Blog aesthetics

Has anyone started doing research on aesthetics of blog writing? I would like to reflect on the way I wrote the Fake China, and what I was trying to achieve.

I have long been obsessed with the image of the mosaic to describe what I want my writing to be like: small, hard little square, light-reflecting, which together form a larger image – and can serve a utilitarian function – are solid enough to be trampled on, or eaten on, without damage. That’s a bit vague. Another way of putting it, is to think of my writing as fragments, or pieces, which connect in a global pattern, and together form a general picture, by the way they reflect on one another. That would be a set of interconnected short stories, poems, or a polyphonic novel. But – and that was the exhilarating thing I discovered – the blog form was particularly pliable to what I had in mind!

I wanted to write about my time in China (a simple travel blog, so my friends could now about my experiences there). I also wanted to reflect, more generally about one aspect: the ‘fake’, mixed, cross-cultural coastal China. I decided the best way to go about it – for me – was to write a series of vignettes, each focussing on one place, experience or ‘concept’. A form soon emerged: text and photographs, alternating one paragraph of text with one photograph – both reflecting on each other.

Once I had the form, the themes came up. Some I had been thinking about before – the Great Wall and the Grand Canal; travels around East Asia; Chinese ‘pop’ graphics; karaoke, etc. Others emerged as I travelled. I listed them – a list which kept expanding; took a few notes, or drafted them as I went. And I took photos, when I went out exploring, with a particular post in mind. Ultimately, as if I was preparing a rather detailed proposal for a documentary film project. But the blog form, with its list of single post, allowed me to bring together a strong of reflection, photos, and travel anecdotes, then close them, and open another. Some deeper themes emerged – captured by tags and keywords. But I like how this is not a consistent essay, novel, or chronological narrative. It is, really, a kaleidoscopic work of writing.

I had been thinking about this for a while, inspired by long conversations with my ex-partner, Jean Francois Laplenie, who was (and still is) doing research on German musical aesthetics. In particular, I have been meditating often on an article he wrote on the Lied-cycle form, as the ultimate expression of German Romanticism: capturing totality through fragments. The Lied cycle consists of independent pieces, which nonetheless echo each other – through repeated words, or through repeated musical segments. There is also motivation to how they follow each other – a key change, a repeated note. But all of this is non-systematic. They form a totality, but that totality is not a clear system, the shape of which can be directly visible to the eye.

I would like to reflect more in depth, looking at other self-contained blog and internet projects, such as Philip Thiel’s ‘a year with‘ series, and try to write a collective work on the aesthetics of online writing, identifying writer and artists’ projects and formal designs, and reflecting on possible sources and parallels in history.

Interested, anyone?

The Fake China

After two weeks in Tianjin, I have finally got over the bad air and general difficulty of life in China – and got my Chinese blog started.

I will publish photographs and reflections on 7 weeks in Tianjin, a Chinese coastal metropolis and historical concession town. I have chosen the title ‘the fake China’, because I’ve often heard people – Chinese or not – advise me to go west, or to the countryside, to discover ‘the real China’. And I took a different approach – trusting that the coast, the interface, the cosmopolitan, is no more real than the central, the inland, the monocultural.

The blog is published at – I don’t pretend to understand or know better; I’m just trying to make sense of what I observe, hear and read from the world’s new superpower. Comments are very welcome!

the dialogue as a literary genre

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about the possibilities for dialogue opened by online publishing, blogging and web2.0 applications, in the wake of the Emerging Writers Festival. So many possibilites, so much to do. But is it all new? Being trained in classics, and a firm believer that culture actually helps, I’ve been wondering, not how to articulate the new options, but what, historically, should we think about? What is happening now, with blogs, what does it look like the most?

I had a thought, around comment threads. In political and reflexive blogs, people often post very interesting comments. Long, detailed, articulated. And the author answers. Often, the comment thread is longer than the original post, by far. And sometimes, the original post is just a conversation starter – the real work appears in the comment thread.

This is not unlike earlier dialogic genres: Plato, Lucien, or later, 18th century French writers – Voltaire and Diderot wrote a few.

Another thing to notice: the internet is an amazing platform for non-fiction, but seems poorer at publishing fiction. But fiction is not all there is to writing. In French literary history, various centuries have various genres. The 16th is poetry, the 17th is theatre, the 18th is non-fiction, and the 19th is the novel. So, we’re in a ‘philosophical age’, where the dominant form of writing is ‘philosophical non-fiction’, or exchanging ideas – about food, gender, politics – all these things that the French discussed three centuries ago, and which led to major changes in social structure.


Emerging Writers Festival

I just had an amazing panel session on type-casting at the Melbourne Emerging Writers Festival with Anita Heiss, Ryan Paine and Karen Pickering. Empowering feminist vibe dominating the talk; smart people. It was good to reflect on being a gay writer – and as a result, I’m thinking, hey, how come I haven’t started a gay blog yet? I think I will!

New developments – new possibilities

I just had a nice lunch with Nghi, discussing the possibility of shooting two ‘bush horror’  movies later this year, or early next year. Guerilla low budget filming: two times 45 minutes, $5,000. But, well, maybe we can make it happen? I would be the director – he’s got a crime writer working on the script. And – guess what – one of the scripts has a gay character.