Friday, September 14, 2007


I've recently started watching a TV show called Californication. It's ostensibly about a writer going through a protracted period of writer's block accompanied by a similar obstruction in his personal growth. How apropos. David Duchovny of X-Files fame stars as Hank, a loveable self-destructive writer who has so fallen on hard times that he has been forced to take a job writing a regular blog, all this while trying to win his wife and daughter back.

The show is only so-so. Better than most things on TV but not as good as the best from HBO. What continues to grate on my nerves is that Hank constantly ridicules and derides blog writing as somehow meaningless and something of which any self-respecting writer would be embarrassed. It's true that blog writing is the only writing I've been able to finish on a semi-regular basis lately but this is not a self-defense response.

It should be admitted that most blogs are not written at the level or sophistication of most published novels, but some are. For every dozen mommy-bloggers who fill their pages with fastidiously chronicled minutia of every baby step and diaper change there's a Cognitive Daily For every hundred cat-bloggers who furnish us with their daily furry photos there's a Cosmic Variance. The point is that the choice of medium in which the writing is presented cannot determine the quality of the content. There are some horrifically bad books that sit on the shelves of your local bookstore just as there are some excellent poetry blogs online.

It's true that anyone can write a blog while you must be chosen to be published, so the odds are better that you'll find quality in one medium compared to another but the art is ultimately in the content. There is also a natural process of selection that begins to work when you link from blogs you like to other blogs that they like. Eventually you discover dozens of blogs that you might want to read on a regular basis.

Art can be found just about anywhere a producer chooses to put it. Film snobs like to brag that they don't own a TV as if shielding one's self from any medium could somehow be considered noble. Art can be found in any medium you choose to look at. It can be found in the content that is produced specifically for your TV, cellphone, flash player, sidewalk, milk carton, bus shelter or toilet stall. Snobbery directed prejudicially and wholesale against various media like TV, blogs or even comic books (the most artful of which are now called graphic novels) belies a misunderstanding of what and where art is.


Amy Lavender Harris said...

Wholly agreed, if a blog is understood to do something different from (if perhaps complementary to) a novel writer's central preoccupation with writing novels or other longer works. The writers I know tend to maintain blogs as places to share news and maintain relationships with friends who are geographically dispersed, but above all their blogs are places to try things out -- ideas, fragments and concepts destined for their larger works. And this, in my experience, is as true of unpublished writers as it is of published authors.

I encounter television only second-hand (shadows flickering on the cave wall) so I haven't seen the show, but imagine Hank's ennui stems from feeling reduced to blog writing.

Do (any) self-identified writers blog only for the pleasure of doing so, or do they blog because they hope to publish elsewhere as well? I suspect the latter is close to universally true. While I read a number of blogs, maintain one of my own and write regularly for another, to me the writing seems stillborn unless (over time or across venues) it develops a larger coherence. To me this is what the search for meaning must be about. Something to counter entropy, perhaps?

JakeJakob said...

I started my blog as a way to keep up the practice of writing while working on a novel. I have found that my blog writing has really not been about personal reflection or literary experimentation at all but rather has developed into a journalistic popularizing of Philosophy.

The unexpected benefit has been the discovery of a community of fellow bloggers.

Amy Lavender Harris said...

And what's your novel 'about'? ... I'll bet there's a good chance it involves, at least in part, something amounting to a "journalistic popularizing of Philosophy", whether in the plot or the meanings underlying it.

Heh. I've been working on a story as well (I hesitate to call it a novel) and find my philosophical views have crept in quite a bit. It's set largely in the Junction, incidentally.

By the way, I really enjoy reading your blog.

JakeJakob said...

You got me, it's true. The working title is "Ontology" :-)

I look forward to reading what you're working on. Maybe we should have a Junction Writer's salon/workshop.

Vila H. said...

The Junction, eh? Funny, that's where I grew up.

JakeJakob said...

Really? Where in the Junction? You seem so native Montreal... with the smoking and drinking etc :-)

Vila H. said...

(Laughs.) The Junction is, as it happens, where I learned to do both! I grew up just east of Runnymede and Dundas, not far from the CPR tracks. My mother still lives there, though it's been quite a while since I've been back for a visit. From what I hear, the 'hood's changed a wee bit since I've been gone...

JakeJakob said...

I'm near Clendenan, I've probably seen your mother around.

Not quite gentrified yet but some artists are leaving Queen West (which now costs around $100/sq.ft to rent gallery space) and finding the Junction.

I may be opening a gallery here myself for 1 week per month.