I need more blogs to follow like… oh, like I need more books in the home stacks, I guess. And yet, like the aforementioned books, that doesn’t seem to stop me. So I offer, herewith, three new blogs that I’ve been enjoying lately:
Book Riot is the brainchild of Jeff O’Neal, proprietor of the thoughtful (and hopefully not defunct) The Reading Ape, and Clinton Kabler. They’ve pulled together a lively stable of writers and lured in Bethanne Patrick, of Shelf Awareness and Friday Reads, as Executive Editor. The result is a funny, rapid-fire series of features that mine the sweet spot where the literary world and the rest of pop culture intersect. There’s been some talk of captivating the post-YA 18-35 reading demographic, which is apparently underserved—I find that fact a little hard to wrap my blog-saturated brain around, but I trust Bethanne to know what she’s talking about—but target sector notwithstanding, it’s a very irreverent, entertaining read for anyone who doesn’t take the business too seriously, including this old fart. Recent favorite posts include a series titled “Drop It Like It’s Haute: The Jersey Shore Booktionary,” which repurposes Jersey Shore slang as literary terminology; an eclectic Spotify playlist of Songs Based on Books and Authors that actually plays like a good mix; and a timely section on Spooky (and not-so-spooky) Reads. Don’t worry about their “It’s not a book club… it’s a movement” slogan—it’s a blog, and a totally hopping one at that.
Lisa Levy, a writer and critic who is very much alive, as far as I can tell, has recently launched the sharp-looking and smart blog Dead Critics. The scope is actually a bit wider than the title would have you think: “dead critics, a few live critics, and the nature of critical inquiry.” Which could encompass a lot of what’s out there, but Levy’s got some great lead-off essays—about Lester Bangs, Wayne Kostenbaum, David Lodge, and Dwight Macdonald, among others. Her commentary is incisive, and it’s fun to see these cultural placeholders brought up to speed for the 21st century:
What would Macdonald make of this? Maybe he would be impressed with our ability to escape Midcult and Masscult and create so many idiosyncratic art forms and ways to express ourselves outside a much more insidious and encroaching media than the world of the Lucepapers. Or maybe it would have had the Lord High Executioner sharpening his knives.
Did I mention that this is one attractive site? Not that looks are everything, but… rrrraowr.
GalleyCat’s Jason Boog has put together Sad Men, a Tumblr subtitled “What writers can learn from the Great Depression.” Born out of the winter of 2008, when Boog had recently lost his job and was staring this age’s Great Recession square in the eye, Sad Men is a collection of photos and artwork, links to all sorts of thought-provoking Depression-era material, and Boog’s own musings on the correlations between then and now. Of particular interest, appropriately, is the Federal Writers Project. It’s a rich subject in itself, but he’s interested in its resonance for writers struggling today, asking “Does a Federal Writers Project make sense in a world of bloggers and tweeters?” (he thinks it does) and “Who will write about the 99%?” (with some wonderful links to poems by Kenneth Fearing, a poet-chronicler of the 1930s who’s almost unknown now). Boog is working on a book on the subject, and here he offers us a repository of his research—the results are both beautiful and heartbreaking, all the more so because they could very well be us. In a 2009 essay for Wabash College Magazine describing the genesis of his project, Boog describes Maxwell Bodenheim, a once-successful author known as “King of the Greenwich Village Bohemians”:
By 1936, a New York Times article found him peddling poems for 25-cents apiece. The newspaper reporter parodied his sorry group selling poetry in the park: “Once more the sturdy fence at Washington Square South and Thompson Street bore its burden of handwritten, typed and mimeographed sheets. The occasional thud of a tennis ball on the inside of the enclosure was a disconcerting novelty, but otherwise the sound effects were merely the gay, chattery, wistful comments of poets on parade.”
We don’t have to sell poems for a quarter apiece anymore. We’re bloggers—we can give them away for free. But we can also read them for (relatively) free. Whatever else we may be having to go without, we’re not lacking for ways to stay connected. So here are three more, from the irreverent to the critical to the serious, whichever place you find yourself at, even—especially—all of them at once.