Blog about blogging for fourteen years (and not blogging so much lately)

Yesterday afternoon, prepping notes for an evening class, I recalled that this blog Biblioklept turned fourteen. I was typing out some notes for an American literature class I teach (and have taught for years now) on Wednesday nights, and something about it resonated with me–What is on 9 September?–and then I remembered why the date should catch in my memory. I posted the first Biblioklept post on 9 Sept. 2006. It was on Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun and it was all of four sentences long. I was teaching AP Lang and AP Lit at an inner-city high school in Jacksonville, FL at the time, and I suppose that we must have been reading Raisin at the time. I still know pretty much every line of the play.

I know large chunks of the text that I was preparing my notes for last night, Mark Twain’s novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Some semesters I sleepwalked through my American lit classes, others I find myself revitalized by the material. Lately I’ve been sleepwalking–since 2017ish, if I’m honest, but having to do everything over Zoom has necessitated change. I spent a big chunk of the last few days revisiting Leslie Fiedler and Arnold Weinstein and Harold Bloom and Ralph Ellison on Huck Finn, trying to synthesize the material into something new that might zap me enough to zap my students through Zoom.

In years past I might’ve smuggled my notes into a blog post, a trick I used to pull every now and then, but I didn’t seem to have the energy when I got up today. I had a few composition classes to prep for, as well as remedial college reading class where half of the students speak English as a second language. I needed to figure out a way to communicate through the screen again, a way to figure out how to wrangle all my body language into a tiny digital square. It’s a bit exhausting, but we’ve all been exhausted, right? I’m healthy, my family is healthy, we have enough to eat, the air is still breathable, the water still potable, etc.

I’ve thought about ending this blog a lot in the past two years. I’ve seen so many of the blogs that I admired and conversed with and interacted with disappear over the last five or six or seven years. I still keep a blogroll (called “Elsewhere,” at the bottom of the site), but many of the links there have melted off into unupdated ghosts or, worse, collapsed into vacant 404s. (Is there an archive somewhere of Mark Wood’s wood s lot? Is someone–who?–going to keep David Berman’s Menthol Mountains up?). Other spaces that I had once thought were blogs, or at least bloggish, like The Millions and LitHub, turned out to be other things entirely.

Is this even a blog? A weblog? I’m not sure. For a long time Biblioklept seemed to me a hybrid of the “traditional” blogging that came out of LiveJournal and other spaces with the more image-centric universe of sites like tumblr. I’m not sure what it is anymore. I like to post paintings on here. I like figure painting in particular. I’m jealous of my wife’s art history degree, and have spent the past ten or so years trying to catch up to her.

I’d write about art more but I feel terribly unqualified.

I’d write about literature more but I feel exhausted by it so often, so terribly uninvigorated.

Here’s a big stack of books that I stacked up from three stacks stacked around our stack-stocked house:

Some of these are books that I’m reading and will finish soon (Walker Percys Lancelot, Walter Serner’s Last Loosening), some are books that I keep dipping in and out of (Domini’s The Sea-God’s HerbThe Big Fat Gary Lutz, Pierre Senges’s Studies of Silhouettes), some are books that have recently come into the house and need to be restacked elsewhere. At least one is an enigmatic new indie that I need to muster a review of (look, go buy Guillermo Stitch’s weirdass novel Lake of Urine. It might not be your cup of tea but it is in no way boring, either at the plot or prose level).

But yeah, I wish I blogged about books more.

When I look at that first four-sentence post back in 2006 I feel a bit envious. What the fuck made me feel it was acceptable to string those clauses together so cavalierly? Later September posts (like one on Klaus Kinski’s memoir, or a “review” of Jonathan Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude show a little more dedication to fuller description (maybe even the germ of an inkling of an iota of analysis), but on the whole, those early posts–I mean, just looking at them now–I think I was having a lot more fun.

2006 was different and I was different–still in my mid (okay maybe late twenties), still sans children, still up to see a scuzzy band at a scuzzy bar on a week night even if it meant getting up hungover at 5:30am to teach high school downtown. I was closer in age to the students I taught then than I am to the students in my classes now. Most of my students now would, what, be starting kindergarten in 2006?

2006 was different and blogging seemed full of possibility—possibility of communication, transformation, elation, etceteration. There wasn’t really Facebook yet, or Twitter, or Reddit. Or rather, all of these social media platforms existed, but they were newborn, untested (at least by the masses), not the primary spaces for engagement over the internet. Internet 2.0 was just starting, really, and the second wave of blogging—with blogs like Biblioklept—seemed as vital as any other online presence.

(Should I mention that I only started blogging because two of my friends had started blogs and both of them, independently, insisted I do it because I’d be good at it? So I started, riffing mainly on books that I’d stolen, or at least gotten for free somehow, and those stories ran out, and at some point publishers started sending me books, and then a decade or so passed.)

