6.17.2006

Can I call John Updike the Nitwit of the Day?

So, John Updike thinks blogging is "like a video game" does he?
Has he ever read one? Or played a video game?
Now, admittedly my own experience with video games is mostly interactions with the new Chase terminals but I've seen Playstation and taken a few runs at Grand Theft Auto (the subway version) and much like porn and art I can tell the difference when I see 'em.

Here's what Mr. Updike said in the Rocky Mountain News:



"You type in your blog, and some other people read it, and so you create a print society apart from real society and you're getting the gratification of expressing yourself . . . It's a way to develop a public persona, but it's very undiscriminating, and very 'me-minded.' We're all me-minded. We all have egos."



Now, when you do a little judicious cutting and pasting in the Miss Snark video game you get:

You type your novel and some other people read it, and so you create a print society apart from real society and you're getting the gratification of expressing yourself . . . It's a way to develop a public persona, but it's very undiscriminating, and very 'me-minded.' We're all me-minded. We all have egos."



I'm not sure why Mr Updike thinks novels or writers should fear blogs. Dog knows talking about novels in public IS a dangerous idea, but yanno, I'm still gonna do it.




Thanks to the incomparable, if not fully recovered, Bellisima for the link

27 comments:

E. Ann Bardawill said...

"You type your resume and some other people read it, and so you create a print society apart from real society and you're getting the gratification of expressing yourself . . . It's a way to develop a public persona, but it's very undiscriminating, and very 'me-minded.' We're all me-minded. We all have egos."

Hey!
This IS fun!!

McKoala said...

"You type your name and some other people read it, and so you create a print society apart from real society and you're getting the gratification of expressing yourself . . . It's a way to develop a public persona, but it's very undiscriminating, and very 'me-minded.' We're all me-minded. We all have egos."

Tee hee

Mark said...

I'll trade mine for an Updike any day. "Upgrade" is the understatement of the century, so in essence I agree with him: This is pure vanity and his is a salable product line. I want that form of vanity.

the comma police said...

I've seen Playstation and taken a few runs at Grand Theft Auto (the subway version) and much like porn and art...

Each new revelation helps us build a fuller picture of that complex character that is Miss Snark.

I, also, much like porn and art...

Anonymous said...

When I read that article in my morning's paper, I had to agree with Mr. Updike. But the blogs that came to mind weren't Miss Snark or other agent blogs that provide valuable information, or the political blogs I read for the real news the mainstream media refuse to provide, but the many, many Live Journal bloggers who blather on about every little detail of their lives. I don't understand why those blogs exist. They strike me as a grandiose method of talking to oneself.

-ril said...

An interesting quote as addendum to the discussion on when writers should stop seeking feedback, too:


"Sometime later," he tells me, slipping into second person, "you wonder why these other books came first."

You gotta love a man who has won nearly every prize the literary world has to offer and who can still angst like an insecure debutante.

Sherry Decker said...

I'll never have a blog (never say never, I know) because it wouldn't take me very long (not as long as it took Updike) to put my foot squarely in my mouth. And, even if I were to (ha ha) become a famous writer I would never give an interview because inserting both feet would surely hurt.

Anita Daher said...

The up: A good thing about this society apart from real society is that it allows me interaction with others, often writer friends, at a time that is convenient for all of us. It's how we stay updated with each other's lives.

The down: Blogging is fun. Sometimes, it is more fun to update the blog than it is to get busy and write that next chapter. Blogging can suck creative energy...as can leaving comments on other people's blogs.

archer said...

Didn't he sort of invent Rabbitania?

Kirsten said...

Updike appears to be carving out a new niche for himself in which he leads what he imagines to be a direly-needed charge against digital technology in general.

E.g. Booksquare linked a piece about some things he said at BEA, urging the publishing industry to resist having books digitized.
http://www.booksquare.com/archives/2006/05/24/1975/

Somewhere else I read a remark by someone, along the lines of: Updike made a very nice living in the mid- to late-20th century publishing industry and he's disturbed to see the game changing.

It's not going to hurt his income but he's reacting to it as IF it would. Not good form. But I suppose when you're ensconced on the Golden Dais of Lettres the way he is you can say what you want . . . as long as anyone listening only humors him, and doesn't take anything he says to heart.

Sue said...

As other poseters have said: it depends on the blog.

Most, I suspect, are daily, personal, on-line journals, memoirs-lite perhaps. I have about as much interest in them as I so in Jerry Springer. I am positive there is an audience, but I wouldn't want to be the one on stage.

