James A. Reeves’ Notes From the End of a World

Recently I pointed to another blog which has long been a favourite of mine – and which quickly took up residence in the ‘must read’ folder in my RSS reader.

Today I’ve got another one for you, but this one I only heard about a few weeks ago – via, I think, Phil Gyford’s blog? – and which has leapfrogged its way into the must read folder for its consistency, its tone, and because it acts as a sort of talking point for my mind. A thinking point, if you will.

James A. Reeves’ journal serves up reasonably short, daily journal-like posts, usually accompanied by a picture and an MP3.

The soundtrack element is neat, though I’ll admit I haven’t once played a track – but it has sometimes been interesting to note the pairing of a song I’m familiar with. And pairing is the right word; I find this idea of selecting music to accompany a blog post like wine with food very compelling.

James appends the following explanation / mission statement to each post, which helps set the tone:

Each night in 2020 I’m writing a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I want to etch these days into my memory before I forget them. Before the world changes completely.

I was interested to read that his posts are written in the evening before bed – particularly because they occasionally reference dreams that must’ve been had the previous night – but also because I am finding myself reading the posts in the evening before bed.

As an aside, for a long while now I’ve been in the habit of, rather than sending stuff to Pocket or Instapaper to read…. never… instead I have been sending a few articles to my Kindle which will hopefully be a good read before bed.

The tool I use is pretty good at extracting articles and spitting them out in Kindle-friendly formats, but it’s not always perfect.

This blog’s entries are absolutely perfect for this process, though. Not too long, and the single image usually comes through with it. I still love how the Kindle’s e-ink screen renders book covers, illustrations and photographs.

Last night I caught up on four of his most recent posts, and it was just the kind of stuff I wanted to read as I drifted off. Other days I’ve been grateful to have had a single post to send to my Kindle.

And, beyond the ‘must read’ folder in my Inoreader, James’ blog might even achieve gold status: some sort of hack which sends each new post directly to my Kindle with no manual intervention.

Few have achieved this level… but this one feels like it might.

I love the diary / journal as a format, but I love even more the inside story of what makes a person write in such a way. What are they trying to record, and for whom?

James’ latest post gets slightly meta in terms of picking apart the genre of diary-writing, by also referencing another book which itself makes use of the diary format – a subject I’ve been fascinated by for more than a decade – and I love this kind of insight and connection:

But what strikes me the most about The Stand is the diary a pregnant character keeps as she crosses the country. Each entry ends with “things to remember,” a list of things she wants to tell her child about life before a plague wiped out civilization. The catchphrases and television commercials. The amusement parks, laugh tracks, and frozen cheesecakes. This captures how I’d like some entries in my journal to work: something written for the future rather than the moment. (Hopefully it will be far less dramatic than the diary in The Stand, but god only knows what the rest of 2020 has up its sleeve.)

God only knows, indeed.