Thursday, January 09, 2003

It's Pronounced peeps

The big thing right now is Samuel Pepys' journal, but I've read pieces of it as it comes online, and I'm not finding it anywhere near as exciting as the hype might suggest. Is it just me, or are a quarter of the blogs I read more interesting than this? Am I missing something? Is this merely a large-scale case of the "it's old, so it must be good" phenomenon?

The folks who run The Pepys Dcomentation Project, a.k.a how to write a blog they'll read in 100 years, think this is a model for immortality. But I think they're using too narrow a set of assumptions in trying to determine what qualities and approaches would make for a blog which will rise above the chaff and remain relevant, a sterling detailed piece of history, for years to come. The authors of the site suggest, among other things, that it was Pepys' attention to detail about the plague, the great fire of london, and the aftermath of the English Civil War as well as the triviality of daily life in another time and place that makes the difference. But for a counter-example, look at Gilgamesh: so old we hardly have any of it left; it is mythos, not trivia-laden fact, yet it's still relevant, read commonly in required freshman college seminars as a way to understand one of the most ancient cultures we know.

Style is, indeed, relevant; good literature needs important silences as much as it needs important words (if not more), and good literature will survive regardless of how concrete it can be about the trivial. And no, this isn't irrelevant; I submit that public writing, most especially the blog, is literature by definition. Even the bad stuff -- it's just bad literature. After Surrealism and Dadism and Post-Modernism, laundry lists can be art as well as artifact. The Cobain Diaries are selling like hotcakes. Reportedly, they're lurid, but hardly oriented towards the detail which the Pepys Dcomentation Project suggests is inherent in immortality. You can't tell me that specificity and timeliness of content is the x-factor which determines immortality or future readership relevance. In fact, I'd suggest that the vast majority of what makes a text historically relevant is cultural, not personal, and thus entirely out of the hands of the author.

Hmph. Need I be such a contrarian all the time? And what the heck does Dcomentation mean?

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