Others, like Miss Snark's and many of those of agents and editors and some writers, are themed, hence personal only in the way an essay of opinion is personal, and worthy for education, edification and enlightenment.

LJCohen said...

Anonymous--as blogs go, mine is probably somewhere between the 'value added' of a topic-focused blog and the 'blathering' type you decry. So why do I bother?

Given the amount of folks who read and comment on my blog, it's not strictly talking to myself, but a loose conversation among other writers. It's also a way to be in community with networks of blogs--for example, I'm part of 'poetry thursday'.

Vanity to want to share my writing? Maybe. But I also follow many other writers' blogs and find their writing sources of inspiration.

As compared to typical websites, blogs are far simpler to maintain and update and so more people have them. That makes for some interesting reading of diverse voices.

I like blogs, but YMMV.

Maya said...

I suspect Mr. Updike is relishing his role as critic of the new technology.

He got so much press over his comments at the BEA that I'm wondering if he's embracing the position of Luddite in the brave, new digital world.

See http://bookexpocast.com/ for a podcast of his BEA speech.

Anonymous said...

Back in the old days, when we had to walk uphill in the snow both ways to find other people to interact with, we used to say, "You make conversation at parties and some other people listen, and so you create a party-going society apart from real society and you're getting the gratification of expressing yourself . . . It's a way to develop a public persona, but it's very undiscriminating, and very 'me-minded.' We're all me-minded. We all have egos."

Bernita said...

Oh, those dreadful, declasse bloggers, Mr. Updike!
Not Real Writers.
Harumph!
Not like it was when you began...

LJCohen said it well.
And Maya.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

"..but the many, many Live Journal bloggers who blather on about every little detail of their lives. I don't understand why those blogs exist. They strike me as a grandiose method of talking to oneself."

It's not the topic, but the telling, friend. The most boring life can make for fascinating fodder if it's in the hands of the right storyteller/wordstringer.

I agree most bloggers hold themselves to no standard of communication whatsoever--but read any slush pile. You'll soon realize that truly great writers are few. In fact, listen to any cell phone convo and you realize that most of us don't have many standards for communication in RL either.

emolfneh said...

I have a livejournal, and sure a lot of it is just boring babble about the state of my life, but it's also a fun way to communicate, meet people, and stay in touch with friends (especially those that are moving on in their lives or buys - you get a glimpse into their lives). Plus livejournal has communities that act as forums for people with like interests. I love it and won't be giving it up any time soon.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Far be it from me to call the nitwit a nitwit ... even if he is one. We princesses simply don't do that sort of thing.

Now, twit, yes. ... He's a twit. No doubt about that.

Here I thought he was dead. Or was it just that he managed to bore me to death?

My, I'm cranky today, aren't I? Good thing I'm only a pixie princess. If I was a little Goddess, I'd be zapin' people left and right today! And I'd be demaning a prompt sacrifice of the largest size Hershey Bar with Almonds, and a seat at Starbucks with MY NAME ON IT. (Oh, I think I have that one already!) And, I want ... oh just lots of groveling and stuff! and ... Sorry, I'm off topic now. It's all due to lack of chocolate! I know it is!

MWT said...

"..but the many, many Live Journal bloggers who blather on about every little detail of their lives. I don't understand why those blogs exist. They strike me as a grandiose method of talking to oneself."

I bet you wonder even more about the blogs like that that not only exist, but also have "friends-only" options so that only a select few people can read them.

They exist because the writers are sharing their lives with their friends. It isn't intended as some sort of literary revolution. It's about community.

Sue said "I am positive there is an audience,..."

Yes. That would be their friends. It's like a modern form of letter writing. Sometimes it's easier to say something once in a centralized place and point everyone to it, than to have to say it over and over to multiple people.

If you're not a friend/relative of the writer, then no, there is no reason why you should be interested in it. So don't read it.

Online communities are just as real as "in real life" ones. The friends you make on them are real people, and you can love them, hate them, and otherwise care about what happens to them in exactly the same ways. Yes, people can lie on them - and perhaps the medium makes that easier. But it happens in real life too. In short, it's exactly the same. Only the details are different due to the medium used to convey the interactions.

***

Incidentally, I've noticed that the HTML tags don't work right in the blog comments. Whenever someone bolds, italicizes, or whatever, all I see on my end is:

"/*

I don't know if that's browser-specific (I'm using Opera) but it might be something y'all want to keep in mind while composing your own comments.

