The First Feuilleton

For quite some time now, I've been thinking about creating my own website, of posting my writing on the web with some degree of regularity. I've read a couple online journals, spent more than enough time surfing my favorite one-woman site, and, more personally, have gotten quite frustrated with the fact that I seem to spend more time thinking about doing things than actually, say, doing things.

So here it goes.

I'm not sure exactly what "it" is going to be. I'm not too excited by the online journal idea; for one, there seem to be a million of them out there, and besides, who really wants to know the intimate details of my private life? (And do I want to talk about them in as public a forum as this?) Besides, "online journal" is a misnomer for a lot of the things that are categorized there.

Personally, I think that what I'm likely to write (and this may change as I actually do the writing...) lies within a type of essayistic genre, what in Germany is the Feuilleton. It's a genre whose origins, to the best of my current knowledge, lie in postrevolutionary France - which doesn't mean it hasn't changed since then. It is, according to Walter Benjamin, a popularized form of belles-lettres: belletristic writing geared not toward an elite, but toward a broader audience. I'm not sure if that helps anyone understand what's going on here, but it helps me in conceptualizing what I'm doing.

This project is a return to an older style of writing for me, too. In the last few years, I've been writing a lot of academic stuff - not too jargon-filled, but not exactly what most people would want to read if given the choice. I've also been doing creative writing, short stories and one thus far ill-fated novel, but there too, I'm not sure it's what you'd want to read, given the choice. It's been a while since I've written for a less specific audience - not "scholars with an interest in Native American literature," "people who want to know more about postcolonial theory," "students who have to listen because I control their grades" - but just "people who might happen by."

Back in the day, I wrote for newspapers, not only in college but for actual, real-world papers. Some of them, especially the old college papers, were done so long ago that they're not available anywhere in electronic form. I remember late-night layout sessions where we'd cut out columns of text and paste them on the master pages, putting border tape - actual, physical border tape - around various selections...

Just thinking about it makes me feel old, even though I don't consider myself all that old. I guess it all depends on the perspective. When I was 16, thirty seemed old. In nursery school, anything over fifteen was usually synonymous with "infinity," and when my mother was only about 33 I told the other kids she was 40, or 50, or something, because it was all the same to me, and the teacher actually asked my mother if it was true, because she really didn't look it... Now that I'm 30, though, it seems pretty young, and the New York Times Book Review at least seems to agree with me, since it seems that anyone under the age of forty (and sometimes even they) can be designated an "exciting young novelist." These days, I really appreciate that.

In any case, I'm starting to ramble, and I'll probably do that quite a bit, because sometimes the tangent you end up on is more interesting than where you intended to be. That's the idea that's guided my travels - travels which are likely to show up in the space as well, since I've kept extensive travel journals. For a few years, while I was living in Berlin, I traveled a lot, because it was relatively easy to gather enough free time and money to head to Spain for a month, or Italy, or Budapest for a few days. And in these days where money and time are a lot tighter, I find myself thinking about those travels a lot; writing about them is a little like being there again, and as I sit here in Texas hoping to get my student papers graded in time and hoping we'll have money left over after paying the mortgage, I'll just have to indulge my Wanderlust on the net, for now.

Meanwhile, it's about time to leave for my Karate class, so that's all for this week's installment. Thanks for reading, and until the next time.

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November 20, 2001

 

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