Friday, January 28, 2005

High Desert Dispatch ...

I'm in Elko, Nev., at the 21st National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. I would have been blogging sooner, but the laptop I brought has been, shall we say, difficult.
Anyway, I just watched Oscar Auker, 13, recite some poems with a degree of poise and aplomb that would be the envy of many an older performer. After Oscar, a guy named Jim King recited a poem about a guy under the influence riding a motorized tricycle that was so funny I had tears running down my face.
Cowboy poetry, for those unfamilar with it, is actually a sophisticated performing art. The text no more comes to life on the page than a musical score does.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Here's a thought -- or two ...

A colleague and I were talking yesterday about how Internet reading differs from traditional reading. Obviously, it's less linear, which is why large chunks of prose seem less suited to Internet posting than snippets that get to the point. But also, when reading online, you're likely to click on a link, and maybe click on another from the site you've linked to. You may click on an audio clip. Or a video clip. It may be some time before you get back to where you started -- if, in fact, you do get back. Then there's e-mail.
All of which got me to wondering when this is going to be exploited fictionally. E-mail plays an important part in Peter Straub's most recent novel, In the Night Room, but where's the epistolary novel in the form of e-mail. Epistolary novels were all the rage in the 18th-century, when lots of people wrote lots of letters. Well, lots of people are writing e-mail. Most of it may be inconsequential, but a good fiction writer could surely do something with the form.
And what about a narrative using online techniques -- links and clips that lead the reader along the narrative path? Maybe published as a CD.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Let it snow ...

The weather outside doesn't strike me as at all frightful, but I didn't drive in it. But I was out walking in it and I shovelled my sidewalk. A heavy snowfall always makes me want to take another look at what was once a very popular poem -- John Greenleaf Whittier's "Snowbound."
The Rev at The Book Barn didn't think much of it when he took a look a few years ago:
Now The Rev admits he has problems with pre-20th-century poetry, and I think a lot of people do. It's more formal, less colloquial, and above all more leisurely than later verse. If read out loud, though, Whittier's poem demonstrates more subtlety of rhyme and rhythm than The Rev notices. It's a reminiscence in rhyme, with some pretty good imagery. I rather like this:
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts

Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.
You can read the whole think here, with some nice pictures to boot:
Just remember to take your time.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Ghosts of best-sellers past ...

One final thought regarding Hugh Hewitt's Blog. In it Hewitt proposes that someone start a blog for the publishing industry. That someone won't be me, but one of the things Hewitt suggests such a blog should feature -- links to all the best-seller lists available online -- is something I have been looking into. While looking, I came upon this link, which posts a century of Publishers Weekly's best-seller lists:

The first two decades of the last century have some familiar names -- H.G. Wells, Frances Hodgson Burnett -- but one only sounds familiar. The Winston Churchill who appears regularly is not the British statesman (who did win the Nobel prize for literature), but an American historical novelist. During the first of those two decades, George Barr McCutcheon made the list seven times. Who reads him now? A lot more familar names when you get to the 1930s, and the nonfiction list for 1931 says something about changing tastes: Will Durant's The Story of Philosophy, H.G. Wells's The Outline of History, Andre Maurois's Byron, and Charles and Mary Beard's The Rise of American Civilization all made it.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Let the blogging begin ...

In my "Editor's Choice" column Sunday I reviewed Hugh Hewitt's excellent little book Blog. Hugh makes such a good case for blogging that I figure I ought to start doing some myself. It's a useful way, for instance, of saying something further about a point made in the book.
Hugh compares the rise of the blogs to the Protestant Reformation: New technology (in that case, the printing press) blows the lid off the information monopoly (then the Roman Catholic Church, now the Mainstream Media).
It's an interesting analogy and sound as far as it goes. But there was a downside to the Reformation. Not only was Christian unity split asunder, but there were those persecutions (on both sides) as well as those nasty religious wars (about a third of Europe's population died during the Thirty Years War).
Luther is also a poor poster child for free and open discussion. He proved every bit as intolerant of dissent as the Roman church. His role in the peasants' Rebellion was deplorable. Here's just one fine quote: "It is right and lawful to slay at the first opportunity a rebellious person … whosoever can, should smite, strangle, and stab, secretly or publicly, and should remember that there is nothing more poisonous, pernicious, and devilish than a rebellious man." Then there's his anti-semitism, which you can sample here:
May the blogosphere be spared his like.
Oops! Speaking of Blog, I notice that Daniel Drezner, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago has noticed that I referred to him as a law professor at the school. Took it right out of Hugh's book. Just another example of MSM sloppiness, I fear.