I quoted The New Yorker writer Professor Louis Menand on bloggers last week. He thinks we mainly offer half-baked opinions and pet peeves, unlike real book authors who write with long-term, more important goals. Actually he calls bloggers’ opinions “off-the-cuff” but, if I were his editor, I would have suggested “half-baked”.
As for pet peeves, one of mine is staff writers from print journalism snidely looking down their noses at bloggers, some of whom are not half-bad writers. (I’m talking to you, Dr. Menand. Just because you get paid to practice your art does not mean that the unwashed multitude possess only pet peeves and uncooked opinions.)
True, fundamental differences between bloggers and book authors exist. Few bloggers, other than those already on the staffs of print organs, acquire their calories by writing for money. Worse, bloggers don’t have editors, copy-editors,and fact checkers.
But those are about the only differences. Bloggers, like “real” writers, write to share insights, to gratify egos, or to get laid. Bloggers write for the same reasons writers have always written, only with less hope of getting paid for it. Which makes blogging the purer art. (Take that, Mr. Menand!) Besides, who knows which will last longer, inked words or words swimming in swamps of ones and zeroes.
Not that Mr. Menand doesn’t know what he is about. Only a fine writer could write, “An Englishwoman lecturing Americans on semicolons is a little like an American lecturing the French on sauces.” (Although, I have to tell you, I wonder about that “a little.” )
Writing, he writes, “. . .is an instrument that was invented for recording, storing, and communicating. Using the relatively small number of symbols on the keyboard, you can record, store, and communicate a virtually infinite range of information, and encode meanings with virtually any degree of complexity.”
Sounds like what all writers do, even bloggers.
For a blogger, I am old fashioned. While I can contemplate with equanimity a day when I can read The Washington Post only on my computer screen, I recoil in horror at the thought of not holding The New York Times in my hand. Or The New Yorker, for that matter. My print subscription now carries with it the ability to read any back issue of the magazine online and that is fine, but this week’s issue, I want in my hand and I do not read the articles online, even though they appear before I receive my print copy. And no electronic device will ever replace holding a book for me.
In fairness to Mr. Menand, he limits his observations about blogging versus books, “[t]o this point in the history of civilization.” But it would be a dim-witted blogger indeed who did not see the sarcastic barb hidden in that phrase.
Perhaps I am too hard on Mr. Menand. It’s not his fault that most of my favorite New Yorker writers are dead.
Because of that, I give him the last word, “Wisdom on the page correlates with wisdom in the writer about as frequently as a high batting average correlates with a high I.Q.: they just seem to have very little to do with one another. (I wonder about that “very” too.)
In that regard, I should note that, unlike me, Mr. Menand has published books. But then, so has Lisa Scottoline.
The photo of Dr. Menand is from the Library of Congress and was taken by John Y. Cole. The blogging poster is from http://www.despair.com.