To blog or not to blog–here I go again; repetition becomes motif–that, in itself, another motif: the motif of motif. I have been blogging for how long now? Need I actually count? I started blogging with the October Revue, the sister view of this one. I still publish the O. R., I have even called it The Revue and The October Literary Review. Herein, I am calling this review The Falling Leaf Review, but prior to this it was named The Essay Review, and this is key: the principal focus of all my reviews have been the literary essay with extensions in the personal and the critical essay, whether it be on the topic of politics, culture, language, social commentary and so on.
Yes, How many years now I have been writing and publishing the blog and review pages I call The October Revue is nearing a decade. More than a decade? It does not matter–it cannot–, the length of time. That effect would have more to do with advertising than actual credibility or quality, the appraisal of each beyond the acumen of those disproportionately impressed by longevity. Longevity has some implications that must be articulated to garner the appropriate sense; it does not infer greatness or higher quality in the writing in itself. Of course, I do not expect you to answer rhetorical questions. . . however, just what a blog is, is the question herein? What a blog could be, I would really like to know, but it most likely remains immaterial to the more important task of putting together a literary review on line: to publish a literary web journal or a literary web-zine, or whatever else we have in the words we bandy about among us to say something we should be better equipped to say . . . a literary journal in hard copy is different than what appears on the screens via this website.
This review and its blog are not the editorial pages we are accustomed to seeing in our mainstream press, although these editorials have a lot in common with many of the entries herein sometimes. Either the blog entries or the essays in the pages section of the website often venture social commentary if not cultural criticism. It is not a journal in the sense of journal we expect when one sets himself the task of recording daily happenings or experiences or observations; or, as in my own journals, also shopping lists, calculations of expenses, early drafts of poems, or the markings of surrealist sketches. I sometimes include within the pages of my journal: lesson plans or ideas for future lessons for classes designed to help the teeming masses yearning to be more fluent in English, or at least conversational, or just competent enough to keep their barely adequately paying job.
Entries on readings may also be found within, the kind I used to to do in university, keeping one journal of readings for each English literature class I would take, sometimes taking as many as five in a semester; but it would be what is usually expected in a journal of the conventional type. This blog, as other blogs of mine, is organized around what happened that day or what has been thought that day, or some critical observation of events from our contemporaneity . . . This daily-ness is what seems most generically distinctive of a blog, but it is not the only way to draw the categorical boundaries of my blog. Day in day in again, though, seems to be what a blog does thus is? Words in strings, phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs accumulated daily . . .
Blogs, though, are essentially public or partly public, that is, in a proscribed way. My journal is written without the idea that anyone is going to read it, although there might be an occasion when I imagine someone or ones might read my journals after I am dead. No one who keeps a journal–and keeping a journal is a behavior beyond the borders of the single notebook kept. Keeping a journal is an enterprise that extends beyond the narrow boundary of a single notebook. You keep a journal over many notebooks. However, the immediacy of the publishing or the publishing of the immediacy of a blog is what makes it unique among the genres of writing . . . I could publish poetry immediately, which makes a poetry blog or a blog that publishes poems a sort of poetry reading without the author’s audible voice. I could upload video of me reading my poems–and I do publish video content in the blog space, another way in which a blog differs from a journal. I could write a blog journal and keep it private until I die and then leave instructions for the blog to be published. We ave to agree that it is a plastic genre, extremely pliant.
I do not write in a blog as I do in my journal, although I could and others do. My journals, as alluded to above, have characteristics different from those of most blogs. Audience for one thing is key–although writing to oneself in a blog is possible, I do not imagine that that would amount to the same thing as writing to myself inside the confines of a bound book I carry with me, along with pen or pencil to write with, for sure, always having pen and paper with me, as Alan Ginsburg once told me and a friend of mine in his office at Brooklyn College one afternoon in the mid eighties, I forget why we were meeting. I know that some blogs do mix private journal and public blog, which then becomes more a form of exhibitionism. (I do recall he hd said he liked the energy of my poems when a friend who had been interning with him, collecting and collating his papers now almost three decades ago.)
As I have said, journals are presumably private, allowing for more forms of exchange, verbally. Is it a column; can entries be essays, can they be letters. I guess so many genres can go into it–it’s almost entirely plastic in the way a novel is a plastic genre. No? Yes, the novel is a thoroughly plastic genre. I recall the great Russian critic Bakhtin having said a much now nearly three quarters of a century ago. I have not forgotten the premise, nor the theses in variation of his essays collected in translation here in the states under the title, The Dialogic Imagination: the novel being one of literary histories latest, that is, youngest genres, it has not undergone a petrification, a fossilizing effect, that other literary genres have undergone and can be traced, the genres that arose in antiquity. This plasticity that the novel has makes it unique among the various literary genres . . .
