Ruth La Ferla

Short Blog #4: The Literary Blog Analysis

After hours of searching for a discussion-worthy blog, I can’t say that I’ve hit the spot of my hunger. Today, of all days, is Valentine’s Day; everyone, even the finest literary mogul, is posting either the stinkiest of gruyere-filled  quotes or hate mail to Saint Valentine himself. Sifting through this selection, as well as a myriad of DIY baking or craft blogs, I’ve noticed that not too many blogs actually contain insightful material worth reading that is comprehensible and formally constructed; I made it through about five blogs that actually had an introduction that made me read past the first two sentences without feeling that the reader was either pretentiously condescending or  had no idea what they were talking about. Where are you non-hipster literary blog with current events, fine arts, and scholarly material? Are you out there? I can’t find you! …And  so on goes the typical narcissistic, parasitic, and pointless blogger rant, however, navigating the internet is frustrating.  In her book Blog Theory, Jodi Dean relays an account of a blogger who states, “hardly a day goes by without some intellectual or journalist or other member of the only-our opinion-counts brigade writing something about how awful, stupid, dumb, rude, or otherwise unacceptable blogs are. My unwanted advice to such writers is that if blogs are really as uncaptivating as you keep saying, and are as rapidly on their way to oblivion as you keep breathlessley announcing, then stop writing about them” (37). And they’re right… why are all of us blogging, in rants of the highest verbosity, about such things that we find pointless? Perhaps the blog is dead to those who were on the blogger bandwagon back in 2005,  however, the majority of the population is just now joining the brigade and are just now experiencing this cyber world of over 70 million internet blogs, and have no idea where to navigate because many of the url’s are dead.

All of this makes me realize how much I’ve taken the internet for granted, because really, blogging is so difficult to do when attempting to post consistently well-composed notes of perceptive insight. It’s just way too easy to post simply a series of photos that mesh with their colors, or recipes that the pallet finds delectable when paired with a glass of red from Rioja. However, these are helpful, inspirational, appropriate in the right circumstance, but not really helpful when looking to critique. Is the blog not a safe neighborhood for the lit major? Do we become lost in the wordless format?

To engage viewers that are tuning-in late on the story, news channels or websites keep their story headlines to the point and brief, in order to keep the blog ordered and express a point. Consistency and well-labeled headlines are so helpful to readers, as the HTML coding and layouts of typical blogs are absolutely confusing to a new-comer, especially if the site is creatively contrived. A “blog-worthy” blog should be up-to-date, posting consistently (I would argue at the very least once a week. . . maybe once a month if the content is actually that worth reading), and full of discourse that offers a dialectic between photos and prose. In searching for sites within this assignment I was continually frustrated to open an incredible website to find it only a tease, as the author stopped posting in June 2008 (yet really, was that not when the concept of the blog peaked and died out?) or didn’t have anything to say as to why they loved their chosen photos labeled “I love these shoes”– because really, I love those Rachel Comey shoes too, yet readers want to know why you do and what else you like. Maybe though, that is what blogging has come to; seeing that the blogosphere is oversaturated with opinion-based blogs, maybe people that are still posting, our non-fair-weather bloggers, see no point in wasting time writing literature because there’s a slim chance that someone will find it outside of StumbleUpon. So if you’re reading this, I owe you quite a thank you for spending your time here. Below are a couple of literary-based blogs that I found interesting in my quest for Blogalot’s next monarch; hopefully you find insight in them as well.

The site that I felt most inclined to discuss is a collective of fashion critics Eric Wilson, Stuart Emmrich, Cathy Horyn, and Ruth La Ferla. Their blog, as mentioned on the Zeitgeist Message Board, is called ‘On the Runway’ . Though not as literary-focused as many authorial blogs that surround the literary world, I would argue that this editorial blog is something entirely competent in that realm, as the information that is presented can be regarded as a current event and is written by literary scholars. Standing as part of the New York Times ‘Style’ section online, this blog is absolutely applaudable for its chic and simplistic appearance that has minimal distractions of cluttered advertisements or superfluous photos. Your attention is drawn, after the right-column advertisement, directly to the text headlines, as the text takes up at least 75% of the page. Through the use of exquisitely minimalistic visual aide, accurate web links, historical accounts of fashion productions in years passed, designer interviews, and a most professional (yet not condescending) discourse, the journalists of On The Runway have created a truly monolithic work that accurately chronicles Fashion Week for attendees and those who missed the show. With a journalistic staff comprised of both men and women, there exists no biases in published content towards menswear or womens wear, as both sexes of writers cover both sexes of  designers and their collections. The language is not elevated to levels incomprehensible to your average reader; the dialogue is sophisticated and engages in sartorial history both synchronically and diachronically; the authors draw threads between designers and seasonal trends, as well as social trends, internationally; and finally, the images offered within each article are straight from a fashion photographer on-staff and on-site at each of the fashion shows/events. Thus, all of the news being reported is entirely first-hand.

Another note-worthy blog is that of Mark Sarvas entitled The Elegant Variation. An interesting guy. Directly above the blog title, there are reviews of Sarvas’ prose, both good and bad. NPR is quoted stating, “really brave. . . or really stupid”, which to me really sums up this entire media outlet. Upon opening the site today, the first post’s headline reads (in all caps, mind you, HE IS SHOUTING THIS!) “Dale Peck is the worst critic of his generation.” Pesonally I do not know Dale Peck, however, if I were Dale Peck, I’d be highly offended, as a generation typically spans more than ten years making this quite an insult. So, as NPR states, this is a very brave move on Sarvas’ part, yet at the same time it could come back and bite him in the ass. I suppose looking at Chelsea Handler though, her brutal honesty has created quite a reputation. In terms of visual appeal, Sarvas’ blog is mildly weak. The title, “The Elegant Variation” is wildly creative, teeming with an authoritative, professional, and curious aesthetic; yet the background color comes off bland and doesn’t help the images, thus turning your mind to think that the writing had better be really good. His chosen colors, an olive green background with white typeface and mustardy/butternut-colored links is less than refreshing– when looking at it, it seems outdated, or appears the way a lilikoi does when being cut open after hours of rotting on the side of the road in the humidity of summertime. Though visually lacking and slightly offensive, Sarvas DOES cover a more literary topic than the NYTimes blog: book reviews, critiques, and sneek peaks. His blogroll, consisting of publishing houses and and presses is an abundant offering to visitors of the site, and his book reviews are honest and engaging and one can see why his blog has placed him atop Forbe’s Magazine’s top 10 blogs lists. Though literary, parts of his blog do digress to the happenings in his home and everyday life, something I believe that many bloggers ought to avoid, unless their blog surrounds what they do in their home or personal lives. Perhaps though, that comes with the territory of the blog, making the blog a window to their personality, as it is a forging of the Appoline and Dionysian, order and chaos, or the organic of classic literature and the word with the inorganic of cyberspace.