Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A silly defense of literature

I am now reading three books. My roommates and I do not have a television, go figure. I have nothing against books, nothing against television but think it's something I should probably steer clear of, and--as should be obvious by now--have nothing against blogs. And despite being a UChicago grad, I have nothing against precocious Harvard types who get printed in the NYT op-ed section. So I must come to Jeremy Blachman's defence, albeit indirectly, by asking what on earth is going on with David Sharp of Paris's letter to the NYT:

To the Editor:

In "Job Posting" (Op-Ed, Aug. 31), his defense of corporate employees who blog, Jeremy Blachman writes: "Now that everyone can publish online, we can get these incredible glimpses into worlds we might otherwise never get to see. People across the world can share stories, commiserate and connect with each other. Potential employees can see beyond the marketing pitches."

There is already such a mechanism. It's called literature.

One form of content that can be very effectively delivered via literature is known as fiction, and it can be used to provide all sorts of "incredible glimpses into worlds we might otherwise never get to see," including the worlds of work.

Why did this letter get printed? Is it just so succinct and witty that it had to be picked, or is it that any letter promoting reading (or, alterately, whole grains) must be of interest to the NYT readership? Literature is a glimpse into different worlds, yes, but novels cannot--and never could--provide the same volume of instant, perfectly contemporary portraits of not just jobs in general but the very same jobs that are currently in the listings, held by your friends, and so on. Blogs don't necessarily provide readers with abstract, universally-relevant, for-the-ages information, but the details a novelist skips over for the sake of art might well be the ones Blachman's "potential employees" seek out.

Furthermore, why must blogs and fiction be in competition as genres? They overlap, for one thing, with plenty of blogs eschewing or bending real-life events in order to tell a better story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You can lose your job over literature. Walt Whitman lost his government job when he published Leaves of Grass.

I suppose the letter is arguing that writing is the perogative of a specialized, insulated, and increasingly irrelevant, class.