A Fresh Beginning

Martin Parr

Bored Couple

Two and a half years after starting Time’s Flow Stemmed on Blogger, after much experimentation, I migrated to WordPress. Besides some difficulties that visitors reported about lost comments, Blogger served me satisfactorily, but there are several features (such as better templates, nested categories, easier domain management) at WordPress that tempted me. The migration was mostly painless.

This blog’s first incarnation (originally called Bridge to Kappa) opened with the following Sartre quotation:

On the one hand, the literary object has no substance but the reader’s subjectivity … But on the other hand, the words are there like traps to arouse our feelings and to reflect them towards us … the work exists only at the exact level of his [the reader] capacities; while he reads and creates, he knows that he can always further in his reading, can always create more profoundly, and thus the work seems to him as inexhaustible … Thus the writer appeals to the reader’s freedom to collaborate in the production of his work.

My first blog post ended with the sentence, “It is my hope to participate in a conversation about literature, narrative style and meaning, about how to read more profoundly and to discover fresh sources of inspiration”. Have I been able to meet this goal? Partly yes, due to the fellow bloggers I have exchanged views and comments with, mostly listed on my blogroll. But there is also frustration. The blogging software that we use, our limited time as amateurs (mostly), and in my case a frequent struggle to find critical vocabulary to voice my thoughts and emotions about what I am reading, encourages fragments of conversation, rushed posts. Rather than stimulating a leisurely fireside conversation (there are, of course, exceptions), blogging (tweeting exacerbates the challenge) often feels like snatched chitchat over a garden fence. Or worse: a monologue.

The blogging mission that ended my first post is as relevant today. I am not, nor intend to be, a book reviewer. Time’s Flow Stemmed is a vehicle to enable conversations about literature, to allow my inner voice to express thoughts and emotions about the books I read, and to try to understand your thoughts and emotions about what you read.

If you’ve taken the trouble to update your readers and blogrolls, I offer my since thanks, and look forward to continuing and developing the conversation.

18 thoughts on “A Fresh Beginning

    • Thanks, Nicole. Part of the frustration is self inflicted. You frequently write the sort of incisive posts that encourage conversation, which I read with admiration and enjoyment, but, so often, I don’t pass comment. I have resolved to work harder at overcoming the anxiety of the small comments box that is provided with our software.

  1. You’re here! Yay. I too was going to comment on how much I like the picture of the bored couple but it seems someone’s beaten me to it. (Just to add, however, the cigarette in the old boy’s mouth is a rather nice touch.)

    Also, an interesting Sartre quote.

    • Dolly: Do take a look at the series if you get a moment; I am ambivalent about some of Parr’s work, but this series is perfect: http://goo.gl/9rWQU – the cigarette, drooping of course, is the exclamation mark of the photograph.

      I’ve been pondering this move for months, delighted I took the step. Thanks for the welcome.

  2. the anxiety of the small comments box that is provided with our software.

    I relate, Anthony. But I also reliably find that your posts and comments add greatly to the larger conversation, be it on group reads or just books I’m interested in (which is many of those you read!). I hope your new digs treat you well.

    • Thanks, Emily.

      I think much of the reason for the fragmentary nature of discussions inter-blog is the fixed system imposed by the software. Even the use of the term ‘Comments’ fosters fragments, rather than the expansive, considered conversation that sometimes takes place on web fora. There is a gap for blogging software that combines the tools of web fora for ongoing conversations.

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  4. What you have written here is partly why I’m on a current blogging break – I dread the monologue, crave the conversation…but there is something about the blogging format that, although it should foster the latter, tends to push the first. Are there too many people in the “room”? I don’t think that’s the problem… I can only speak for myself and say that I have less and less time to dedicate to the kind of blog reading and comment conversing and post writing compared to a few years ago. But I do miss the “buzz” of a good conversation starting up or following along. In any case, I’m very happy there are book lovers like you ready to contribute to this conversation, and I hope to jump back in with more steam before the summer ends.

    • Time isn’t my limitation, though there are always competing demands. I suspect part of the problem is the type of books we are drawn to; readers of the latest popular books seem able to generate more conversation. I also hold the software partly responsible: the term “comments” (rather than perhaps “conversation”) and the size and shape of the comments box (better on WP than Blogger) encourages fragmentary rather than extended dialogue.

      • I also switched from blogger to wordpress at some point, and I think the software is definitely more appropriate for longer conversations. Part of the problem (I think) is that although there are plenty of group reads going on, many of us are following our own reading lists and so it becomes harder and harder to find something meaningful to say about someone else’s project. I love reading up on what other readers are immersed in, but I don’t always have something to say. And I prefer to keep quiet than just type in a throwaway comment, although I’ve done plenty of those as well.

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