Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Symposium: The Function of Book Blogging at the Present Time, Part 1

Our first respondent is an English blogger, Elberry, proprietor of Elberry's Ghost.

What are the non-electronic precursors of book blogging?

The screams of 17th Century bedlamites.

Who do you look toward for inspiration and models?

The only model i'm aware of is Harry Hutton's blog Chase me Ladies, I'm in the Cavalry[1] – this taught me to write comedy. Also, i've tried to be both public and private, in a way that reminds me of Kierkegaard's journals: he knew they would one day be read but they are much easier to read, much more human than his notoriously difficult books. For a long time i wrote as if in my journal, and i was surprised and pleased that other people could enjoy this.

How does book blogging differ from print counterparts such as book reviews?

It's unpaid. i think anyone who's blogged for a while will realise you're not going to make any money out of it, no one's going to offer you a writing job, you won't even get any blogsex, so you write what you want – or at least more so than in print. If blogs ever start to make money, this will all change.

How do you respond to this statement?: Blogging is just another hobby, like stamp collecting or hockey.

Transience is seductive. Writing involves me in great difficulties, which i usually surmount through apparent frivolity, or through regarding the writing as transient, and so as unbinding. i couldn't blog if i thought every word was carved on stone and would be held against me – the Delete button has often enabled me to blog, as one might be unusually honest with a sympathetic stranger.

Blogging probably is largely recreational – i can't imagine anyone doing it if they didn't want to. But in the hands of an accomplished writer it must become something more. Language involves us as stamps do not. My life was changed by a blog (about runes), so i cannot say blogging is trivial. i have also (just about) maintained emotional equilibrium by blogging at a series of awful jobs, and by reading and commenting on the blogs of others.

How has the experience of blogging changed the way you write?

It has been my main mode of writing since 2005. The technical ease of blogging, and the immediately public nature of the form, may have weakened me. i mean to write on paper more in future, for my eyes only, in an attempt to restore difficulty and privacy.

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.

Not just harsh disagreement: any kind of disagreement enrages some people. The worst are those who think they're much more intelligent than they actually are. They become enraged if you dare to disagree with them, even though they don't know much about the subject, or just aren't all that bright.

If i said "you're not very strong, are you?" – to a person of normal build - most people would shrug and accept this; and the bodybuilder would just grin. If i said "you're not very intelligent, are you?" most people would become angry. We feel to be more centrally judged by our intellect; so if you disagree with someone, and they realise they know nothing about the subject, or just aren't as intelligent as you, they become enraged – as enraged as if you'd said, "you're a bit of a bastard, aren't you?"

Normal human relations are mirrored in the internet; but malign tendencies are amplified. i've learnt not to argue with most commentators. If i stoop to argue with a reader, they should take that as a compliment to their perceived intellect and character. The others should feel lucky i don't turn them all into toads.

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?

i didn't realise anyone had become famous from blogging. No doubt the old forms of literary celebrity are still in place; it may take a while for blogging to register, though i imagine it will eventually. In terms of literary quality i think blogging is going very strong indeed. The only print journalist whose name i've bothered noting is Bryan Appleyard; but there are at least a dozen bloggers of real imaginative power out there – i'd read anything they wrote. Presuming i'm not alone in finding bloggers more interesting than (most) print journalists, i imagine this will eventually percolate through to the money people. But i imagine a paid blogger would need (at least) several hundred daily readers – i think i have about 30, so i'm just going to go on ranting and fuming.

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?

i don't really understand why people read the blogs they do. i am often puzzled that anyone reads mine. Maybe they just look at the pictures.

Are book bloggers wise or foolish to include political commentary?

Foolish. "Politics has ruined more writers than vodka" (Patrick Kurp)

[1] http://www.chasemeladies.blogspot.com/


Anonymous said...

If Kierkegaard's Journals are a kind of standard for serious web logs, the bar is set high.

"In everything the purpose must weigh with the folly." Shakespeare, Henry IV


Anonymous said...

Oh, how disappointing. I was looking forward to this series, but what a miserable, ignorant and unrsearched set of answers.

By the way, I know several people who have landed jobs (eg in journalism) partly or significantly as a result of their blogging, and others who have been offered paid work as a result. Many mainstream publications run blogs as part of their operations, and pay people to write them in parallel with their more conventional content. And so on.


Jonathan said...

Sorry Patrick,

Unfortunately, I'm with Maxine on this one. A startling combination of apathy, bravado and bluster.

I wish he'd taken the time that he did for his comment on your recent post regarding buttons (August 23). I loved his tie-in to King Lear (and his past writing on Chekhov).

Toast said...

Hee hee! Elberry the serious writer has to work very hard to keep Elberry the sociopathic dimwit from sneaking out and pooping all over his work. "My life was changed by a blog (about runes), so i cannot say blogging is trivial": only holds if your life isn't trivial. Actually, we should feel bad for Elberty and encourage him to seek help. He is so frightened by human contact, so threatened by women, and so vulnerable to narcissistic injury that he sabotages every opportunity he gets. I don't think he's a danger to others, but I wouldn't say that with absolute assurance. Urge him to seek clinical assistance, I say.