September 30, 2010

"If you do not care that Latoya Peterson, the founder of the blog Racialicious stopped reading JackandJillPolitics midway through the campaign..."

"... or if you do not even know who these people are, then Big Girls Don't Cry will seem pretty mystifying in parts."

I tried to read that book (by Rebecca Traister), and this review says a lot of things I couldn't motivate myself to get to the point of being able to write.
Ms. Traister laces her analysis with that of like-minded political bloggers and friends from New York who are similarly outraged... This book is shrewd and smartly written, but if there is a weakness to Ms. Traister's analysis it is that she relies too much on Internet chatter and on the insights of her group of friends. She traces each blog war that arose whenever there was a skirmish on the campaign trail and treats these online battles as if they really mattered, not only to politics but to the world off-screen....

Ms. Traister's effort to recount every flare-up from the 2008 makes this book seem either too early or too late. The due date for campaign books about the last election was about ten months ago. A lot of Big Girls reads like a game of "Do you remember when we cared about" archeological shreds of a dim and distant and mostly insignificant past....
There are so many things that are interesting to talk about in real time, when the election is still in play. That's what blogs do. I don't understand collecting all the detail in a book. Who is the compilation for? People who care about the details absorbed it all through blogs (and other media) at the time. They've moved on to the new details of the day and the current campaigns. People who didn't care at the time... why would they care now? It would have to be that the details seen together reveal a picture that couldn't be seen before. If you don't have that, you don't have a book.

28 comments:

tim maguire said...

Here's my data point: don't know who they are, don't care.

tim maguire said...

I just read the article anyway. So Hillary Clinton, a woman who rode her husband's coattails to power saved feminism, but Sarah Palin, who got to where she is by dint of her own hard work, daring and talent is "[sic] abomination for a feminist."

But did she really go too easy on Clinton for questioning "Mr. Obama's readiness to be commander-in-chief"? History would seem to have confirmed what anyone with an ounce of common sense knew from the start.

Richard Dolan said...

I have no idea who these people are, and no interest in reading the book. But Ann's comment about it raises something more fundamental: "I don't understand collecting all the detail in a book. Who is the compilation for?"

This reminded me of Lincoln's famous dictum: “Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government, practically just so much." (I've been reading Jaffa's New Birth of Freedom, in which that speech by Lincoln figures prominently.) In trying to track changes in how the public perceives and thinks about events (that was the opinion Lincoln was most interested in), historians used to track newspaper accounts, personal diaries (a big source of info in Civil War histories) and the like. One could sensibly say the same about them as Ann does about the back-and-forth ephemera of blogdom here.

The internet is barely 20 years old, and blogging only about half that. But the internet has changed how we live, and blogging about how we communicate and are informed. It already shapes how people think about and perceive events -- not just the who- and what-ness of events, but why they happened as they did and what can or should be done going forward. The vastness of that electronic universe is already a huge challenge to historians trying to work from contemporary primary sources.

To be more specific, in writing the history of today's events, will Ann or Glenn R or Drudge (and many others) deserve the attention that, say, Horace Greeley gets in Civil War histories? I think in many ways they will, and for the same reason: through a medium that greatly magnifies their voices, they will shape public opinion in the ways Lincoln was talking about. Sorting out which voices matter, and on what issues, will be difficult to say the least. Books like this one by Traister may end up being the primary sources for writing that history since so much of the underlying bloggy stuff will have become unavailable (either because there's too much of it to search, or too little was preserved or something else).

Famous Original Mike said...

When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

JAL said...

CareMeter registering ...

A big Zero

Der Hahn said...

People who care about the details absorbed it all through blogs (and other media) at the time.

If we've learned anything from the creation of Google it's that people have an amazing capacity to misremember their past statements in a way that puts the best spin on their current actions and opinions.

While it maybe true that there is no 'Delete' button on the Internet that doesn't mean that the electronic media is going to be collated and searchable forever, as Mr Dolan points out.

madawaskan said...

The internet by design probably factionalizes, what can be done politically is greatly limited. In a highly pluralistic society like ours you need this thing called-

consensus.

And occasionally it happens.

Like yesterday for example.

Ritmo And Palladian Touch Swords and Share Their Love of Getting Brazilians [Althouse, Althouse It Get's Weird- 2010]

miller said...

What's weird is that I read those blogs, and I'm not their demographic at all.

I can't imagine myself wanting to read this book.

But someone thought it was worth publishing.

I will never EVER understand the publishing industry.

Triangle Man said...

The cover of that book is overwhelmingly yellow.

BJM said...

Hmmmm...

*Think-think-think*

Nope, still don't care.

Trooper York said...

No one will ever take anything seriously that is by someone named Latoya.

