Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Literary Blogs & LumpenBlog Review

(Edited and expanded from a post at Omnium)

A new wave of bloggers is starting to turn the blog into an art form of its own. What was once reserved for political and social commentary, personal diaries, and self-indulgent rants has begun to attract people with real talent who are using the blog as a creative device.

The first of these I noticed (and still, to my mind, the best of them) was indiejade'sThe Mermaid Tavern. What attracted me about it, besides the fact that it was hysterically funny, was that indiejade had taken the personal blog to a different level by inventing a character of sorts--'the philosofairy'--and translating the small observations and events of--presumably--her life into Benchley-esque stories that reached out to connect indiejade's everyday reality to everybody's everyday reality. I'd never read anything quite like it and it opened my mind to new possibilities for the way blogs could be used.

Shortly after that I ran into Dan Roentsch's Lumpen Blog, a much more straightforward, almost old style fictive invention shoe-horned into a blog format. Dan took the concept of the group blog and created a cast of characters for his bloggers: there are three of them and they all work as professors at the entirely (one hopes) imaginary Belverton University as well as being the editorial staff of the university publishing house, the BelvU Press.

LumpenBlog may be the earliest example of this fictive use of the blog format--he started his in January '03 and I haven't been able to find one older--and thus Roentsch its inventor--but he's no longer the only one. LumpenBlog seems to have spawned a few spin-offs. Or maybe there was something in the air and everybody got similar ideas at the same time.

However it happened, something brand new has been added to blogging--a whole genre devoted to what I must call ("I must! I must!" [Cleavon Little, Blazing Saddles]) blog-fiction, or, more pretentiously, the literary blog. This site will be devoted to finding, reviewing, and spreading the word on this new literary field. We're going to start gathering a collection of these lit-blogs in one convenient place especially for fans of fiction and good wrting. If we find good journal sites which are non-fiction but well-written and we think would be interesting to a wider audience than the blogger's immediate friends and family, we'll include those, too. We may even re-print a particularly well-written essay from a political or cultural blog from time-to-time.

In other words, the emphasis here is on good writing. Not all the writing in the Blogosphere is turgid, academic prose or mindless egocentric babbling. There is real talent here, and for the most part it is going unsung. LitBlog intends to sing it. And what better place to start than with the pioneer who may have started it all: Dan Roentsch's LumpenBlog.

LumpenBlog--The Cast
Barry Fest is a your classic clueless ivory-tower academic: surrounded by beauty, he pigeonholes it; faced with complexity, he writes a memo about it. As vain as he is, he is capable of discussing in a calm level voice his seduction by a much younger woman without realizing that's what it is.
Yesterday I was seated behind my desk, but facing away from it, so that I could work at the computer behind me. Moliere came in, unannounced and uninvited, and approached me from behind.

I was annoyed at the interruption, but I do not want to discourage the attempts of younger men and women to make a connection, as it were, with the elders they recognize as possessing the wisdom and experience they so eagerly, anxiously, nay desperately seek. Before I could turn to face her and say hello, she climbed up on my desk behind me and placed her feet on each of the two arm-rests of my chair. She had pulled her dress back so that it would not cover my head, and her knees were forward of my ears. If I turned my head left or right I would have struck a thigh with my nose.

I could not help but notice a green tattoo in the shape of a dagger on the inside of her right ankle. I also noticed a certain musky odor — an odor which I have never quite been able to place, but which I have always admired on women.
As blatant as this is, Barry doesn't get it.

Desmond Cork is the Rock Prof, an example of what happens to failed rockers who go into academia. He calls people 'cats' (he calls his wife 'the babe-cat'), writes dense prose laden with 'hep-talk' about rock bands nobody has ever heard of (or ever will), and has a sort of war on against the Power of Estrogen, to which he seems to ascribe all the evils of the world. So it's not really a suprise that's he's always breaking up with the Babe-Cat or that his understanding of even the most superficial music is, well, superficial. Explaining how the word 'gig' was born, he tells the story of an unknown rocker named Gig Spackle of the punk band 'Caulk'.
Okay, like, you also should know that, in those days, department stores used to rent out empty racks to musicians real cheap so they could have a place to sleep without doing the hotel thing. Well, when Caulk was through for the night about 50 estrogen-crazed chicks screaming for friction followed the band back to their racks at the Bowery Woolworth's.

