others. Notes to self, grocery and to-do lists, movie ticket stubs, all of these help for form a picture of an individual and a historical moment. But what is the value of these jottings to the individual that makes them, beyond knowing which groceries to buy? What can looking over past notebooks show and individual about themselves? In “On Keeping a Notebook,” Joan Didion uses immersive, conversational diction along with a self-deprecating tone to explore how writing shapes memory and by extension, identity. Didion opens the essay with an excerpt from her notebook, just opaque enough interesting. She uses conversational phrases and questions to invite the reader into an assessment of the journal entry. Didion retrospectively wonders why she wrote what she did, and leads the reader through a realisation of the full meaning of the excerpt. This process introduces the reader to Didion in two ways: first as the writer and narrator, and second as the girl in plaid silk dress. This introduction hints at later exploration of the potential for any notebook to contain past selves by allowing the reader to meet a past and a present iteration of Didion. It is clear that writing and being a writer are integral parts of Didion’s identity. It is “what [she is] supposed to do.” Who she is, is constructed and recalled through the fragments of memory that fill her notebook, not always true or real
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