- Introduction to Focus: Book Blogs
The history of the lit blog is far less significant than the lit blogs’ conceivable future.
The term “blog” was arguably coined by Peter Merholz in 1999 and has come to be synonymous with any web content that seems, perhaps, a notch less than utterly professional. Blogs offer the more than business casual content. They are the blue jeans day of the Internet.
Originating from a sort of diarist presence of online writers, Merholz attributes the formation of the name “blog” thusly:
it’s weird to experience how my love of words and wordplay has actually made an impact. Sometime in April or May of 1999 (I can’t say for sure when I exactly did it), I posted, in the sidebar of my homepage:
“For What It’s Worth
I’ve decided to pronounce the word ‘weblog’ as wee’- blog. Or ‘blog’ for short.”
And that was all.
It’s tough to say exactly when lit blogs emerged, but most folks will contend that front runners such as MobyLives and Bookslut paved the way, essentially defining what a lit blog could be—presumably, an online space devoted to anything literary or adjacent to the notion of art through letters. Later blogs, such as HTMLGIANT and We Who Are About to Die, carved out a sort of fierier side of their forefathers, integrating a kind of Art Brut ethos to what, initially, might have been a slightly more erudite existence.
What do lit blogs do?
It depends on their contributors.
Who do lit blogs reach?
Anyone who finds them on the Internet.
When you use the term lit blog, you’re casting a wide net. Some lit-based web presences exist to unite broad groups around the idea of reading and writing. Goodreads, for example—which is more a social media site, driven much in the way Facebook is driven, where folks create pages, list books they’ve read, and connect with other readers in order to 1) find new books, and 2) sell books they have written—clearly has a monetary bent. Authors and publishers can use that site as a marketing tool, paying for advertisements and offering giveaways of publications listed on Goodreads’s pages.
The Lit Pub, run by Molly Gaudry, acts as a sort of gateway for readers to purchase what they deem worthy titles. Rolling contributors offer book reviews of works they find worthy, and these reviews link to pages where purchasing said books is made possible. In addition to operating as a sort of cheerleader of the written word, The Lit Pub acts as an enticement for wayward readers to be introduced to The Lit Pub’s own publishing arm. Surfers might stumble on to a review of Mel Bosworth’s Freight (2011) hosted on The Lit Pub’s pages, only to click around and ultimately buy J. A. Tyler’s In Love with a Ghost (2012) recently published by The Lit Pub.
But other web presences seem blatantly against anything that might spur any kind of capitalist markings.
Big Other runs no ads. HTMLGIANT recently reduced its number of advertisements.
Instead, many lit blogs function as hotbeds for literary debate. They exist to fan the fire.
Kenneth Goldsmith was the first to spit the phrase “If it doesn’t exist on the internet, it doesn’t exist,” but by this time, the validity of the statement is so obvious it seems something a drunken infant’s brain formed.
Case in point: the 2012 AWP conference had 10,000 attendees. I went. I mingled. I drank. I tabled. I drank. I read. I danced. I mingled. I wasn’t introduced to a single person. I knew (in some way) everyone I met. We’d chatted online, or they were my Facebook friend, or I’d read their work at some blog, or I’d watched them on YouTube. We’d never touched hands, but I’m not really interested in writers’ hands—they’re always soft when they should be calloused or calloused when they should be soft. I knew every soul in Chicago. The whole thing made me nauseous.
If you were folded into...