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Long live the online diary, web-blog, live journal e-portfolio.

On dedicated diarists

In the Guardian Review in March 2003 William Boyd discussed the journal. I know this because it caught my eye on 9/03/2003 and I gave it a thorough blogging.

There are many sorts of journal (wrote Boyd):

  • journals written with both eyes fixed firmly on posterity
  • journals designed never to be read by anyone but the writer.
  • journals content to tabulate the banal and humdrum details of ordinary lives
  • journals meant expressly to function as a witness to momentous events of history.
  • journals that act as erotic stimulants or a psychoanalytic crutch
  • journals designed simply to function as an aide-memoire, perhaps as a rough draft for a later, more polished account of life.

But buried within these varying ambitions and motivations is a common factor that unites all these endeavours – the aspiration to be honest, to tell the truth.

The implication being that in the privacy of this personal record, things will be said and observations made that couldn’t or wouldn’t be uttered in a more public forum. Said Boyd.

(Wherein lies the blogs fundamental flaw. Do you tell the truth? Or skip the truth and become inventive with it?) Say I.

Hence the adjective “intimate” so often appended to the noun “journal”. Said Boyd.

The idea of secret diaries, of intimate journals, somehow goes to the core of this literary form: there is a default-setting of intimacy – of confession – in the private record of a life that not only encourages the writing of journals but also explains their fascination to the reader.’

Said Boyd.

Wherein lies the lack of interest in the blog as academic record and reflection; it is your reflection and your record. If on paper it would be in an exercise book or an arch-lever file. Without some truth, some revelation, some disclosure, even exposure, it is but a carapace.

Seven years ago I invited people to comment, formed a group and promised to read the journals given below.

Few fellow bloggers came forward, it’s a Long Run, a life-long marathon, not a thing you do as a relay team or with someone on you back.

Seven years on I may read some more of the journals listed below and see what insights it offers this blogger. I suspect I’ve read everything there is on Evelyn Waugh and Virginia Woolf – and everything they wrote (though I’m yet to jump into the River Ouse with my Gant raincoat pockets full of rocks. A passing thought as I walk the dog most days where the lady drowned herself).

William Boyd’s to Ten Journal Keepers

James Boswell

Keith Vaughan

Paul Klee

Evelyn Waugh

Gilbert White

Cyril Connolly

Virginia Woolf

Edmund Wilson

Valery Larbaud

Katherine Mansfield

‘It mimics and reflects our own wayward passage through time like no other writing form.’ Boyd says.

‘You have to be dead to escape the various charges of vanity, of special-pleading, of creeping amour-propre.’

The blog I kept for a decade and a bit more Sept 1999 to early 2000 spiralled a non-chronological ‘dump’ on 37 themes.

Occasionally I take a visit; it’s like digging around in my in-law’s attic (they give the appearance og having kept everything they ever read. They are voracious readers and are in their eighties)

A blog for me is:

  • A record
  • A journal
  • An aide-memoir
  • My deleterious exploits
  • The past (every memory gathered in, every book read, every film seen).
  • Dreams analysed
  • Fiction
  • Ill-health
  • My mental state
  • Every stage and phase of growing up dissected.

Its purpose?

Who knows.

This OU Blog does have an educational remit. For me it’s an attempt to be bustled onto the tracks from which I became derailed. Perhaps. Or a compulsion to empty the contents of my Brian down any drain that’lll take it.

That, and I don’t know what I mean until I’ve said it.

All this and I’m yet to get my head around the Opinion Piece in the New Scientist. ‘Dear e-diary, who am I really?’ and the potty idea of slinging a digital camera around your neck to record your every living moment.

Two things it vitally fails to pick up: what you think and how you feel.

Long live the diary, blog, journal-thingey.

12 months ago I was preparing to apply to West Dean College to study an M.A. in Fine Art, perhaps, now that I begin to look at the diaries of Paul Keel and Keith Vaughan this is where I should be.


Jonathan Franzen on writing

On Jonathan Franzen

From edited extracts from ‘Why Bother?’ a collection of essays by Jonathan Franzen.

This essay is, ‘How to be alone’ that appeared in the UK’s Saturday Guardian newspaper.

