Wednesday, July 5, 2017

My Glorious Career As a Brilliant Provocateur

I have a vivid imagination. Some would say, if they knew its full proportions, an over-active imagination. I have a healthy self-confidence in the quality of my writing. For example, when I write about receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature, although I usually attempt to do so in a humourous way, I'm not joking. I imagine it all the time, and I imagine my blog blowing up -- almost constantly. (For the benefit of readers my age and older and/or with a native language other then English who may possibly be unfamiliar with the idiom: "to blow up" means "to very suddenly become extremely popular." I'm not talking about stuff literally splodin'.) I have a lot of healthy self-confidence: time after time, I finish a blog post and think to myself: This one will be a big hit.

And time after time that post is not a hit at all, but I keep my chin up and keep plugging away.

But so far, the single most clicked-on post in my 8 years of blogging is at best a medium-sized hit. Although it has several times more pageviews than anything else on this blog, I'm careful not to call it my most-read blog post, because it's clear than many of those who've commented on it, positively as well as negatively, haven't read it very carefully at all. Maybe my average post isn't any more carefully-read, on average, than my one medium-sized-or-smaller hit, maybe my average post is much more carefully-read. It's just that in the case of the hit, I know for sure that many haven't read it carefully because there are so many comments on it, on this blog and elsewhere, which completely miss its main points, such as that I am an atheist and am not sure whether or not Jesus existed.

Some time after I noticed this widespread incautious readership, I also noticed how often I myself will just read a headline or the first paragraph of something before I move on. So I see that it wouldn't be right for me to complain too much about people treating my work the same way. However, I have tried to refrain from expressing overly-emphatic opinions about written works, whether short articles or multi-volume studies, which I know only from reading a part of them.

Anyway, yesterday I wrote a post about the Volksbühne Berlin and its upcoming change in leadership, and naturally I hope that it will be the one which finally makes me a huge glorious superstar -- it, or this one, or the one linked above could get a big second wind, or another post I wrote days or years ago could blow up. As if I care how I become a huge success -- and it's gotten some reaction, both positive and negative, somewhere else on the Internet, not here on the blog itself.

And the negative reaction -- disappointingly, so far there has been only one negative reaction -- referred to Americans blabbing away without a clue. And this is interesting in more than one way. I can't really tell whether the person making the comment has read the entire blog post. If not, it would be an ironic although hardly unusual example of someone accusing a writer of not having a clue based on work they hadn't read. If the entire post was read, however -- it's not particularly long -- then, well -- I mean, I did make it particularly clear in the post, I think, that I was viewing the controversy over the Volksbühne from a long way away, and that I knew that I actually knew very little about it. But my critic did not merely blame me for speaking up without a clue, but blamed Americans for doing so and inferred that I was a typical American and that we -- Americans -- generally stink. Which, unconsciously or not, ironically or deliberately, would seem to reinforce my point about the opposition to the change in leadership of the Volksbühne having a element of xenophobia about it.

Yesterday's blog post about the Volksbühne is not particularly substantial, I freely admit that here, just as I admitted it there. However, I can see how it's possible that it could become quite widely clicked-upon -- I'm fastidiously avoiding saying "widely-read" -- because, like my medium-sized hit about Paulkovich, it deals with a topic about which people have strong opinions. And so, like my medium-sized hit, it could conceivably serve as a place for people to gather and verbally abuse each other. The wily fame-seeking provokateur writes on subjects about which people are already provoked. Yesterday's post was actually less about the Volksbühne than about some people's extremely-passionate reactions against the incoming new leader of the company, so passionate that, even without knowing many of the details or the players involved, it is difficult for me to believe that these reactions make sense.

In essence, many of my essays are about me. Many essays, from the time that Montaigne invented the genre, have been primarily about their authors. Some may see this as arrogance, I see it as honesty. The only subject one can describe with full authority is oneself. It can actually be modesty: I was going to write about Julius Caesar, but I eventually had to face the fact that I'm not competent to write an article about Julius Caesar which would be of any use to any expert; and so instead I'm writing an essay about my failure to rise to the level of a scholar of the subject of Caesar. The self is also guaranteed to be a unique subject for every author.

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