Infinitely Superficial


Blogging, and the internet in general, is infinitely superficial and trivial. Literature is deep, drill-like; the private and personal versus the public and anonymous. So said Wells Tower recently at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival. He elaborated on the idea, creating an image of a computer screen that went on as far as the eye could see, but it could never be more than a few centimetres deep. The book is the opposite.

Most books suck though. I don’t know why people are amazed by this kind of statement. I’d sound like a fool if I said that all movies were wonderful. Or all musicians were saintly figures that as a collective should be treated as sacred. Somehow the same rules don’t apply to literature. It’s subjective of course, but I’ll stand by that comparison. Just as many awful books have been written as poorly acted, drunkenly directed, badly scripted films have been made. Maybe more.

Wells Tower doesn’t have a blog. He uses a dial-up connection for what sounds like a Commodore 64 computer at home. Him and a mate started a Zine back in the day instead. They wrote about being involved in automobile bingles and trying to pick up girls. This was a precursor to Wells Tower writing ‘Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned,’ the best collection of stories since Junot Diaz wrote ‘Drown’ in 96, but I can’t say it sounds drill-like or literarily deep. I reckon if he wasn’t stuck with that Commodore 64 he might have explored a little blogging action. As it stands, the ink and paper of that Zine has disappeared like deleted posts.

I haven’t yet seen the Buddenbrooks of Broadband or a Gogol of Google searches but there’s a lot of material on the internet that stands comparison to the best that ink on pages has to offer. I’m not interested in that kind of trite comparison. My favourite sites use the medium in a different way altogether. They offer up communal spaces were the commentary is as significant as the original posts. As such, the phenomena of communal composition seems to have begun and it’s going to be interesting to see how this develops.

This Overland site is a case in point. Many of the commentaries double or triple the original posts in size. There’s the possibility here of free discussion and dissemination, for ongoing explorations of meaning and nuance, for opinions, educated or not, for alternate voices otherwise unheard.

In the past we were dominated by a dictatorial model, where qualified, certified and sanctified Judicial figures cast down judgments. Those sources are easily corrupted and manipulated by the corporate entities that give them their means of survival. Chomsky pointed out that the Newspaper’s actual customer is the Advertiser and it’s product isn’t a paper, but a prepared Audience. Your two bucks covers the cost of the ink. So that inherently compromised system leaves open a space where there’s no longer a financial incentive (and that’s a good thing) and the only driving principle is passion and enthusiasm for expression.

The screen is cosmically vast, as Well Tower says, but there’s the potential for a far deeper experience than of the infinitely superficial.

Alec Patric

AS Patric is the award-winning author of The Rattler & other stories (Spineless Wonders, 2011), Las Vegas for Vegans (Transit Lounge, 2012) and Bruno Kramzer (Finlay Lloyd, 2013).

More by Alec Patric ›

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  1. Great article Alec. One of my favourite things about blogging is that happens in real time, ie about 3,000 times faster than paper journals which mean that it is very much a cards-on-the-table experience. There is nowhere to hide and silence always looks like consent. It is a brand new world in which qualifications from previous experience fade quicker than you would believe. I still think most Australians, especially those involved in litratchure have no idea how fast and how powerful it is when used for a good cause.

  2. ‘Real time’ is an interesting choice of words, Paul. It seems that’s what we’re negotiating here. Parcels of time. The ways in which we preserve it. Let it flash across our eyes. The ways in which we can use it. Give it importance or ’cause.’ Project it or simply sit and let it develop in that consenting silence. I recently read something by Grace Paley that I love. “There is a long time in me between knowing and telling.” From a story she wrote called ‘Debts.’

  3. I have learned more in the last few weeks reading blogs such as, gingatao, maekitso, gabrielle bryden’s and slamup, than I have in 20 years of scribbling on paper.

    I saw a cool bumper sticker yesterday “Is your information honest or is your News Limited?”

    There is a revolution coming, and it will not be televised (peace to Gil Scott Heron).

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