'Old Media' Critic Tries to Capture Blogs' Essence Isn't an old-school book about blogs sort of self-defeating? Sarah Boxer, editor of the book Ultimate Blogs: Masterworks from the Wild Web thinks not. She discusses the anthology and how she got to the essence of blogs without writing a single revealing entry of her own.
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'Old Media' Critic Tries to Capture Blogs' Essence

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'Old Media' Critic Tries to Capture Blogs' Essence

'Old Media' Critic Tries to Capture Blogs' Essence

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Back now with DAY TO DAY. Here's an endeavor that seems doomed from the start: an anthology, in book form, of blogs. First of all, there's the sheer volume. There are some 15 million active blogs worldwide. And second, and this is what my guest will hopefully explain, how do you pin down or capture a blog in a book? Isn't a blog's very identity wrapped up in its Internet form? Sarah boxer is the author of the new book, "Ultimate Blogs: Masterworks from the Wild Web." Welcome to the program.

Ms. SARAH BOXER (Editor, "Ultimate Blogs: Masterworks from the Wild Web"): Thank you.

BRAND: What prompted you to try to pin down this unruly beast?

Ms. BOXER: Well, it was kind of a challenge. I was wondering, well, what is it about these things that's so hard to pin down and is so hard to get into print? And so it became kind of a challenge and kind of an experiment in finding out what is left of a blog when you take away the links and you take away the speed and just the interactivity.

BRAND: Right, the kind of conversation. Because when you're reading a blog, you're supposed to be participating, in a way. At least if you're not commenting on it, sort of in your mind having a conversation with the blogger.

Ms. BOXER: Right. Any blog is - well, most blogs, I should say, are really porous in one way or another to the rest of the Web, Whether it's because they're referring to other articles that are written, or whether it's because they have a comments section. Or with some of them, it has to do with scrolling, just the act of scrolling effects how they're written. For instance, there's a fashion blog...

BRAND: Oh, I know what you're talking about. It's one of my favorites.

Ms. BOXER: Yeah, it's great. It Go Fug - F-U-G - Yourself. It's two women who are extremely snarky about the bad fashion choices that celebrities make. They are hilarious. But one of the things that is very important about how the blog works is that often the humor is what I would call scroll humor, where you have to get to the bottom of the picture. You work your way down in the text, and then you see, like, the punch line is the shoes at the bottom of the screen, and it all kind of comes together. That's a great example of something that is extremely hard to capture.

BRAND: So how did you capture it?

Ms. BOXER: Well, I looked and looked, and there are qualities about blogs, I think, that remain even when they are in print. And that is the sort of - the snarkiness, the fierceness, the openness, the public and private mix, the nastiness. And there's just a certain type of humor that is still there even when you take away the links and the timeliness. And I think there really is something that I would call bloggy writing that is distinctive.

BRAND: There's definitely a tone that a lot of blogs share, and it is a snarky tone. Why is that the default blog tone?

Ms. BOXER: Well, I think a lot of it has to do with what gets people's attention. In print publications, you already have your audience. But if you write a blog and you don't have a reputation, how do you get noticed? And one of the ways that you do it is by attacking famous people, by attacking famous newspapers, by going after something that will capture someone's attention. And I think it's sort of survival of the meanest, in a certain way. It's not just meanness, though. It's a certain kind of wit.

BRAND: What's your favorite personal blog that you saw out there? One that really reveals it all, and is strangely compelling?

Ms. BOXER: Oh, boy, it goes by the name A-B-B. I'm not sure I can say this on the air.

BRAND: Angry Black rhymes with witch.

Ms. BOXER: Right. That's the one. That's terrific. Eurotrash, I think is amazing. These are people who are sort of writing about their own lives, or you can get the feel of who they are, anyway. Julia Here Be Hippogriffs is about a woman going through infertility trouble. And they're great storytellers, all of those people. That's another thing that I think I realized once I had my collection, is that this is one of the things that I think bloggers who work well in a book do well is tell stories, just amazing stories from all corners of the globe and very personal things that have very much to do with public life or where they are in the world.

BRAND: So it sounds like the form hasn't really changed the essential truth of these things, and that is a good story is a good story and good writing is good writing, no matter where you find it.

Ms. BOXER: Right. That's true. Although, it's unlikely that I would have found these things if it weren't for the blogosphere. And I am not sure that they would have found their way into anybody's home without the blogosphere existing. I'm not sure these people would have had a place to do what they do. Yes, it is storytelling, but there is something about the way they write that is peculiar to the Web, I think.

BRAND: Did it ever cross your mind that maybe you should have blogged this book? Or that...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BOXER: Not for a minute.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BOXER: I mean, this is one thing that I - you know, I wrote in my introduction I don't have a blogging bone in my body, and that remains true. I have huge respect for these people. I mean, they are out there in a way that is just phenomenally frightening to me.

BRAND: What do you mean by frightening?

Ms BOXER: I mean there are people who tell stories, just extremely intimate stories. Eurotrash, for instance, is telling very intimate stories about her father, her mother's death, her sort of abuse by an older man as a kid. I mean, just kind of out there. I mean, it's just very personal in certain cases.

BRAND: So frightening when you imagine yourself doing it, but I wonder if they see it as frightening.

Ms. BOXER: I don't think that they do, actually. I mean, I think that it's a different generation. And I think the frightening thing for a lot of bloggers is to not have a presence on the Web. They just cannot imagine it. It's like almost not existing. And I think for many of them, that's the thing. They exist because they blog.

BRAND: Some people who are less generous than you would say they are just, you know, self-indulgent exhibitionists.

Ms. BOXER: Well, that too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BOXER: But I do think there is more to it. I just think it's a whole different way of being.

BRAND: Sarah Boxer is the author of the new book. It's call "Ultimate Blogs: Masterworks from the Wild Web." Sarah Boxer, thanks for joining us.

Ms. BOXER: Thank you.

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