Darkness and Light:
Private Writing as Art

by Olivia Dresher and Victor Munoz


iUniverse, 2000. ISBN 1583485600.
Reviewed by Paulette Rees-Denis
Posted on 07/28/2002

Nonfiction: Creative Life

This work is an anthology of contemporary journals, diaries, and notebooks. Writing as Art. Journaling as Art? Dresher and Munoz have collected and edited 14 writer's journal fragments into their book.

Believing that journal and diary writing can be more than therapy, historical reference, or voyeurism, the writers sought to gather writings proving that the journal can be art. With guidelines, they called for submissions—"... interested in literary, poetic, philosophical, and/or psychological writing which reflects a commitment to the journal as a distinct art form..." In Darkness and Light, we see only partial selections chosen from the more than 100 submissions.

Sandi Sonnenfeld in "Ways of Being: A Process Journal," uses the journal as her way of processing her dance piece, growing out of a rape. She shares the experiences of feelings, creation, and rehearsals—calling it the "dance of myself."

In "Gleanings" by Audrey Borenstein, we find snippets of thoughts and observations as journal art, collages, and life studies. She muses, "All of us are in the dark carrying lanterns that shed a little light on the cobblestones."

I am reminded of Anais Nin's journal writing. How many of her journals were published? These changed my life as I read them. Alive with life, she was. Kimble James Greenwood also writes of her in "Meditations on 25 Years of Journal Writing" as his favorite journal writer (and mine!), who has taught him so much. He quotes from Volume 3 (1946) of her journals, "Writing in a diary developed several habits: a habit of honesty (because no one imagines the diary will ever be read); a habit of writing about what most closely concerns me; a habit of improvisation on any theme one wishes; habits of spontaneity, enthusiasm, naturalness. The emotional reality of the present. A respect for the present mood."

I did feel that as I read these vignettes: an honesty and baring of the soul about whatever really matters to that person.

In his essay, "The Journal as Art: 'The Impossible Text,'" editor Victor Munoz writes, "Every journal begins as a self-communication." He adds that the journal becomes literature when it makes its way to the public. Munoz also writes about the significance of self-communication, quoting several authors throughout history, as well as citing his personal observations. I enjoyed learning the many small and different ways of seeing within these journal excerpts and the quotes that have inspired the authors.

Though it may seem a bit voyeuristic to read another's personal thoughts, doesn't it make us think and look at our own lives? By questioning their thoughts or actions, we begin to question ours.

In Darkness and Light, the reader is taken through these writers' lives from day to day or year to year. Personal and philosophical, is the purpose to make art out of life or to make life into art?

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