Why Andrew Sullivan Blogs

by Frank Paynter on October 25, 2008

A ship’s log owes its name to a small wooden board, often weighted with lead, that was for centuries attached to a line and thrown over the stern. The weight of the log would keep it in the same place in the water, like a provisional anchor, while the ship moved away. By measuring the length of line used up in a set period of time, mariners could calculate the speed of their journey (the rope itself was marked by equidistant “knots” for easy measurement). As a ship’s voyage progressed, the course came to be marked down in a book that was called a log.
- Andrew Sullivan, Atlantic Monthly, November 2008

Never have I seen the knot explained so well. He follows with an awkward and inaccurate conflation of the ship’s log with a web log, but why quibble? Sullivan takes the reader on a journey through blogging as ordered by the structured mind of a Montaigne lover. He creates a distinction between “writers” and “bloggers.” He is, I think, full of shit, but it’s subtle and nuanced shit.

He closes with this observation:

Reading on paper evokes a more relaxed and meditative response. The message dictates the medium. And each medium has its place—as long as one is not mistaken for the other.

In fact, for all the intense gloom surrounding the news-paper and magazine business, this is actually a golden era for journalism. The blogosphere has added a whole new idiom to the act of writing and has introduced an entirely new generation to nonfiction. It has enabled writers to write out loud in ways never seen or understood before. And yet it has exposed a hunger and need for traditional writing that, in the age of television’s dominance, had seemed on the wane.

Words, of all sorts, have never seemed so now.

Sullivan’s homage to his broadcast blogging craft is perhaps best tempered by juxtaposition with the following sentiments recorded in Berlin by George Baselitz and Eugen Schönebeck in the first Pandemonium Manifesto (November 1961):

The poets lay in the kitchen sink,
body in morass.
The whole nation’s spittle
floated on their soup.
They grew between mucous membranes
into the root areas of humanity.
Their wings did not carry them heavenward -
they dipped their quills in blood,
not a drop wasted writing…

The rest of history is instances. We have blasphemy on our side!

Ripped away, the last skin, the last simile. On, far on, on into the white quick. Look good in boxes, all the heads, the poets, confusion of profusion. Lightning without god into bare woods, body of mine born into clearest water. Fearsome darkness in the ice crystal of one and only truth. Up, floated twisting celestial updraught to the one and final mission. I amof invisible extent…

All writing is crap.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Zo 10.26.08 at 6:08

the first Pandemonium Manifesto - was that with Chris Locke?

Frank Paynter 10.26.08 at 3:44

No. I don’t think so. Like that though.

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