Jonathan Franzen’s model when he got out of college in 1981 for the kind of novel he wanted to write was Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch 22’.

This was 1992. So what is it now. I presume a bit of TV and radio would have given way to the Net’

‘The ambitious young fiction writer can’t help noting that, in a recent USA Today survey of 24 hours in the life of American culture, there were 21 references to television, eight to film, seven to popular music, four to radio, and one to fiction.’

I like how Jonathan Franzen relates the fall of the Soviet Union to the shift on car purchasing in the USA.

‘In 1993 -the swollen minivans and broad-beamed trucks that had replaced the automobile as the suburban vehicle of choice – these Rangers and Land Cruisers and Voyagers that were the true spoils of a war waged to keep American petrol cheaper than dirt.’

This brings a rye smile from me:

‘I was becoming so depressed that I could do little after dinner but flop in front of the TV. I could always find something delicious: M*A*S*H, Cheers, Homicide. Naturally, the more TV I watched, the worse I felt.’

I zap between E.R., Friends, Coupling and Simon Sharma.

‘If you are a novelist and you don’t feel like reading, how can you expect anybody else to read your books?’

This prompted me to go out and buy Zadie Smith’s, ‘White Teeth’, Tony Parson’s ‘Man and Boy’ and something else …  Michel Houellebeque’s ‘Platform’.

‘In the 19th century, when Dickens and Darwin and Disraeli all read one another’s work, the novel was the pre-eminent medium of social instruction. A new book by Thackery or William Dean Howells was anticipated with the kind of fever that a later December film release inspires today. The big, obvious reason for the decline of the social novel is that modern technologies do a much better job of social instruction. Television, radio and photographs are vivid, instantaneous media.’

What is a ‘social novel’ ?

I never studied English beyond school. I.e. Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy and Pope.

‘The essence of fiction is solitary work: the work of writing, the work of reading.’ Jonathan Franzen 1992

This is why writers need a shed. Or a yacht. Or a hermitage. I need to be alone, travelling, away from the phone and the internet.

I’d like a hermit’s cage; I’d like to be sent innocent girl’s in search of God so that I could put the Devil inside her. (If she were consenting and over the age of 18 of course, or is 16 in England.)

‘However sick with foreboding you feel inside, it’s best to radiate confidence and to hope that it’s infectious.’ Jonathan Franzen 1992.

There are echoes of Steven Pressfield’s ‘The War of Art’ all about ‘resistance’ … though Jonathan Franzen wrote this a decade ago.

Ripples, synchronicity. Blah Blah. Writer who writer about writing as they write.

‘Even harder to admit is depression. It’s not just that depression has become fashionable to the point of banality. The invitation to leave your depression behind, whether through medication or therapy or effort or will, seems like an invitation to turn your back on all your dark insights into the corruption and infantilism and self-delusion of the brave new McWorld … Instead of saying I am depressed you want to say I am right !’

And a bit more

‘Depression presents itself as a realism regarding the rottenness of the world in general and the rottenness of your life in particular. But the realism is merely a mask for depression’s actual essence, which is an overwhelming estrangement from humanity. The more persuaded you are of your unique access to the rottenness, the more afraid you become of engaging with the world; and the less you engage with the world, the more perfidiously happy-faced the rest of humanity seems for continuing to engage with it.’

Don’t think about it, just do it.

Don’t even hesitate to look into your soul. Don’t do an Elvis. Narcissism and writing equals stalemate

‘There’s evidence that young writers today feel imprisoned by heir ethnic or gender identities – discouraged from speaking across boundaries by a culture in which television has conditioned us t accept only the literal testimony of the Self. And the problem is aggravated when fiction writers take refuge in university creative-writing programmes. Any given issue of the typical small literary magazine reliably contains variations on three general short stories: “My Interesting Childhood,” My Interesting Life in a College Town,” and “My Interesting Year Abroad”. As a reader I mourn the retreat into the Self and the decline of the broad-canvas novel.’

Just do it. Site down and write.

Lock yourself in a shed. Drink, wank, let go. Then write. Get on a yacht. Disappear to sea. Fly a rocket to the moon. Isolate yourself. No radio, no TV, no papers. No reference books. No contact with the outside world. No ‘writers groups’ at all. Sexperts are permitted.

