On Keeping a Notebook by Joan Didion starts with an entry from Joan’s own notebook.
“‘That woman Estelle is partly the reason why George Sharp and I are separated today.’ Dirty crepe-de-Chine wrapper, hotel bar, Wilmington RR, 9:45 a.m. August Monday morning.”
At first she has only the slightest notion of what it means. Looking at it distantly she asks herself a standard question, why? That is the question that Joan has chosen to explore in this essay. Why? Why keep a notebook?
A scheme she uses is rhetorical questions. On page 79 Joan asks, “waiting for a train? Missing one? 1960? 1961? Why Wilmington?” Though she may not directly answer her questions Joan uses them to get the reader thinking, what is the point of keeping a notebook? Having the reader reflect upon this particular question helps to keep the audience focused on the very question Joan is trying to answer.
Throughout her essay Joan uses stories to enable her to bring up her points and explain them. As she writes about the “impulse to write things down” Joan draws upon her own experience to show the reader. Using herself as an example she is also able to fit in her personal reasons for keeping a notebook. An example is (pg.81) “So the point of my keeping a notebook has never been, nor is it now, to have an accurate factual record…” Instead for Joan it is about what specifically reminds you of a memory.
“Keeping in touch,” Joan says, “is what notebooks are all about.” For someone who hasn’t experienced the impulse to write things down and instead posses more of an “instinct for reality,” I cannot relate well to the points brought up. Yet for me On Keeping a Notebook was an interesting look into a different lifestyle.