What’s going on with blogs and forums? Are they worse a worse place for serious conversation than established publications? All this and more in the Litblog Roundup, a bi-weekly overview of topics, trends and highlights from the literary Internet.
When I set out to write this series of posts called Litblog Roundup, I had hoped to capture the brightest and most popular ideas that originate from, and circulate among, the hundreds of literary blogs and websites out there. I’ve noticed something, though. Most of what circulates among the blogs isn’t material that originates from them. I do try to focus on the blogs and their content, but the majority of them link back to major publications. That’s fine, but often the blogs don’t add any new ideas with their links, and some blogs simply link off to other things. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it can lead to a less interesting conversation that approaches free advertising for the publications. There is some conversation and debate; it’s between major publications, though. These past few weeks, The Atlantic has been the source of fuel for the blogs’ fire, and although I try to avoid pointing to the same publication twice, I couldn’t do it this time.
First among The Atlantic’s articles that’s making the rounds lately is one that ArtFCity calls a “pretty depressing (but wholly fascinating) article [that] paints a pretty bleak picture of how rapidly the web’s vast stores of cultural detritus and priceless, irreplaceable patrimony of knowledge alike can disappear.” The article, entitled “ Raiders of the Lost Web ” reminds us, “if a Pulitzer-finalist 34-part series of investigative journalism can vanish from the web, anything can.” So remember, writers and publishers of the world: lots of copies keeps stuff safe .
It’s a new article, but already another article on The Atlantic has begun to get attention from The Millions, Book Riot, and on Redddit. The article asks “ should literary journals charge writers just to read their work? ” and answers it “no” because…
“There was a time when I made two cents per word as a writer and worked part-time as a waiter to pay the bills. I lived in a bad part of town, slept on a blow-up bed, ate on a card table, and owned a 1978 TV with a broken channel changer that I had to turn with a pair of pliers. When that was my life, these fees would have added up so quickly that I couldn’t have afforded to write fiction at all.”
Nevermind that the journals themselves may be eating beans out of a can, or otherwise relating to the up-by-the-bootstraps, uphill-both-ways-in-the-snow humble origin stories that make for weak arguments, the more compelling reason why journals probably shouldn’t charge reading fees is that they “also pose an extra obstacle to the literary community’s efforts to be more diverse. " How do other writers and publishers feel about the issue? I would have expected more debate on Reddit , but there’s a general consensus that reading fees are “the suck.”
Recently in the New Yorker, Henry David Thoreau endured strong criticism and perhaps he deserves it?
“The real Thoreau was, in the fullest sense of the word, self-obsessed: narcissistic, fanatical about self-control, adamant that he required nothing beyond himself to understand and thrive in the world.”
In all, it’s a carefully considered criticism, but it didn’t meet with unanimous agreement. While Reddit commentors rebuke the article by merely asking “why is this even up for debate?” the debate itself takes meaningful form in a response published by The Atlantic and the conversation continues with letters to the editor and a follow-up blog post .
In all fairness, some really enjoyable content does still, um, eminate from the blogs out there. Case in point: the extremely relieving post entitled “How to Shit” by Ottessa Moshfegh . Can I just say that after reading this I felt as though a weight had been lifted? The piece is ostensibly about “how to write” but it isn’t, and the author’s attitude toward the subject is enjoyable.
“A few years ago, when I was very broke, I made up my mind to write a novel that would appeal to a greater audience than my previous work. I deliberately embraced the conventional narrative structure in order to reach the mainstream. I pictured a plausible audience of avid readers as people who live vicariously through books—in other words, people with boring lives. I considered the personal paradigm of a bored, imaginatively escapist person. Boredom is a symptom of denial, I thought. A bored person is a coward, essentially. So I conceived of a character trapped by social mores, who plumbs the depths of her own delusions and does something incredibly brave; I thought that would be fun for the kind of audience I was writing to. Thus Eileen was born. And I did make a little money. I’m telling you this because many of my creative decisions were motivated by the emptiness of my bank account. I looked at the dominating paradigm and I abused it. And so you could say that I participated in the paradigm I’m so critical of. I drank the Kool-Aid. I ate the shit. But my aim was to shit out new shit. And so in writing, I think a lot about how to shit. "
Moshfegh, by her own admission, doesn’t have much of an Internet presence, but there is an amusing interview with her at Full Stop.