Friends tell me that I will take naturally to blogging because I am in possession of many poorly considered opinions about issues I understand only marginally. I am dubious, however. My day job is to produce overlong narrative stories for the magazine that sponsors and funds his website. These stories are meant to be exhaustively researched, carefully constructed and closely edited. Whether they justify the effort is for the reader to decide. In my opinion, they occasionally do, but I don't like most writing, including my own. For what it's worth, I've been writing now for about twenty years. I joined the Atlantic last year, from the New Yorker. Before writing for the New Yorker, I wrote for the New York Times Magazine, and before that, for New York Magazine. I have nearly run out of magazines. I will undoubtedly be ending my career at Cat Fancy.
In any case, I am not at all sure I will take to this new form of communication. One disadvantage I have is that I sit near my friend and colleague Andrew Sullivan, and so I have the opportunity to watch an expert at work. Andrew, of course, began blogging in 1952, on a UNIVAC (very difficult to maneuver through airports), and he is, by himself, responsible for twenty-seven percent of all blog entries ever posted on the Worldwide Web.(I think I saw this statistic once on Wikipedia). He produces more words in a day than I produce in an entire season of writing. The vast majority of Andrew's posts are finely-crafted, well-reasoned, hugely entertaining, and occasionally not about Barack Obama. I even agree with some of them.
The point is, Andrew is a natural-born blogger. He has opinions. He has bandwidth. Most important, he has sitzfleish. In the errant hope of replicating his success, I asked him for advice. He was most unhelpful. "Four words: You will regret this," he wrote me, before posting twenty-seven separate items in a three-hour period.
Fortunately, I have other colleagues at the Atlantic who are professional bloggers, and are quite good at it. One of them, Marc Ambinder, was most helpful, offering the following suggestions: A blogger should only post, he wrote, when he has "something new to add to something old," and has "something that no one else has." Do not, he continued, "post for the sake of posting. Resist the temptation - and boy is it a temptation - to blog because your audience expects to read something." This last bit of advice presupposes the existence for me of an audience. On this exact point, another of our fine bloggers, Ross Douthat, offered me this piece of advice: "Don't check your traffic."
Of all the bloggers on this site, my clear role model is James Fallows. Like me, Jim devotes the bulk of his time to producing long stories that are held together with transitions, staples. He also seems to be blessedly free of the urge to over-post. Jim writes only when he feels a need to say something, in particular about boiled frogs. In fact, he posts only about boiled frogs. As it happens, the myth of the slowly-boiled frog happens to be the great obsession of my life, as well as that of Jim's, so I believe we'll make an excellent team. A little known fact: The Atlantic was started 150 years ago by a group of men, including James Russell Lowell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, who all shared an interest in puncturing the myth of the slowly-boiled frog. They were also interested in ending slavery. But mostly, boiled frogs.
I do have other interests, as well, and I hope to blog, when the spirit moves me, on the future of Israel, the coarsening of American life, the Jewish predisposition toward dissatisfaction, the Mets (see previous), Dylan and Springsteen, the perfidies of Wal-Mart, genocide in Africa, gun control, the civilizational struggle within Islam, airline delays, screenwriting and the bleakness of journalism. I also hope to be bridge to the 19th Century. I've spent many aimless hours rooting around the cavernous and wondrous Atlantic archives, and I hope to bring you along for some of my more exciting discoveries. In fact, I have just completed such an exercise, which you can see here.
There, I've now engaged in unabashed self-promotion. If that doesn't make me a blogger, I don't know what will.
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