Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Original Blogger?

Who was the original blogger? My vote is Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who died over a generation before Alan Turing described the Turing machine.

I've been reading Dostoyevsky's A Writer's Diary. As noted in the introduction, the work does not fit neatly into any standard genre. It was published in monthly installments, first as a column in a periodical then on its own. The entries include fiction, commentary, and reviews. Despite its disparateness, Dostoyevsky intended the writings to be a single, coherent work, albeit a bold experiment in form. The idea for A Writer's Diary brewed in Dostoyevsky's mind for several years. Characters from his novel The Possessed discuss the merits of such a work. Dostoyevsky intended the Diary to perform "the double and apparently contradictory task of discovering the real moral development of Russia and yet capriciously indulging whatever happened to strike the author's fancy" [Gary Saul Morson, "Introductory Study: Dostoevsky's Great Experiment"]. According to Wikipedia, "blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries." Once again, Dostoyevsky was long ahead of his time.

If he were alive today, I suspect Dostoyevsky would be an avid blogger, so it's a good thing he's not alive today since he would have never gotten around to writing Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, and literature would suffer the loss. So as you're blogging, think about the very firm shoulders on which you're standing and the great tradition in which you're working.

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