Friday, 5 January 2007

Mark Mordue calls it a "ritual" and David Malouf talks of Americans seeing "their lives in psychogeographical terms, as versions of the national story, and on a scale commensurate with their countries’ 'space'".

Mordue's piece appears in today's summer herald supplement to The Sydney Morning Herald. He has recently moved to Lewisham, a suburb in Sydney's inner west. I drive through Lewisham every day on my way to work. There's a school there, on New Canterbury Road. Most days, I can scoot past at 60 kilometres per hour. Between the hours of 2.30pm and 4pm, however, I must slow down to a crawl: 40 kilometres per hour (to comply with school zone restrictions).

He talks about travelling by rail through the inner-western suburbs, in the company of his son, who calls out the names of the stations they pass, mimicking the announcements that come over the train's loudspeaker system. He singles out for special mention Macdonaldtown Station, a forlorn outpost on the thickly-tracked inner-city tangle that is serviced by only a few trains.

"In Aboriginal mythology, the Dreaming ancestors called the world into being by singing out names," just like his son.

Malouf, in a discussion of the work of Patrick White, talks about how White used the local to emblematise the great themes of Modernism:

The Tree of Man is in every detail grounded in a local and experiential Australia, both the landscape, its colours, moods, smells, and the minutiae of social life in and around Castle Hill (or Durilga, as he calls it here, later Sarsaparilla). But the drama, as again in Voss, is an elemental one, and, though it takes place in small souls, is of epic dimensions: the conflict between Man and the Land, Man and Nature, Man and himself, Man and God.

I think that the same thing happens online, now, and I certainly tend to visit the same places each day, when I get home from work. My favourites are, of course, blogs, and I think that this trend will continue in the future. I was frankly stunned when I read a comment on the Undercover blog by someone with the unlikely name of Mr Darcy's Wet Shirt: "the only blogs I can find that discusses books are the cultish types such as HP, Discworld etc and the reviews posted on Amazon".

There are literally dozens of book blogs, if not hundreds, and I felt strange when I read this comment, seeing as I regularly visit a good sampling of this type of effort on a daily basis.

Book blogs are by definition marginal. Literature is an elite activity, and discussing books online must be one of the strangest ways of passing time, being simply the evidence of a type of personal mania. But for me, reading the thoughts of other plebs about books is a tonic that I cannot do without.

I just wish that someone as eloquent as Mordue or Malouf would set pen to paper to delineate the contours of this small world, for me and the dozens of other maniacs out there, in the literary blogosphere.


callie said...

I was just musing about this the other night. How positively divine it is for me to wander among the thoughts of other readers -- how much I enjoy it, how much it confirms for me my own interests, how much it feels like home - how much it is "the tonic I cannot do without." My next thought was -- wow, what is wrong with me? What a nerd I am. What a nerd, then, we all must be.

I then thought about how small our literary blog world is and then I worried "and how exclusionary?" Or no? Either way, as you point out, the reading of literature is not as popular in general as it should be. It follows, then, that the reading of blogs about literature pales in comparison to that already low bar.

No matter. It is still the tonic I require at the end (or during) of any day and I'm quite pleased to be in the company of readers & writers like you.

Dean said...

Well, I sure do return the compliment!