Friday, March 28, 2008

"Ultimate Blogs" by Sarah Boxer

Many thanks to my friend Mary for sending me to David Kamp's review in the New York Times Book Review of Sarah Boxer's new book Ultimate Blogs. And whether or not these are "ultimate," here's how Kamp describes her project:
Boxer never explicitly explains why she endeavored to take on this project, and in an essay published last month in The New York Review of Books, she indicates that she was put up to it by an editor. “Two years ago,” she writes in that piece, “I was given a dreadful idea for a book: create an anthology of blogs” — her wariness stemming from a gut feeling that the two media, books and blogs, were hopelessly incompatible. I’d hazard a guess that what made Boxer overcome her initial qualms was the chance to play curator — to show, as she puts it in her introduction to “Ultimate Blogs,” that “some bloggers out there actually write good bloggy prose that non-blog readers can read.”
And indeed, my blogging friends do write good "bloggy prose" - check out "Random Reading" by Paula, "Info-Fetishist" by Anne-Marie, and "Collage of Citations" by Michael, for just a few.

I like the way Kamp tells us about Boxer's book:
It’s an aptly eclectic collection. We get some small-timers, like the cutesie-poo 19-year-old Singaporean who calls her blog It’s Raining Noodles and the mock-suave Guatemalan-American dude who blogs from our nation’s capital as El Guapo in D.C.; some mainstream-media guys who’ve found edifying side careers as bloggers, like Matthew Yglesias, an editor at The Atlantic, and Alex Ross, the New Yorker’s classical-music critic; some calculatedly histrionic vituperators, like the London-based woman who calls her blog Eurotrash and the Texas-based woman who calls hers I Blame the Patriarchy; some chin-strokers, like the Nobel-winning economist Gary S. Becker and the federal circuit judge Richard Posner, who share a blog in which they bat serious issues back and forth; some alt-comix types whose work appears in panel form; and at least one heavily trafficked Web site, the Smoking Gun, which is best known for the documents it unearths via the Freedom of Information Act and which, to me [Kamp], doesn’t count as a blog.
This list gives some sense of Boxer's criteria, as Kamp explains:
Her selections could not be inordinately “linky,” she says, because “you cannot click on a link in a printed book.” Nor could they be particularly timely, because most blog posts are pegged to a specific day’s events and therefore get stale quickly. So Boxer has selected 27 blogs whose work is (relatively) timeless and link-free yet somehow still, she says, “bloggy to the core”: “conversational and reckless, composed on the fly for anonymous intimates ... public and private, grand and niggling.”

Kamp generally likes the book, as his comment makes clear:
Some of the stuff gathered in “Ultimate Blogs” does exactly what it’s supposed to do: alert readers to engaging voices they might otherwise not get turned on to. I liked being introduced to AngryBlackBitch, who is not so much angry as comically (if sincerely) exercised about matters of race, and who resists wherever possible using the nominative singular pronoun (“I”), instead referring to herself as “a bitch” — e.g., “A bitch has run the spectrum of emotions about Oprah’s new school.” The blogger behind the curtain is actually a 34-year-old woman named Pamela Merritt who works in sales and marketing at a St. Louis newspaper. (After each excerpt in “Ultimate Blogs,” there’s a page in which Boxer invites the author to reveal his or her identity and chat a bit — as when Johnny Carson used to summon stand-up comics to his couch after they’d finished their routines.)
Creating new publics and engaging readers, is one of the great advantages of the virtual arena for public intellectuals.

But ultimately, Kamp is a bit disappointed with Boxer's book. After I read it, I'll let you know what I think. Or, please, share what you think.


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