Friday, February 24, 2006

Would Orwell or Marx have blogged?

Would Karl Marx or George Orwell have made good bloggers? Some opinions on that question here from a host of bloggers and commentators in a meditation on blogging from FT.Com's Trevor Butterworth. There is, says Trev, "a spectre haunting the blogosphere - tedium."
If the pornography of opinion doesn’t leave you longing for an eroticism of fact, the vast wasteland of verbiage produced by the relentless nature of blogging is the single greatest impediment to its seriousness as a medium.
"The point is," he says "any writer of talent needs the time and peace to produce work that has a chance of enduring. " The daily blogging treadmill, what some bloggers call "feeding the beast," stultifies output says Trev. And what happens to the blogger's material in the end? It's not even the stuff of tomorrow's fish and chip wrappers, is it?
And that, in the end, is the dismal fate of blogging: it renders the word even more evanescent than journalism; yoked, as bloggers are, to the unending cycle of news and the need to post four or five times a day, five days a week, 50 weeks of the year, blogging is the closest literary culture has come to instant obsolescence. No Modern Library edition of the great polemicists of the blogosphere to yellow on the shelf; nothing but a virtual tomb for a billion posts - a choric song of the word-weary bloggers, forlorn mariners forever posting on the slumberless seas of news.
I guess our Trev has never considered archives, or collections of columns collected together as books?

LINKS: Time for the last post - FT.Com [Hat tip Arts & Letters Daily]
PC's Archives

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7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

PC wrote:
I guess our Trev has never considered archives, or collections of columns collected together as books?

I reply:
Well, if you want to find the best of Orwell - who was the Larry Flynt of the "pornography of opinion" produced on deadline - that's exactly where you have to go.

2/24/2006 07:21:00 am  
Blogger Oswald Bastable said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2/24/2006 07:36:00 am  
Blogger Oswald Bastable said...

I guess Trev considers speech a waste of time, too...

2/24/2006 07:38:00 am  
Blogger Jude the Obscure said...

What does he mean by 'the pornography of opinion' and the 'eroticism of fact'? Has Trev strayed once too often into Adults Only blogs?

Marx and Orwell would have made really good bloggers. Instead of trudging to the library or around Wiggan Pier in the cold they could have got on with things via the internet and being cosy and warm at home.

Fish and chips mostly come in pottles or little brown paper bags now. Although I must admit, broadsheets still light the best fire.

2/24/2006 08:44:00 am  
Blogger Craig Ranapia said...

Sorry, that first comment was mine. I don't belive in making anonymous comments on other people's blogs.

2/24/2006 09:20:00 am  
Anonymous Trevor Butterworth said...

Actually, I have considered collections of columns. It was the experience of reading Murray Kempton's musings on Marx and Engels as journalists in "Part of Our Time" that prompted this entire piece: namely, the poignancy of a dimming luminary of the American press trying to resuscitate the lost journalism of fellow travellers - journalism they had happily considered to be not worth reading again.

I'm betting Kempton's "Part of Our Time" is one of the worst-selling editions in the new Modern Library too.

Orwell's hack work is possibly even less interesting than Nietzsche's vast trove of unpublished observations. Had blogging been available to Orwell as a temptation, Connolly would have threatened to break his fingers.

Now, in the genre of journalism, what work of the past 50 years has endured? Tom Wolfe and Hunter S Thompson - the most novelistic of journalists. Neither of whom have or had anything to do with blogging - at least to my knowledge!

Thanks for reading and commenting on my piece.

Best Trevor

2/26/2006 06:03:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

A very interesting piece of yours, Trevor. Thanks for stopping by here in the blogosphere to talk about it.

"Orwell's hack work is possibly even less interesting than Nietzsche's vast trove of unpublished observations. Had blogging been available to Orwell as a temptation, Connolly would have threatened to break his fingers."

Hahaha. I confess I haven't read much of Orwell's 'hack work,' but if the lardy 'English Cooking' example you cite is demonstrative of it, than your point is well made -- with Orwell at least.

However, to rise to your challenge of saying "in the genre of journalism, what work of the past 50 years has endured," I can think of a few whose collected columns by themselves make the genre worthwhile (none of whom it's true have anything to do with blogging, but for collections of bloggers' work it's perhaps early days yet.)

I think of writers like Clive James, Bernard Levin, Anthony Burgess, Ayn Rand, and local luminary Bob Jones -- none of whom have or had disovered blogs of course, but whose collected columns have a reach that takes them well beyond their journalistic beginnings. Writers like Levin and James made their names with their columns and reviews of course, but both the novelists in that list did express concern at the steady drip, drip, drip of their talents into weekly reviews and 'op-eds.' Talking of his journalistic work -- some of it published in 'Urgent Copy' - Anthony Burgess declared after some years of such work keeping him away from his 'true vocation,' "I was not quite sure what work was. It ought to be the novel, but it was increasingly journalism... I was having some difficulty with the writing of fiction, and this was because I had fulfilled my ambition of becoming a busy hack, at home with the easy article and the even easier shoddiness of tea-room chat on the smal screen." Lord knows what Burgess would have made of the even easier shoddiness of blogging, but I'm sure he would have eschewed it in any case -- after all, he was interested only in paying work.

"It is not my function to be a fly swatter," Ayn Rand said (quoting Nietzsche) when calling her own 'Letter' to a close. Perhaps though it as a flyswatter that bloggers themselves begin to come into their own?

2/26/2006 02:08:00 pm  

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