Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Blogs, newspapers, and messy hamburgers

In geometry, parallel lines meet in infinity; in narrative, they meet in the last paragraph.

A number of bloggers--Andrew Sullivan, for instance, and John Fox--are openly wondering about the effects of blogging on writers. Sullivan has suggested that blogging is more temporal, of a piece with radio news, undercutting the writing intent of a writer of, say, books or short stories. Easy for Sullivan to say; his most recent book tour was earlier this year, his platform a column for The Atlantic Monthly, and a conscience-driven stream of probing, intelligent discussions about his gayness, his conservative politics, and his error in the judgement of his earlier support of the Wolfowitz/Cheney/Bush concept that democracy can be spread over the Middle East as though it were margarine.

John Fox has a lovely blog I discovered toward the very end of this past semester where he appeared in my literary marketplace class, motivating me with its wide range of links and John's eclectic tastes to urge all members of class to begin blogging.

Newspapers, particularly the larger ones, are seeing a steady decline in circulation and ad revenue. As it stands now, only three, The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times have separate book review sections (Sunday editions) and the L.A. paper, already in a serious flux, is thinking about merging the book review section within the pages of the Arts Section.

By the time most newspapers arrive, their prime stories have already appeared on line, often for the "price" of a sign-up for access to the online version.

I don't think I'm by any means alone in gleaning news from a number of on-line sources, including blogs such as Sullivan's The Daily Dish, and to balance out Sullivan's conservative view, Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo, and The Huffington Post. To be sure, time permitting, there are others, but with these three blogs, I move on to newspapers such as The Guardian and the Washington Post, to supplement the hard copy of The New York Times, which arrives first thing in the morning.

Book news comes from, John Fox and a few of his links, an email newsletter from Publishers' Weekly, and Alfred A. Knopf's occasional email.

That accounts for a considerable chunk of reading time, which is in its own way the real cause of the glue that holds these three lines, blogs, newspapers, and hamburgers together.

Messy hamburgers are absolutely the best. The ads for Carl's Junior a few years back had it right; a hamburger that does not drip does not rock, either, although even with Carl's Junior ads promising drippy hamburgers, that would not be my first thought for point of purchase. For a franchise burger, Carl's holds its ground with Wendy's but there you are--they are both franchise and they are both big contributors to the Republican party, a mystery of sorts until I factor the rate at which they pay wages and offer promotions to the profit margin dripping off each burger and landing on the franchise owner.

The jury is still deliberating on whether blogging is a culprit so far as robbing from the creative juices. Aylet Waldman, no slouch of a novelist, wrote--on a blog--that blogging was bad for her writing writing, and although I see her point and Andrew Sullivan's, it seems to me that musicians practice their craft regularly, precisely to hone their performance; actors run lines sometimes even while holding political office. It is only the wannabe writer, eager for publication and success, who seems to resent revision, editing, even spell checking--almost anything beyond the first draft seems like an imposition. (Some of their work reflects--unintentionally, I might add--their attitude.)

Writing requires a continuous input of sensory triggers to the imagination, reading, comparison-and-contrast, and research coming to mind as adjuncts.

Things aren't neat anywhere; they get messy when we try to Palm Pilot or Blackberry the parts of our life set aside for the attempts to bring disparate parallel lines together in the final paragraph.

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