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John Crace and John Sutherland

Letters and Diaries

Hay Festival 2022, 

There are categories of intimate writing which modern technology has rendered obsolete. Keats sealed his letters to his beloved with a kiss. Whoever did that to an email in the age of electronic Valentines? Who, nowadays, keeps a private written journal? It’s all up there in the cloudy Diary in the Sky. Until well into the 20th century young men and women carried ‘autograph books’ for sketches, verbal and pictorial, by friends. They now only exist as relics on eBay. Is intimate writing a dead letter – as obsolete as the quill pen? Not entirely. John Crace has revived the political sketch, diary and (highly personalised) critical ‘digest’.

John Sutherland has written intimate memoirs (one of which, his struggle with alcoholism, he regrets publishing). He recently met himself – sixty years younger – in his university tutor’s voluminous letters about him to Philip Larkin. It inspired his latest book, Monica Jones, Philip Larkin and Me.

The Two Johns discuss intimacy in public and personal writing – the difference between writing with one eye on publication and for oneself alone – and where, in an era of grams, selfies and tweeting it can go. And have fun while doing so.