If guests at Deetjen’s could access Wi-Fi or peck away at cell phones in their cabins, perhaps fewer people would spend hours curled up with the journals. (The isolation from the breaking-news feed is total: Berto, for instance, who stayed at Deetjen’s on September 11, 2001, mentions only cheese and wine and Castro Cabin’s cozy front porch.) It’s become commonplace to ruminate on the ways social media estrange us, or how emails confound style and epistolary grace. But each time I visit Deetjen’s I’m reminded of the extraordinarily deep connections I feel with these other vulnerable, wondering pilgrims. I see their ropy cursive, their off-kilter printing, their gestural sketches and I touch the pages with my hand. None of which I could do at my computer screen. None of which has anything to do with humble-brags, polemical rants, or gratuitous selfies. Here, there’s a tangible space—nine-by-twenty, creekside—for the self to slowly unfold.

—Anna Journey, “A Close Reading of the Greatest Guest Book in the World

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