Today, nothing about Biblioklept feels vital to me, and I realize the hubris in a 27 year old, a 30 year old, that thought the blog was important somehow. In retrospect, I realize that the feeling of doing something important (namely, discussing literature) was really the weird feeling of joy and energy I used to have. And sometimes I still grab a little piece of that old joy when I type out some characters, some words into the little big WordPress box. (I’ve had to retrofit to using WordPress’s old or “classic” editor. They updated to a block editor which I despise, another sign of my age perhaps. (Or maybe, just maybe, the block editor fucking sucks.)) And well so anyway yeah. I’m not really sure what the point of this post is. It’s not a rant, right? It kinda feels like a half-assed apology, but, like, for what?

I guess I wish I had it in me to post more—to post shorter riffs, maybe—to get back to that initial spirit of writing too fast and maybe not thinking too hard.

Anyway. I really do appreciate all of you who have read and looked and lurked for five, six, ten, twelve, fourteen years. Really.

40 thoughts on “Blog about blogging for fourteen years (and not blogging so much lately)”

  1. For what it’s worth, I only discovered your blog a few months ago and have been relishing it immensely. I just read William Melvin Kelley’s Dem and am also dipping in and out of that big volume of Lutz. JR is one of my favorite novels.
    Perhap I will never swallow another lump of envy induced by a stack of acquired books or never read a review of a writer who has completely been missed by my reading radar. That is ok. I will still appreciate the bit of joy you’ve introduced to my reading life.

    And I think you for that, Mr. Turner.

    Chris Oleson, a fan in Osaka

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  2. Happy blogiversary! Fourteen years blogging is an amazing achievement! Seeing so much art on your site, I thought you had a PhD in art at the very least :) but if honestly your art selections are great – always beautiful paintings. I know how you feel about the time passage on wordpress. I have a film blog on wordpress which will be 9 years this autumn (it is a different one from my book blog) and even I notice considerable differences. Seeing it all from the 2006 perspective must be seeing the site and all the developments in a different light altogether.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m a new follower of your blog and I can say that I didn’t know you even had words so far. :P And then I read this and figured you got ahold of a good cup of coffee or something. I’ll have to check out older posts to get the gems others are talking about. Or, you could put up some digests? Anyways, nice to see you write something up.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been following you for something like a decade (probably more). I absolutely LOVE this blog (or whatever it is). I look forward to the photos, the art, the culture in my inbox every single day. It is the only email that I open regularly. I make a point to save your new posts if I don’t have a chance to read them. I honestly don’t think I’ve missed one. It brings so much joy (and education) to me every day and I would be so sad (absolutely devastated) to see Biblioklept disappear. Seriously, your work is important. At least it’s important to me.

    I know it takes a lot of work and I’d completely understand if you decided not to blog anymore. I just thought it was important to let you know that what you do is extremely meaningful to at least one person. Please don’t doubt your little posts. Your little posts have the biggest impact. The study of details of a work of art over the span of a week. The random piece of music. A stack of books with little more description than a list. You are an artist and your medium is literary collage.

    I could write many more sentences, many more paragraphs. Just know that I’ve discovered so much over the years following Biblioklept. Artists, poets, authors, musicians. Biblioklept is part of my personality, part of my daily existence, and I can’t thank you enough for the work you’ve done to make that possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for doing what you’ve been doing–I can’t count how many purchases and books-actually-read(!) have been spurred by Biblioklept since whenever the hell I started reading.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I love the paintings, they break up the Reader in a nice way. I’m coming up on 10 years and feel all of this. I started when I was 30 and had one child who was an infant. What am I doing now, when I’m 40, have two school-aged kids, and can barely push out one post a month? I don’t know. I haven’t engaged a ton here (sometimes I find the posts you do write a little intimidating! In a good way, but still) but I would also miss you if you quit.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. When I read your missive, I was wondering if the pervasive malaise – the devolving, the un-gluing – of our culture, our art, our quotidian existences over the last six months, or four years, has started to settle in with you. Your blog has been a very positive force in my artistic life: a visual artist and a published author. And I think the paintings, the photographs that compliment the print content, and the literary work and your insights, work in synergy to reinforce each other. Words and pictures — a powerful combination.

    But you see, now I’m starting to go on and on. And I hope you can find a way to go on too…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I found the blog thru a “Snow Crash” cover Google Image search–still love that cover–and started reading via that post on Stephenson’s book. It wasn’t long in 2012 after that entry was posted, too. Back then I was on the tail-end of a English degree. Now I’m on a tail-end of a Computer Science degree. Fitting, synchronistic, serendipotous this comment. Everything is connected. How we wish to acknowledge it, or not, is up to us. This blog’s the only thing that’s kept anything on the fire of my love for literature the past almost decade since my original graduation. I didn’t really care for a lot of the scene, but I’ve always loved this blog. There’s an academic observation, yet heretical adoration for litearture. And, honestly, that’s my view too. Hoping to reread “Gravity’s Rainbow” after graduation in a few months. Cheers, Edwin.

