“Diary Without Dates”

Blogger Victoria Janssen, who’s participating in the War Between the Generations WWI reading challenge, most recently read “A Diary Without Dates,” by Enid Bagnold. Bagnold wrote “National Velvert.” During the war, when she wrote this diary, she was a VAD who got kicked out because her writing was too critical of the hospital.

This is not a compliment about the hospital: “Like nuns, one must learn to do with no nearer friend than God. Bolts, in the shape of sudden, whimsical orders, are flung by an Almighty whom one does not see.”

Here’s a link to Victoria’s review: www.victoriajanssen.com/2012/06/a-diary-without-dates-enid-bagnold-wwi-challenge/

And here’s a link to the WWI Reading Challenge: http://warthroughthegenerations.wordpress.com/tag/wwi-reading-challenge/

“Diary Without Dates” is an example of a book published before 1923 and no longer covered by copyright in the United States that has been picked up by a print-on-demand company. These companies acquire books, scan them and produce them on paper. You can buy one of these books with no guarantee of the quality — the producers say upfront that the pages might be smudgy, which I could consider disastrous if I were trying to decipher a map. Or you can download it and read it for free, which is what Victoria did.

This is the future: books we read on digital devices. For now, e-readers have little screens that must make trench maps, for instance, even harder to interpret (I can’t read them at all).

I would rather buy what seems to me a real book, however yellowed and faded, or library musty, or paperback flabby. All I want is to read it.

What about you? E-book, POD, paper?

“Diary Without Dates” itself doesn’t pose such a complicated question. You can get a perfectly nice copy republished by Virago Press in 1978, here, http://www.biblio.com/details.php?dcx=460745964&aid=bkfndr, but it’s the principle I ponder.


Enid Bagnold in 1918