She should change her name to something with more gravitas.

Like Beavis.

Lincolntf said...

Ouch! New Rasmussen poll has Feingold losing by a solid dozen points to the Republican challenger.
Even if we can't win the Senate outright, getting rid of the namesake of one of the worst pieces of legislation ever will be a nice moral victory. (Too bad we can't ditch the other name on there,too.)

Story/link at Ace of Spades HQ.

traditionalguy said...

I feel the need for another Reality Show after sampling the snarky world of easily offended bloggers. I say throw them all off the BlogRoll Island.

Lem said...

Hey, its Trooper back?

E.M. Davis said...

I would think the elections that helped lead directly to sufferage would have been the ones to change everything for American women, but I don't share the awesome limited capacity of heritage or history that self-obsessed bloggers like Rebecca Traister seems to have.

Question: When one reads the book aloud, is there an echo?

David said...

"shrewd and smartly written . . . " (a cliche)

In other words, the reviewer likes cliches.

Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henry said...

The idea that Hillary Clinton "changed everything for American Women" is pretty bizarre. Imagine if somebody wrote a book in 1930 announcing that Al Smith had "changed everything" for American Catholics. Oh sure, 30 years later a Roman Catholic really will take the Presidency, but only by waltzing through the door that Al Smith struggled so hard to pry open.

Alex said...

So the left creates a blog called Racialicious and conservatives are accused of being race-obsessed? My god I feel like I'm in some alternative warped universe.

BJM said...

@tradionalguy

Too easy...it'd be like clubbing puppies. Making them stamp their feet, pout and cry for the PC nannies and Uncle Sugar to save their whiny asses is much more satisfying.

OT: What about the old timers voting Jimmy J off Survivor? Dumb or smart play?

Ann Althouse said...

Richard Dolan said..."In trying to track changes in how the public perceives and thinks about events (that was the opinion Lincoln was most interested in), historians used to track newspaper accounts, personal diaries (a big source of info in Civil War histories) and the like. One could sensibly say the same about them as Ann does about the back-and-forth ephemera of blogdom here."

I strongly think this is the raw material of history, but Traister's book isn't real history. I could be viewed as a collection and preservation of the raw material for later historians to work with, but we don't need that because we have the original material and because this collection is too "intrablog" and skewed toward a small group of bloggers.

"To be more specific, in writing the history of today's events, will Ann or Glenn R or Drudge (and many others) deserve the attention that, say, Horace Greeley gets in Civil War histories? I think in many ways they will, and for the same reason: through a medium that greatly magnifies their voices, they will shape public opinion in the ways Lincoln was talking about. Sorting out which voices matter, and on what issues, will be difficult to say the least. Books like this one by Traister may end up being the primary sources for writing that history since so much of the underlying bloggy stuff will have become unavailable (either because there's too much of it to search, or too little was preserved or something else)."

I think the blogs will be preserved. It's one huge reason for me to stick with Blogger. I think there's the best hope for permanence here.

I have thought about transferring my material on some subjects into book form, but I've stuck with the ongoing project of actually blogging, not making a secondary compilation.

Blogging is the new medium with all the vibrancy. I think staying here doing this is better than self-memorializing.

Trooper York said...

On the other hand you might just be in a snow globe that an autistic kid is shaking up while he is sitting in the emergency room.

Trooper York said...

Or Meade could step out of the shower and you wake up and realize it was all a dream.

Trooper York said...

Or you could wake up in bed next to Mickey Krause and he askes what's wrong and you say nothing and why can't he wear more t-shirts and take up gardening.

Alex said...

Trooper - you watch too many Dallas re-runs.

Trooper York said...

Or you could be sitting at the diner and order onion rings to get Meade all hot and bothered and he puts money in the little jukebox on the table and picks out a Journey song but Andrew Sullivan is sitting at the counter in a members only jacket and gets up to have sex in the bathroom, but as he passes your table…………

Richard Dolan said...

Ann: "I think the blogs will be preserved. It's one huge reason for me to stick with Blogger. I think there's the best hope for permanence here."

Having the primary sources available is plainly essential. But the internet has led to an explosion in the volume of material. The sifting/sorting function is just as essential. Perhaps that is best (most efficiently, anyway) done by those like Traister who were in the middle of the blog-wars.

No one really knows how this will play out, or how the internet/blog phenom will impact the way history is researched and written. It's too new and changing so fast. But it's fascinating watching it unfold, even if some of us are only in the bleechers rather than on the field.

Triangle Man said...

"You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack

You may find yourself in another part of the world

You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile

You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife

You may ask yourself: well... how did I get here?"


You may go back and read the blog posts to figure it all out.