Saturday, July 19, 2008

Geeks overshare as a matter of course. It’s what makes us geeks. We want to collect lots of knowledge and experience and talk about it all night. That’s our birthright. Obviously you don’t always make friends that way, but in the real world the friends you make that way are the ones you tend to stay with forever.

I don’t follow blog beef anymore, and I have almost no relationship with the New York literary world, so-called. I barely even qualify as a former Gawker employee; beyond the Idolator editors I maybe met three people who were involved with it on a day-to-day basis, maybe twice at the most. So I have little real idea what goes on with anyone’s irritation level when it comes to some recent, much-linked stuff I won’t bother to link myself. It reminds me, if anything, of the kinds of arguments I used to preoccupy myself with on ILM, arguments I look back on now with a mixture of dismissal and embarrassment. Not that I’m passing judgment: argue about whatever you want, it can be invigorating. I just think there are better horse races to be found.

But oversharing: I’ve definitely done that. Especially when I was in my early 20s. Some people I’m still in touch with were around for that, and they’ve politely refused to bring it up in my company, for which I thank them. I was neurotic and needed attention badly. I had ideas but they were intermingled with bullshit--usually not consciously, but consciously often enough that I could kid myself I knew what I was doing. I had some idea, sure, and some of that writing holds up OK. But I wouldn’t want to republish anything I wrote before 1999, especially some of the stuff that went into the New York Press, like the awfully-written first draft of my review of the second Cibo Matto album, an arrogant-prick fiesta that Dolan called me up and gave me a stern lecture about when I turned it in. At the time I was mad about him saying, “Those jokes aren’t funny.” I hadn’t intended them as jokes. Remembering that makes the memory worse, because while I was right about the album being dull, my broadside was classic off-the-mark superciliousness. It’s a memory I like to forget, but for some reason feel like committing to the public record. Like I said, oversharing.

There was a period where I was far too careful in my writing, around my first go-round with the Seattle Weekly. I had been so slapdash early on (facile, able to write a review in the time it took to listen to the record, many times a review you could sensibly publish, and sometimes they were printed like that), and that was hit-or-miss, so when I got out west and had time on my hands and an office I had a key to (a beautiful office, I miss the physical space of the Weekly far more than anything) I could really sit and sweat things out. I would refuse to type out the first thing that came to mind; I didn’t want to overshare. Well, OK, that’s just me shoehorning in our opening gambit where it doesn’t fit. But I wanted every word to be my own. I figured out that Dolan would rewrite everything he didn’t hear a voice in, which early on when I was trying to connect the dots meant he did a lot of rewriting. I knew the only way to publish something entirely of my own was to make it entirely my own--to phrase things inalterably, to at least attempt to make the words jump, and jump where I told them to jump.

That’s what you don’t see much of in blogs or post-blog writing: a sense that the writer has to clear an obstacle, to work at saying what s/he is trying to really say instead of just setting down the first thing and thinking you can move on. As one-note as I find much young-urbanite prose, you can tell it’s been through the wringer. (This post, if it isn’t already obvious, hasn’t been. C’est la vie.) I read Lavinia Greenlaw’s piece in the new Believer music issue and felt like I was on a high wire. It was absolutely taut on the page; I hurtled through it but made sure to stop to re-read lines. Her conclusions were both obvious and not. (Too often writers, including me, settle for one or the other.) It contained no excess. I felt like my eyes were dancing; my brain, too. You simply don’t get that from many blogs, even the blogs I read religiously.