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NOTABLE HOLDOUT

It’s hard for me to convey how seriously my world was shaken by these lines from last Sunday’s NYTBR “In the List” roundup:

There was a time, three or four years ago, when it seemed every novelist had a blog, and why not? Blogging gave writers another way to reach readers, to promote their work or air their grievances or test their ideas in mini-essays that played to their strengths. But technology evolves, and despite some notable holdouts (Elif Batuman is one) Twitter has killed the blogging star. Now writers connect with their publics in 140 characters or fewer.

I had NO IDEA until I read it in the Times that writers had stopped keeping blogs!! Three or four years ago—that’s just when I started blogging! And now I’m one of the last ones left?? How did this happen?? When??

I became obsessed by the phrase “notable holdout.” “Notable holdout,” I kept thinking to myself. “Notable holdout.” Sometimes it sounded good; other times, not so good. I went through a long period of fruitless thinking. I looked up “holdout” in multiple dictionaries.  I wondered whether I would be worse at Twitter than Anne Lamott and, if so, how much worse. I took a break to check my email, and found 14 new spam comments posted to my notable-holdout blog by the latest Captcha resistant spambots, who have moved into the future and left me in the past. And, finally, I remembered Viktor Shklovsky’s immortal Third Factory:

It’s wrong to say: “The whole squad is out of step except for one ensign.” I want to speak with my time, to understand its voice. Right now, for example, it’s hard for me to write, because the normal length for an article will soon be reached.

But chance is crucial to art. The dimensions of a book have always been dictated to an author.

OK human history – I can take a hint. You can find me on Twitter @BananaKarenina, unburdening my heart according to the dimensions dictated by my time.

Once I had gotten started on the important life decisions, I also decided to shut down my Facebook “Author” page, although I’m leaving up my “personal” Facebook page. I will be tweeting (on Twitter) the newsy stuff I used to put on the Author page; Twitter is set to post automatically/ publicly to my “personal” FB page, so please feel free to subscribe. Those who use Facebook but not Twitter can see my Twitter posts on my Facebook page. To those notable holdouts who use neither Twitter nor Facebook, I hang my head and can only say, in the words of my late grandmother, “Hem bravo, hem pardon” (bravo, sorry).

I’m leaving up this site, but only for what I hope will be the very rare occasions when I have grievances that take more than 140 characters to air. I’m sorry to say that I will NO LONGER CHECK COMMENTS REGULARLY, because I swear every day I get +100 comments from some crooked robot trying to sell me used term papers. But you can tell me what you think via Twitter/ Facebook, or through my people.

See you IN THE FUTURE!!!

I will not tell you how long it took me to make that hat.
(I am too cheap for Photoshop.)

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19 Responses to “NOTABLE HOLDOUT”

  1. jill weiss Says:

    NOOOO!!!! I love this blog!!!!!!!!!! Stay!!!!!!! I hate reading tweets!!!!! Now you are shaking my world!!

  2. Ryan O Says:

    What “jill weiss” said!!

  3. Greg Cowles Says:

    I’m with them, Elif. “Notable holdout” was a good thing in my book. Maybe I should have written “noble holdout”?? I’m not on Twitter myself, although I do lurk — and apparently will have to lurk even more now, @bananakarenina. Also, would you like to buy some used term papers?

  4. John Branch Says:

    Now we can say, “The ensign is in step with the whole squad” as well as “The whole squad is in step with the ensign.”

  5. Elif Says:

    Valued readers! You are breaking my heart! “Noble holdout” made me blush! I would never buy my term papers from any other robot!

    But listen, valued readers, to my horrible, horrible confession. I am fully as skeptical of Twitter as anyone, but – I’m going to come out and say it – this blog has become a WEIGHT ON MY SOUL. Not just the robot term paper army, but the constant nagging feeling that I haven’t posted for a long time and am running out of students to outsource to. Furthermore, because I am WordPress-retarded, actually formatting each post always takes way longer than I expect – there is always some gaping space that I can’t get rid of, or boldface that spreads to the next line, or the picture that is supposed to sit next to something ends up perched on top of it like some big awful square bird.

