If you want to skip this blog or know what's in it in a nugget before proceeding: I write blogs to cheer myself up. To explain:
Over on Trollope19thCStudies, there's been very little response to my postings for weeks. Although I was enjoying an agreed-upon book, Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, in a mild way, since it was not in my direct interests and I had other books I preferred to read and the book began to be predictable and I began to post less and less (half-embarrassed) and at greater intervals, I gave it up and mentioned this on list. Also that I asked a simple (not tendentious particularly) question about a movie and book I know many on the list have seen or read (Trollope's He Knew He Was Right, Davies's film adaptation of it), and got not one reply.
This drew (a few days later) one comment from one man who seems to be reading the book from an online text, and another woman who said she was planning to read two books with me in May, only it seemed she had wrong the plan for which (put on the panel on the side and in several places and repeated each week by me on Friday). She did say she didn't know "how you do it all."
A spring picture by John Atkinson Grimshaw, later Victorian Leeds-Yorkshire painter, from the album files of this Trollope listserv
On a friend's blog, she reported her husband remarked he thought blogging a waste of time. Her blog is filled with a wide variety of informative and insightful comments on the many books she reads and occasional pleasant adventures she has finding books, going bike-riding, on line and now teaching as well as buying books. She doesn't put her cat's photos up -- I do and here today is my increasingly beloved Clary:
This spring morning, standing in a patch of sunlight.
So I felt an impulse to explain, to make a blog about why I blog and post to listservs, if only to explain to myself and justify this way of spending hours of my life over each week. Also because I feel bad about myself (a failure insofar as any career goes, no interest in housework, cooking, or motherhood either or any of these traditional occupations) and so blogging about what I am helps me feel real and better.
This woman on the Trollope list said she doesn't know how I do it. Well I don't work full time, don't do housework or have young children, and Jim and I socialize only rarely (I mean rarely) beyond ourselves. And then I really think I don't do as much highfaultin reading as many others who are scholars; they go to libraries too a lot (rare book rooms). One person whose knowledge floors me is Patrick Leary. Those on Victoria surely know he's a walking treasure trove not only of older studies but many new ones and he keeps up. He seems also rich in so many primary sources, and he knows what's happening on the Net too. He is not rare. On several academic listservs I'm on I come across people who spend much of their time similarly reading in depth, most of them teaching for a living at universities or secondary schools, but some independent scholars and some devoted readers. Some of these write papers for publication, go to conferences more than Leary seems to and they try for publication of books; they some of them have comfortable ranks in the academy (good secure jobs) and that seems to justify them to the public world, but they don't have to carry on once they get tenure, and these people do. (Many tenured people do stop, and some tenure is based on local politics where you teach and include heavy teaching schedules and classes which take a lot of work -- reading their papers or with them.) Quite a number of idealists of both types (independent scholars and scholars who keep at work) are on the NASSR-l, romantics list, a time and era whose major figures were distinguished for decent liberalism and enlightenments (romanticism).
I have a small adjunct job: since my daughter finished her MLIS I've gone down to 2 sections a term and have stopped teaching summers. Where I teach I never get new or advanced literature courses so I have nothing new to prepare and no students hard to keep up with. My salary is derisory, my security and benefits non-existent. And through snubbing and stigmatizing the full-time faculty (non-tenured too) make me as invisible as they can. And I make no money publishing even if I've had a book now and articles. The articles are in academic style journals or online and they dont' bring me promotion or better courses.
Frances Burney by Edward Francesco Burney (c. 1784-85) -- under whose aegis I wrote my first three blogs (see below).
So why do I do it? I have enough income to live and buy books even if not independently wealthy like Leary. (I wish I were, and then I would not worry for my daughter.) But I cannot make myself that way. I cannot write books that would make a lot of money, partly I can't hack them, or wouldn't be able to if I produced the texts. I knew when I wrote my books of poetry and scholarship I'd never be able to get anyone to publish them unless some special interest unexpected by me intervened. (That's what happened with Trollope on the Net: I met a good man, John Letts, and he needed a book for his society and was promoting common readers reading Trollope. I fit his economic interest .)