The other members of Caulk were able to hide inside one of those lawn-weasel displays, but Gig was pinned to his rack by three of these chicks, and the rest just lined up to take turns having their vicious, female way with him. The next morning they found him stretched out in a bin of flip-flops, and he had nothing left to ... contribute, if you know what I mean. (I think he manages summer tours now. There are some pictures of him standing behind the B-52's and looking real tired still.)
Nefertiti Snorkjutt is Demond's worst nightmare--a proto-crypto-feminist. Snorkjutt is very concerned about weak women being dragged into the cluches of the brutal male and belongs to (if she didn't create--I came in late) Misogyny Watch whose purpose is to rescue such unlucky women.
A few weeks ago we started getting reports on a fellow I, well, only feel justified in calling Bruce, even though his real name is rather more exotic. Here were the reports we got:

* March 4 - Asked on a date by a strong woman, refuses, asserting: "I need a chick with tattoos."
* March 12 - Approaches colleague on a Friday night, asks her if she's busy that weekend. On ascertaining her availability, asks: "Can I try out my Cialis refill on ya?"
* March 19 - A week later, arrives at a young woman's house for what was supposed to be a night of shimmering romance, and asks: "So, ya really wanna do the dinner thing, or ya just wanna start slammin'?"

That, well, was all we needed to know to pay Bruce a call. It was my turn, so I made the visit. When he opened his apartment door he was wearing a day's worth of stubble, a t-shirt that looked like it came right out of the plastic pack, and a pair of tight jeans with a silhouette in the crotch that looked more like Florida than Cape Cod.
Prof Snorjutt has an...eye for the one thing that interests her.

The LumpenBlog is by turns snide, even vicious, sneaky and rude but it's almost always amusing, though as with most soap operas, you have to stay with the characters for a while before you get hooked on both them and the SO-like twists and turns in the plot(s). Next to Fafblog! or Mermaid, LumpenBlog may seem a little old-fashioned; it is anything but. What it is is an entirely new type of fiction morphed out of all recognition from the serial-fiction of a hundred+ years ago (think Dickens and Thackeray) and slammed up against contemporary culture--reality shows, soap operas, film, politics, sketch comedy, even radio--to destroy its shape even further. It's a (very loooong) novel, of sorts, in blog-form that has connections to the tale-singers of Greece and the minstrel-bards of the Rennaissance who used to tell different episodes--'further adventures of'--about characters loved by their audiences on each return visit to a town.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey cat - You're a one man army! I'm just grateful you're using your powers for the good.


July 7, 2004 at 11:02 PM  
Blogger Mick said...

May it be ever thus. At least until such time as I can sell out for Big Bucks.

July 8, 2004 at 7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"At least until such time as I can sell out for Big Bucks."

When you do, could you send me how-to instructions? Don't leave out any steps.


July 9, 2004 at 12:45 AM  
Blogger Mick said...

A: I did NOT post anonymously. What's that about?
B: You'll be the first to know. BUT...

The 'Free Version' will have some key pages removed before mailing. If you 'Upgrade" to the 'Paid Version", for only $2.50/month you can have access to the pages that have been removed AND a

July 9, 2004 at 1:00 AM  
Blogger Mick said...

(it whomped it right out of my hands before I finished my sales pitch!)

AND a 30-sec audio tape with my personal recommendations for getting rich the easy way, a 60-sec video tape at the ridiculously reduced price of $99.99 (payable in 4 easy monthly installments of $59.99 each), AND a personally autographed picture for only $29.99 pstpd (a regular $69.99 value).

Most major credit cards accepted.

July 9, 2004 at 1:07 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

A: Because I didn't want to create an account at blogspot. Now that I've created one, I'm going to have to wear tinfoil in my hat.

B: How about moving the instructions to an Open Source license? That way I can modify them, redistribute them, then blame you when they don't work.

July 9, 2004 at 2:44 AM  
Blogger Mick said...

Hmm. I don't understand. If I do it that way, what do I get out of it? Where's the profit? Where's the cash? This is America, dammit! SHOW ME THE MONEY! Otherwise, what's the point of selling out?

July 10, 2004 at 2:15 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

-->>"what do I get out of it?"

Morlock chicks.

July 10, 2004 at 9:48 PM  
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