by Ron Slate
On the Seawall
What are the non-electronic precursors of book blogging?
Conversations in coffee houses, cafeterias, cafes. Lectures and talks at churches, community centers, meetings of civic groups, book clubs, local colleges and schools. Partisan or avid book commentary in little magazines. Courtroom and governmental testimony on banned books.
Who do you look toward for inspiration and models?
A broad range of critics and essayists. A few names as examples: John Berger, Randall Jarrell, Walter Kaufmann, Eliot Weinberger, L.E. Sissman, V.S. Pritchett.
How does book blogging differ from print counterparts such as book reviews?
Book blogging is more various in its objectives and interests, and includes book reviewing. It tends to be more reflective, conversational, and often ephemeral or vaporous. Blogging usually involves or interacts with its audience, its online community, and frequently reflects or promotes specific values or shared identities.
How do you respond to this statement?: Blogging is just another hobby, like stamp collecting or hockey.
Blogging is a, or is meant to trigger, social action, thus antithetical to the passion of the solitary hobbyist. I played senior league hockey until my 53rd birthday. Blogging is like hockey in its social aspects.
How has the experience of blogging changed the way you write?
The experience of blogging has changed the way I blog, but has had no effect on my poetry or fiction.
What about the sometimes vicious nature of the beast?--the ad hominem attacks, and the widespread tendency to confuse harsh disagreement with such ad hominem attacks.
Auden said a critic must differentiate between taste and judgment: I can know something is trash and still have a taste for it, and I can know something is well-made and not have a taste for it. Generally, attacks are perpetrated by nitwits who can’t tell the difference or who haven’t had a good breakfast.
Some say the golden age of blogging has already passed, that blogging has failed to fulfill its early promise; and the evidence which is given is that no one becomes famous from blogging any longer. Do you agree?
Fame isn’t the gauge of anything occurring in the present moment. Blogs, like little magazines, come and go. William Logan says we live in the age of tin. Maybe he’s got something there.
In a recent blog column, the technology writer Michael S. Malone suggests that a handful of bloggers have "earned huge audiences, while millions of others have not," because readers have learned to trust the more popular bloggers "to either consistently entertain us, or we trust their judgment in selecting interesting items for us to read, or we trust that their world view is just like our own and their ability to enunciate those views even better." Do you agree? Does this explain why no book blogger has earned a huge audience?
Malone’s comment seems to pertain more to political or entertainment bloggers than to book bloggers. The audience for literary blogging is very small compared to that for politics. On the other hand, I think his point about attracting and keeping readers is self-evident.
Are book bloggers wise or foolish to include political commentary?
There are literary bloggers like Philip Metres (http://behindthelinespoetry.blogspot.com/) who are both committed to a political point of view and write extremely well. So he doesn’t “include” political commentary; his politics are fully integrated with his literary consciousness.