To blog or not to blog, that is the question presented to me within the confines of this journal, this literary review. Here I go again, and again, and again, the petty paces of writing; repetition becomes motif; this motif, in itself, another motif. What am I left with, but the motif of motif. I serve how many asters in my writing? Hamlet’s question of being or not being is everyone’s question everywhere for everything; it is every writers question, revised: to write or not to write. I do only know–or is it understand–after I write. Writing allows to me to stand under things, under feelings, under passions, under thoughts, better than any other enterprise. A blogger also has the question whether to blog or not to blog. Every one has this question: to love or not to love, to become or not to become, this in itself what is also meant by not being. Yes, Not to be may mean to become. If so, how do we avoid what is inherent in Hamlet’s most famous line: Not to be might mean to become; if this, then to be interrupts or displaces becoming?
To blog or not to blog might begin with the question, How do I blog? Some of this might be familiar to a reader who has red some of these points elsewhere in another essay. But then, all good writing is rewriting; only, my rewriting is an extension or a multiplication of points of view. Others revise and remove or erase to eradicate all traces of what has come before; the process of becoming disappears. Herein we acknowledge both being and becoming as integral of one another; they may remain mutual although they are each exclusive of the other.
Need I count the ways I could write? How many styles? How many intentions? How many forms or genres or trials themselves of any of these? How long have I been blogging? Do I have to count the years? I started blogging with The October Revue; was it Myspace? It was more than a decade ago. I still publish The October Revue–although it is The Falling Leaf Review now that occupies most of my on-line publishing. I have called The October Revue, The Revue during an intermediate phase of publishing on line. I have taken it from MySpace to Google to WordPress. When I say publishing, I also mean editing and writing. I am the only author in these pages, as I am the only editor. It is my everything within the confines of this on-line published review, journal–what do we have in words to express what I am doing herein, both in this essay and in the larger published review?
In the blog–what is it about the blog which takes its name from web log, the latter, ‘log,’ taken from what a ship’s captain keeps as a record of his ship, his voyages, his encounters, and everything else worthy of inclusion.
As far as authorship is concerned, I would be the author of the pages and the blog even if I did not publish them and only kept them on my desktop. There is no death of the author, herein. Not mine, not any other’s, nor do I entertain that this death is even a viable one. No.
The October Literary Revue has been the nexus, the plexus, the impetus, the prototype of all reviews and reviewing that have come from me: as author, as editor, as publisher. Herein, I am calling this review The Falling Leaf Review, and this review remains the first and the most prominent in all on-line writing endeavors here on; the origin of the title of this review I will not herein discuss. It does though have something to do with October, which is my month, and perhaps the height of my favorite season.
Prior to having changed the name to The Falling Leaf Review, this review was named The Essay Review, the principal focus being the literary essay–and I had even thought to name this The Literary Essay Review. The chief focus of all my reviews has been the literary essay, a form that can be traced back to Montaigne, who I keep close as a spiritual kin, a mentor, my guiding tutor? Are any of these exact? There are of course extensions into the personal and the critical essay, whether it be on the topic of politics, culture, language, social commentary, weather, wine, writing, reading, teaching, walking along the shore in Montauk, Long Island’s east end, the South Fork, Atlantic side.
There is no topic that cannot be essayed–yes, the verb, to essay. In French, this is essayer, which means to try or to test.
Now, just how many years I have been writing and publishing a blog is not relevant; it is not relevant really just how long I have been publishing this blog and its review pages–or is it? It might be to some; it might be to many. It is not to me. What does matter is the content, not the length of time. The effect of focussing on how long would have more to do with advertising than the actual credibility or quality of the writing; the appraisal of each of these is beyond the acumen of those disproportionately impressed by longevity.
Longevity has some implications that must be articulated to garner the appropriate sense. What we can say–what I do say is that longevity does not infer greatness, nor does it infer a higher quality of writing in itself. [I do not expect you to answer rhetorical questions.] However, just what a blog is, is the question herein, and that should turn on the axis of what this blog is, what this blog does, of course consistent with what all blogs do, but then this can be easily and simply drawn, no? Existential blog precedes essential blog, no? Of course it does.
