Blog Readings at Lit Fests? A Totally Unbiased Point of View.

Jaipur Literature Festival session on 'Writing the Self' - On Memoir and the Autobiographical Novel  Ru Freeman, Ved Mehta, Joseph O’Neill, and Philip Hensher moderated by William Sutcliffe

Jaipur Literature Festival session on ‘Writing the Self’ – On Memoir and the Autobiographical Novel
Ru Freeman, Ved Mehta, Joseph O’Neill, and Philip Hensher moderated by William Sutcliffe

Forgive the slightly staid title of this post.

I was considering pleasing alliterations like ‘Lit Fest Legit’ or ‘Blogging and Biography’ but the rules of search engine optimization dictate that one should keep titles lucid so that spiders and crawlers can read my article.

Writing for compound eyed creatures has its own challenges (the upside is of course increased readership :)). Spiders are a drab lot, and are more turned on by stuff like Latent Semantic Indexing, than by recursive literary techniques.

Which brings me to the main point of this post, the unique literary tradition of blogging. But first of all…

Is blogging legit literature?

There. I got that alliteration out of my system. 🙂

You tend to write differently when you’re writing a blog, whether it’s considering a crustacean’s sense of humour and pacing up your post for an internet audience, or complimenting your prose with hyperlinks and videos and pictures and smileys.

Yet the quality of writing in the blogosphere is often exquisite, comparable with anything ‘published’ formally or ‘edited’. The motivations are, if anything, purer and simpler, and I can vouch for the fact that the sheer joy of writing is retained in full. And isn’t that the main thing anyway?

Granted a blog is a medium and not a form, like a novel or a short story versus prose, but the medium itself is underrated I feel. You’re sharing a daily account of your life, but it’s not considered biography, you’re sharing a point of view on a topic, but it’s not a formal essay, you can write a goddamn story, but its nothing more than a draft, a way to get readers to read your ‘real’ book, dangling as a thumbnail on the side of the screen.

I was at the Jaipur Literary Festival recently, the biggest in Asia by some accounts, and there wasn’t a mention of blogs or the art of blogging in any of its workshops. Obviously it’s just not deemed to be serious writing!

There are three things that seem to work against blog writing and they are all actually imbricated into the medium itself!

1. Ephemerality 2. Spontaneity and 3. Succinctness.

It’s quite hilarious that these are important aspects of art in themselves.

1. The Curse of Ephemerality 

It seems the ephemerality of a blog post works against it, when, actually writing in the moment,and equally importantly, being read in the moment, should give a piece of work maximum power.

Perhaps because of the nature of ‘posting’ and ‘following’, or perhaps because of the sheer glut of blogs out there, beautiful writing sometimes tends to bear the cross of ‘yesterday’s news’.

I suppose writers like Truman Capote and Hunter Thomson, pillars of the New Journalism movement in the sixties felt that their prowess was similarly thwarted by the ephemerality of journalism, and felt a need to create a whole new genre to assert themselves, and allow people to linger on their work!

Apropos the New Journalism movement, Esquire editor Harold Hayes wrote:

“in the Sixties, events seemed to move too swiftly to allow the osmotic process of art to keep abreast, and when we found a good novelist we immediately sought to seduce him with the sweet mysteries of current events.”

The sweet mysteries of current events…. Sounds like a poetic way to describe a blog.

2. Spontaneity- The power of the rough stuff

And a blogging is poetry. Its impressionistic, off the cuff, sometimes funny, sometimes romantic, sometimes angry, like people, by the people. It has all the evocativeness, verisimilitude and context of formal writing, powered by the fire of immediacy.

Think of blogging as a form of writing where the first person has a greater role to play than in other forms of writing. It’s like reading a performance, sitting across from a person, ‘hearing’ the words of an orator.

The rare power in extempore art is in its lack of artifice. Watching Picasso paint is different from contemplating one of his curated paintings.

Refining a piece of work with continuous edits is of course important, but it also distances the work from reality to some extent, as considerations like technique and structure come into effect. Rough, impulsive posts have a fire that polished, published work cannot capture. I feel this way about my student work at art school versus my professional advertising output.

Blogging, with its grassroot character, immediacy of publishing sans market considerations by editors and publishers reeks of authenticity that is sadly not appreciated. Listen more, festival organisers.

