On Dead Blogs and What I’m Reading

Is the blog dead?

My impression is that old-fashioned blogs are our grandmothers’ social media platform now. We have been replaced by BookTube and nugatory Instagram posts.

This is not a crackpot theory.  A 2018 survey at Pew Research does not even mention Blogger or WordPress.  This study of social media found:

Facebook and YouTube dominate this landscape, as notable majorities of U.S. adults use each of these sites. At the same time, younger Americans (especially those ages 18 to 24) stand out for embracing a variety of platforms and using them frequently. Some 78% of 18- to 24-year-olds use Snapchat, and a sizeable majority of these users (71%) visit the platform multiple times per day. Similarly, 71% of Americans in this age group now use Instagram and close to half (45%) are Twitter users.”

As the years go by, I find myself reading fewer blogs, clicking on fewer “likes,” and commenting less. It isn’t so much the quality as  it about less screen time. Today I learned that Belle at the splendid blog Belle, Book and Candle wrote her last post in December. Oh no!  I will miss her smart style, humor, serenity, and eclectic tastes in books.  So many of my favorites have folded.

It is a pity that greedy computer moguls have created social networking platforms that rely more on pictures than words.   And I’m not exaggerating too much!   But I might be wrong about the Silicon Valley part.  I don’t know the origins.

AND NOW HERE’S WHAT I’VE BEEN READING.

1. Pam Houston’s Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country, a collection of linked autobiographical essays. In 1993, Houston was living in a tent when her agent gave her a check for $21,000  for her debut collection of stories, Cowboys Are My Weakness, with the advice, “Don’t spend it all on hiking boots.”  After traveling around the West, Houston bought a 120-acre ranch in the Colorado Rockies. Although she spends half the year teaching, she always comes back to the ranch, which is the home of her Irish wolfhounds, two elderly horses, a bonded pair of rescue miniature donkeys, Icelandic ewes, and chickens. Houston, who has been a skiing instructor and led white-water raft trips, tells fascinating tales of nature, endurance of the cold, and quasi-primitive living. I cried and cried over the death of one of her dogs.

2.   Robert Graves’s compelling historical novel, I, Claudius.  This classic, set in the first century A.D., is the autobiography of the crippled, stuttering Roman emperor Claudius.  He learned to keep his head down to survive the dangers of the reigns of three emperors: Augustus, who brought peace after  civil wars but whose wife Livia poisoned his heirs and many others; Livia’s cruel, perverted son, Tiberius, who was a good general but uninterested in empire and spent long periods frolicking on Capri; and mad murderous Caligula, whose insane cruelty ruined more lives than Livia.  Claudius becomes emperor at the end of the novel, and  the story is continued in Claudius the God.  Many of the events are based on episodes in Suetonius’s The Twelve Caesars, which Graves translated.

3. Dark Narnia.  This is my nickname for Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones, the first two novels in her much lauded Wayward  series. Every SF publication heralded the publication of McGuire’s fourth book in the series, In an Absent Dream, which is apparently based on Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market.  (Last year I read a brilliant  Goblin Market retelling, Rena Rossner’s The Sisters of the Winter Wood.) I decided to read the others first.

I like the premise:  Miss West’e Home for Wayward Children is a refuge for children who disappeared for years through portals to magical lands and cannot adjust to ordinary life.  These books begin like gentle fantasies and  then morph into Sf/horror.  In Every Heart a Doorway, a series of brutal murders are committed.  In Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Mcguire tells the adventures of twins Jack and Jill (two students we meet in Every Heart a Doorway) and their years working for a vampire and a doctor who can bring the dead back to life.

They’re not for me–I don’t like horror–but  many SF fans consider them classics.

Tea or Coffee? Top Five Ways to Alienate the British

APOLOGIES IN ADVANCE TO MY ENGLISH FRIENDS.

Xenophobia thrives on the net. Well, it’s not always chauvinism:  sometimes it is mere mischief. I don’t do social media, so I don’t encounter much hostility. What I detect in comments is often in the mischief category. Sometimes I let it pass, sometimes I delete.  Do you know who is exasperated by my blog?  English bloggers!

Yes, this makes me laugh, too. I am an anglophile. I have taken four trips to London, where I spent my time in awe at Ai Weiwei exhibitions and on self-guided tours written up in my guidebook. Yup, I’ve been to the art museums, the Dickens Museum, Buckingham Palace, strolled in very green parks, shopped at bookstores, eaten fish and chips, and been impressed by the efficiency of Heathrow security. (In Chicago I was patted down for holding a Kleenex!)

In spite of the fact that I venerate English literature,  English bloggers sometimes complain in comments. And that, I conclude, is  because of my flippancy.  So here are the

TOP FIVE WAYS TO ALIENATE THE BRITISH.

  1. Be flippant about Virago Week or Virago Month. I am a Virago fan, but I once wrote, “Every time I turn around it’s Virago Week.” That did not go over well.
  2. Suggest that a line be drawn between marketing and reviewing. English bloggers informed me that of course they were promoting books. Yeah, I knew that.
  3. Write a post about correct usage of indefinite pronouns. Who got angry?  You guessed it, the English.  The U.S. and Canada seem to be on the same page:  many Americans and Canadians added their own pet grammar peeves.
  4. Suggest that Anne is the worst writer of the three Brontes. Wow, what an outpouring! Okay, one American was also angry.
  5. Suggest that the British should “deal with” the fact that Americans are now contenders for the Man Booker Prize. It’s not that I personally like it, it’s that the writers’ petitions and letters have been ignored.
Illustration by Pierre Mornet

So are the English xenophobic? Or am I a xenophobe?  Honestly, at this point, who knows? At least I’m not leaving mean comments at their blogs!

But don’t we all agree that the British writers of the nineteenth and twentieth century are incomparable?

Deal with it!

The Blogging Scene in the Marketing Age

I’ve had at least six blogs, and deleted two of them.  I don’t remember the title of the first.  Blogging was THE trend in the early twenty-first century. It was an amateur effort, in the best possible way, in the true sense of the Latin origin,  amare, to love, and amator, lover.

It didn’t last.  It couldn’t.  The cowgirls and anarchists faded from the scene.  Publishing companies co-opted bloggers.  Blogging turned from a labor of love into a publisher’s marketing opportunity.  The naive bloggers became shills.

Mind you, there are many sophisticated bloggers.  My personal “circle” of bloggers, such as it is, prefers books published before this century, and  distinguishes between reviews and marketing.

But I miss the early blogs, which were an “alternative” to the media. I don’t see that anymore.  Remember when writers and editors of book reviews attacked bloggers for ruining criticism?  The review publications have terminated the blogs they established in imitation of saucy blogs, because the  new bloggers’ second- and third-rate imitations of their criticism provide no competition.  (And, yes, there are some brilliant bloggers, as I’ve said before.)

Overall, I haven’t seen so much brown-nosing in years.

Where do we go from here?  Words are disappearing faster than I can turn a page.