Tag Archives: Blogging

Five Years of The New Psalmanazar

I used to joke that I was a glutton for obscurity, that if no one read what I published here I was pleased as pie. That’s a pose, of course, something to make me feel better. I want readers. But as I mellow toward middle age (seven months till forty) I’m becoming more honestly comfortable with the idea that writing, like reading, is something I can engage in without the need for recognition. Writing a good sentence now and then, like reading one, is a pleasure in its own right. I hope I’ve managed a few. At any rate, the attempt seems necessary for me. Trying to write good sentences has made me a better person, or at least prevented me from being as awful as I might have been otherwise.

By the numbers, I’ve written 526 separate posts for The New Psalmanazar since February 22, 2008. I’ve received 48,700 views. I’ve earned 90 regular ‘followers.’ My busiest year, both in terms of production and in terms of readership, was 2010. The busiest day was November 10th of that year, on which I had 616 visitors (I average maybe 40). The post that’s earned me by far the most visitors is Three Paragraphs of Nature. To judge by incoming search traffic, these are  middle school students hoping to plagiarize something for a class assignment (Write 1-3 paragraphs about nature). For some reason, the other search phrases most likely to bring people here have to do with Edward Gorey and the Italian film star Monica Vitti. I mentioned Monica Vitti twice back in September of 2008.

I have a small band of loyalish readers, but most of the people who come to The New Psalmanazar do so accidentally. It’s not what they were looking for, but something they found on the way to what they were looking for. When they do come, I’m glad to say that they tend to stay a while. Most of them spend a couple minutes clicking around and reading. I’m grateful for that. The things that bring people together often smell of random chance. When the results are favorable, we call it serendipity, or fate. That’s how friendships are made. That’s how people fall in love.

Out of pure narcissism, and to commemorate my anniversary, I’ve pulled a dozen or so posts from each of the past five years (excluding posts from the Marginalia series) and created a Best Of page.

Thank you for reading.


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On Pets

The trouble with keeping a blog is that you sometimes have to feed it, and pet food costs money, and money is time, and time is scarce if you don’t want to neglect your other time-wasting activities, like working on your novel, which is still a joke but not as much a joke as it was, say, six months ago. 

Still, here it is, the little blog, whimpering in the corner with its feed-me eyes and tent-pole ribs.  Wasn’t pet ownership supposed to be a sunny afternoon pleasure rather than a pulsar of everyday guilt?  But indulgence dresses itself up as obligation in the end.

There are upsides to malnourishment.  Studies show that rats raised on near-starvation diets will ripen into veritable Methuselahs compared to those plumped up on sugarwater and fatty meats.  Even if the little blog isn’t, thanks to the Spartan rations, as round and cuddly as it might be, at least it isn’t completely debauched.

Anyway, I’m still here.  Stick around long enough and you just might get a Scooby Snack.

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A Refuge in Words

Is there a causal connection between 9/11 (plus London and Madrid), the war in Iraq, the crisis in the economy, and the circus of Britneymania on the one hand, and, on the other, the ad absurdum proliferation of online publishing?  According to Montaigne, yes:

I am not jesting: scribbling seems to be a symptom of an age of excess.  When did we ever write so much as since our public disturbances?  And when did the Romans write so much as at the time of their downfall?  …The corruption of the age is made up by the special contribution of each one of us; some furnish treachery, others injustice, irreligion, tyranny, avarice, cruelty, according to the degree of their power; the weaker bring to it dullness, trifling, idleness – of which I am one.  It would seem it were the season for trifling things when harmful ones press upon us.  At a time when to do evil is so common, to do only what is useless is, as it were, praiseworthy.

The quote is from Essays, III, 9, ‘On Vanity.’  Of course, Montaigne was writing in the 16th century, but this only serves to illustrate the charming constancy of human folly. 

I wonder, however, if there isn’t something more to our scribbling than nervous loquacity and a thirst for distraction.  From infancy, words are our strong angels, magical things with the power to console, to command, to banish phantoms, to transport us to better places and to impart knowledge.  In the face of violence, fear and mindlessness, there’s a certain ‘useless’ comfort in the sound of a human voice, even when it’s our own.

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