Archive for the 'Writing' Category

Zombie lit

July 18, 2007

From William H. McNeill’s Venice:

Dositheos’ second great achievement was to give the Orthodox tradition a historical definition. He did this by writing a History of the Patriarchs of Jerusalem, published in 1715, eight years after his death.

I have to wonder if his editors got so grumpy (like me) with the fact that McNeill mentions Venice only a very few times in his last chapter that they failed to notice (unlike me) that he slipped in a bizarre instance of posthumous writing. A great achievement indeed!

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One thousand and one entries

June 23, 2007

No matter how diverse my entries may seem on the surface, there is a quality that all of them perform – a readiness to write and an eagerness to share. When I sit down to write on this blog, it’s because I have something that I want to say in this medium and have calculated a way in which I want to approach it. My entries, that is to say, mark an entrance into a certain mindset; they are all written from within the same walls.

Starting at 2:32 in this interview with Momus, he talks about the kind of storytelling he likes best: “I love the idea of Scheherazade,” he says, “And if there’s one umbrella idea which links all the different things I do – like making pop records, or doing performance art, or writing a column for Wired, or blogging – it’s this idea of someone habitually storytelling.”

“It’s essential that it could go wrong,” he continues. “It has to be this Scheherazade-like structure; it’s the same with blogging – it has to be every day.”

What fascinates me about this is the potential for a great diversity of performances. Instead of always getting a fairly polished, well-composed entry (as I’ll flatter myself to pretend the readers of my Chronofile are used to), the possibility exists for a performance of an entirely different sort; with the pressure to put something down every day, it’s inevitable that some days’ entries become performances of frustration, failure, or resistance. The blog becomes an anti-Feuilleton – enticing the reader some days with its eagerness to share and discuss, then crankily chasing him off the next day.

Another strength of this every day approach to blogging is that it encourages a spirit of play. In the format of the blogging software, in accordance with an idea of what makes a suitable blog entry, the writer is allowed free reign over most aspects of her entry; she has entered a space which is neither too ordered, nor too chaotic.

But the blog writer exists as a single node in the much larger hypertextual community. Her inspirations are subject to come from her a somewhat variable diet of blogs, and so the rules, as it were, of the game change daily or even hourly. Writing every day forces a certain engagement with the larger community.

Keeping in mind that these thoughts are all simply explications of the Momus interview above, it was with a bit of shock that I read this recent entry on his blog. He writes:

As an experiment — and in order to give my quality time to writing The Book of Jokes — I’ve been trying over the last week or so to revive old content from Click Opera. Retro Click has attempted to breathe new life into ephemeral dead content. The results basically just confirm that blogging, whilst it may give you the rush of instant worldwide publication, is the most ephemeral thing in the world. Comments are way down and the consensus is that reviving old blog entries is as dull as digging out yesterday’s newspapers and reading them.

Blogging has been incredibly useful to me as an aide memoire, a way to note the things that interest and excite me, and anchor them in a public place, make them googlable, and increase their power (they’re usually frail, underexposed things) by widening their appeal a tiny bit. (Go buy that Gay Against You album today, people! If we can turn one White Stripes sale into a Gay Against You sale, we have not lived in vain!) What it mustn’t become, though, is either the main thing I do, or the main thing I’m known for. Blogging is — in John Updike’s term for journalism — “hugging the shore”.

If the Momus of the above interview is saying that blogging can help build a more playful everyday, what’s happened in this recent entry? It may be that it’s best read as an inevitable outcome of blogging every day – a cranky shaking of the fist from the anti-Feuilleton.