Friday, November 18, 2005

What I'm up to here

I’ve been thinking for a good while about starting a new blog, which will probably come as no surprise to people who know me. While I was sure I would enjoy writing one, I didn’t for a time for a couple of reasons. First of all, a diary blog wouldn’t really suit me because, well, nothing very exciting ever happens to me. Which is how I like it. But it seemed that all other possible topics that I might be interested in writing about on a blog were already being written about by people who are much better at it--and more dedicated--than I would be.

In that regard, the Internet reminds me a little of the first weeks of undergraduate life: if you learn nothing else from it, you should learn that for every topic, there are a lot of people who know more than you do, have thought more about it, and who write better about it. Clearly, that shouldn’t stop you from trying to join their ranks, if there’s a topic that sufficiently exercises your passions. Everyone starts from ignorance.

That’s not really my style, either, though. I’m an intellectual dilettante at heart. Part of that is due to laziness—one look at harried graduate students when I was working in a scholarly bookstore was all I needed to convince me that grad school wasn’t for me. But just as much of my dilettantism is due to there being just too much that I’m interested in for me to be able to settle on one topic. Husain Haddaway, in the introduction to his second volume of translations from the Arabian Nights, says, in explaining why he couldn’t comply with the wishes of many readers and translate the whole corpus of tales, “There are other fair creatures in the world.” The thought of concentrating on one author, period, or even area of knowledge to the point where I could consider myself an expert is a deflating, depressing thought. My nature is much more suited to dabbling here and there, learning little bits about many areas while relying for deeper knowledge on those who are single-minded—and dedicated and hard-working—enough to be scholars. Oh, and I'm lazy.

But I still wanted to write a blog. I liked the idea of a regular venue and a reason to work on my writing. I liked the idea of building even a tiny, single-digit community of readers to interact with, like what Jim and I have at our baseball blog. I liked the idea of being able to alert people to interesting pieces of writing or news or information I’d come across.

And that last thought was what decided me. I am known among my small circle of friends for having a bad habit of reading aloud at parties and dinners. I try not to do it much, and I try not to read lengthy passages, but someone will mention something that triggers a thought of a book I’ve been reading, and off I go. My friends are fairly tolerant of this ridiculous behavior--way more tolerant than they should be.

So in a sense, that’s what this blog will be: an attempt to put online all the things I’ve been thinking about what I’ve been reading lately, in an effort, in part, to keep me from being such a tool at parties. After all, one topic that no one—to my knowledge—is currently covering online is What Levi Is Reading Now. And the blog could also serve as a sort of disorganized commonplace book, which is something that only my terrible handwriting has kept me from keeping in the past, as it’s one of my favorite forms. (The one in the American Scholar each quarter is reason enough to subscribe to that journal.)

I envision this blog being a mix of semi-reviews of books (both fiction and non-fiction), interesting bits from those books (always falling under the doctrine of fair use, of course), and the occasional non-book item. I hope to post at least a couple of times a week, depending on what I’m reading, how interesting it is, and how much time I have. I hope you enjoy it.

1 comment:

  1. Since I don't get to make it to many Chicago dinners or gatherings where such readings occur I am a fresh audience. So, recycle that latest joke, quotation, paragraph, litany, etc. and I won't know the difference! The online Levi of the past and present at this point are one. I look forward to reading.