Alan Taylor 13th November 2009
WHERE better to begin than with the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare, who famously made Hamlet utter: “to blog or not to blog, that is the question.”
At least it was. Now, with coming of the SRB’s website, there is no option but to blog. As another great man said, “I blog therefore I am.” And if one doesn’t blog? Well, one cannot really be said to be.
Supporters of the cyber revolution argue that Shakespeare would have been a blogger were he alive at this hour. I’m not so sure. I think Shakespeare, about whom we know virtually nothing, was your archetypal writer, who would regarded writing for nothing a form of insanity.
Were he around today he’d be more likely to be writing episodes of Hollyoak or in the employ of Andrew Lloyd Webber than disseminating to all and sundry his genius for no reward. As another great scribe, the Scotophobic Sage of Lichfield, Samuel Johnson, so nearly said: “No man but a blockhead ever blogged but for serious dosh.”
He, however, who was as hard-headed as they come, did not live in age when anyone who felt so moved could blurt out a few desultory thoughts and with a press of key sending into the ether. Thus, in the space of a few curious and hyperactive years we at the Scottish Review of Books have at last tiptoed into modern world. It feels a bit like Christopher Columbus staggering ashore in the Dominican Republic and realising that what he’s seeing is at once novel and oddly familiar.
In the spirit of Columbus, therefor, I shall blog when the mood takes me and share with whoever cares to read what I write whatever is currently on my mind. I suspect I shall write mostly about what I am reading, given the constant imperative of finding good books to read. It would nice to exchange thoughts and suggestions with similarly inclined readers.
At the moment, for instance, I am deep in A Matter of Time by Alex Capus, a French-Swiss novelist who writes in German. It’s set at the outbreak of the First World War partly in East Africa and partly in London, with Africa dominating. In the midst of an insane conflict are three boatbuilders who’ve sent by Kaiser Wilhelm II to reassemble a boat which was first built in Germany. Capus offers an intriguing scenario and writes laconically, humourfully and well. He also gives his chapters odd headings. How about ‘Mushy Sweet Potatoes’, ‘Giraffes’ Necks and Telegraph Poles’ and ‘Multicoloured Nigger Socks’?