Thanks for your response to my brief, admittedly self-contradictory essay last week. I like your reimagining of the blog as a form of literary correspondence. What resonates with me especially about your idea is the linking of literary correspondence as practice to the writing of a blog as practice. I’ve often thought of the blog posts I’ve written as a sort of writing exercise—practice essays, practice reviews, etc. If indeed that’s something that literary correspondence has been used for—and I think there’s a good argument that it is—then it makes sense to approach the blog post in the same way. Further, I think you’re right that the blog post shares with literary correspondence the quality of intentional address. We write both the letter and the blog post to a specific audience. While the audience of a blog post is larger than that of an average personal letter, it’s probably not actually that much bigger. Unless we’re famous bloggers, we write our posts not for the eyes of all, but the eyes of an interested dozen—give or take a few.
But here’s where I begin to become uncomfortable with the whole thing: I may write a blog post for a favored dozen, but, as you mentioned, I’m making it available to all. When Ezra Pound wrote letters to Harriet Monroe complaining about Amy Lowell, he did so with the knowledge that only Ms. Monroe (and perhaps her close confidants), would read them. They wouldn’t get back to Ms. Lowell, and even if they did, they certainly wouldn’t be printed in the Sunday Times for all of London to read. Every essay I post to my blog is readable by all. Not all will read it, but all could, with a careful Google search—great Aunt Mildred, potential employers, casual acquaintances, the DEA. Now, most of our blog posts will not be read by anyone but our friends and family, but the point is, they could be. Our practice, our dashed off, private correspondence, is no longer private.
Perhaps this isn’t that big of a deal. At the very least it’s a significant change. And I ask myself why I would want my practice or correspondence to be public. What’s the benefit? Will it mean I’ll spend more time on my public blog than my private correspondence or daily writing practice? If so, then it’s not quite the same thing as either of those. It’s closer to something I’d publish in a magazine or newspaper. If not—if, in fact, my public blog is no more polished than my emails—I’m not sure why I wouldn’t, for the sake of care and tact and privacy, turn my posts into emails and send privately them to my friends over Gmail or Facebook. Perhaps, though, I’m missing some benefit that the public nature of the blog bestows upon the post.
Of course, in the long run, if any of us do turn out to be an Ezra Pound or Amy Lowell, then sooner or later fans and scholars will want to churn up our private correspondence for public consumption. Just yesterday I did in fact read Ezra Pound’s private letters to Harriet Monroe complaining about Amy Lowell. But I only did this because I think the editorial and published work of these three worth reading. Thus, I dig backward to those writings of theirs that might, in and of themselves, not be worth reading. But these days we seem to do things backward. We offer first our practice to the public, and if we are deemed worthy, we then get paid to publish our best work.
Perhaps we’re stuck with this strange set-up for now. If so, I think your recommendations for re-thinking our posts are helpful, and I’ll keep considering them as I struggle to come to terms with blogging.