In this article, which I’ll assume everyone has probably read by now, AO Scott does a pretty good job characterizing the distinct editorial approaches of The Believer and n + 1 and describing the spirit that animates their founders.
However, there’s one thing that I believe he is gets completely wrong. Unsurprisingly, it has to do with blogs.
At a time when older forms of media are supposedly being swallowed up by newer ones, the impulse to start the kind of magazine Partisan Review was in the late 1930′s or The Paris Review was in the 50′s might look contrarian, even reactionary. If you are an overeducated (or at least a semi-overeducated) youngish person with a sleep disorder and a surfeit of opinions, the thing to do, after all, is to start a blog. There are no printing costs, no mailing lists, and the medium offers instant membership in a welcoming herd of independent minds who will put you in their links columns if you put them in yours. Blogs embody and perpetuate a discourse based on speed, topicality, cleverness and contention – all qualities very much ascendant in American media culture these days. To start a little magazine, then – to commit yourself to making an immutable, finite set of perfect-bound pages that will appear, typos and all, every month or two, or six, or whenever, even if you are also, and of necessity, maintaining an affiliated Web site, to say nothing of holding down a day job or sweating over a dissertation – is, at least in part, to lodge a protest against the tyranny of timeliness. It is to opt for slowness, for rumination, for patience and for length. It is to defend the possibility of seriousness against the glibness and superficiality of the age – and also, of course, against other magazines.
Of course, blogs are not bound, printed, purchased, or even–in many cases–edited. However, I think it’s entirely incorrect to say that they do not opt for "rumination" or "patience," that their authors do not attempt to "defend the possibility of seriousness against the glibness and superficiality of the age."
Why on earth else would any of us be doing this? For God’s sake–how can you say that someone who gets red in the face with rage over people who disrespect, say, Gravity’s Rainbow, could be for anything other than patience and rumination?
Yes, you will find plenty of sniping and wise-ass comments on litblogs. Of course. I imagine if you sat down for drinks with Vendela Vida and Benjamin Kunkel there’d be plenty of that as well. But for all the bawdy talk and coarse humor, the impulse that animates the litblogs I read is the same as what AO Scott ascribes to The Believer and n + 1. People who write and read these things want something more than the glib superficiality that is to be found, apparently, everywhere. That’s why they turned to blogs, or lit journals, in the first place.
Let me put it like this. Bloggers did not invent "a discourse based on speed, topicality, cleverness and contention." This has gone on ever since people who appreciate art got together to talk about it. What blogs did was allow this to–sometimes–take place in a new way on the internet.
But, obviously, a post on a litblog is not going to look anything like an essay in a lit journal. To hold them up to the same standards is to create a straw man. Would we blame a single copy of n + 1 for not being readable by 1,000 people simultaneously around the world? Of course not.
Basically, I’m agreeing with Bud’s point that people should appreciate both blogs and magazines for what they do differently.
You Might Also Like:
More from Conversational Reading:
- Believer in n + 1 During my vacation up in Seattle I enjoyed a new and used book store called Elliot Bay Book Co., which is a really cozy place....
- Blogs & School? So I’ve noticed something fairly interesting happening lately: Online class websites for high school and college classes have linked to certain posts on Conversational Reading....
- Philip Roth on Serious Readers This Nerve.com interview of Philip Roth has some interesting stuff (does the man ever give a bad interview?). Here’s one piece: I think the core...
- TEV at Wallace Reading Even though TEV claims not to like his fiction (say it ain’t so), he was on the scene at the latest DFW reading. TEV provides...
- Do We Actually Read These? TEV has posted some images of its bookshelves full of unread books. This brings to mind a good question. How many of the books that...
Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.