This is a web log–and, as I have alluded to above, this log has everything to do with what a captain on a ship was expected to keep, and I am the captain of this ship, if my website can be called a ship of a kind–this web log, what?
We used to surf the web, so the web has allusion to waves and the seas, so then m,y website is a ship that sails the web. Now, what a blog could be in your eyes, in your mind, in your hopes and dreams and desires are many; what these are from me are many, many more, other, insufficient still to express everything this web-journal could be. I would really like to know what others think, or so I like to pretend I do out of a mock deference to our cultures dogma concerning the necessity of and for consensus.
This idea of sea captain’s log is a guide but not exhaustive in its delineation of the form, blog not withstanding, this restrictive sense of blog 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. Yet, all delineations herein drawn are applicable, all are appropriate. The purpose is clear–literary, literature, literacy.
This review and its blog are not the editorial pages we are accustomed to seeing in our mainstream press–and too much of our mainstream press resembles what old Soviet journalism amounted to. The state run press was called, in another to totalitarianism’s cruel jokes, Pravda, or, Truth. The editorials I allude to have a lot in common with many of the entries herein sometimes, but not entirely. Either the blog entries or the essays in the pages section of the website often venture social commentary if not cultural criticism.
This review 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 jobs.
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.
All good writing is rewriting or perpetually writing as I have come to believe about how I write, what I write, one version after another, each of them standing side by side until such time that one of them or more becomes invalid or irrelevant due to how far the most recent version has come.
Blogs are essentially public or partly public, although in a proscribed way. The contracts between public and private is integral in understanding wha it is that is going on within the confines of the blog, any big, my blog. My hard-copy bound-in-a-book journal is written without the idea that anyone is going to read it, although there might be an occasion when I imagine someone 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–no one who keeps a journal dos so with the idea that it will be read after one is dead. It certainly would be highly unusual if one wrote a journal with the idea of reading it aloud after each entry–what would this then be called?
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 do have to agree that it is a plastic genre, extremely pliant, this one that is called a blog.
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. I do recall that he had said he liked the energy of a collection of poems I had given him through a friend who had been his secretarial assistant for a semester when we were back in college together. The poems were called Shedded Skins, a misguided attempt at titling, using the hyper-correct form of the past participle, wrangling it into the regular pattern for effect.
As I have said, journals are presumably private, allowing for more forms of exchange, verbally. Is it a column as we have grown to expect an characteristic voice in the writing? Can entries be essays? Yes. Can they be letters? Of course. I guess so many genres can go into it–do go into a blog. It’s almost entirely plastic in the way a novel is a plastic genre. No? It’s not? Of course it is.
Yes, the novel is a thoroughly plastic genre. Plasticity is the unique quality of it as a form and genre when compared to the older forms of lyric, dramatic, and let’s say epic. I recall the great Russian critic Bakhtin having said as much now nearly three quarters of a century ago. I have not forgotten the premise, nor the theses in variation from 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; an undergoing that the genres from antiquity exhibit even today.
This plasticity that the novel has makes it unique among the various literary genres. Yes, this can in part be said of the genre of writing we might call blogging. I guess a blog is a blog could be the best to say 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 for it to be boxed and presented wrapped up as we do and can do with epic and lyric, let’s say.
Observations are many; comments too are many. 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. And also as if most readers, as today, would only skim the surface of the writing. There is a multidimensionality to texts; all great literature has this. We must remember that reading bad writing is bad for the soul.
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 better suited for the dissemination of propaganda than is literacy, literacy allowed to climb higher in the scale of achievement.
The blog portion of this Review is also 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 is a 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–no.
Populism and democracy cannot be the same thing, even if populism is managed by popularity and this popularity presumably expresses the will of the people. 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.