by Michael Chabon
Well, good-bye. I hope I didn't wear out my welcome. I visit this page at least once a day, every day, without fail; I am a major TNC fan; and it was an honor, and a thrill, and a strain on my nerves, to be working in this space all week. It also took up a whole lot of my time.
I'm not sure how I feel about blogging. Not blogging per se—I can't get through the day without my Dish, TPM, io9, Daring Fireball—but my blogging; the daily act of posting. I do not know how TNC manages to do this and write a novel at the same time. I couldn't: I didn't work a lick on Telegraph Avenue this week.
I'm not exactly a slow writer—when I'm really cooking I can do 800-1,000 good, polished words in two hours, that's not bad—but it can take me a long time to get cooking, and sometimes one sentence can hang me up for an hour. (Those are usually the first sentences, in the next draft, to be cut. You would think I might have learned by now.) I have a hard time writing an excuse to one of my kid's teachers, a recipe for Dutch babies, an apologetic email, without sinking into a revisionary funk. I'm also slow to know what I think, and slow to know how I feel: we're talking reptile time, rock time, empires rising and then crumbling to dust. I still haven't decided how I feel about Sandinista!, for example, and I've been thinking about it on and off since 1980. I tried to mark the fitful shifts in my thinking over a period of about 12 hours in my previous post, about the memorial in Tucson, to mixed effect, I guess.
Novelist time is reptile time; novelists tend to be ruminant and brooding, nursers of ancient grievances, second-guessers, Tuesday afternoon quarterbacks, retrospectators, endlessly, like slumping hitters, studying the film of their old whiffs. You find novelists going over and over the same ground in their novels—TNC was talking about Gatsby last week, Fitzgerald's a prime example—configuring and reconfiguring the same little set of preoccupations, haunted by missed opportunities. That may be because getting a novel written, or a bunch of novels, means that you are going to miss a lot of opportunities, and so missing them is something you have to be not only willing but also equipped by genes and temperament to do. Blogging, I think, is largely about seizing opportunities, about pouncing, about grabbing hold of hours, events, days and nights as they are happening, sizing them up and putting them into play with language, like a juggler catching and working into his flow whatever the audience has in its pockets.
Then there's that whole business of the Comments. Hell, it's bad enough when a book's coming out, and you open wide, and dig your nails into the arms of the chair, and wait for the stink of charred enamel to rise from the reviewers' whirring drills. The pleasure of a favorable notice lasts about three hours and twenty-four minutes; the sting of a bad one settles down to a dull ache that can endure for decades (Up yours, John Skow!). Bad enough, like I say, but man, that daily assessment down there in Disqusland—even when it was mostly, even entirely, sweet and thoughtful and respectful, it was weirdly tough. Tough to withstand, tough to resist. And sometimes, today, tough to read. Maybe after a while a blogger hardens to it, I don't know. But there is so much wit, poignance, and good writing in the Comments, you would be kind of a fool not to spend some time there every day, if you were a blogger, seeing what people had to say about what you had to say. You might even learn something. I did: about hometowns, mine, yours, and those we only imagine; about the intricate, lasting legacies of hip-hop and Huck; about styles of mourning and the view from Tucson and the judgments of those who decry judgment.
I hope you all have a gentle weekend, with plenty of time to ruminate, and brood, and read good books to yourself and your children, should you be blessed with any.