Since morphing LitKicks into a blog format last year, I’ve made it my habit to check other litblogs as often as I can. A few are really good, and almost all of them are capable of saying something worthwhile every now and then. But most of the well-known litblogs strike me as limited in one major way: they seek relevancy by mainly covering new literature and current writers. I believe this to be a misguided pursuit.
Unless it is a litblogger’s goal to be a corollary to the daily newspaper or TV news networks, I see no reason why the discussion of literature should be so time-bound. Yes, we are alive in the first decade of the third millenium A.D.; however, we are also simply present on earth as fully qualified members of the human race, and there is no reason we should feel less connected to Hesiod or Lao-Tzu or Gustave Flaubert or Anton Chekhov than we do to, say, Curtis Sittenfeld or Benjamin Kunkel.
Who cares what’s being published next week? Why should we need an excuse, like a new edition of collected letters, or an anniversary, to write about Edmund Wilson or Vladimir Nabokov?
Literature is not bound by time. Great books, like great trees, build their majesty imperceptibly through the ages. Slice cross-wise into a Shakespeare play or a Cervantes novel and count the rings — you will discover that they have never stopped growing. Relevance? Kafka wrote about Abu Ghraib, Nietzsche wrote about the Rwandan genocide, and Dostoevsky wrote about the attacks of September 11. None of these writers were alive to witness the events they turned out to be writing about; nevertheless, they can make our understanding of these events richer, and I would never think of restricting my attention span to exclude the rare moments of human brilliance that have a chance of illuminating my life today.
In summary, I charge most of the presently known litbloggers with a lack of depth. Rather than pointing fingers, I’ll point to a happy exception. MaudNewton.com is one of the best literary blogs because it’s practically the only one (besides LitKicks) that would venture to publish, apropos of nothing, a list of a contributor’s favorite short stories. There’s great pleasure in perusing a post like this, and there’s utility in it as well.
But nine out of ten “top litblogs” restrict themselves to whatever news items roll in from Google or pop up on the Blackberry, and I find this very disappointing.
What do you think about literature’s relationship with time? As a reader or writer, do you relentlessly seek out what is new? How does the dimension of time affect your understanding of fiction and poetry, or does it at all?