3. Succinctness – A picture (and video and hyperlinks) can tell a thousand words so YOU can keep it pithy. 

And when you consider the hyperlinked, multimedia experience, reading blog content becomes an involved passive-interactive process, and it takes the craft of literature to dimensions it has never been before.

Does length matter or breadth? Maybe a simple word-count model for the degree of extrapolation needs to be reevaluated.

Does length matter or breadth? Maybe a simple word-count model for the degree of extrapolation needs to be reevaluated.

Bloggers tell stories judiciously, empowering the reader with links and videos, and other other immediate citations so that his words are not overburdened, but the story is told, laterally, beyond the realm of his page if necessary. It’s a selfless act and its not called ‘link love’ for nothing!

Good art extracts meaning from experience and as regards ‘meaning’, a blog post is like funky generative art.

The comments on a post, though by other people, continue to allow an original work to grow in directions the author himself possibly did not imagine, so that every other person who reads his post often has something more to gain.

 Conclusion- Spidermen, unite!

There’s a stir taking place in the world of literature with self publishing and e-readers and questions over whether the value publishers provide is worth the royalty anymore.

Maybe we need a New Blogging movement of some sort to assert ourselves (we can call ourselves ‘The Spidermen’ perhaps ;)) so that we coalesce into the formal stream of literature. Maybe at the subsequent literature festivals we’ll see prominent WordPressers reading from their archives.

God knows they deserve it.



18 thoughts on “Blog Readings at Lit Fests? A Totally Unbiased Point of View.

  1. The media of blogging gives anyone physical (sometimes virtual) presence a voice; irrespective of skill for writing, credibility of information and sanctity of thought or idea. Blogging is a personification of the freedom of expression and thought .One doesn’t need a publisher or have the big $ or a fantastic story to be able to have something in print. Also blogging cuts out the publicity bit or reliance on magazine and journalists to yell out to people to read a certain piece of literature. Search engines do that in a more effective and effective manner!!By the “likes” a post get you know how popular your post is or how many people have read it and appreciated it. Also I think the good bit is that if someone has to critic it they can put up a comment and you have a chance to at least rebut it or debate it. It’s not hypocritical criticism that the media encourages. And like all the pluses of blogging that you have mentioned in your post makes blogging a complete media for a headline or a travel etch or a photo story.

    However I do think for a lot of technical stuff (law/medicine/photography) the credibility of the information is questionable. There can be some sort of certification that a tech post needs to pass through to ascertain credibility of the blogger and the post. (That being said the credibility scan could tamper the originality of the blogger).

    Blogging I think should have a whole separate event and should be celebrated on a global scale really. The genre of blogging itself is limitless. So maybe a “BLOG FEST” could invite bloggers on popularity (from the likes the blog has) and there could be various sections like photo blogs/ art blogs/ creative writing/ travel/ tech/news etc etc.

    • i totally agree with you about the credibility of technical stuff on a blog. a blog works for liberal opinions on the events taking place around you. or even tutorials on the technicals of artistic pursuits…but stuff like law and medicine, not a good idea to rely solely on web information.:) thanks for your opinion.

  2. Well put! the debate may not be put to rest but it sure raises some interesting points. And yes, to rely on blogs for legal and health related stuff is not great…often enough the experiences recounted or advice given is coloured by personal bias..

  3. I was really interested in this post, and agreed all the way. I’d be tickled pink if something of my blog was read at a lit fest. It takes hours and hours to prepare a longer blog post (longer than two paragraphs and one photo). It’ll be a good day when a blog is considered as real literature.

    • Hi,thanks for sharing your thoughts.
      I saw your blog and I love what youre doing! Look forward to going through your five minute readings. infact im inspired to write a short serialized story myself!
      and yes it does take energy and sincerity to write a post doesnt it? it really ought to be appreciated in a more formal manner.

  4. Viraj talking about credibility and ethics of blogging of tech material- There is an entire blog (one of the many I’m sure) on the ethics of blogging in the legal profession The blog is restricted to blogging ethics that have sanctity under american jurisprudence. Emphatically the law has a place and provision for the media of blogging.That being said the blogging is being considered as literature that can be relied upon if it falls within the ambit of the do and dont set out.

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