Posted on

Would Jane Austen have been a blogger?

I’m trying to be provocative, yes. The article I’m suggesting you read is actually called Would Orwell have been a blogger? “The great essayist would be appalled by the writing, but applaud the democracy of the web,” writes Robert McCrum, literary editor of the Observer newspaper. As a writer and publisher, I enjoyed McCrum final comments:

There’s another thing that Orwell the great freelance would have been quick to identify: in the blogosphere, no one gets properly paid; its irresponsibility is proportionate to its remoteness from the cash nexus. Worse, the blogosphere, to which all journalists are now professionally committed, not only challenges the old infrastructure of print, but it also sponsors a new prolixity.

From the Orwellian point of view, it is the violence the internet does to the English language as much as its challenge to the journalistic infrastructure that is the biggest anxiety.

Blogging isn’t for everyone. Jane Austen wrote quietly in her family’s sitting room and describes her work in this way in a letter to her sister, “What should I do with your strong, manly, spirited sketches, full of variety and glow? How could I possibly join them on to the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour?” She would hardly have relished writing for the Web or being published in a place I once heard described by a tech guy as “being out in the Wild West with your pants down.”

I’m about to embark on a campaign to get dozens of Berkshire’s best authors to blog with us, in communities of blogs designed around certain subjects, like world history, future studies, and sustainability, and as a result I’ve been thinking a lot about the upsides and downsides of the medium. I don’t think blog posts can compete with thoughtful articles, essays, and books. But they do provide a glimpse into the thinking that’s required to develop such pieces of prose, and for a writer or scholar they can be a wonderful way to share odd experiences and ideas. You’ll be hearing much more from me on this project, but I’ll close by quoting my friend Steve Wasserman, who said he couldn’t understand how knee-jerk reactions had been elevated to standing of thoughtful, considered, well-crafted arguments, and by forwarding Steve’s announcement of his new book review program at

Dear Friend,

I take the liberty of sending you a link to where I have recently become Book Editor.

I have not given up my day job as managing director of the New York office of literary agency Kneerim & Williams at Fish & Richardson P.C. Since resigning in May 2005 as the editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review, I have been dismayed at the way many newspapers have cut back their coverage of books (Please see my recent cover essay in the Sept/Oct issue of the Columbia Journalism Review).

Thus, Truthdig’s offer to commission and edit a once-a-week book review was most welcome.

The current issue of Truthdig showcases a passionate essay on what’s wrong with the American essay by Cristina Nehring (see below). Past reviews have featured Jason Epstein on Richard Rhodes and Jonathan Schell, Nick von Hoffman on Paul Krugman, Todd Gitlin on Susan Faludi, Chalmers Johnson on David Halberstam, and Milton Viorst on “The Israel Lobby.”

Book coverage on Truthdig will complement its political emphasis by seeking to deepen public debate on a range of compelling issues. Such coverage will embrace the enduring need for serious and lively analysis so necessary in an increasingly dizzy culture. The fundamental idea at stake is the self-image of society: how America reasons with itself, describes itself, imagines itself. Nothing in the acceleration made possible by the digital revolution banishes the need for the rigor such self-reckoning requires. In its reviews, Truthdig will focus on what matters.

I send this link to you in the hope you will wish to receive it weekly as you once received the weekly Los Angeles Times Book Review. (If you do not wish to receive it, you can easily decline by clicking the “unsubscribe” button below.)

It is my further hope that you will not only become enrolled among our Ideal Readers, but also, from time to time, among our Ideal Contributors. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me directly at wasserman [at] fr [dot] com

With all best wishes for the Holiday Season,

Steve Wasserman

Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet. Essay Book Cover

Cristina Nehring on What’s Wrong With the American Essay” — One of our most trenchant critics takes a withering look at how contemporary essayists in a global world have gone increasingly, foolishly, local.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *