Patrick Kurp of Anecdotal Evidence and D.G. Myers of A Commonplace Blog are jointly conducting a serial symposium called “The Function of Book Blogging at the Present Time” whose participants have been invited to “speculate about the past, present, and future of this youngest of literary genres.” Even though I’m not strictly a book blogger, they asked me to join the fray anyway. Here’s my contribution. Their questions are followed by my answers:
• What are the non-electronic precursors of book blogging?
Diaries, letters, commonplace books, periodical essays. I think of blogging as introspection made public.
• Who do you look toward for inspiration and models?
No one. I’ve been blogging for six years–much longer than most artbloggers–and it stands to reason that I should have a pretty clear idea by now of what I want to do and how I want to do it.
• How does book blogging differ from print counterparts such as book reviews?
For me, the only difference (other than the absence of a paycheck) is brevity and the constraints it imposes. I write the same way everywhere.
• How do you respond to this statement?–Blogging is just another hobby, like stamp collecting or hockey.
It depends on how you blog–and how you define “hobby.” I’d say it’s more like painting for pleasure, or playing chamber music in the home. If you think those are hobbies, then so is book blogging.
• How has the experience of blogging changed the way you write?
I think it’s probably reinforced my tendency to write in a conversational style–but, then, I’ve always tried to write the way I talk.
• 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.
To blog is to become a public figure. Ad hominem attacks go with the territory. If you can’t stand the flames, log off.
• 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?
Er, who are all those “famous” book bloggers? Blogging is no longer a novelty, but artblogging of all sorts, including literate commentary on literature, has always been a minority pursuit and always will be.
• 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 think this is true, but I also think it’s irrelevant to book blogging, for the reasons specified above. No book blogger will ever earn a huge audience, unless he limits himself to commentary on the novels of Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling.
• Are book bloggers wise or foolish to include political commentary?
It depends on whether you identify wisdom with traffic. I’m much less likely to pay attention to any critic of the arts who sees the world through politics-colored glasses–whatever their shade–but I suspect that the average reader feels differently.