Thursday, August 21, 2008

Random Roundup

1. Lizardbreath on self-undermining liberals. Some interesting points here.

2. Paul Horwitz gives some great advice to 1Ls. Really great advice here, folks.

3. Advise newbie lawyers over at Amber's blog!

4. The Madwoman in the Blogosphere. Fantastic article! I remember reading that Gilbert/Gubar book, The Madwoman in the Attic in literary criticism back in college!

5. Megan Formerly From The Archives on blog fans. Choice quotes:

The only other thing that caught my eye was the word "fan". Oh dude. I do not want fans. This lady sounds like a super neat and cool person and potential friend, not like a fan. Which is just right, because I partially quit my old blog because I thought I had fans.

I was trying to figure out what was going on at my old blog, why I was bridling at mostly innocuous comments and what was introducing that weirdo inauthenticity. A couple weeks later, I decided that some readers had started acting like fans. Fans get super invested, right? And then they feel proprietary. Fans think they can critique whether I am acting appropriately for the Megan brand. Fans decide you were better last season. Fans tell you that your narrative arc has stalled. A friend would never do those things, because a friend doesn't think of you as a shared creation, subject to revision. Friends always know that you are a person walking around in the world, seeing what you see and doing what you do. But I think that seeing a person mediated through a blog, with an element of presentation, lets people who are prone to be fans become fans. For a person who is expecting friendship, that is really annoying and creepy*.

I don't think that having a fan reaction to a blog is wrong. There are very clearly bloggers who enjoy having fans and encourage fan attention. (I think this is a dangerous game, btw, because fans develop expectations beyond the control of the object and turn on the object for not meeting them.) You can see it. There's a twee, self-aware tone in their writing: "Oh that wacky, irrepressible me!!". They post lots of self-portraits. Some talk about their cliques or mention other status indicators. None of this bothers me, because I don't read those bloggers. If they suction off people who are prone to fandom, I think this is a great service and I wish everyone in that type of relationship the best of it. Fan behavior is only a problem when the relationship is mis-matched, against professional interactions, against friendship, against romance.

Though I once wrote a spirited defense of the blog crush, I must say I agree with Megan, in principle. But I can't say that I don't write in a twee, self-aware tone. Come, Wicked Anomie and Pitseleh, let us talk again about how hard it is to write for an audience without being self-aware of one's presentation to the reader (and see also), particularly if one is aware of that audience. It is hard to say what is "weird inauthenticity," when so much of the blogging and the reading of a personal blog is an exercise in false intimacy. At the very best, it is social interaction several steps removed. But on the other hand, it is a lot of information to know about a certain author. Occasionally I make very good friends through this blog, and I'm grateful for the archives and for speedily catching up through each other's blogs. On other occasions, it creeps me out, for the same reason the phenomenon gives Megan pause. I like the friends I have through this blog, but maybe because they appear invested in me as a person and friend (after we have corresponded sufficiently) but not the blog, which will always be of varying quality in writing, subject matter, tone, etc. And real friends, even ones I meet via blog, will always know more about what is going on than what is here, and will not be invested in the outcome the way they might be invested in a narrative arc. And, can I just say, what a comment to make to someone with a personal blog! This isn't a story, people. So, perhaps Megan's distinction between blog fans and blog friends is an apt characterization about how two different types of audiences will receive one's writing.