Rambling thoughts on old flames, manifestos, and blogrolling

Sometimes I worry that readers of this blog feel like the old flame with whom I had an on-again, off again correspondence throughout college. He and I had a fling in Miami the summer before I left for Gainesville — I quit my high school boyfriend for him — and then I went off to school. He enlisted and was sent to Germany and finally Iraq.

We exchanged mix tapes by mail. We wrote letters laden with song lyrics and bad poetry and what we thought were clever remarks. He asked for photographs. Things would go along this way for two or three months at a time, until I got pissed at him for being cagey and noncommittal. Then, inevitably, I’d mail off a ten-page Manifesto On Why I Am So Over You and Might As Well Start Dating the Cute Guy Who Lives Upstairs.

No response would come for a week or two. Out of spite, and then out of interest, I usually would start dating the guy upstairs. And then Old Flame’s latest Hurt Letter That Promised Nothing But Managed Somehow to Suggest That We Were Soulmates arrived in my mailbox. (With a few epic exceptions, the boy upstairs always got the boot after that letter arrived.)
It’s an inept analogy, I know, but I’m trying to acknowledge that all the manifestotype posts to the effect of “I’ll post whatever I damn well please, motherfuckers!” must get tiresome. Of course, it goes without saying that I actually will post whatever I damn well please. But that’s not what I want to convey in this post.

Instead, with the encouragement of a correspondent who urged me yesterday to “own the bloggy, friend-loving, Velma-with-pompoms part of yourself,” and while thanking David Orr for including this site in his New York Times Book Review round-up of online literary destinations, I’d like to address one small part of what he said:

she occasionally indulges in the chronic vice of the blogs — has she mentioned her fellow bloggers? And how clever they are? And how much she really, really likes them? . . .

This is probably fair criticism. I do often link to fellow bloggers, and this isn’t the first time someone has suggested that the bloggy cross-linking is tedious, clubby, and excessive. And I intuitively understand that people with leanings toward traditional print journalism (of the I’ll-print-my-argument-then-you-print-yours variety) would see a blog’s references to other bloggers as gratuitous. I’ll even concede that if I read a group of weblogs and didn’t choose to establish my own forum for commenting I might be put off by the insularity of the references and jokes.
Still, leaving aside all the manifesto-like rhetoric for once, I link to the vast number of literary (and other) weblogs I admire (in addition to the ones included in Orr’s article) for several reasons.

Sometimes I link as part of source attribution. (I was raised southern, after all. I believe it’s only polite to thank somebody if you take something from him or her.) Sometimes I link to attribute ideas.

And frequently I pick up quotes from other weblogs, treating other bloggers’ perspectives as the equivalent of critics’ arguments in newspaper or magazine articles. And this, I suspect, is what upsets some print media types. After all, who are the bloggers to pontificate about literary and cultural matters? They lack credentials. Some went to sub-par southern schools. Some didn’t even graduate from college.
Here’s the thing: I tend to evaluate the reliability and intelligence of sources for myself. Having determined that a site is trustworthy, entertaining, or interesting — and preferably all three — I will refer to it accordingly, regardless of whether I take my quote from an article in The New York Times, or a post on a blog. And so of course I was disappointed to see so many of my favorite sources for literary news and commentary omitted from the article (even as some other excellent ones were included). It’s a lesser version of the reaction I’d have if someone purported to list the 50 best novelists of the 20th Century and left Graham Greene out.

So I would like to put in a blatant plug for some of the many omitted literary sites I read every single day: The Elegant Variation, Moorish Girl, Bookninja, Old Hag, Tingle Alley, GalleyCat, Rake’s Progress, and everyone listed here and here.

Now just smile and nod or I’ll be forced to get started on all the cultural and personal and political sites I read.


Newsletter Signup

Subscribe to my free newsletter, Ancestor Trouble.


You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.