Hupomnemata and Joan Didion


In “On Notebooks,” one of Joan Didion’s essays from Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Didion writes of her personal experience with keeping a notebook and writing things down. She sees her urge to write things down as a compulsion, perhaps something she would not see the value of doing if she did not possess a natural urge to record things. As she demonstrates in the essay, the pieces of information she decides to write down are often trivial details of her surroundings or bits of conversation. Her notes don’t serve to discipline herself, and they don’t seem very personal in nature. But, as Didion writes, her notes do serve a somewhat personal function: to remember what life was like for her in that moment. She stresses that her purpose of note-taking is not to record things exactly, but rather to record details that remind her of how she felt. These personal, not historical, notes reflect the nature of the Hupomnemata, which are described as “memory aids.”


One Reply to “Hupomnemata and Joan Didion”

  1. I definitely agree with and understand the compulsion and desire to write anything and everything down. The act of writing has been known to improve memory retention, whether it is class notes or describing how one felt in that moment.

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