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  9. Please don’t retire this blog. I check it religiously (almost every day in fact) to see if you have an analysis of something I’ve read, a book recommendation, a painting, etc. Your blog is gold, man. I don’t know how many cool books and paintings and poems you’ve introduced me too. Hope you keep at it for years to come. (For whatever it’s worth.)

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  10. Dear Mr. Biblioklept,
    As a retired English teacher and community college librarian, I look forward to your blog post every day. It’s one of the first, if. not the first (an unexpected email from my son in Brooklyn would be that), messages I look for. You’ve introduced me to extraordinary books and authors I would not have found on my own, most recently OREO, which was a word riot. And I will admit to reposting many of your reader art works on my Facebook and IG feeds for others to enjoy. Anyway, I understand how you might be weary of creating a daily commentary with all the other activities that fill up your days and nights. I hope you are able to wrangle the energy to keep Biblioklept alive. Its demise would leave a hole in my heart, Edwin, and you don’t want to be responsible for that now, do you? JK
    Keep it going as long as you don’t feel burdened by it, or if it keeps you from feeling burdened by other less challenging aspects of the world. I’ve been a follower for at least a dozen years.
    Go ahead; make my day!

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  11. Your efforts are much appreciated by this (mostly) lurker. There are a lot of distractions right now — just do what you feel like. Not much current fiction is hitting my sweet spot these days, much of my reading has felt uninspired. Good luck with the virtual semester.
    And, oh, I didn’t know NYRB Books did an edition of JR. I suppose they had to reset the text.

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  12. Just to echo everything else everyone has said, I think you’re too hard on yourself about what you’re doing here. You post less, sure, but don’t we all? I initially wanted to start a book blog like this, because I’ve been introduced to so much cool stuff by following it for so long (I think I initially stumbled across Biblioklept because I was Googling weird stuff from Gravity’s Rainbow in 2010-ish? Maybe? It’s been a while.) but eventually I realized I’d just be pretending to do it as well as you do. I like all the paintings. There’s a lot to be said for “writing too fast and thinking too hard,” which I think we should all do a little more of, but I appreciate what this site is and what it’s done for me as a reader/person.

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  13. I discovered your fantastic site about 7 yrs ago, mainly b/c trolling for any writings about Gaddis/Bernhard I could find, and thrilled to read what I found here, and am always admiring of your reviews, and have picked up many books you have written about that were new to me (Oreo being the latest), or previously dismissed based on my own weird small ideas about them, and I would be sad if you quit but I of course respect whatever you need to do. Just want to let you know that for me, what YOU provide here is of real value…it has always made me feel a little less alone in my tastes, a little more reminded that there are people who respond deeply to lit and esp perhaps on-the-fringes-lit and that those people seem like people I would want to know. I am grateful you had hubris/insouciance enough to put your thoughts out there and that you have continued doing so. And since I am planning on asking you to review my book when it comes out (lol give it a year), and on being crushed if you say no or it was meh, and on being thrilled if you say yes or hey this was kinda cool, you can see that you have already taken on life in someone else’s imagination (is not creepy I swear it stops there lol) so…just want you again to know: from this side, it has been worth it, what you’ve been doing, even if for you, it may not feel like it at this moment.

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  14. Hi,

    I´m writting you from Madrid, Spain. I don´t remember when I find your blog but it is one of my favourits in my reader. I started my blog almost 13 years ago and I related so much with a lot of the things you write today. When I read what I wrote when I was 35, when two little girls, and the feeling that no one was goona read me. I remember opening my blogger editor (as you I hate new versions of those editors) and writting with no effort, just whatever was on my mind. It seems like it was a lot easier bak on those days. Now, I write two posts per week and sometimes I think about quitting but I can´t. As Austin Klen put yesterday on one of his posts just about the same, blogging, my blog is the way I think about my life and what happens to me, what are my interests, my feelings. 

    Keep on going and thank you so much.

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  15. I have only made a few comments on your blog over the last decade or however long I’ve been following, but just want to say that I come here FIRST whenever I am looking for something to read. We have similar taste and I always enjoy the commentary and the photos. Really appreciate you keeping this strong for 14 years and hopefully more.

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  16. yours is by far my favorite book/art/whatever blog and definitely the only one i look at anymore. the only internet personality who i wish i could have a beer with, for whatever that’s worth. i hope you find a way to think about it that makes you feel good about keeping it alive, cause it would be very sad to see this one die.

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  17. As someone who writes for a living and still can’t help but keep a blog — I’ve had many — I can relate to the struggle of putting forward the energy to “do it right.” I look back at the ease of blogging of the late 2000s in envy. Back in 2009, 2010 when I started my first real blog, it seemed so easy to build a following. I called my blog Freed Up Thoughts, and it was really just that: a stream of consciousness only sometimes coherent. In my defense I was in high school at the time and social media had begun taking over the world, but only just barely.

    Yet you persist. I think I will too. Write about what excites you. I find that keeps me motivated. Life’s too short to become a slave to your audience. I write because I can’t help it. If people read it all the better.

    And regarding your question about blogs lost to the void. If you can recall the URL you might try the Wayback Machine. Good luck!

    Like

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