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Pages of an Obsessive Diarist

For almost 17 years from 1972, Reverend Robert Shields of Washington, USA kept an almost constant diary of everything he did. He wrote 35 million words before he was stopped by a stroke. His diary is thought to be the longest in existence.

This diary, of a man who only slept for two hours at a time in order to write about his every dream, has now been passed to the Washington State University to care for. You can read an excerpt from an interview with Shields and radio documentary maker David Isay here. Choice quotes include:

Robert Shields records everything he eats. He records his blood pressure and pulse at various times during the day, the temperature outside and in, every conversation he has, every piece of junk mail he receives. He sleeps no more than two hours at a time so that he can record his dreams. Robert Shields has also scotch-taped a variety of his life’s keepsakes into this diary. For instance: samples of his nasal hair.

The entire day is accounted for. I don’t leave anything out. I start in at midnight and go through the next midnight, and every five minutes is accounted for:
12:20 to 12:25: I stripped to my thermals. I always do that.
12:25 to 12:30: I discharged urine.
12:30 to 12:50: I ate leftover salmon — Alaska red salmon by Bumblebee, about seven ounces — drank ten ounces of orange juice while I read the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

I have the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations! Let’s hope I don’t start a diary!

A full page of his diary is available here.

(Found on Boing Boing)


As for David Isay, he’s currently working on the “StoryCorps” project:”It’s actually a very simple idea,” said Isay, explaining how the project works. “You bring your mother, your grandmother, anyone you want to our booth. You go in the booth, and the door shuts, and it’s kind of this magical sacred space. For 40 minutes you sit across the table, and you talk about the big questions in life. At the end of the 40 minutes, the CDs stop rolling and one goes to you and the second stays with us and becomes part of the archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.” [link]

Who would you take in there and what would you say?