A Diary of the Century: Tales by America's Greatest Diarist

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9781568360805: A Diary of the Century: Tales by America's Greatest Diarist

America's most prolific diarist offers a generous selection from his journals, including reflections on his exchanges with such luminaries as Louis Armstrong and Eleanor Roosevelt and countless ordinary people, and his celebrated stunts as a reporter.

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From Publishers Weekly:

Retired journalist Ellis (The Epic of New York City) has spent a lifetime annotating his life: his diary, started on a bet in 1927 when he was 17, has earned him inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest in the world. Though an edited version can only skim the surface of what he actually recorded (some 20 million words over 67 years, and still accumulating), the bare bones presentation nevertheless fulfills the goal Ellis set early on: to provide not a record "of world deeds, mighty achievements, conquest" but "the drama of the unfolding life of one individual, day after day after day." Gleefully annotating his own annotations, Ellis provides a gloss on many of the entries that survived the cut from diary to book, obviously seeking to balance highlights from private life (first shave, first kiss, first byline) with choice descriptions of mainly professional encounters with the famous (e.g., Huey Long, Herbert Hoover, e.e. cummings) and the obscure (a failed suicide, two 12-year-olds fishing in a New York City park). Written in plain prose and with the sense that history is peering over his shoulder, Ellis's frank record movingly captures the march of time both outward and inward. Quoting Zola on literature, he describes his diary as "a slice of life seen through a temperament," an apt description for this often surprising and always humane document. Photos.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist:

For octogenarian journalist-historian Ellis, the examined life is well worth living. His 68-year diary--60-plus volumes, more than 20 million words--is, per Guinness, the largest U.S. diary. Happily, quality as well as quantity recommends this volume for libraries: Ellis was a reporter for some 30 years in Kewanee (Illinois), New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Chicago, and New York, then wrote a classic history of the town he still calls home (The Epic of New York City, 1966, reissued 1990) and studies of World War I and the Depression. He knows how to turn a telling phrase. Passionate from the beginning about the value of diaries to their authors and future historians, Ellis used his journal to explore himself and the world: analyzing relationships with different girlfriends, listing favorite songs, recounting jokes, anecdotes, interviews, and encounters with celebrities, critiquing his behavior (and misbehavior), declaring strong opinions, and coming to terms with the painful sudden death of his beloved third wife. Readers will not always like Ellis, but they will be grateful he kept writing (almost) every night. (Ignore the title: it's the publisher's idea.) Mary Carroll

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