This is the last day of school in Framingham, since we only had two snow days this year—last year the district was threatening to run school into July. The main library has reopened, as of last week; it had been closed since February, when a fire started during work on the building. The new branch library opened in April, with a lot more space (the old building wasn’t much bigger than the first floor of my house), though I’d kind of liked the way the jammed-in nature of the children’s room made it easy to find things. The building next to the library, which dates from the nineteenth century and houses an art museum and school, a music and performing arts school, and the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, has recently been declared uninhabitable and will be closed on September 1. The various schools that were damaged by burst pipes and flooding over February vacation will hopefully all be repaired before then. The biggest of the bridges that led to the old mill area in the Saxonville section (and to the old branch library) has been re-opened after only a year and a half.
I see I’ve gotten a lot of page views in the past couple of days. I guess the things that get attention are (a) writing about science fiction, and (b) getting into a fight at Crooked Timber.
I started this blog while I was on bed rest while pregnant with my daughter. It was something to do besides reading and felt more productive than just reading and listening to the radio, and slightly more productive than either posting comments or writing drafts of things nobody would see. I didn’t have enough time to write anything polished or long, but I did have lots of time to listen to NPR and to think.
When my daughter was small, I had blocks of time that were just the right size for writing the things I had time to write about. Now that she’s in school, I have larger blocks of time that could be filled with things that are more productive, or that call for more reading, revision, and thought. I don’t want to write about things that could identify her or the school she goes to. I also don’t want to post about medical issues that are taking up my time, about the brand of shoe I bought that seems to help, the various pieces of amateur medical advice I’d give a friend face-to-face with the understanding that I’m not a doctor, how boring my physical therapy is.
People use blogs in different ways now than they did eight years ago. Facebook and Twitter are now bigger than they were when I started. Reddit and the chan systems are, too. Online versions of print publications are now taken much more seriously than they were eight or ten years ago, and online-only publications have become much more mature. Blogs are now respectable ways for professionals, as well as commercial entities, to communicate in a serious way; indeed, they’re often mandatory. Writing online isn’t mostly a hobby anymore, but a way for young professionals to break into the business. Book and film blogs that started out small are now increasingly professionalized. Bloggy subcultures have hardened along professional lines or turned into youth subcultures. Much of the vibrancy that remains in the general atmosphere is devoted to outrage culture of one kind or another, whether GamerGate and its like, or the prosecution of various political campaigns. What this means is that I don’t really want to post about my take on an analysis published by some twenty-something on some social or political issue; I don’t want to write about books or movies in the ways currently done on the existing fan and book-culture sites; I don’t want to spend my time researching men’s-rights groups so I can get angry about them.
The few dozen silent readers of this blog, and the somewhat minimal page views (hopefully, soon, no longer to be inflated by the annoying automatic systems that try to get blog owners to click through and sign up for their services) are appreciated but it is entirely opaque to me what they take from my writing.
I looked at Twitter last week to see if it might be worth signing up for it, and found that the writers I might most want to follow spent a lot of time, much more time than I cared to spend reading, posting about cats and jokes and what they did the night before. Or rambling about topics they have no expertise in. It seems like a good way to build a personal brand, if you wanted to do that, and a mediocre way to recreate some of what Usenet used to be: without any promise of being more satisfying than Usenet ever was, and with extra tools for ostentatiously enforcing cliques and in-groups. Those who don’t partake in that part of the online universe, conversely, seem too often under the spell oftheories about their sub rosa participation in a worldwide logos via double-secret apprenticeship to Great Thinkers they’ve never met (and, too often, with trying to enforce a boys-only and perhaps a white-Christians-only rule without anybody much noticing).
Maria Farrell wrote today (discussing the shooting of the English M.P.) that
writing is just another narcissistic act in an aggressively subjective culture.
I don’t think I’d go that far. It isn’t subjectivity that I see being enforced, by and large. True, it can be hard to tell the difference. But to the extent writing is narcissistic (whatever that means) it seems, to me, the existence of an audience makes writing less so. Feedback makes a difference. (And also lack of feedback. And assuming the audience isn’t reacting overtly in such a negative way as to turn continued writing into, itself, a sheer assertion of will for its own sake. And keeping in mind the overwhelming mass of Internet verbiage that consists of telling other people to “grow up”: to learn precisely the lessons the writer herself or himself has already learned.) But the question is, is it more “narcissistic” to write about one’s reading and show it to nobody, perhaps for years, even without any likely prospect of ever finishing it, or to publish that writing before it’s ready, just to get it “out there”?
 For obvious reasons, I’ve always had a back-of-the-mind feeling that “White Wedding” and “Sister Christian” are the same song, and I have to hum them both to myself to be certain they’re not.