Monday, October 03, 2005

Blogging for love or money

Publishers Lunch pointed me to an article in Wired about blogging for money.

It seems that there are people in this world who see blogging as a commercial opportunity. Well, good luck to them. No problems there. I don't actually read any obviously commercial blogs myself, but that's just me.

More to the point, perhaps, the article discusses how much you might get paid if you blog for one of these blog-entrepreneurs. And the answer, it seems, is not much.

I suppose blogging for money, even for small amounts of money, might appeal to some. But to my mind it negates the whole point of the thing.

The whole point being that I can sit here and say what I damn well please. Subject to the laws of libel, of course, which are formidable. And subject, I suppose (reluctantly) to normal good manners. And to the bizarrely English desire to be fair. Which I don't seem to be able to shake off.

Which reminds me. I did write a post, a while back now, in which I seem to have been more than usually affected by the 'be fair and reasonable' virus. I really don't know what got into me, and sometimes I lie awake at night and worry about it. Because when push comes to shove, I don't think it is any part of my business to be fair and reasonable. My business is to tell you what I think. If I don't do that, then I am wasting my time by sitting here tapping on the keyboard; and you would certainly be wasting your time in reading the result.

The post in question was the one about the UK National Short Story Prize. A miserable bloody enterprise about which I was far too generous and kind. By half. Ever since writing my original piece I have been convinced that I pulled my punches in that post. I really didn't make it clear how much I dislike the entire dreadful enterprise.

What don't I like about it?

I don't like anything about it. And I like it less every time I think about it. Which, with a bit of luck, will be never again after today.

I don't like the fact that it is backed by the Arts Council, which is in my view an organisation which should be closed down tomorrow morning. Or, better yet, at 5 p.m. this evening. The Arts Council spends (some of) my taxpayer money, and I don't want it spent on the arts, thank you very much.

I don't like the fact that this short-story competition gives itself the grandiose title of 'National', implying that it is official, and superior, and somehow deserves to be taken seriously.

I don't like the fact that it is not to be judged anonymously.

I don't like its emphasis on all matters literary, to the apparent exclusion of many other kinds of writing, which are equally valuable, if not more so.

I don't like the essay on the short story by Raymond Carver, who was a wearisome drunk.

I don't like the outcome of this competition which I consider to be all too probable. The most likely result is that the £15,000 will be handed to someone who has written one of those stories about an epiphany. You know, one of those where a woman stands at her kitchen window, watches the birds pulling up worms from the lawn, and comes to understand the Meaning of Life. One of those. The kind of story which ought to be left out on a cold hillside soon after birth.

I don't like the suspicion in the back of my mind that this prize will go to an established name (since we're not talking anonymity here). It is all too likely, in my judgement, to go to someone like Martin Amis. Poor old Marty, of course, has had a lifelong struggle for recognition, and has never won the Booker. So somewhere out there is a group of people who are saying to themselves Shouldn't We Be Doing Something for Marty? And I don't like it.

I don't like the fact that the official web site connected with this competition takes it upon itself to 'celebrate the short story'. The short story doesn't need celebrating, and certainly not with the taxpayers' money. The short story is alive and well. It flourishes on any one of a thousand web sites, small magazines, self-published and officially published books, in schools, colleges, kitchens, aeroplanes, and doubtless the odd pub.

I don't like the fact that the BBC is involved. True, Auntie Beeb does occasionally take her knickers off. (See, for instance, the current series of Bodies, on Saturday night. If you dare.) But not often. Usually Auntie is standing there saying Naughty, naughty. Mustn't do that.

I don't like the fact that, in order to enter this competition, you have to give the BBC the right to mess around with your story.

And there is, doubtless, a great deal more that I dislike about it, only I dislike having to think about it.

There. You see? I feel so much better for having said all that. And if I was being paid for blogging then I wouldn't be allowed to go on like that. Might upset someone.


Bernita said...

I like it that you don't like the whole sorry exercise.
Thank you.
And as for housewives and worms, the most sadistic thing I've ever done to wildlife is go out after a rain and tease those torpid,elongated shoe laces with a stick and watch them go "slith" back in their holes. No epiphany there, just a juvenile fascination with inertia/action.
Yes, it's still early over here.

john barlow said...

Ray Carver wasn't always a drunk.