Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Deep Thoughts

Scott Esposito over at Conversational Reading has started a new on-line literary quarterly called The Quarterly Conversation. It’s a collection of reviews, interviews and essays about books. Here’s an excerpt from Scott’s Editor’s Letter.

Why Am I Doing This?

"Most people reading this are probably aware that this is an adjunct to my litblog. I've been writing there daily for a little over a year now, so it's perfectly legitimate to ask, Why place this stuff here rather than in my blog?

There happens to be a couple answers to that question. I certainly love blogging and I have no intention to give it up anytime soon, but I've come to look at it as something done on the spur of the moment. I fire off blog entries without much revision or second thoughts--which can be a good thing--but I wouldn't like to read (or be known) for only blog-style thoughts on books. I'd also like for there to be room in my little corner of the web for the other kind of writing about books, the slow and more careful ones."

I just want to follow up on the notion that blogs are quick hits, almost of stream of consciousness thoughts about particular topics. Most of the time the thoughts that literally spew out of my head end up on my blog, and I occasionally berate myself for not putting together more thoughtful essays. I say .. after I finish my book, after I organize my house, after … well you get the idea. I just wonder if the brevity and -- dare I say occasional shallowness -- of blogging will wear off in time.

The New York Times Book Review on Sunday discussed how the end of letter writing and the increase of e-mailing will change the biographer’s job in the future. The essay resonated with me because I have spent much of the past month pouring through the letter books of my great great grandfather. The letters in the books start in 1879 and end in 1920 and I estimate there are approximately 30,000 pages to read. (You can see why I only have a short while to blog.) Future biographers won’t have this kind of documentation to pour through, and it will radically change our ability to examine past lives and events.

Rachel Donadio queried a number of publishing firms to see if editors keep the e-mail correspondence from authors. Some did, but most didn’t.

"A writer's papers would be “considerably” more valuable if they included e-mail, [literary agent Andrew] Wylie said. The question for an acquiring agency or library is how to prevent “extrapolated diminishment of value,” he added. “I could certainly see Dave Eggers's collected e-mail correspondence appearing in 10 volumes in the course of the next 40 years, and I think it would be absolutely riveting,” Wylie said of another client.”

A Minor Fall, A Major Lift has an amusing “set” of e-mails from Dave Eggers. They definitely are priceless. Check them out.