So now I have a website. Apparently, according to Everett’s Statistics of Writers and Their Recursions, I am the next to last writer in North American to have done so. The last has threatened to kill me if I reveal his or her identity. We were having coffee at the Starbucks on my corner, and she said, “I’ll literally do you harm.” I rolled my eyes.
I had to decide about writing stuff on there. And so emerged my resistance to the word, “blog” which is almost irrational. It sounds too much like a bit of prose that has emerged from the primordial ooze, like a series of sentences directed by William Castle: “Just a couple of kids out for a Saturday evening drive. They stopped awhile to write some paragraphs, and out of the trees came The Blog.” It’s an excrescence on the language. Thousands of reasonably literate people are pausing every day to either say, “blog,” or perhaps worse, perform it. It disgusts me. And scares me a little.
The blog has two possible functions: one is essayistic, and one is diaristic. The latter, and perhaps most easily picked up and performed (which sounds like a theatrical disease) is the blog in which the writer tells us what he or she did today, thought today, read today, without any essential or consequential development.
Here’s an example, picked at random from the World Wide Web, which is distinct from the one in my kitchen:
Clouds today, lots of clouds. Thought I’d go for a run but didn’t. Spent the morning going through bills and thought a lot about last nights (sic) Walking Dead. Should really go for that run.
Nothing could be further from the movement of an essay, where ideas associate, move, turn inward or outward in interesting spirals of thought. I understand that this selection is far from complete, but trust me. She really should have gone for that run. Maybe blog is right for this kind of work, after all. Bog was already taken.
But there is work online that functions at a higher level. I know it’s hard to believe. Take, for example, this excerpt from Barrie Jean Borich’s blog:
Someone asked me recently what I thought made a livable city and I’ve been thinking about that question ever since, because I’m so interested—both intellectually and emotionally—in the concept of the green and livable metropolis. So with this question I’ll begin: what makes a city livable? I’ve started a list of one-word responses: Variety. Mobility. Choice. Beauty. Safety. Sexuality. Art. Discourse. Intersection. Access. Generosity. Compassion. Cuisine. Sublimity. Recognition. Design. Flora. Infrastructure. Light. I guess those are the dreams of any city; what we might hope for in the urban life, or any life. But as the history of cities tells us, the actual metropolis is much more than just design or style and every dream of the perfect city has the same ending, ruled by the imperfections and uncontrollability of human life.
Well this is writing of an extraordinary high level. Borich goes on to expand her list, locate herself physically—in a coffee shop (perfect—the connection to Addison and Steele!) and meditate a bit more about subject, without fully developing it, as she might, and in fact might still. It nevertheless makes for fascinating short reading, an attenuated form of the essay. And I’d propose that calling it Blog, as Borich does no doubt by default, slights it, creating that unfortunate association with 50’s horror films: Creature of the Black Blog, The Blog, Return of the Blog, The Blog with a Thousand Faces.
My Solution is rather simple and French, and please don’t automatically attempt to tell me that that is a contradiction in terms. I propose the term, Essayette. Le peitit essai digital ou l’essai court digital. One of the main points in favor of my argument is how good all those things ending with the suffix “ette” are. Think about it: Rockette, Suffragette, Maisonette, Lazarette!.
Some will object that a “blog” is not in fact a form, but a space, a space in which many forms are encompassed, in the same way that “nonfiction” is not a form, but a term that encompasses many forms. There is certainly some validity to this. On one’s web site, one might want to practice a combination of diary and short essays, aphorisms and films. I’d still argue for something, anything else. Essayettes would cover a good bit, if not all of that. And I suppose if one wanted a still broader term, for the essayettes and pure diaries, and bits of fiction and whatever else one’s little heart desires to put out as one’s letter to the world (how about letters to the world—Lettows!) some possibilities, easier on the ear might be: Ramblers, Spectators, Tatlers or how about everyone just giving theirs an individual name: Nancy, in Omaha, would call hers the Plainsspeaker, and Miller in Brooklyn would call his Gouwanissphere.
But I’m sticking with Essayettes. I don’t have diary entries to publish, because I simply don’t think they’d be terribly interesting. If I thought they’d be that interesting, I’d turn them into essays. Or ettes.