Wednesday, March 5, 2008


It's all the craze these days. Meta-blogging and meta-fiction and all other things meta. For the few who may not have heard of it, it is a kind of writing or activity that self-consciously addresses the act itself. Sounds deep, huh? Overused as it is, deep is no longer a word that can be used to describe it.

This once, I'm not going to let it bother me. The path I tread on may oft used, but the journey I make is my own. Or so I want to believe. The way I see it, (and the way many before me have seen it,) people write either because they like to write, or they want their works to be read. More often than not, it's a mixture of both. People may also like the very act of writing, or maybe they like to see their own ideas written down, crystallized in an imperishable form.

(Hmm. Writing about meta-writing would be the third level then. Already I feel cooler.)

Reality is probably absolute, but ever so often, what is forgotten is lost. As if it had never taken place. When we go after things as ephemeral as thoughts, it becomes increasingly harder to define what 'real' is. So, maybe we write so that we remember, so that our future selves do not forget so easily. For one thing, such exercises just might help us stop ourselves from running around in circles, swimming in that same fishbowl, year after year. For another, it might act as a frame of reference, as the Constant. So little seems grounded in our present, so little seems absolute and imperishable that often we have no choice but to look to the past for something more definitive. What is better, I say, than to have your past thoughts etched in virtual memory? What is better than having your future selves come back and exclaim, "Yes! This is how I felt once. These truly were my thoughts."

It is scary, how we live so vicariously through our past. That somehow, things which happened years ago seem more real and more important than that which is happening right now. That somehow, I am more comfortable lamenting Gone are the halcyon days of my youth, when the halcyon days of my life as a young adult might just be passing me by. That somehow, a memory is less sweet if it isn't properly remembered.

It's like taking pictures on a trip. We get so busy trying to capture the world in all its glory that some times we forget to actually enjoy it. We get so busy trying to smile at cameras that we forget to laugh and have a truly good time. Yet somehow, I cannot help but feel a sense of loss when I am unable to properly remember (and somehow quantify) how much fun I had at some point in the past. And then be disgusted with myself for feeling so.

I don't know if you noticed, but I stopped taking refuge in collective pronouns at some point.

It is an injustice though, to think of blogging merely as writing. (I mean no slight on writing by using the word 'merely'.) Blogging is considered by many as an expression, an artform, as social dialogue, blogs acting as windows into people's souls.

Tsk tsk. Never judge anyone by their blog. Blogs aren't spontaneous thoughts, they are well rehearsed and often revised. People are often frank and forthright in their opinions not just because it is right, but because then they can get away with not being frank or completely honest when it suits them. Blogs showcase a very select subset of the author's attributes. That in itself would be fine, no one thing can tell you everything about someone, but here... it is the author who does the selection. Blog readers are informed very much on a need-to-know basis.

Of course, you could choose to build your own picture about the person behind the writing by using only those things which were let slip without notice. Perhaps the picture you form is a little truer. The clever author, though, would allows things to slip out. As if by accident. If you have a blog, you know that much of what I say is true. You've done the same things at some point or the other. I know I have.

I could now go on to sermonize about how deception is integral to human behaviour and reduce you to someone as cynical and disbelieving as myself. As a favour to humanity at large (or the insignificant fraction of it which reads my not-so-humble words,) I will not. It isn't the altruist in me who makes me do this, but simply that I don't believe that it is deception which is the underlying motive. It's closer to role-playing, what most people do with their blogs. People project self-images that aren't just meant to be seen by the public, but by themselves as well. They are most cruel, the differences between someone's self-image and that which is seen by the public, and perhaps this is but an honest attempt to bridge the gap between the two. Lies that reveal the truth and all that. Only, when the veil slips, when the mask shatters, all anyone can think of is deception.

Why do I write? No one reason can ever be enough for anyone to keep writing. Sometimes you want to be read, sometimes you like to write, and sometimes writing takes on a cathartic mantle, making you feel just that little better, just that little cleaner after purging (and not forgetting) those thoughts from your system. And sometimes, you pretend to be doing your future self a favour.

If I am permitted to take off on a tangent, I'll say that all this kind of ties in with my views on allegory in fiction. To me, fiction is the great escape from reality, from problems current and woes real. For any piece of fiction to be a true escape, it should be able to compete with reality, for which it needs to feel, well, real. Now in allegory, by definition, references are made to things and ideas which are outside of the reality that the writing is trying to establish. This act in itself, makes the fiction seem less real. Ergo, an escape that's not-so-great.

True fiction, in my opinion, is that which you enjoy for what it is, that which engulfs you so completely, that you never ask what is going on in the author's mind and how thoughts are being formulated. You don't ask what plot element the author is going to introduce next, but ask instead how the characters are going to react.

True fiction is not just when the characters don't break the fourth wall, but when you forget that a fourth wall even exists, separating them from you.


Swathi said...

Well, we all like to dictate what others think of us, so its really only the extent to which one goes to make an opinion that matters.
That said, it really has to do with the reader, i think. (fill long winding talk here about the hazards of literary theory). eitherway its an overdone argument. Most writers, i speak from whatever little experience i have, try not to look back at what they've written, and are therefore, even less likely to identify.
so yeah, blogs are not 'windows to anybody's souls' any more than their faces are. but if there are people out there working out some online romance through orkut and blogger, lol, good for them. Their danger does not lie in the author's pretensions (if there should be any), but in the reader's eagerness to buy it all. I think. :)

PS said...

Analyzing what I said and what I meant when I said it - very taxing work it is. :)

The crux of my argument was this - Blogging is a form of writing, hence a little different from internet profiles, etc., Thus any interpretation of the writer on the reader's part would be skewed. Writings and the writer are two different things, which can be known from everywhere else.

But, but but, outside literary circles, no one even tries to glean info about authors from their writing... but in the case of blogs, it is often done. As it is seen as a mode of expression usually rather than apersonal writing.

And yes, much of this would have been discussed and discarded in literary academic circles. I don't belong to any of them. The arguments and analyses are purely my own. :)

Mohan K.V said...

Fully agree with you, blogs are an art-form of their own. Most certainly premeditated!

And deception... it most certainly is :)