Monday, January 28, 2013

blogging as performance, persona

There's a discussion going on online about the brief yet lovely conversation I had with Barbara Browning and Matias Viegener after our reading at McNally Jackson on Thursday. (I loved Siân Evans' notes at her Conversations with Women Tumblr about my conversation on modern women and failure the night before with Lisa Cohen. The important detail missing is that my striped Zelda dress popped wide open at one moment, speaking of performativity/exhibitionism). We were talking about our FB (private) conversation we were having about the word "bloggy." And I was saying I did not like the word "bloggy" to describe Heroines, as it was many times, that it was a limiting word, and one that suggests something that I think does not encapsulate the book project, or is in many ways anachronistic of a lot of the book. Emily Gould wrote a blog post/event write-up where she brings up the idea of blogging being performative, and of the performance of different identities online as being quite urgent and interesting. Of course I agree! In fact the end of Heroines is a paen to blogs, to their radical forms, to the performance of blogs. I thought perhaps I'd excerpt a couple of scraps from Heroines about blogging (which the ending of Part Two circles around). Because often I can be more articulate in writing than in a brief post-reading conversation!
Yet perhaps our writing needs to be fragmented to fit our fragmented times. Sometimes yes the online notebooks feed our other writing, as experimental incubators, like Rhys with her Ropemaker Notebook. But sometimes the posts are just what they are—unfinished, fragmented, explorations into something. We don’t wish to formalize them into books. We want them to remain as they are—RAW, our own material. And how liberatory and open this virtual space can be, we are allowed to present different personas, performances, like Pessoa’s heteronyms, like Viv’s heteronyms for The Criterion. And online we get absolute permission not to push towards “finishing” towards “polish” towards “professionalism.”

The Professor Xs would hate our blogs: unfinished, bodily, excessive, nakedly autobiographical, even when written under pseudonyms. Perhaps all the reason to write them.


With my first published book, I had to exit the private bubble of my dinner party with the mad wives, and begin to negotiate becoming a public writer-self in the world. Because of this, the blog began to be overtaken by doubt, or rather become a performance of this doubt. The posts began to be about what it was like to be a minor writer in the world, these moments of humiliation, of abjection, of shame. Perhaps a refusal to swallow, a vomiting forth.

And thus began a public diary experiment, threading throughout a reflection on what I was reading, using literature as a way to make sense of my existence (some might call it Bovarizing). I wasn’t the only one doing it—there’s a whole league of us writers who are theatricalizing our lives. We make each other characters in our narratives, some of us constantly referencing, linking to, and reading each other. Our blogs reflect a performance of the self that is as much about our private lives as it is about navigating a public space. We are the relentless documentarians of our own quotidian, its gorgeous gasps and banalities. Today, Today, we title our posts. This reminds me of the beginning of Ingeborg Bachmann’s Malina (“in fact, today is a word which only suicides ought to use; it has no meaning for other people”), a work that is a beautiful meditation on how to navigate being both the woman-writer and the woman-character. Online we negotiate and navigate what it means to be a writer, for some of us what it means to be a woman, except we aren’t celebrities like Bachmann was in her time in Austria.

Yet of course many of us don’t write every day. Sometimes there are long lapses of not writing or posting. That’s why I think of this form as a form of l'écriture féminine: a rhythm of silence and raw emotion, these fervent utterings.

Colette Peignot writing on her scrap of paper that she gave to Bataille as she lay dying, a communication felt as nakedness. These scraps that we pass back and forth to each other.  A dialogue, a communicaton: the Internet. So intimate. These writings are the shudderings of the ego and lamenting the wound. We blubber and ooze. Texts that are raw and vulnerable,  bodily and excessive. Sometimes freaking out in public. We are naked, like Karen Finley.

My blog at time feels like a toilet bowl, a confessional, a field hospital.

Our posts are often self-reflective, interrogating the form itself, threatening often to quit it, worrying that it deviates from our “real” writing. The girls who cry Woolf. All these fragmented, image-strewn, public records of self which are sometimes about the disintegration of self. We are nauseous, narcissists.

Sometimes there seems to be so much dialogue and activity and feverish writing in this public space, and sometimes it seems to retreat. Perhaps we are performing our own oblivion that we feel as writers in the outside world, many of us unpublished or published on small presses. Lately I feel no one’s been blogging anymore, no one’s commenting, everyone’s quitting, forming new blogs, new aliases, and then it all begins again. We cycle together. A fear and compulsion towards confessionalism, towards blurring boundaries. We write of this bleeding.