You are a newspaper and I am a blogger. Therefore, you--as a newspaper--are haughty and elitist and secure in your power and your mainstream media status, while I--as a blogger--snipe sidelined snark attacks at you so blatantly and spitefully that the deconstructionist-minded bystander might see a latent self-loathing desire on my part to make angry love to you. Or at least, that's the way my "Blogging 101: Understanding the Dialectical Natures of Your Relationship to the MSM" course explained our roles to me.
I never bought into it, really. Rather than treating you like a despised-loved vacuous object of culturally-dictated desire (Paris Hilton est mort, vive le Paris Hilton! I bet you are truly awful in bed! Arrrrrgh!) I've seen you more like another cool kid at the high school dance (Oh, what? The MSM is here? Whatever. I'm gonna go spike the punch with my RSS feed.). It's really nothing personal. I've never been a newspaper guy. It's not an ideological thing or anything. It's just something, nothing.
So I hope you'll forgive me for not really noticing that you and I have some common interests. Say, for example, our mutual interest in Cleveland. Okay, you got me. Ha! I knew that one. But seriously, did you know I like books? I do. I like the books. Because what's funny here is that it never clicked for me that you also like books. Sure, over the years, I've seen blurbs in novels attributed to you. But I'll be honest, I've usually chalked it up to chance, that maybe the book was short on blurbs, or something. No offense, but you, as a publication? The bloggers, they, ehhhhh, they don't love you so much. That sort of thinking, it has a way of getting ingrained in you a bit, so when a guy like me finds your name inside big important books, it feels surprising.
I don't say that to be mean. It's just that, as we all certainly without a doubt know, all the real literary action takes place elsewhere. New York. Los Angeles. England. Places like that. Confident, self-realized type places. Places that can produce coolness without having to go through the "I'm a real boy!" self-justification song-and-dance. Places that aren't perpetually overcoming self-doubt and identity crises. Places that are not Cleveland.
I think, you and I, we might agree, that the hype of anti-hype is a dangerous thing. I'm also fairly certain that you and I would agree that, as far as our sense of regional identity goes, when it comes to our literary scene? It's time to scrap the trite motto-based nature of "Believing in Cleveland" and get down to the real work of doing belief. Because as Karen Long suggests, we've got a scene, no doubt...
Consider that Dan Chaon was a 2001 finalist in fiction for the National Book Award and Harvey Pekar has helped invent the graphic novel. Cleveland poet Thomas Sayers Ellis was just recognized by the Whiting Foundation and Cambodian memorist Loung Ung has made Shaker Heights her home. Mary Doria Russell - of "The Sparrow" fame - lives in South Euclid. And tantalizingly, the word-of-mouth about Thrity Umrigar's upcoming January novel, "The Space Between Us," is very good.
...and it's got potential to do some kick-ass good for this town...
"They need to put a Starbucks in there to attract some new people, bring them in off the street," Poh Miller said. "Isn't that a good idea? The library could be a coffee spot for some of the people who live downtown."
It is a good idea, and other writers at Loganberry offered more. Kelly Ferjutz wishes the region offered a book festival with real zest. [...]
A first-class festival could promote literacy, as the one in Milwaukee does. It could spark the local economy and enhance our connection to the written word.
...if only we could do some kick-ass good for it:
When Kristin Ohlson attended such a fair in Michigan, she sold more than 50 books in one morning. At Loganberry, not even a handful. Poor Bob Finn sold one.
No disrespect to the Poet & Writer's League of Greater Cleveland, which just completed its celebration called "Wordcrafter," but we deserve a festival with a budget. This is a great reading town.
Books have nurtured every one of us reading this page. Writers are lighting up Cleveland. They should not be so alone.
Sadly, I've not got any definite answers to any of this--hell, I don't even know what all the questions are. I can tell you this: the problems of the literary scene are, in my tentative analysis, not so distinct from the problems of the city itself. There's often--at least for myself--a certain "Huh!" reaction that always arises whenever something cool about this area is "discovered", as if everything cool about this town were some sort of hidden treasure. In reality, there is no reason to doubt that excellent writers would choose to live here. So why does it seem so surprising? And why aren't we hyping it up more?
All that said: what's to be done? We deserve to have a known scene, a cool thing, yes--but how do we go about making it happen?
Anyways, it's late and I'm tired. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that, you know, you're right. We don't suck. Yeah, I know. It feels a little bit weird saying it, I can only imagine how weird it might feel to hear it. I'll try not to take our newfound relationship too fast. Let's not be strangers, eh?
Well, okay, I will snark-snipe you on one point: Starbucks, for crying out loud? Come on! I'd prefer a good cool indie hipster coffee shop downtown, maybe something that would draw a good after-work crowd of famous people I could gawk at over my laptop. That would be way more awesome than another blasted Starbucks. Duh!