Blogging is so many things. For some it is a rambling, often incoherent rendering of the day's events (take a look at http://www.livejournal.com), a type of online diary. For others, it is used as an announcement mechanismI got a new car, here's the inside scoop on what is happening in my life, and so on. Some blogs are nothing more than travelogues. For a whole other set of users, blogging is something in betweensort of a work in progress that describes them moving from one state to another, a kind of meandering through the meadows of cyberspace. One thing that all people who blog dothey definitely have something on their minds, and they need to speak their piece.
But blogging isn't just about getting something off your chest; it is also a community experience. The fact that people post on their site links to blogs that they read on a regular basis (or their friends' blogs) means that people are reaching out and trying to form some sort of cyberspace community amongst the daunting tsunami of information that is commonly referred to as the Internet. Posting someone else's blog on your blog is a kind of referralit is basically you acknowledging that you respect this person's work/writings and it is worth the click to read what he or she has to say.
This got me thinking about some of the great literary minds over the centuries and whether they would have participated in writing a daily blog. I thought about whether poets or authors would have been better bloggers, and so far I have decided I have a slight bias toward poets. When I decided to venture into this territory, some writers immediately sprang to mind, and many of them were built around a community or a particular historical movement. Here are some of my thoughts about who I think would have embraced the art of blogging.
Any of the members of the Beat GenerationAllen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, and Gregory Corsowould have been excellent bloggers. If Gregory Corso kept a blog, this poem probably would have made it into one of his blog posts:
I would have been especially interested in what Burroughs would have written in his blog the day after he shot his wife in the head while trying to imitate William Tell. Knowing Burroughs, he likely would have blogged about it.
Kerouac took a lot of cross-country trips with Neal Cassady, which provided fodder for some of his writing. Rather than trying to fictionalize what happened, he wrote the story exactly as it happened. It turns out that it took quite a while for his editor to see the value of publishing this work (seven years), but eventually On the Road made it into print. If he were blogging about this trip the whole time, who knows what would have happened? One thing is for sureit might have resulted in his novel getting published a whole lot sooner, because another editor would have probably recognized his talent and published it much earlier.
Ginsberg would have done his best blogging in the '60s, when he was protesting against the Vietnam War, causing a ruckus in India, and getting booted out of Prague and Cuba. If he were keeping a blog during this time, it might have been better than some of his poetry.
Another community that would have made excellent bloggers were the Surrealists, especially André Breton. Octavio Paz said of Breton, "It is impossible to speak of André Breton in a language that is not that of passion." You can be sure that Breton's forceful presence and his penchant for stirring the pot would have produced some thoughtful blogs. And because the Surrealists were so gung ho about manifestos, a blog post would have been the perfect forum for their call to arms.
The style of writing that the Surrealists practiced (Automatic Writing) would have been well suited to the blogging style, as they were continually experimenting with language. Robert Desnos might have included some of his "cooked language," and I would have been curious to see what he would have blogged about on a daily basis. Some of the Cinema poems that I have seen would have made great blog posts. Another reason I know Desnos would have made a good blogger: in 1936, he embarked on a further foray into "Automatic Writing," as he set out to write one poem a day for an entire year. Now that is a true blogger in the making. Finally, the subject of Desnos' poems would have made for good reading, as he continually explored the subject of desire, as well as love and eroticism, which would have meant his blog would have got a lot of hits.
Voltaire, in addition to being a princely writer, would have blogged until there was nothing left to say. As versatile as they come (he wrote poetry, philosophical works, dramas, and scientific novels), Voltaire's particular penchant for ridicule probably would have earned him an earnest blog following. By the way, I often wonder whether Voltaire would have been so successful if he hadn't spent time in the Bastille for various and sundry crimes. Being in prison would have given him plenty of time to blog, assuming that they had Internet access in 1717.
Mark Twain would have been an epic blogger. His world tour to France and Italy would have provided some tremendously interesting travelblog posts. More travel followed in the 1890s as he then embarked on a world lecture tour, which took him to New Zealand, Australia, India, and South Africa. He took on this world lecture tour to try to recover from his personal bankruptcy, which also would have made for interesting blogging. If he had the opportunity to blog about his personal bankruptcy, he might have been able to get donations to sustain him and he might never have had to embark on that world tour.
Kurt Vonnegut would write an interesting bloghe reminds me a little of a modern Mark Twain. Someone once described him as a "word cartoonist," which in my opinion is a perfect characterization for someone who would write in a blog. If Vonnegut had a blog, I would hope he used an RSS feed so I could pull in new content every day, because I would not want to miss a word he said.
Lewis Carroll would probably have posted some interesting blogs. With his verbal wit and his penchant for logic, he might have posted some kind of logical puzzle. If he did, I would probably still be trying to solve it.
While I am fairly certain that a lot of these writers and poets would have blogged up a storm, there is a whole other subset of writers that I suspect would not have embraced the blogging space. Despite the fact that I am a fan of Shakespeare, I am not convinced that the person(s) known as Shakespeare would have been adept at blogging. Sylvia Plath is one of my favorite poets, but I don't think it is likely she would have kept a blog. Dr. Seuss wrote really cool stories, but I probably wouldn't make his blog a top priority on my list.
Finally, there is one grand assumption here that might not be reasonable to make. I am assuming that all these great writers would have been willing to share their words and witticisms in their blogs. Perhaps that might not have happened. Instead, they might have just written normal, boring prose and saved their better, and more personal, stuff for books. Maybe these writers would have written about buying a new car or spilling coffee on their new carpet. Maybe we wouldn't have gotten any Automatic Writing from the Surrealists in blogs or any marvelous travelogues from Mark Twain. In many ways one could argue that their Zeitgeist was their Zeitgeist and that their expressions and thoughts could never be conveyed in the same way in a blog. Who knows? Perhaps the subject for another book? Whatever the case, if you have never had the opportunity to read any of the works by the authors listed in this piece, I strongly encourage you to sample some of their writing. It seems these days many of us spend plenty of time reading online, but there is a world of printed material out there just waiting to be discovered.