The Comment Stream Is a Terrible Place to Be
I’ll not rise to their defense (I’ve written about my feelings toward Ashbery’s poetry [it’s excellent] so many times on this blog, that I really have little more to say, other than to wave and smile at such attacks), but I will say this: In the case of Ashbery, certainly, but for some of the others as well, comments such as “ever-rated” miss the point. One could make the argument (with which I would disagree, but I could understand where it’s coming from) that Ashbery’s current work is not at par with some of his earlier work, as Shivani says. But you know, even if that were true, it would be like saying The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney are over-rated. One’s rating is for one’s career, not just the last book. Current work that is not at par with earlier work does not diminish the rating and achievement of the earlier work. Wordsworth’s many years of undistinguished verse does not keep us from talking about Lyrical Ballads as a watershed moment.
It’s the kind of piece tailor-written for a comment stream, and it has achieved its goal. Well over a thousand comments now. What is accomplished by any of it? The post itself has a lot of the qualities we associate with comments from a comment stream: short attacks with a snarky generalization. Is stirring things up in this way at all useful?
Speaking of the potential uses of a comment stream for posterity, here’s a comment from Dan Chiasson from the comment stream of a reposting of the Huffington Post piece I came across on Don Share's facebook page (What's the MLA citation for that?):
“A worse piece of criticism could not be imagined. Jr. high newspaper-level prose, FOX news-level insights. Political Correctness is the enemy of literature? Is this a Dartmouth Review piece from 1988? May all of these writers and all of their friends read and remember it, the next time Anis Shivani comes a-knockin’.”
In closely related news, Ron Silliman recently turned off his comment stream (as well as hiding [or deleting] all comments from previous posts), as many have noted. What was gained or lost by such an action? Is it going to mean, as some suggest, that his blog will no longer be as popular? Well, if so, it seems that Huffington Post is quite ready to step in.
As for Silliman, the controversy over his decision to turn off his comment stream continues, less about the lack of future comments, than about the comments from the past that are now gone, comments that were of value to some people (apparently some have noted them in dissertations and books). A couple links on this from his blog:
And then a blog post that he didn’t link to, but one which should also be considered:
So, amid the mess of comments on the most popular blogs (a really big mess), are there nuggets that should remain in the public record? Useful things? Yes, Ron Silliman could, if he wanted to, make visible the comment stream of old posts, but the question is, should he? Is there something to be gained by doing so? Is there something, by extension, about the Huffington Post comment stream, perhaps, that in the future should be archived as well?
It’s an interesting question. I had a class at Ohio University about 13 or so years ago, where the professor spent a lot of time talking about how the sifting through of Victorian era London garbage yielded a treasure trove of interesting things to researchers, things that were helpful in thinking about the literature and life of the time.
I’m sure I don’t want to be the one who has to read through the Huffington Post comment stream or the Ron Silliman comment stream, but if someone else wants to, and can find something useful there, why not? First of all, the comments have to be there . . .