Thursday, June 01, 2006

More meta-blogging

I was excited to read this post from Kate's Book Blog. Yes, she quotes me in this post, but that's not why I was excited -- it's because the part after she quotes me is so interesting. She talks about travel writing first of all, and describes two kinds: travel writing that foregrounds the author's own experience as well as the places traveled through and travel writing that tries to be objective and authoritative by removing the presence of the author. Kate prefers the former kind, and I fully agree -- it strikes me as more honest if an author doesn't pretend to be objective, since this, when it comes down to it, is impossible.

One of my favorite travel books along these lines is Mary Wollstonecraft's Letters Written During a Short Residence in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Here Wollstonecraft has a lot to say about what she sees in these countries, but she also writes a lot about her mental and emotional state as she is traveling and thinks about how this state affects the observations she makes. Before she left on the trip, she found out her lover had been unfaithful and she made a suicide attempt, and she doesn't write about these details in the text, but she alludes to sorrow and heartbreak. It's a short, beautifully-written, evocative book.

But Kate also makes a point about how blogging can be like travel writing:

How is this brief meditation on travel writing relevant to the practice of book blogging? My favourite litbloggers travel into books with an open mind and send back dispatches. They don’t purport to describe the book in objective fashion; they write about their encounter with the book revealing something about their previous reading, their preconceptions, their aesthetic sensibilities along the way. If it’s a return visit rather than a first encounter, they may reflect on shifts in their perception of the terrain this time around. And, most important, rather than expecting fellow readers to take their word as final, they encourage us to pick up the book and see it for ourselves.

Litblogging here is a "journey" through books, reported on subjectively, with self-awareness and without the illusion of objectivity -- I like that. Aunt B. has something to say about this as well, from another angle:

That's what I love about blogging--you throw out some ideas, you get some feedback, you come at those ideas from a slightly different way next time, you get more feedback. Writing in this setting isn't about a finished, set, product, but about circulating ideas and clarifying what you think. I love to blog because, when I write, I know you, whoever you are, will read it.

Here, blogging is exploration, or travel, as well, this time with input from readers, and it's about remaining open to change and revision. Ideas keep circulating (travel!) rather than settling down into something finished.