Tuesday, December 9, 2008

On Sullivan's Why I Blog

OK, so I'm late reacting virally to this manifesto. But my delay can be directly related to one of the points in the article.

And, because the piece was so choc full of reflections on the state of, and projections for the future of, all things bloggy, I'll stick to this one point.

It came at the end, when Sullivan was wrapping up his argument for blogging and it's place within literature. It came when I, having slipped off for a wee sunset-hour nap, stood up, said hello to the home-from-work fam, and returned to the comfort of my couch to finish the article. (It's no dis to the piece, I swear I have narcolepsy).

Throughout the piece, Sullivan defended the blogosphere, comparing (good) blogs to Pascal's Pensees, deconstructed his own development as a blogger, etc. And throughout the piece he insisted on the potential for the peaceful co-existence between conventional journalism and blogging. But it wasn't until his conclusion that it really hit home.

You see, I'm blogging -- and living, for the month -- at my to-be in-laws, at the top of a hill in a small town in northwestern Connecticut. Occasionally I attempt to make real-life connections with the people of this town, but I generally live in this one corner of the house (where I've found a one-to-two-bar wireless connection!)

Day after day I plan my reading, researching, pitching, etc., unable to live without a deadline (see previous post). Yesterday I decided to take a different approach and embrace this temporary state. I would read (picked up back issues of New York Mag,Psychology Today, Atlantic Monthly and Self -- Thomaston does have a library, thanks goodness).

Sure enough, as soon as I cast off the boxes of which magazine, which issue, which editor, which angle, which department -- in general, as soon as I stopped compartmentalising my whole approach to reading and researching, the ideas came. (When will the incandescent light bulb be replaced by the compact fluorescent as the symbol of a good idea? And is this delay a symbol in itself?)

OK, OK, I'm rambling ... but such is the way my playful mind works when my drill sergeant mind lets loose it's grip. I pause and look around and make connections -- sometimes days after reading the piece.

Feeling frugal (who isn't?) and limited by back issues, I've been trying to read online. Almost made it through this Walrus article on beards. (Maybe it's in their blog section, but it's long and 'full' enough to be an article). I did get through a short story by Claire Gibson on Joyland.

But after a few hours of scrolling, interrupted by the occasional tweet/email/chat I decided to head to the couch. And that's where I met Sullivan.

I had tried to read this a month ago, when the listservs were all abuzz with it. I made it to page three -- and I was proud of myself for that.

So how justified was I feeling when, having made it through the whole piece, Sullivan closes by comparing the act of reading online (using a "querulous, impatient,a distracted attitude") to the experience of "opening a novel or a favourite magazine on the couch. Reading on paper evokes a more relaxed and meditative medium."

Of course, Sullivan wasn't arguing one is better than the other. But for me, for this month sans deadlines, I think I'll risk narcolepsy and stay on the couch.

(Until I get an idea I want to bounce off the blogosphere, or find a person I want to track, or a new publication I want to write for, or ...)

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