Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jef supports solipsism solidly

I was a little dismayed this week to read a column ripping Joel Stein. The fact that it was written by the same Joel Stein didn’t help matters any, especially since he’s one of my favorites, placing me in the curious position of raving about a column that was illuminating me as a sucker for doing so. Further ruining and saving the day simultaneously was the fact that he was kind of coming out as a narcissist, which naturally meant that the column was about himself instead of about me, but it could have been about me if he were the obscure Internet blogger and I were the Time Magazine columnist.

I’ve always believed that good writing was personal, no matter what the style or subject. Whether it’s a novel, nonfiction, a comic strip or the school lunch menu, it’s all autobiography at some level, and the writer just needs to decide how many levels to cloak it beneath. With Frazz, with Trizophrenia, with this blog, I made the decision not to cloak it beneath very much at all. I’d write about my own life, which sounds like the easy way out until you realize that it behooves you as much as it frees you to go out and have a life interesting enough to bother writing about.

Then Stein goes and makes narcissism sound like a bad thing. Or if not bad, at least unoriginal. “All bloggers write in the first person,” he wrote in the third person, “spending hours each day chronicling their anger at their kids for taking away their free time.” Okay, I don’t have kids, but I do spend a lot of time writing about how much time I don’t have. I can withstand that semi-direct hit, but I can’t abide by the suggestion that I got that way following his lead. Self-absorbed behavior and infantile behavior go hand in hand, and infantile suggests we’ve been this way since we were in diapers. Stein was born in 1971, meaning I’ve been self-absorbed nearly a decade longer than he has. I win!

That assumes we had similar diaper histories, but I don’t think that aspect of my life is interesting enough to write about. Stein may feel differently. He may write about his life in Huggies someday. And then … well, I don’t know if that makes him the winner or me the winner. All I know is, God help me, I’ll read it and be a sucker for doing so, and it will cost me precious minutes I’m supposed to be out there doing interesting things. Perhaps I will complain about it on my blog in the first person.


Liz H. said...

I sort of thought blogs were more personal opinion and standard journalism was more objective. (Though all art, writing included, requires personal involvement from the artist.)

But the lines are getting more blurred; media trends are changing, and some blogs nowadays are taken more seriously than some print periodicals. I haven't seen the article you mention, but maybe Stein is shooting down bloggers because they threaten his job.