Friday, August 10, 2007

The Price of the Ticket

Must admit I was pleased to see this and this, both constructs as elegant as they're generous, in their odd way. Ritualized insult at this level is, I think, almost a tip of the hat or a form of bonding, in that it acknowledges, in its backwards fashion, the power of a worthy adversary.

Or am I just dreaming of the salad days at Jordan Davis's late-lamented subsubpoetics, when K. Silem Mohammad, John Latta, Gabriel Gudding, Kent Johnson and other jousters knocked about in a state of furious revelry, and oh it was a sight to see. What made that possible (other than the superb tone Jordan set) and what makes a lot of what's happened recently seem so relatively small, sterile, stingy?

A few days ago somebody compared blog comment boxes to listservs, but this isn't accurate. On a listserv, you can think of a response three weeks later, post it to all and sundry and relaunch a discussion. Try doing that in a blog comment box--the blogger moves on, and takes the conversation with him, if he permits such chatter at all.

This leads, ineluctably, to comments being posted as quickly as possible, in a frenzied attempt to get in on the brief window of fun. Not exactly conducive to wit or thoughtfulness, although sometimes these can be managed by the most experienced and nimble.

Often, though, it's more like a dogpile, or--ironically when posts are most substantive, and least salacious--there's precious little comment at all.

Of course listservs had terrible defects as well, but when they were working there was a certain respectfulness inherent in the fact of meeting in a common space, with time to hone one's observations.

This is why I had such strong doubts about blogging from the beginning--not only the obvious limitations of the comment boxes but the way each blog as fiefdom inevitably structures the intellectual climate. A prominent blog is a sort of castle with its lord, its gentleman-soldiers, its mounted men-at-arms and its vassals.

But I'm here because the people I want to talk shop with have in the main abjured lists in favor of personal, if rented, real estate, and the only way to engage them, really (and get on the record in a non-frenetic way) is to build a fastness of my own.

How long this will be worth the price of the ticket is another matter. But in the meantime, I'm always looking for some sign that grace is breaking out, that a new age of merry vitriol is upon us.

Is that too much to hope for? Very possibly. Initially I chose to moderate comments in this obscure space after witnessing a few horror stories, especially for women. For the moment I've decided to stop doing that, and see what (if anything) transpires.


Glenn Ingersoll said...

Just spent several minutes reading about on the blog and enjoyed the experience.

I like the way a blog is the expression of the proprietor's ethics -- I am banning all mean people! v. Let 100 flowers bloom (even the corpse rose)! -- with the blogger making decisions about the discussion, owning it.

On the other hand the blogosphere can get to be a community of isolates. One lucks onto an interesting discussion here & there and one tends to hang out where somebody's gathered a group because there's action there, in which case you're, as you say, in someone else's fiefdom. I try to bop around to new voices but I don't always have the time to wander.

Rachel Loden said...

Thanks, Glenn--in the last week or so I've been subscribing to blogs through the Google Reader in an attempt to hear more voices in a more efficient fashion. This way you don't have to go out looking for all those fiefdoms; they come to you.

But the technology seems to have some limitations of its own, such as not providing much context--delivering only one post at a time, even when you choose to go to the source. Possibly I just don't have the hang of it yet.

The fiefdom aspect can also be a source of pleasure--it's kind of a hoot to have a castle, after all, and a couple of times recently I've woken up and realized that I was blogging in my sleep.