“It’s been two months since I blogged. Considering that I am on the eve of my eighty-fifth birthday, and that anyone over seventy-five who isn’t continuously and conspicuously active is liable to be considered dead. I thought I should make some signs of life. Wave from the grave as it were. Hello, out there! How are things in the Land of Youth? Here in the land of Age they are rather weird.”
Those words are not mine. They belong to Ursula K. Le Guin, National Book Award recipient, and winner of six Hugo and five Nebula awards, and inductee into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. They came from an October 2014 blog post, entitled “Catching Up, Ha Ha” recaptured in her latest book, “No Time To Spare, Thinking About What Matters.”
These words do reflect some of my current sentiments. Oh, I am not of the age which Le Guin flagged. Not for a while yet anyway. But like her, I thought I’d better say hello, the last time I blogged being almost two months ago. So, hello out there!
First, I must confess I’m no ardent follower of Le Guin’s, not being a fan of sci-fi and fantasy stories. I have yet to read even one of her many prize-winning stories. But I recently came across her non-fiction prose, captured in the said book, which is probably an abridged version of her blog. Not only was I captivated by her succinct expression of her thoughts, and her sense of humour, but I was also attracted to her reasoning for venturing into the blogosphere at the late stage of her distinguished writing life. (she was 81 then.) “It exemplifies a freeing from convention, an invitation into a larger world than the one we see,” said Karen Jay Fowler (in an introduction to the book.)
“I’ve been inspired by Jose Saramago’s extraordinary blogs, which he posted when he was eighty-five and eighty-six years old,” said Le Quin. “They were published in English as “The Notebooks”. I read them with amazement and delight.” Saramago, as most will know, is the Portuguese writer who was the recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Le Guin said she had never wanted to blog before. “I’ve never liked the word blog –I suppose it is meant to stand for bio-log or something like that, but it sounds like a sodden tree trunk in a bog, or maybe an obstruction in the nasal passage.”
She was also put off by the idea that a blog ought to be “interactive”, that the blogger is expected to read people’s comments in order to reply to them and carry on a limitless conversation with strangers. “I am much too introverted to want to do that at all. I am happy with strangers only if I can write a story or a poem and hide from them from behind, letting it speak for me.”
But seeing what Saramago did with the form was a revelation for her. “Oh! I get it! I see! Can I try now?”
Le Quin was inspired by Saramago who started his blog in (2008) when he was at age 85. She was 81 when she started hers (in 2014). I wish I had known about her and Saramago’s blogs when I was contemplating launching my own in 2015. I agonised over the decision then, and vacillated, both by virtue of my age then (66) and the blog’s proposed content (personal essays, musings, and, quite frequently, quirky takes on varied issues.) Conventional wisdom told me that no one would be interested in visiting a blog with contents of that nature.
It may come across as a surprise to some that I see my own disposition as more in line with that of Le Quin’s, my preference being to post my musings and run and hide, not expecting to hear back from my readers, if any.
“My trials/attempts/efforts (that’s what essays means) so far have very much less political and moral weight than Saramago’s and are more trivially personal.”
Again, Le Quin’s words, not mine. But they sound so familiar, that I’d like to borrow them as mine, substituting the name Saramago with Le Quin. I feel as though she would have approved, if I had asked her. And affirmed my decision about my blog.