I have been re-reading Ernest Buckler’s Ox Bells and Fireflies. I have compared the book I am reviewing, When I Was Young & In My Prime, to Buckler’s book. Both books are structured in small chunks, bits and pieces, unified by running themes, with little narrative thrust or plot. Buckler says straight out that his is a memoir, but he also suggests that it is fictionalized. Munce’s book, although a novel, strongly suggests that a lot of it is memoir, that the details are remembered, not invented. Both use the anecdote, rather than the scene, as building blocks. Munce uses many forms, much like Viktor Shlovsky and Guy Davenport do: prose-poems, a government pamphlet, an auctioneer’s patter at a farm sale. Both are interested in memory. A unifying theme of both is birds.
Many blogs do proceed by anecdote and by their very nature are structured in bits and pieces. Litlove, over at Tales From the Reading Room, is ruminating about the form of the blog, the blog as genre. A blog’s inherent structural difficulty is that it is read backwards. The writer begins at the beginning, with his first post, but the reader is reading only the latest installment. Of course a reader could go back to the beginning and read straight through to the present, but probably not many do. As a blogger, how do you use this backward quality? If a blog was made into a book, would it start at the beginning, at the blogger’s first post, and continue to the last one? This would destroy the intention, wouldn’t it? In a journal made into a book, the reader reads from the starting point to the end. There is usually a structure – a year in the life of, the constructing of a home, a journey.
The writer of the blog isn’t going to conform to an overall structure and probably isn’t going to envision an end. Some blogs do have a unifying theme – cooking, or making dresses, or homeschooling for example, but most have various concerns and passions.