Sunday, February 20, 2011


I like to save general discussion programmes as podcasts to beguile some tedious task later in the week. Yes, I know I should delight in every moment of every task I am granted by a generous providence. But hoovering? Really?

So the excellent (if mildly ignorant in the ways of the web) Andrew Marr’s flagship Monday morning salon “Start the Week” is often picked up a little later. Last Monday’s edition had a fine attack by David Shields on the literary novel. His contention, starting at 10:58 is that notions of coherent plot, setting and character no longer reflect modern life. He argues for a poeticised non fiction. Quoting from Dr Johnson,“A book should either allow us to escape existence or teach us how to endure existence.”, he feels that most literary novels do the first but not the second. He points to a handful of current writers “not writing novelly novels”.

He seeks to free non-fiction from the shackles of citations of source and proofs of truth, delivering an exciting dubiety where the reader cannot be sure what is stolen from whom, and what is original. “The best books make how the writer solved the problem of being alive the very centre of the work.”

The key word here is “books”. Andrew Marr is renowned for a careless remark that exposed his disdain for the blogosphere.

My first response was to think of writing a database of partially (in both senses of the word) mediated factoids. This could be one person’s life work or a social enterprise. A Trickipedia.

But isn’t this exactly what the blogosphere is?

The best bloggers construct collages around their chosen themes. Some, like Cultural Offering, are solidly reliable. They make their impact with the breadth and eclecticism of topic and the quality of writing. Others, like Penelope Trunk, offer a deliriously one sided view of their struggles with life. Whilst most link furiously, the reader is always aware that the Internet is a very unreliable witness.

The challenge is to sort out the illuminating few from the preachy many. The easiest approach is to pick out recommendations from the blogrolls of blogs you already like. I’m always open to suggestions. You can find some of my suggestions on the Andrew Marr link above. All of these give insights into some aspects of modern life.

What about yours? Where do you go for excitement and “how to endure existence”?