Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Louise's Choice: Novels vs Blogs

Partly due to a lull in my urge to blog, I've been considering whether I should get on with the real writing work I've been practising for - the novel that bubbles away in various paragraphs in various books and files and daydreams. It really pains me to confess to being another of the deluded hoardes who has a novel inside them - it feels a bit like confessing I've found Jesus or am a secret Tory (no I haven't, no I'm not). But it's there, feeling like an addiction in abatement, this blog being a more satisfactory methadone than I understand the real deal to be.

As I deliberated this weekend where to spend my meagre amounts of free time (although I confess in the next few months it's most likely those minutes will be spent on fretting over tiaras and corsages) - book or novel - I came across two things that stimulated my deliberations.

First was a posthumously published piece [of pickled pepper] by Susan Sontag which argues for the importance and superiority of the novel over other forms of mass media. She also attacks the concept of hyperfiction - the rejection of linear narratives that proponents of new forms of storytelling propose as the answer to the presumed confines and limitations of plot - and manages to blame its emergence on television and rubbish thinking within academia.

Then I picked up this introductory video on Cool Hunting about Jonathan Harris - who has made (virtual) flesh Sontag's worst fears by explorations into real multiple stories via last year's project We Feel Fine, where he harvests and presents extracts of blogs with accompanying photos and data from a number of different blog platforms, with the unifying theme being that extracts are pulled only when people have written the words "I feel" and his new project, Universe, where picking up stories and topics from around the internet, he attempts to find where meanings and new mythologies emerge.

I couldn't help think that had Sontag been exposed to We Feel Fine or Universe she would probably be fascinated, and realise that one doesn't really replace the other at all, although I confess there is some displacement of time spent as there was with television and film.

Created with care, works such as Harris's are much more than entertainment and information distribution (also Sontag's criticism of television). New forms of media such as these represent new ways of exploring the world that don't involve words on pages but that do have the possibility to create works which have deeper meaning. In fact, I would say that new forms, which these two works introduce us to, allow more people with different voices unheard, unpublished to be,

"prophetic and critical, even subversive, ... and that is to deepen and sometimes, as needed, to oppose the common understandings of our fate."

- which Sontag lays claim as the job of the novelist. Admittedly it takes another artist such as Harris to help us find the form, to orchestrate what can feel like a cacophony of voices.

All of which still leaves me to ponder which is the most suitable platform for my own prophecies and criticisms. I might blog occasionally, but I'm no Jonathan Harris - although I am excited to be a part of the world he is opening up. But I aint no Sontag either.

I'll think on.

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