I make my resolutions in the fall, after reminding God that He will decide, in the words of the Yom Kippur liturgy, “who is to live and who is to die.” (Then, after saying I will leave it up to Him, I resolve not to die.)
But there was the neat coincidence yesterday of Helen Rittelmeyer’s “New Year’s Resolutions for Bloggers” and Andrew Sullivan’s announcement that The Daily Dish, his nine-year old blog, will separate from Tina Brown’s Daily Beast, which has hosted it since 2011, and head off on its own behind a paywall.
Rittelmeyer and Sullivan are two of the best bloggers out there. (This is probably the first time they have ever been linked to each other in any way. My apologies to both of them!) The Amateur Reader, no slouch at blogging himself, said in some awe that Rittelmeyer “writes like a mix of Joseph Epstein and Florence King.” (Like King, she also writes for the National Review, although not nearly often enough for my tastes.)
Whatever else you think of him—it is de rigueur among my allies on the Right to mock him without stint or letup—Andrew Sullivan is a pioneer of blogging, who has influenced the literary form of the blog probably more than any other blogger. (I might also observe, on a personal note, that he has been far more loyal to me and my writing than most of my so-called allies on the Right, for whom I simply dematerialized after being “parted” from Commentary.) Disagree with him all you want. The fact remains that Sullivan is one of the most dynamic and indelicate personalities on the blogscape.
If you’ve already clicked over and read Rittelmeyer’s resolutions, you’ll see that I have intentionally flouted the second of them in my previous sentence. I do so in homage to her unique prose style. (Don’t want her to think I am flattering her most sincerely.) Rittelmeyer’s entire approach is summed up in her last paragraph: “Good writers don’t make allowances for intellectual idiocy.” Her five resolutions are five different ways to avoid making allowances.
What caught my attention was her fourth resolution:
Blogging is not merely an amateur’s medium. It is a dissent from the professionalization of literature, where professionalization is represented by English departments and creative writing workshops and print magazines and large publishing houses which are subsidiaries of even larger conglomerates. What Jacques Barzun calls the professional’s fallacy (namely, the superstition that understanding is identical with professional practice) has transformed the institutions of literacy into closed shops. If you’re not employed in the literature racket, you might as well, in literary terms, not exist.
Bloggers shrug, and go on doing what they are doing. Above all else what distinguishes them is their willingness to write for free. Occasionally they may be paid for their efforts, but even if the pay dries up, they will go on blogging. No one is better than Andrew Sullivan at explaining why:
For the first time in human history, a writer . . . can instantly reach readers—even hundreds of thousands of readers across the planet—with no intermediary at all.
Freedom’s just another word for no one left to woo. For the writer (whose best readers are among the dead), freedom is an absolute. The man needs to eat and put a roof over his head, but not the writer. For writers, the breaking up of old media authority is the most significant event since the invention of print. For the first time in human history (as Sullivan would put it), a writer’s only compromises are those which are forced upon him by the demands of what he is writing. The only authority is the authority of authorship. The word is dead! Long live the word!
In the coming year, I resolve to enjoy my freedom thoroughly.