It's a strange feeling - part disappointment at learning that you're not as unique as you thought you were, that something so intimate a part of you is shared by someone else; part exhilaration at the idea of a person you've always looked up to being so much like you; part just the eeriness of seeing your most private secrets put down on paper by a stranger's hand decades before you were born.
Take yesterday, for instance. I'm reading Orwell's essay 'Why I Write' and I come across this:
"throughout this time I did in a sense engage in literary activities. To begin with there was the made-to-order stuff which I produced quickly, easily and without much pleasure to myself. Apart from school work, I wrote vers d'occasion, semi-comic poems that I could turn out at what now seems to me astonishing speed...and helped to edit school magazines, both printed and in manuscript. These magazines were the most pitiful burlesque stuff that you could imagine, and I took far less trouble with them than I now would with the cheapest journalism. But side by side with all this, for fifteen years or more, I was carrying out a literary exercise of a different kind: this was the making up of a continuous 'story' about myself, a sort of diary existing only in the mind. I believe this is a common habit of children and adolescents. As a very small child I used to imagine that I was, say, Robin Hood, and picture myself as the hero of thrilling adventures, but quite soon my 'story' ceased to be narcissistic in a crude way and became more and more a mere description of what I was doing and the things I saw. For minutes at a time this kind of thing would be running through my head: "He pushed the door open and entered the room. A yellow beam of sunlight, filtering through the muslin curtains, slanted onto the table, where a matchbox, half-open, lay beside the ink pot. With his right hand in his pocket, he moved across to the window. Down in the street a tortoiseshell cat was chasing a dead leaf", etc. etc."
and I'm sitting there thinking - dammit! how does he know about all this.
P.S. The full piece is totally worth reading, btw. But then, almost everything that Orwell wrote is.
P.P.S. Also, has it ever happened to you that you've painstakingly typed up something from a book to share it on your blog and then discovered that it was available online all along? Sigh. Note to self: Always Google search before you write post.