Messy Words (Blogging, Binding and Books)

The realization that books are incomplete objects hit me while I was editing my thesis two years ago. It was the longest writing project I had ever undertaken, the first that unfolded not in one or two stressful days before a looming deadline but that took months. Writing it was a bit like blogging or journaling. Ideas came, themes emerged and I put them down, all the while trying to cohere them into a larger structure. 

I knew that my thesis would be bound, that it would have to present itself to the reader as a complete object. Here, I became increasingly aware of the nature of the book as a fetish object, something that presents itself as complete but is, in fact, merely an arrested phase of an unfolding process. Editing precisely was this juncture: When does one stop editing? The answer is of course that there the book or article or what have you will never be complete, it will only be good enough, good enough for you, for your editor, for your reader. 

But in the binding of words a certain magic happens. The reader suspends their judgement and sees the work as complete, as all the thoughts standing for themselves and somehow cohering. At least, thats how I always read books before writing my thesis. Now, especially after I have recently edited something, I read a work with two sensibilities. The first respects the fact that it is an object that has been deemed complete, that presents itself to me as a whole entity. The second sensibility of reading is as an editor, observing the wildness and messiness of ideas and thoughts, the ones that have somehow avoided concealment: what ideas remain incomplete, what loose ends or disjunctures remain? I read books this way not to critique the "author" or suggest I know but to notice the open-endedness of the book, its own contingency. 

I am currently sitting in the Map room at the New York Public Library, a great place to do writing. There is of course much to be said about the connections between writing and maps, but I will leave this for another time. Rather, I bring up my location to highlight something I have been thinking about blogging. In search of a pen, I went to the NYPL gift store (a perversion, I know) and found myself perusing the "writing" section of the book store. In this section, I found a book about how to blog a book. Intrigued, I picked it up and discovered it was a how to manual about how to transform your blog into a book, or rather, a practice of writing wherein the book project is broken down into a series of discrete posts. There is something I very much like about this but I feel that it highlights something about blogging and writing that is different from the book.

Writing on this blog, I sometimes aim to discipline my thoughts, to create a polished public piece that stands on its own. I even go as far as to ask friends to edit the pieces, to see if my ideas make sense. There is something about blogging then that is like a bound books: the post stands on its own, is meant to be complete. This is certainly what the large industry of blogs  who write about how to have a successful blog urge you to do: make content that is valuable to your readers, have it appear legible and complete. It also is an idea that is, in some manner, built into the very code of the RSS feed (built in part by Aaron Swartz, which is a topic of something else entirely). The part of the RSS feed code in which the text appears is called the enclosure: The structure of the blog is thus to enclose writing, to bound it in a sense, and make it presentatable

Yet, while I like doing this sort of polishing, think it may even be necessary if I want to cultivate a readership, I can't help but feel it betrays something of the potential of blogging. Here I think about the blog as ambivalently positioned between a practice of journaling and a public practice, a moment of externalization that is as much for the writer as for the reader. In this sense, I like occasionally writing quickly, moved by the spirit or what have you, not trying to be grammatically correct, writing in a sort of irruptive poetic voice. The resulting product may not be legible or interesting as a piece, or, perhaps, it is interesting as a piece precisely as it shows this sort of undisciplined thought, this noetic encounter with the page. 

Or not the page: the Screen and the keyboard. Heidegger's critique of the typewriter here is interesting. There is something about the irruptive nature of this writing that is more akin to handwriting than typing, moving between legibility and illegibility, deeply personal and not meant for others to read. Against the disciplined and uniform regularity of the printed letter, the handwritten letter is illustrative of something of the writer themselves, of the conditions of the encounter with the act of writing. It functions as an index of a sort, conveying something beyond writing, something of the act of writing rather than the content itself. 

Blogging to me has this noetic quality, this intensely personal and indeterminate form of encounter. I don't really know what to say beyond this. However, I do think that I like the idea of blogging a book. I have many ideas, ideas which weave together and apart which I want to write into a book form, yet I hate the idea of hiding myself away, becoming a recluse as I work to formulate these ideas. So, perhaps, In the coming weeks and months, I intend to "blog" an idea I have for a book: Rot, Fermentation, Counterlogistics. The posts will embrace something of the unwieldy character of writing, of exploration and expression rather than the completeness of writing a book. Then, after I have compiled about a book, said what I think needs to be said, I will do the work of editing and turning that series of posts into a book. Here, the book can be exactly what books should be: a process of editing and nothing more, a way of binding word to page and pages together. Given ideas a spine. For now though, the ideas will emerge on to this blog spineless, larval, wormlike.