I guess a blog is a blog could be the best to say about what a blog is; again, truth is found in a tautology. Yes, tables are tables and pigs, pigs; so then a blog is a blog, of course, but then it too is plastic in the way we can see in the novel as form? Observations, comments–yes, there is commentary within the blog as I have said above, and as there is found among the pages. The essays in these “Pages” make up the bulk of the review. Reading the pages takes patience and intelligence, as it also requires, if I may say so, a higher election in literacy. No superficial skimming of the pages will do. I recall what Melville had once said about Hawthorne’s writing, that the latter’s writing deceived the superficial skimmer of pages, as if it were meant to do so. Waiters sweep crumbs off the table with a special skimmer to run along the surface of the table clothe; most readers do no better than the waiter at his table when they read a text.
So, let me say then that these blog entries are organized around many different kinds of writing. I imagine we expect this plasticity–that we expect many different kinds or forms of writing to take place within the confines of the blog and to be at home there. They are also autobiographical, these blog entries ofmoine, of anyone. They can be factual informational text, reporting, therefore, encyclopedic? I do genuinely ask. I really do not know what a blog is because it is many things. This is why I do not try to define it anymore, although herein I am making this attempt; however, my attempt to define is in effect to reveal the genres inexplicability. I just write one. I leave what I write and how I write to my instincts. What goes in and what does not go into one, this one, is not as planned as some might assume. They often do have a fragmentary nature to them, entries that arise out of an immediacy that often cannot be anticipated. Sometimes they appear as if they are parts of larger writings, and often times this is true, the larger forms coalescing in the pages section, or simply in the culmination of a period of blog writing, whereby the bog entries will be collected to make a larger bound text. The bound-ness or boundaries of this text being the essay form found collected in the pages section.
Nonetheless, who in this world of looking on line, combing pages, or superficially skimming one site after another with little more effort spent on reading what is within the confines of the sites barely penetrated . . . what then happens with this ever mounting pile of words, rubbish, trash, gems . . . how to appraise them is not as difficult as we like to make out that it is. We have the ability to refine our acumen for literature, for the literary, for higher and higher elections in advanced literacy. There is little to do in these pages about alphabetics, the ability to negotiate the alphabet, which enables the achiever in this to negotiate the alphabet, which allows him to spell his name correctly, fill out appropriately and correctly the bureaucracy’s mounting demands for forms and applications, or read the tabloid press and assume he is informed–this negotiating the alphabet instead of achieving a higher election in literacy is part of most state programs of control and for control. Alphabetics is bette suited for the dissemination f propaganda than is literacy, literacy allowed to climb higher in the scale of achievement.
The blog portion of this Review is committed to being literary–and I insist on calling this website a review, that is, a literary review. It is important to do so. The latter notion of literary is used with all the connotations many of you might suspect are elitist. It is always elitist when literary is used as the moulding force behind the writing, when this guiding force is managed. Elitist can always be assumed when the word ‘literary’ is used. I have to say that very thing literary is necessarily elitist. It cannot ever be made democratic–not that we have a clue what democratic means either. But the fact that there are so many blogs to read might point to a larger democratizing effect on the internet? This isa tangent. Let me continue on this line that intersects with the perimeter of the circle literary blog. I am with Al Smith in the latter’s assertion that the only answer for the ills of democracy is more democracy.
So, if more blog writing–good, bad and other–contributes to this further democratization of America, I am for that. I am not, though, for a debasement or deflation of literary values and aesthetic understanding. That would be a mistake–one that pits popularization as the most accurate synonym of democratizing, one where populism is the only valid expression of democracy. That would be in gross error. Populism and democracy cannot be the same thing, even if populism is managed by popularity. Whatever is popular is presumably the will of the people, the populus, but popularity has more to do today with publicity, that which is always a managing and organizing of the public and not the people. Publicity is a form of press release, that is, media release, and only what meets with the dogmas of media manipulation and control guide what publicity is disseminated and thus what popularity is managed by the media for the media and of the media. We are so hooked up to the media that we have no idea what is popular unless we first hear it or see it via media publicity. How not so unlike the Soviet Union we have become. Our press is not so different than the Soviet Pravda, not as we like to imagine. The one difference is that I can presumably still say this here–I could never in the Soviet Union. This blog has no allegiance to any media, especially the Christian-Muslim-Jewish-American-European-Israeli-Arab Zionist media. We are aligned with no program of state or corporation or ism. It is what it is whenever it is: The Falling Leaf Review.