“NO ONE IS SUGGESTING YOU CAN CONQUER GAUL BY DEADLIFTING 4 PLATES”

Listen, can everybody cut the crap and cease reiteration of the received wisdom that the New Yorker is the best magazine there is? That’s like saying the British Empire is the best empire there ever was. It’s a shibboleth, a myth about an imaginary upper-crust past, a form of status anxiety.

The New Yorker is a corporate sibling of Wired, Elegant Bride, Teen Vogue, and Condé Nast Traveller. It’s pretentiously written, using even more archaisms than I do (“reëvaluated”; all numbers written as words; all artwork names in quotation marks). Its Web site is an atrocity – but surely a Web site is antithetical to such an august journal. It’s only barely illustrated. And, if you were truthful for half a second, you’d admit you have scarcely read a single article all the way through in even one out of last four issues you held in your hands. (The punishing typography, using an overregularized Caslon knockoff, and grey page layout conspire to prevent you from reading all the way through. Contrary to the expected bierutism, the book needs a redesign.)

Khoi Vinh, blogging isn’t stopping you from writing in any sense. Blogging is writing. It isn’t writing like the New Yorker, but who the hell wants that anyway? The English language contains multitudes.

The NYRB – an anachronism itself – has the right attitude.

Writing like this might seem easy, but just try it. Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist at Stanford who writes for newspapers and radio and sometimes contributes to the blog Language Log, admitted on NPR back in 2004, “I don’t quite have the hang of the form.” And, he added, many journalists who get called upon by their editors to keep blogs are similarly stumped: “They fashion engaging ledes, they develop their arguments methodically, they give context and background, and tack helpful IDs onto the names they introduce.” Guess what? They read like journalists, not bloggers.

Bloggers are golden when they’re at the bottom of the heap, kicking up. Give them a salary, a book contract, or a press credential, though, and it just isn’t the same. (And this includes, for the most part, the blogs set up by magazines, companies, and newspapers.) Why? When you write for pay, you worry about lawsuits, sentence structure, and word choice. You worry about your boss, your publisher, your mother, and your superego looking over your shoulder. And that’s no way to blog.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2008.02.19 13:25. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2008/02/19/new-blogger/

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