Between 1919, when he was 23, and 1963, when he died by suicide, American poet Arthur Crew Inman wrote upwards of 17 million words in his diary—a mammoth record (in both senses of the word) of one human being’s life which, in its original form, spanned 155 volumes. Born in Atlanta to a hugely wealthy family, Inman was a clearly troubled, profoundly bitter recluse who lived in a darkened room of a Boston hotel, and through his unique and compelling diary we learn of his every unguarded opinion, fear, suspicion, memory, desire, grudge, and prejudice—often in excruciating detail. Moreover, Inman was critical of almost everyone in his orbit, including, in January of 1947, his recently-departed granny.
The Diary Entry
It occurs to me that I haven’t mentioned that Granny Mildred died of cancer some two weeks ago. Father sent us a wire. “Doesn’t it disturb you at all?” Evelyn asked. “Not in the least,” I replied. “It’s just one more of the older generation out of the way. I feel that life, my life, is well rid of the whole kit and caboodle save Miriam and Uncle Ben Lee. Granny wasn’t fair to me when I was a trusting little boy, preferred my cousins to me always, gave them better presents, had them stay with her at Palm Springs and took them on automobile trips when I was just as available. To hell with all of them. Whatever Granny did for me didn’t repay me for what she didn’t do.” “Do you feel that way about Aunt Nellie?” “No I don’t. She was always good to me.”
The only way to read all 17 million words of Inman’s diary would be to visit Houghton Library at Harvard University where they live, and set up camp for a few years. Thankfully, Harvard Professor Daniel Aaron spent almost a decade heroically condensing the 155 volumes into a far more manageable edition titled, The Inman Diary: Vols 1-2: A Public and Private Confession, first published in 1985.
Diary entry excerpted from The Inman Diary: Vols 1-2: A Public and Private Confession, edited by Daniel Aaron. Used by permission of Harvard University Press.