Saturday, March 03, 2007

It was One Year Ago, um, Monday...

I note that I am approaching my one year anniversary of beginning this blog. March 5th of last year, I finally decided to take the plunge (my reasons for doing so here, the blog name explained here). It's been an interesting, and fun, experience.

My last post, in which I wrote about the potential war on Iran and the need to prevent it, highlights a problem I've had here--a problem I perceive of tone. It does often seem frivolous to follow up a serious post about war and human suffering with a post telling the world what I've listened to on my iPod. And yet I want to do both, as well as all kinds of other things. So I have. But I am not unaware of the oddness of it. Life is like that.

Of course, aside from music and politics, the other area I've written substantially on has been literature. On this, contra Scott Esposito, I agree with Sam Tanenhaus on one point (mind you, this is pretty much the only thing I agree with him on, as far as I can tell):
It is easier to get a good piece of analysis and writing, a better essay, a better report, whatever you think a book review of being, on non-fiction than fiction. Novels and short stories are very hard to write about.
Scott says in response to this: "If you are concerned about literary aesthetics and culture, then they are in fact very easy to write about." Really? Isn't this a strange thing to say? I find literary aesthetics very difficult to write about (of course, "literary culture" is a distinctly different thing, so maybe that's what's so easy). And I don't find all that much discussion anywhere about the actual aesthetics of a work of fiction, even online (I'm not saying there aren't blogs that do this; obviously there are, and those that do have become much more valuable to me than are the bulk of the litblogs). Even where blogs are better than mainstream book reviewing (and the best of them unquestionably often are), I see mostly writing that is concerned primarily with content and theme, comparatively very little with how the things work. And I think this is because it's difficult. It certainly is for me. If you've been paying attention, and care, you may have noticed a relative lack of literary posts lately, and an increase in the number of posts on politics and music. This is why (that, and an overall increase in sleepiness, but that's another matter entirely). But I haven't given up on it; I promise. Perhaps it is for this difficulty that some of the posts I've been happiest with have been those in which I've tried to do some of this, and succeeded, at least on some of my own somewhat nebulous terms. (Specifically, I'm thinking of my posts about Peter Handke's Across, Tom McCarthy's Remainder, and Nabokov's Despair, as well as my defense of David Foster Wallace and my post about Stephen Dixon.)

As I started out, it was interesting to see who responded. It was enormously gratifying to be blogrolled and linked to by some of the literary-minded bloggers I respect the most, such as Dan Green at The Reading Experience (and thanks to Dan, also, for early encouragement, for example in a comment to this post on "Politics and Literature", as well as alerting his own readership to the Nabokov, Wallace, and Dixon posts mentioned above), Steve Mitchelmore at This Space, and Ellis Sharp at The Sharp Side. Early posts about music and music culture caught the attention of Carl "Zoilus" Wilson and Simon Reynolds, two of my favorite music writers, both of whom sent many readers to me--after which I naturally promptly stopped writing about music for weeks! Thanks to everyone who has sent readers my way, whether via blogroll, or a link to a specific post. Thanks to everyone who has commented, particularly those who've commented regularly, thereby helping to form a sort of Existence Machine community--I'm thinking of long-time readers like Scraps (of Parlando) and newer readers like Brandon (of No Trivia).

This incremental awareness of a readership, however small (and mine is certainly that), does pose its own set of pressures and expectations, beyond those I already put on myself when I write. But I try not to worry to much about that. Anyway, it's been a good year. Thanks for reading.


ed said...

Richard: I do try to link as widely and as disparately as I can, but I (for one) have appreciated your blogging efforts. Keep up the good work.http

Richard said...

Thanks, Ed.


+ 12 subsites, to prose, drama, film, etc
among them [dram lecture] [dem handke auf die schliche]
[three part interview with lothar struck about handke] [the handke/ milosevic controversy an American exposition] i AM REVIEWING ESSAY BY ESSAY A COLLECTION the works of peter handke by courie/ pillip
Member Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society


"Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben]

Andrew said...

You may be interested in these thoughts on Dostoevsky by Hermann Hesse:
"I said Dostoevsky is not a poet, or he is only a poet in a secondary sense. I called him a prophet. It is difficult to say exactly what a prophet means. It seems to me something like this. A prophet is a sick man, like Dostoevsky, who was an epileptic. A prophet is the sort of sick man who has lost the sound sense of taking care of himself, the sense which is the saving of the efficient citizen. It would not do if there were many such, for the world would go to pieces. This sort of sick man, be he called Dostoevsky or Karamazov, has that strange, occult, godlike faculty, the possibility of which the Asiatic venerates in every maniac. He is a seer and an oracle. A people, a period, a country, a continent has fashioned out of its corpus an organ, a sensory instrument of infinite sensitiveness, a very rare and delicate organ. Other men, thanks to their happiness and health, can never be troubled with this endowment. This sensory instrument, this mantological faculty is not crudely comprehensible like some sort of telepathy or magic, although the gift can also show itself even in such confusing forms. Rather is it that the sick man of this sort interprets the movements of his own soul in terms of the universal and of mankind. Every man has visions, every man has fantasies, every man has dreams. And every vision every dream, every idea and thought of a man, on the road from the unconscious to the conscious, can have a thousand different meanings, of which every one can be right. But the appearances and visions of the seer and the prophet are not his own. The nightmare of visions which oppresses him does not warn him of a personal illness, of a personal death, but of the illness, the death of that corpus whose sensory organ he is, This corpus can be a family, a clan, a people, or it can be all mankind. In the soul of Dostoevsky a certain sickness and sensitiveness to suffering in the bosom of mankind which is otherwise called hysteria, found at once its means of expression and its barometer. Mankind is now on the point of realizing this. Already half Europe, at all events half Eastern Europe, is on the road to Chaos. In a state of drunken illusion she is reeling into the abyss and, as she reels, she sings a drunken hymn such as Dmitri Karamazov sang. The insulted citizen laughs that song to scorn, the saint and seer hear it with tears."