Friday, July 4, 2008

Fear and Loathing in Blogging

I was reading the review that my wife's colleague James Rocchi wrote of Gonzo, the new Hunter S. Thompson biopic from Alex Gibney. This part seemed particularly relevant to blogging:
Gonzo also tackles the essential quandary of Thompson's work -- how an angry young man becomes an irrelevant old one, how the writing that made him a celebrity was then unmade as his celebrity got in the way, how living up to your public persona can devour the private person underneath. Many at Sundance complained that the film was too reliant on clips from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Where the Buffalo Roam. But I'd suggest that a smart film about Thompson had to include moments from those films, and extensively, just as Gonzo interviews British illustrator Ralph Steadman and talks about Garry Trudeau's co-opting of Thompson's persona for the 'Uncle Duke' character in Doonesbury; any discussion of Thompson's life has to, by extension, include all the reflections and refractions and recreations of it. Thompson was larger than life, and then his life got so large it was no life at all, and then he took his own life.
I wonder if this is why blogging is such a short-lived preoccupation for most people. Blogging can be a slow, pitiful slog with few rewards. As easy as it is to get started, it's difficult to get noticed unless you craft some sort of wild persona.

Maintaining a persona is physically and emotionally exhausting. The persona is a temporary construct in time and space, a static representation of the way you're thinking and feeling at a given point in your life. The construct, however, is temporary. As your thinking evolves, and your interests shift, the differences between your persona and your current phenomenal self grow. You end up torn in twain. You feel the Internet wants the persona, they want your snark-filled opinions on celebrity gossip, or your bitching about your children - even if you're itching to discuss the election, or have grown wary of the hatred leeching into your online voice.

I don't think it has to be that way. If I did, I wouldn't be blogging again. But I think it's a trap any writer can sink into. Killing a blog isn't a bad thing; sometimes, it's the only way to go home again.