Gessen on the decivilizing influence of blogs

The New York Inquirer interviews Keith Gessen, editor of n+1, who says the magazine is “focused on the idea of a story’s or essay’s necessity — is it necessary, does it explain our situation, some part of our situation? If so, then we’ll edit it until it’s good. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how good it is.” He reveals that the next issue, “The Decivilizing Process,” will include a discussion of the “practices that are changing our civilization, undoing in a very short span of time a lot of the ‘civilizing’ work that’s taken thousands of years to perform. So we have pieces on cell phones and blogs and email, naturally….”

He offers this evaluation of blogs:

The trouble with blogs arises when they go from being diaries (very private expressions, telling us something only that person knows) to being basically attention-grabbing mechanisms. That fake blog we had up was the result of my frustration with lit-bloggers. Back in the day, you would occasionally stumble upon some person blogging about their very private reading, what it was like, what their reactions were. Those people still exist, but they’re drowned out by people who are just purveyors of literary gossip — who comment on books they haven’t even read, who, as Marco likes to say, are just basically freelance publicists. It’s one thing to be corrupted by, say, the pressure of writing for the New York Times Book Review, or the prospect of employment somewhere, or a blurb. But to sell your birthright for a couple of review copies and a link on a blogroll! For shame. So I spent a few weeks making fun of lit-bloggers and it was therapeutic. But then I stopped when I discovered the Alexa traffic ranking system and saw that I was practically the only person reading these things.


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