The Nine Year Itch
I realized the other day that it had been nine years since I started blogging. At the time, I was working for a software company in Los Angeles and spent lots of time experimenting with shiny new things online. Although I had been reading blogs for a few months by then, I didn’t really take the plunge until after the terrorist attacks of September 11. Starting a blog seemed like a necessary outlet for all the rage I felt. I often commented on politics, culture, and literature, and eventually started to post several times a day. I met a lot of people online, some great, some not so great. I received many sweet notes of encouragement and the occasional hate mail. I discovered a lot of books and writers I would not have otherwise heard about—and that is something for which I remain grateful.
After a while, the literary debates online seemed to me somewhat cyclical. There were always stories about how independent bookstores were closing, how few newspapers still ran reviews, how Amazon was manipulating the market, which book was shortlisted for this or that prize, which book was picked to be on Oprah, which writers were feuding, which writer had dissed another one in a review, how few books by women were reviewed in major newspapers, how differently books by writers of color were marketed to the reading public, and so on. In 2001, when I had started blogging, Jonathan Franzen, having just published The Corrections, said he was uncomfortable about having an Oprah sticker on his book because it might drive away male readers. Now it is 2010, and Jonathan Franzen has a new novel out, Freedom, and again it has an Oprah sticker on it, but this time he is fine with it. You might see this is a sign of change, but it looks to me more like a sign of continuity.
After enduring eight years of Bush, it seemed like the era of Obama was going to finally usher in some change. But nine years after the attacks, American troops are still stationed in Afghanistan, with no end in sight; Guantanamo Bay is still open; and the country is still on high alert for terrorists. In 2001, the country was awash in anti-Muslim comments. Remember Franklin Graham’s comments that Islam is a “very wicked and evil religion”? Well, it’s 2010, and the anti-Muslim comments are at an all-time high. Marty Peretz says that “Muslim life is cheap” and that “I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse” and there isn’t really any serious fallout for him or his magazine. I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. Maybe because I want to explain to you why I haven’t been blogging as much. Having to face the same inane “controversies” has made me weary.