I'm not content just to read and go to conferences and never express myself. I have a genuine desire to reach people with ideas or thoughts about books and art. And to hear from others who care about such things seriously. For me who have no connections to publish and don't write in a way that's commercially wanted, it's an outlet. I genuinely enjoy writing out my thoughts about books and like to reach others who feel and think the way I do. I enjoy teaching for something of the same reasons only there I don't usually get to reach anyone who is genuinely interested in precisely what I am: occasionally I come across students really inspired or loving to read good books who find few people to share their joy and interest with (most are not going on to any profession where they will be able to fulfill this aspect of themselves).
I enjoy writing things I think well of and putting them online and prettying them up and when a few people come and read this gives me gratification. It's enough.
I get to see what I thought, I put what I write over say a number of weeks on a book altogether, and having slept after writing my blog and rereading it, come to some understanding of the book or myself or its author.
Here it is more impersonal than a listserv and I might reach more people (through google or bookmarking). So I I fuss and fix what I write much more. I can answer back. If I see stupidity, if I see cruelty, if I see intense corruption such that I want to make it visible (even if I can't make it ashamed), if I see things not understood or misunderstood, when I experience the bad exploitation of our society which I know other powerless and vulnerable do, I can speak out. I do this less than i used to as I tire :). But I still do it if less autobiographically and more indirectly. When I've gone to a conference like the Trollope one several years ago and find what I did ignored, and made invisible and the book that was produced pretty bad, I can say so here. Freedom of the press belong to the woman who owns one. And maybe I'm useful in writing about movies I've seen and recommending them by explaining their value. I have lots of knowledge of texts others like me might like to know about and read too. That's why I did my foremother poet postings for years.
There is also a great delight for me in writing out my thoughts and discovering what I think, pleasure in imagining others are at least curious and a few read, and pleasure in looking back and remembering. I love to read others in the same vein too -- I know this vein is not common, but when it exists such people write and the loving impulse involved is one I enjoy deeply.
The way to make the past remembered and lived more fully by being understood and elaborated out is to write it down and that makes it more available to us. it's an aid to memory. I can look back and see what I thought. I can use it in my new thoughts -- new writing for reviews and on line. My life itself becomes more real. I can work out sources of emotional pain and help myself endure them. I admit I don't do this as much -- though maybe this blog is part of that.
True, no money, no outside reward beyond the doing of it. So what? what people are rewarded for in this world is often awful. Henry James has characters who are proud to be perfectly equipped failures :) He says that many who have worldly success do so out of an ability to be aggressive and compete and shut others out, to be corrupt, to exploit, to do bad things, to write and make trash for the mass of people who want this; thus it is no shame not to be a success on these terms. (Of course you can be lucky and be born to where you can be fulfilled in a worldly way to a certain extent without this meanness but if you are not, so beit, then you contribute by reading and being you, standing up to uphold and support the good quietly.) On those who say unless you get money or recognition, it's no good, my answer is: then you are choosing death because you will not compromise on what's on offer. I don't want to be silent (dead) and without contacts because I cannot have these on terms which bring money and prestige.
The Net is here and as long as it remains available to someone like me, it's foolish to disdain it. Cutting off your nose to spite your face as they say. Fanny Burney did not know her 40 years of writing would get in print, but she carried on. She was my model for my first blog and remains my model still.
Jim who is a kind of saint when it comes to ambition, to be out there on some level as your recognized self, says when he dies, he wants no memory whatsoever of him to remain. to go in the ether as if he's never been. He thinks powerless people only lose from publicity anyway. He forgets how some love admiration, no matter how shallow or fleeting. Of course I also write to assuage the loneliness I feel living in Virginia, and to fend off depression, but this is how I do it, really, and in my view those not saddened deeply by life have some explaining to do, not me.
So here are a few of the reasons I blog and post to listservs. Shall I call this seasonal? It's spring break this week, my friends, and (any) readers.
Izzy beloved daughter this morning, also someone who blogs, posts, writes to the Net -- you see her window flooded with white light and a little of her pretty view