Thursday, February 05, 2009


Maintaining a literary blog is like keeping a big band on the road during the waning days of swing music. The audience is aging and no longer guaranteed. They look elsewhere for diversion – television, bop or R&B. As the boss, you make sure the arrangements are in order, payroll is met, dates booked, players rehearsed and reasonably sober. You’re not Basie or Goodman but you’re a professional and people count on you. You’re never certain who’s listening, if anyone, but you still love the music and probably aren’t suited for doing anything else. Tomorrow’s another gig and you’ll be there.

I started Anecdotal Evidence three years ago today strictly as a soloist, not an ensemble player, which is the way I’ve gone about things for most of my life. If I had thought much about it, which I didn’t, I would have defined blogging as a lot of comping interrupted by occasional solos. I had forgotten that jazz musicians play best with an audience, and often the second show is better than the first, looser, more energized and inventive. Truly, no one is exclusively a soloist. Calling them sidemen sounds patronizing but I have a lot of partners to thank. First, as always, Dave Lull, mon frère, mon copy editor. And Bryan Appleyard, Buce, Laura Demanski, Elberry, Michael Gilleland, Joe, Jonathan, Joshua Kurp, Ken Kurp, Michael Leinz, D.G. Myers, Fran Manushkin, Nige, Brian Sholis, Ron Slate, Levi Stahl, Terry Teachout, Frank Wilson and all I’ve forgotten or who prefer to remain unacknowledged.

My brother sent a video of the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra performing Eddie Sauter’s “Holiday.” The band stayed together from 1952 to 1957 – tough years. For an idea of what blogging is like, listen to Bill Finegan’s intro and watch the percussionists.


PatP said...

OK, I'm may be one of your ageing readers (58) but your blog, for me, is a daily requirement - an ocean of civility. Please, please keep it up!

D. G. Myers said...

What Pat said.

Thanks for the thanks, undeserved. You are right to call Anecdotal Evidence’s anniversary a holiday. It is a holy day—set apart from other days. If not our dean you are the best of us book bloggers. I learn from you daily. Not just about books. But about doing this thing called blogging.

Play it, man!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I have to acknowledge my "aging" as well (54), but, continuing your jazz analogy, your blog is essential because you uncover and riff upon forgotten standards. Many a blog pursues the current "top 40" or Great American Songbook, but few choose to solo on themes and arrangements that are distantly remembered, or overwhelmed by the new. So for my discovery of new gems (E.L. Sissman) or the thematic "concerts" you create (weather, seasons, connections between authors), keep up the highly creative blogging. As in the case of Ellington and Dylan, never get off the road! Thanks for all your sublime work.

Levi Stahl said...

Thanks for the thanks, Patrick, which are certainly returned in multiple. Congratulations on your anniversary, thank you for all your writing, and please keep it going for as long as it continues to sustain your interest. Well done.

Lee said...

I also appreciate your blog. And as usual, you've given me something to think about: I view writing as a solo activity, and reading as intensely personal, but your jazz analogy reminds me not to be so narrow! (Though maybe the communal aspects of blogging are precisely why I'm doing it less and less to concentrate on fiction, hm ...)

tony said...

Thanks for being the college English teacher I never had.

Fran Manushkin said...

Happy anniversary, Patrick! I'm so pleased that Terry Teachout sent me to you. The day hasn't started until I hear your civilized, but not stuffy, voice.

Jackson said...

This is the blog that makes me wonder why there are so few worthwhile blogs. You filled a gap that most of us imagined was already filled.

Thank you for introducing me to Henry James, Ford Maddox Ford and even Frank Norris (I don't recall if you specifically mentioned McTeague but that was a very amusing novel. To me, anyway).

I imagine we would all permit you a holiday now and then but I for one would be nervous if you took even a day off.

I'm with Tony. You're the English professor I'd hoped for at school in the mid 1980's. You can imagine the type of teachers I wound up with instead. (Is "Turtle Island" as terrible as I thought? I still resent having to read it.)