Monday, June 13, 2005

A Novel Pursuit, or Who is the Cervantes of Blogging?

At the cafe today, I ran into my friend the writer Greg Oaks. I asked him what he thought of blogs. He said he hadn't thought about them too much; he'd only read a couple of them in the past. He mentioned a blog,, that he'd read -- a woman's chronicle of her failed relationships. "I was amazed," he said, "She was pretty brutally honest." (Disclaimer: when I googled that site so I could post a link, the quoted title -- -- led me to an erotica sight, which is great! and all, but maybe not what Greg meant?)

The brutal and naked honesty of the blog is what makes it appealing. The tone of a good blog reminds me of the "I'm just saying..." attitude. The girlfriend chat. The roll one is on when one is rolling.

Greg and I talked about how blogs with angles were better than blogs without -- say a blog about music, cake decorating, or teaching retards. I told him about the secret blog site: Post Secret. Then Greg said, "The blog will be like the novel in the 17th century. Back then, nobody knew what it was they were dealing with." As we spoke, I noticed the novel sitting on Greg's table, Light in August by William Faulkner.

Where Faulkner is concerned, a lot of people still don't know what they're dealing with.

My high school students introduced me to blogs. In 2001, they were keeping online diaries and sharing them with one another. "Check out my blog, Ms. Forster," they'd say and write the address on the black board. One day when I was surfing the net when I should have been grading their papers, I looked up at the board and typed the address of a girl's blog into the computer's address bar.

At that point, the idea of a "public diary" was still an oxymoron to me. A diary was a private thing: what you wrote for yourself, to yourself. I myself kept "notebooks," which, in truth, are basically the same thing. Calling my private writing a notebook, however, dignified it more than calling it a diary, which I imagined as small, pink, equipped with a flimsy lock, a miniature key, and stealthily stuffed under a twin mattress for safe-keeping.

This girl whose blog I looked up was fairly popular, which explained, I guessed, why people might want access to her online diary. Otherwise, I couldn't imagine what would make someone want to read someone else's diary, especially a 17 year old's random thoughts about "LIFE." Really, I thought, who cares?

Soon enough, I found myself riveted to the mamby-pamby ramblings of this girl. I took the quizzes she posted. I went to the links of other schoolgirl blogs. Clearly, they were putting a lot more energy into their blogs than they were their homework, judging by the color and verve of their postings versus the blandness and incoherence of their academic essays -- the ones that sat collecting dust in one of the precarious piles of papers on my desk.

Years later, I am riveted to blogs kept by people my own age, writers I know and non-writers (or people who don't consider themselves "writers"), alike . Blogs like The Other Mother, written by my friend Robin who runs Writers In The Schools here in Houston, or It's Perfectly Legal to Have This Much Fun and Little Miss Messycovers by my girlfriends Jennifer and Cathy. From these sites, I navigate to other people's blogs, people I don't know, like this one: The Tard Blog. And I can't help myself. I can't look away. I check back every day, and when there aren't new posts, I get mad.

The blogging genre has already hit the bigtime, as many of you know. A lot was made of blogging during the 2004 Presidential election. And have you heard about the BlogHer conference? I just found out about it on someone else's blog (of course). Sounds a lot like an AWP or MLA conference, for all you elitists out there who still believe blogging is puerile and narcissistic.

Q: Who would the Cervantes of blogging be? Is there even a possible answer to that question? Is the very idea of a Cervantes blotted out by the blogging genre? Some academic out there: help me out here.

CONFESSION: This morning, I loathed the idea of becoming a blogger, but I had no idea how satisfying it could be. I think it'll serve my quixotic nature very well.

Uh oh ho ho.

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