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Sunday, July 20, 2008


by Finn Harvor

INTRODUCTON: FIC-BLOGOSPHERE MANIFESTO. Written ironically, its intent is deadly serious. The lit-blogosphere possesses great potential. It is an arena of discourse that might allow new forms of creative literary culture to flourish. However, it needs to learn to encourage its own.  

As David Barnett argued recently in the Guardian book blog, and as Harvor has previously argued in interviews conducted at his site CONVERSATIONS IN THE BOOK TRADE, indie literary writing is held to a standard that is more strict than that of other mediums. Unlike film or music, where being indie is considered admirable, the majority of book blogs take their starting point from a very conventional notion of literary culture; they implicitly assume this culture must be processed through the vetting of major publishers.  

As a result, there is a preponderance of blogs that are devoted to commentary on fairly big name books. If one is to speak generally, the lit-blogosphere is overly beholden to the corporatized book culture it supposedly stands in opposition to instead of encouraging online creativity ... something it could very easily do simply by paying attention to it.

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There's a specter haunting the blogosphere, and it is the specter of too much commentary. The Internet was supposed to allow for a creative revolution in literature. It was hailed as the avant-garde technology of avant-garde -- oh, what the hell! just plain new! -- writing.But the lit-blogosphere has instead developed without any overriding artistic ideology devoted to the potential of the medium itself. As prolix but disjointed as an email written on a caffeine-high of organic dark chocolate and re-heated coffee at 2 a.m., it contains its fair share of brilliance. But to what end? Serving what purpose?

We acknowledge the vitality of the lit-blogosphere! We salute its prolific nature, its earnestness, its seriousness! May a thousand interesting comments threads bloom!

But we decry the lit-biosphere's extraordinary focus on blogging about yet another big-name author or yet another James Wood article! Did literature -- that great church now besieged by a million television-watching apostates, that dynamic economy driven into the ground by a zillion Kwick-buck Artists of Culture -- achieve its originally great stature by focusing on ... painting? Were most 19th Century novels about ... sculpture?

All great art forms achieve greatness through dialogue with themselves! All works of genius arise from a relationship between creator and audience! What is the lit-blogosphere an audience of? Certainly not itself.

Where is the contemporary artistic ideology which will look to the farthest horizons of the World Wide Web and grasp, in a single conceptual moment, its true nature? Where is the system of ideas that will measure the amount of commentary that exists on the Net and at the same time measure the amount of original fiction, and observe that the two exist disproportionately?

Literature as it once thrived did so because it ... made literature! The lit-blogosphere is -- at this historical moment -- too much a hanger-on, too much a fan-boy, too much a commentator-on-commentary!

If the lit-blogosphere is to lay claim to its own indigenous greatness, it must seize the moment! It must blog about its own creative content!

Ecrasez les posts au sujet de James Wood!

Assez des commentaires sur Messieurs Amis, McEwan, Nabokov et Mademoiselle Smith!

In an age when publishing at its highest levels has become a walled-off castle, a behemoth of slick-surfaced capitalist culture, do we really need post after post about the latest book to both win a major prize and top the best-seller lists? Do we really need an army of bloggers expending every last ounce of their energies as they march down The Road?

And let us clarify! We are not suggesting that mainstream, big-budget book culture be ignored! All we asking for is a little balance! For heaven's sake, think of the tithe! All the downtrodden on-line authors of the globe are asking for is a mere 10%! Even that much of the lit-blogosphere's attention would bring about ... radical change!

Consider it a duty at first -- the pleasure will follow! Start reading online magazines! Read their poems, short stories, novel excerpts, whatever! Click to a different URL besides that of the Guardian, New York Times or Canada's national newspaper, the name of which escapes me at the moment!

Turn from your obsessions, which, after all, are habits, and develop new habits and therefore new obsessions! Think carefully about how new forms of culture must exist as an ecology, and what elements are necessary to make an ecology thrive!

Yes, we know online authors need to revolutionize, too! We know they need to understand the limits imposed by the Screen, and write shorter, write punchier  (yet elegantly so). We know they will have to move to new technologies: the podcast, the YouTube-ified short story! Just give us time to figure out the friggin' technology and replace the computer we ill-advisedly kicked!

So of course, pay attention to Big Book Culture! Scroll through the works of Swollen-stream Media! But also, for the love of literature, the Brontes and a Modern-day Christ, pay attention to the Creative Aspect of the Internet! Read the occasional Totally Unknown Author Who Just Happens to be Online!!!!

          Finn Harvor

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