Monday, July 21, 2008

More Self-Referential Blogging Bullshit.

When I first started this blog over two years ago, I resolved to avoid becoming self-referential. There's something about a writer that takes as his/her subject "writing" that suggests an overwhelming self-absorption. How many authors have you read who have written novels about their lives as college professors? There are certainly a lot of them in your local library. While it may be justified as authentic, since the academic life is a home for many scribes, this type of theme has the tendency to become fairly mundane. Granted there are certain folks who have completed memorable fictional accounts of this milieu (a notable example is Richard Russo's Straight Man), and others have built successful careers on it (see David Lodge).

Obviously blogging itself has a narrower tradition, simply because people have only been doing it for about fifteen years. Yet as of December of 2007, the blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112 million blogs (a fact which frankly makes me feel a bit better about my ranking on that site). A common complaint I have run into while talking to people about blogs is the perception that the vast majority of them simply constitute opportunities for self-absorption and navel-gazing for the bloggers themselves. That's unfortunate because the range and variety of subject matter to be found within the blog spectrum is enormous. Still I don't want to perpetuate that impression, so I'll try to keep my own inclinations contained.

But the reality is that I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about this phenomenon, and what it means in my personal life. I made that clear with yesterday's post, yet I think I have more to communicate on this subject. Blogging has become a daily activity as much as an abstracted pursuit. It has changed the way people interact with me. For one thing, it provides fodder for conversation for those who read Serendipity regularly. I find that it often cuts through a lot of the small talk that I would normally encounter with these readers. They don't have to ask general questions, such as "So what have you been up to lately?" I've had quite a few discussions that start with a pinpoint observation about something I've written about recently.

It's also interesting how things happen on the periphery... things I'm not even aware of. I often proceed with the assumption that no one I am writing about will read my blog. This has turned out to be naïve. Not long ago I mentioned the title of a local art show, and later discovered that the artist who came up with it read my opinion and took mild offense. Even though I stuck behind my convictions on the matter I couldn't help feeling a bit bad about being critical. I was taken aback by the experience because of my veneer of anonymity, and the realization of just how thin it actually is (especially on a local level). It makes it tough to avoid being a simple cheerleader for the local scene. I don't enjoy hurting people's feelings.

On the other hand, I have been pleasantly surprised by comments and e-mails from those I don't know who have stumbled upon my site. Just this past week I received a gracious note from an author who had read my review about his nationally distributed book. It made me wonder how many other individuals I have mentioned have found my blog via internet searches. At one point last year I was getting regular correspondence of a vaguely threatening nature from the lawyer of someone I had vilified in a post. They weren't talking about legal action, but rather invoking spiritual and more immediate worldly damnation. Believe me that makes continuing this project extremely interesting.

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