A few days ago, I expressed some of the frustrations I've been harboring with the general attitude and practice of lit-blogging. I don't think I did a great job communicating exactly what I find aggravating and even hindering about the lit-blog community, but I doubt I'll correct my inarticulateness with another denunciation. Instead, I'll try to express what it is I like to read.
To put it very basically, the blogs I enjoy reading seem to be written with the idea that posts which fall off the frontpage will continue to inform and affect the next thing written. There is a high degree of unity that goes beyond smug self-referentiality. These blogs read as a sort of sustained self-education, either because they are concentrated around one core conceit (e.g. Contra James Wood, The Criterion Contraption, Stuff White People Like) or because they are focused on a densely related set of problems (FiveThirtyEight, Post-Bourgie, Rough Theory, Vertigo, Jezebel). They are centripetal, not accidental, not meandering, focused less upon what the author "came across" or "happened upon" than what the author went looking for and found. These blogs are more than literary social bookmarking tools—browse, read, tag, comment, share.
This blog is much more like the blogs I don't much care for: wholly dependent on what I "happen upon" in my reading, whether that's what I found on the web today or what book I picked up for vague reasons or no reason. I've been struggling with how to change that, how to add to or change this blog in ways that will make it less adventitious, short of imposing a mandatory reading list on myself or ceasing to blog about anything but a narrow subject. I want to keep a little randomness: I don't object to randomness—I just don't like the self-satisfied surrender to entropy that comes with the idea that I'll blog about whatever catches my fancy.
I already have a project of sorts going: hoping to fill in some gaps in my reading, this year I wanted to focus my reading choices on literature by women, persons of color, and literature-in-translation or, in my blunter terms, "I would like to resolve to read no novels or poetry by white American men for the next year." This isn't so much a project as a series of decisions about what to read, but it offers, I think, the chance to organize what I read in a specific way and the chance to produce more cohesive posts.
My choice of readings fits in very well with a set of issues and problems that I deeply want to tackle, but have had a hard time paring down to fit into a post about a single book. Looking at literature from a transnational perspective has become, for obvious reasons, a vital position to be able to occupy as a critic or even just as a reader. I would like to turn myself more in this direction, perhaps a bit awkwardly at first, but solidly.
It's not that I want to churn out boilerplate interpretations of any novel that comes my way; at least, it's my goal for this not to be the effect. Instead, I hope to choose what I read a little bit more carefully and prepare my posts a little more diligently, less apt to dash off a quick post on whatever comes to mind. I also want to do a good deal more blogging about criticism and theory: I mentioned Franco Moretti's 2-volume behemoth The Novel, which I'm hoping to work my way through selectively. There are some other very valuable anthologies and collections of essays on relevant topics: I've had this really great book edited by Ilan Stavans called Mutual Impressions: Writers from the Americas Reading One Another sitting on my bookcase for awhile.
I hope that the forthcoming changes and additions will make this blog much more interesting to read, rather than less. I am eager to try some things out not just in terms of what I write about, but also how I write it. Hopefully you'll bear with me, and tell me what you think works and what's interesting or valuable.