Anonymous said...

Whether you like him or not, whether you think he's a nitwit or not, the guy can sure write.

Read him and learn.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for the Anonymity:

I'm with Mark. Say what you will, but professionally speaking, Updike taking a crap on the first page of a spiral-bound notebook is still a hundred times better than the opening paragraph of most people's novels, published or un-.

Boring? Never. Ever.

He's not God, no. And, in fact, he's not even arrogant:

"If ego necessarily comes with those who create, I see no evidence of arrogance. He answers every question graciously and expansively, if in a somewhat dispirited tone."

But he's still seen a lot of trends come and go. It's foolish for people to blow him off because he's old, or because he earns big advances. In my opinion, the nitwits are the ones poo-pooing his reluctance to embrace the lifestyle or and activities that most bloggers devote/waste a sizeable chunk of their waking hours to honing.

I'm truly jealous of Updike's ability to lock himself a shed and write a novel without letting himself get distracted by all the games and company online. The results of his dedication speaks for itself.

Anonymous said...

Blogs are fun and informative. Why should Mr. Updike like them? -JTC

Anonymous said...

I never liked his stuff, so no need to listen.

About three decades back he was quoted (I'm pretty sure it was himself) in my local rag: "There are enough books, we don't need any new writers, they should give it up." Words to that effect.

My father, an Archie Bunker type if there ever was one and wholly unable to understand my need to write, very helpfully put that clipping under my nose. He thought a comment like that from a famous author would cause me to give up and continue with piano lessons. (Yeah, musicians make tons more money that writers, yuh-huh.)

I took a hole puncher to the clipping, called dear dad to the bathroom and had him watch while I flushed the confetti down the loo.

After that he backed off on the discouragement button.

Sometimes it's good to be a b&&&&.

Perhaps Mr. Uptight would help himself to a big steaming cup of shut the &&&& up so the rest of us can get on with things.

jeanjeanie said...

"...the many, many Live Journal bloggers who blather on about every little detail of their lives. I don't understand why those blogs exist."

Speaking as a former LiveJournaler, I think the intended audience for those blogs are generally friends and family. It's a shortcut to keeping in touch, like a daily newsletter. The mystifying thing is when strangers stumble upon them and keep reading. I was always a little astonished when people I didn't know piped up to comment on my weekend plans. And always a little irritated with family members who failed to read my blog and made me repeat what was new in my life.

Of course, my blogger blog's not much better and serves much the same purpose. But at least I make a little more of an attempt to be interesting.

V said...

Give the old man a break. Updike is perhaps the greatest American Writer since Mr. Bellow`s demise.
V

S. W. Vaughn said...

Guess I'm the only one who was mightily offended by that whole article.

My comments won't fit here. I had to "type on my blog" in a very me-minded and self-gratifying way to get them out.

jude calvert-toulmin said...

> I'm not sure why Mr Updike thinks novels or writers should fear blogs.

I have encountered the same thing myself as recently as...er...yesterday. As I have said before on these comment sections, one of my closest mates is a best selling novelist, in fact the documentary made from one of his books is now the best selling documentary of all time (I'm not saying this to blah blah blah about my connections, I'm sure many of you have got wow wow connections, I'm just pointing out that this phenomenon is not limited to John Updike.)

Anyway, I mailed him with a link to my most recent blog entry, which is an account, taken from recent experience (but with names and locations changed) about dealing with a friend who is in the grip of serious alcoholism. His response was "Jude, you know I don’t do blogs or forums." I emailed him back "Twat. Jxx". He will be getting a printout of it when I see him tomorrow.

I also mailed another close friend who has just retired from his job as the creator and editor of a top British climbing mag. His response was the same, "I will never go on a blog." (I sent him the article as a word attachment instead ;) )

This is vaguely frustrating, because imho my mates are missing out on a world of information. But as anonymous says:

> I'm truly jealous of Updike's ability to lock himself a shed and write a novel without letting himself get distracted by all the games and company online. The results of his dedication speaks for itself.

Well, I’m not jealous of anyone; even if they tried it on with my partner it would elicit disdain rather than jealousy, but you’re right, anonymous. Blogs have the potential to distract from the isolation and dedication of the work of writing. The key is, as with anything else, to be sensible and not let blogs take over your life.

I now set aside time for blogging; writing my own and contributing to the comments sections of my favourite blogs. But to dismiss blogs per se is shortsighted, no matter what your age or degree of success.