Daily Archives: February 22, 2011

Finding ‘Narrative,’ ver. 1.2

Candyce Canzioneri took this photo of the woods along Alum Creek, Westerville, Ohio

Blog reading has displaced some of my discretionary reading. It’s probably one reason I don’t follow the news as closely anymore. Writers must read what others in their genre are doing, though I’d been posting for almost two years before I started actually reading blogs. Bloggers often impress me greatly. One writes so elegantly; another seems so delightfully concise; another has such colloquial snap. Like any writing done well, a deft blog post is much harder to do than it looks.

But I read blogs now not just because I am trying to do better as a blogger in the narrow sense. I’m hooked by the notion of someone hanging it out there, trying to make sense of his or her chosen domain, while presenting a pleasing or stimulating or unified persona. When I have a little melt down, when I wonder which self I’m trying to present here, I need to read more of my fellow scribes. For beyond using sentences well, what they’re doing is delicate, this crafting of a public self, an avatar for their qualities of X, Y, and Z.

At base there’s T.S. Eliot’s haunting, immortal question in Prufrock: how to prepare a face for the faces that you meet? In cyberspace, we prepare that face in print. It’s a performance, yes. But a mask that reveals, too.

And yet, when I look at my WordPress report on the search terms that some use to find Narrative, I know other readers have other motives. My review, some time ago, of T. Corragesan Boyle’s The Inner Circle must have sent this person here: “iris milk + Kinsey.” And the search “evolutionary psychology global warming” astounds me, since I did join in a brief post those two disparate topics into an odd, obscure union.

Clearly some seekers want help with assignments: “fourth grade narrative essay on nat turner”; “why did nat turner murder”; “summarize the book by vivian gornick ‘the situation and the story’”; “what insights about the writing process have been sparked while developing your narrative essay? what ignited them and what impact have they had on you and this essay?”; “good sentences to make essay impressive.”

But it appears teachers are looking too: “narrative nonfiction books for first grade.” And writers, maybe, or more students: “adverbs used in a narrative essay.”

And, once again, in the imponderable category: “money made man mad”; “crazy narration of personal blog”; “who is annie dillards audience”; a search for “nerrative”; “the same fear that has caused me to push coretta away back in grammar” [school?]; “what was learned in the updike’s story with the word flat?”; “examples of good narrative stories someone gets trapped”; and “jessica naim truthful lips.”

I have no idea what the last means, don’t want to know, and wonder why in the world that person was referred to my blog. Last but not least, the Amen, Brother category: “we construct a narrative for ourselves, and that’s the thread we follow from one day to the next.”

A related issue: When I post, WordPress suggests “possibly related posts (automatically generated).” Sometimes the reason is clear (I’ve written about an author named recently in someone’s else’s blog) and sometimes it’s mystifying.

In either case, I’ve discovered interesting blogs that way. When I reviewed Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir, WordPress linked me to Disillusioned Librarian Blog, a Canadian on books . . . and the disillusionment of being a librarian. While I couldn’t ascertain the reason for the link to my post, I added its RSS feed to my Google page.

It was nice while it lasted; now it appears to be defunct, the librarian having stopped posting almost exactly a year ago. Aren’t abandoned blogs spooky? Like a house someone walked away from. All the lights are still burning, and it’s unlocked, so you can wander around inside, but no one is home. It’s creepy, and you just know there’s a story there.

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