Why I Blog
Five years ago, Andrew Sullivan wrote “Why I Blog” for The Atlantic, and a lot of what he says is still true except that now the context is different. Blogging is still “the spontaneous expression of instant thought—impermanent beyond even the ephemera of daily journalism” but now we have quicker and less permanent ways to express passing thoughts—among them the multiplicity of social media outlets–and daily journalism has mostly moved online.
In the last year, a lot of book bloggers have been writing and talking about how much quieter it’s gotten in blogland. Sullivan compared 2008-style blogging to jazz—“jazz and blogging are intimate, improvisational, and individual—but also inherently collective. And the audience talks over both.” I think that 2013-style blogging, though, is more aptly compared to a solo in a classical concert. There are people in the audience, and they enjoy the music, but some of them are nervous about clapping in between movements, so it’s very quiet in the house.
Because of the diminishing sense of audience, some bloggers have gone back to the old model of a blog as a “commonplace book,” something a writer keeps for herself. Not a bad model; it’s how I began. I’m not sure I’m ready to go back to it, though.
I have a stack of books on my desk that I put there to remind me I haven’t written about them, and when I looked at it today, the stack had eight poetry books, various notes, and four novels. Over the summer, I’d read a novel and put it on the stack, going on to reading the next novel rather than writing about the one I’d just read. I enjoyed them all, but they didn’t strike me as particularly important to anyone else.
I think that’s why I want to blog—to talk about books I think are important, ones that I feel like everybody should read. But I’m not going to limit my reading to books that I think might be important; it’s possible to find that sense of importance anywhere. And what I missed at first about Trivial Pursuit for Booklovers, back when I started with the cards, is that the books I remember are not necessarily the same ones that the people who enjoyed the game remember. That makes me think about one of my favorite book titles ever, What Entropy Means to Me. I love the effrontery of it, as if it could mean something different to me than to anyone else.
Increasingly, the answer to why I blog is the effrontery of it–let’s think about books together, each at our own private screen; let’s think about the ones that may not be important, but were fun; let’s think about the ones that were difficult to get interested in but then turned into something great. Let’s persist in an enthusiasm for reading so great it spills over into writing, across spells where the enthusiasm is spontaneous and through periods where it has to be forced.
Because sometimes a person gets up for a day’s work on what seems to be an ordinary September morning with no idea about how the importance of his work on that particular day will be weighed and maybe even remembered.