“In the UK, if you discover something of value and keep it, that’s theft by finding.”
[see the extract below from the Introduction of David Sedaris’ Theft By Finding]
If you’ve ever done it, you’ll know that it’s an interesting conundrum you’re faced with when you decide to publish your diaries. They’re your diaries but a lot of their content isn’t about you.
How will other people feel about your versions of their history becoming available for public consumption? As I’m not in the business of upsetting people, or creating problems for them, I made the choice to check this out with those whose pasts were linked to mine.
Now considering what I initially published began in 1983, people weren’t that easy to get hold of. Facebook and other social media sites helped but I couldn’t find everyone. Those I did find, upon hearing what I was planning to do, came back with responses that ranged from utter delight that I was reminding them of halcyon days, to mild bewilderment that I would want to do such a thing. Overall people were really positive, even though some of them thought I may have been cruel about them as they, in their words, weren’t “that popular at school”. Some people, with mild levels of notoriety in local circles, understandably preferred anonymity but there was one response in particular had me thinking.
To paraphrase, they said that whilst they valued my friendship they respectfully requested that any events from their past not be used in any shape or form.
But whose events were they? I wrote them, so were they my versions of their events, or my events that they happened to be in? I didn’t know what to do. I felt this particular person had been a key part of my growing up. Someone I remember with huge affection, someone who I wouldn’t want to leave out.
I was also keen to remain as faithful and as true as I could to what I wrote about what had happened and the way I originally wrote it.
I thought really hard about how I would approach it, and how I could be sensitive to what they’d asked of me, and wanted to let them know this. However my thoughtful, reassuring response couldn’t be delivered as the contact methods through social media were cut off…
So I did what I thought was morally right under the circumstances.
So if you’re out there old friend, the events I’ve shared in the pages of the diaries contain the influence of your lively, giddy, caring spirit, but not you. And I hope that’s OK.
My 1984 Diary is available now, 1985 will be published this autumn, and 1986 in 2018.