‘I used to distrust creative-writing departments for what seemed to me their artificial safety, just as I distrusted book clubs for treating literature like a cruciferous vegetable that could be choked down only with a spoonful of socialising.’

Ha ! I knew this writer’s group thing was a waste of paste and space.

‘Readers and writers are united in their need for solitude, in their pursuit of substance in a time of ever-increasing evanescence: in their reach inward, via print, for a way out of loneliness.’

From blog to blook: first awards for online writers who became mainstream successes

I lift this from the Guardian, which I buy on Mondays for the media pages. The only weekday I take a national paper.

It had to happen; so why not me, or many of the rest of us?

Not me because I like to row without a rudder in storm, in the dark in a storm, or becalmed. I have no idea where I’m going, and hate going in the same direction for long. Which explains how my six blogs turned back into one which in turn has split into 35 pieces – some distinct, some not.

Julie Powel wins some prize for ‘Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes and 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen’

This which started life at http://www.blogs.aslon.com/001399

She says ‘the medium really liberated me and motivated me to do the work and not obsess over the details. The community aspect of blogging and the interaction with others kept me honest, kept me writing and kept me from sinking into my habitual self-loathing.’

I should start putting what I try to call ‘my efforts to get published’ online and see where they go.

But in Diaryland?

I’ve been here since September 1999, not that much last year though, but for most of this time.

Chair of judging panel Cory Doctrowhttp://www.Boingboing.net

Judge, Paul Jones, iBiblio gives the advice ‘a great blook (sic) is not a blog shovelled on to paper. Julie and Julia successfully makes the transition and grows as it goes, having learnt from the blog readers.’

I should do as I’m told, listen to how readers respond

Hi ‘the-moo’ (or should that be, the-noo). What do you want of me today? A virtual visit to the North East, I can’t see me getting up there in person just yet.

I’ve done this in skip loads – look for how long I have written up sex, every growing inch of it in a lifetime. Find those entries that have been read many hundreds of times: the archived pages accepted, they are the thirty dirtiest, drawn out indulges I’ve managed to express here.

Bob Young established the prize to promotehttp://www.lulu.com

It offers anyone the change to upload their manuscript to the internet and publishes books on demand when they are ordered, and partly as a means of honouring a new form of writing.

There were 89 entries for ‘The Blookers’ from a dozen countries

Why didn’t I enter? I must have been offline at the time, silent. What would I have offered?

Cherie Priest wrote ‘Four and Twenty Blackbirds’ offline then published it in instalments in Livejournal.

This is where I temporarily crossed 18 months ago at the behest of someone who now is a published author and was an early days mate and stalwart in Diaryland.

Perhaps it is time to go

Diaryland did it first for me, trailed all kinds of ideas, but they have been developed better elsewhere with a model that makes money, gets publicity and delivers templates that five years ago we buddied up together to create in bespoke form.

Others:

Biodiesel Power by Lyle Estill

http://www.biofuels.coop/blog

Hackoff.com: An Historic Murder Mystery Set in the Internet Bubble and Rubble by Tony Evslin

http://www.blackoff.com

Encourage me, it works

BBC TV NEWS picks up this story in the evening

– lifted from the Guardian it would appear, though the same news can only be interpreted in a few ways.

I should have done something with the first Writing Marathon online that I’m aware of – the one I initiated four years ago. The trickles may have turned into a tidal wave by now.

The Blookers

Conventional publishers are taking notice.
Millions of voices, millions of words.

Arthur Collins spotted Eggs, Chips Beans … thousands of people were reading it. So I should get Skieasy up.

‘Deserves recognition and deserves reward,’ says Prof. Paul Jones.

California, where blogging was born.

(Sorry, people have been keeping diaries and journals in various forms for centuries. The internet is simply a medium, like paper, audio-cassette, video or DVD)

Heading for the end of traditional publishing.

But bloggers don’t have editors, so their will be misinformation.

‘Personal, meaningful, meaningless.’

See, TV says so little, radio says a little more, but you’ve got to read it in a paper or online.

 

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