    So this is an experiment – I’m actually hoping to blog more/ better/ less effortfully on Twitter, free from the demands of paragraphs and cascading style sheets. I will be very sorry to lose anyone for this reason but, being an optimist at heart, I’m convinced that we will all meet again sooner or later and in a better place. In the meantime I remain, as ever, etc.,
    e

  6. jill weiss Says:

    O that’s a whole other thing: evil formatting. And nagging feelings are the worst kind. We will take you as you are, wherever you are, obv.

  7. Eric Mader Says:

    I’m late to this party and it’s already breaking up. Hm. Myself I find blogs already splayed out and attenuated, so if I think of going to Twitter…. It’s sad. Soundbites as a medium. Why not stay blogging but not give yourself pressure? A month of no entries, then a week with two or three entries? It works.

    Having finally read THE POSSESSED–I knew about it for awhile, but didn’t pick it up–I just wanted to come here and say BRAVO, ELIF! I think the joys and annoyances of the academic grind have never been written up so well. Its joys, as you portray them, being the epiphanies that are the book worm’s reward: discovering, for instance, that we’d never have had KING KONG were it not for a certain, previously anonymous “English-speaking Bolshevik.” Wonderful. And its annoyances? You nail them too: esp. the wandering and forced effort of literary conferences.

    It was in the 1990s that I left a Ph.D. program in French in the States. I’ve since wished I’d gone into Russian. Now I’m rather semi-academic: in Taipei teaching English and studying Chinese. Last year I taught a class of teens in a myth class a lengthy segment on Gobekli Tepe. So I’m now going to go read your NYT piece that I just noticed.

    Waiting for another book from you. (You’re welcome to check my book, if curious, by googling Mader Heretic Days.) Many thanks for THE POSSESSED. I’ve plans already to pass a copy to my best student when we next meet. But on blogging, again: Don’t give it up; just take breaks. Twitter breaks? Twit breaks? You can do both, Notable Holdout.

  8. Maggie Gerrity Says:

    I’m going to take the most optimistic view of this development and hope that it means new product will be forthcoming!! And I’m not talking about articles in your fancy English newspapers or the terribly twee New Yorker, but a real, manly book (which could, of course, be a collection of the aforementioned, for those of us who still like the satisfying feeling of carrying a favorite author around in one hand).

    Unlike some of the others here, Twitter does not make me afraid or depressed, though I find I’ve only managed to write one tweet of mine own (who could resist the hashtag lessambitiousbooks?). I do suspect you were waiting to arrive at the most awesome handle ever before your migration — and, on a side note– what a fruitful project it would be to cite all the places Warhol’s banana has been spotted.

  9. michael rosemann Says:

    The differences between your personal blog and a service as provided by Facebook or Twitter is like the difference between a book and a journal. Whereas you are in full control not only of the content, but of the design as well if you publish a book or keep a blog, the later one has a fixed layout, design to which the author has to decline if he/she wants to publish. A journal the same as Twitter/Facebook is also short lived. The text appears today, the journal is sold, and then forgotten. The journal ends up in a shredder or to wrap fish in, and the Twitter messages disappears in oblivion.
    Publishing entire novels in periodicals (like Novij Mir, Zovremejnik, Neva, Inostranaja Literatura etc.) was popular in Soviet times, but the writers considered this as an bad alternative to have their books printed as a proper hard-cover. Twitter and journals might be an efficient manner of reaching potential new readers, thats for sure. But to stay in contact with the loyal readership of your books, a blog is better.

  10. Andrew Says:

    Nostalgia is a funny thing as is evident when you move out of an apartment that maybe you always hated yet there is still a brief pang of loss, or perhaps regret as you witness the passing of your life as you cross the threshold for the last time. Your blog though was a very cute apartment that will be missed even more….avoir

  11. ray Says:

    Oh dear oh dear oh dear!! Twitter?? Surely this is an April Fool of some kind. Ray

  12. Zeynep Says:

    How unfortunate. I just came across your blog today and now I’ll only be able to dig in the archives, read old posts of yours while I was hoping to hear more and more. Is it too late to make you change your mind?

  13. Robert Says:

    Elif!
    You are a bright star. Best wishes. Less than 140 characters.

  14. jill weiss Says:

    I take it all back. I love your tweets.

  15. deniz Says:

    Love your tweets, miss your blog a lot.

  16. Hans Wurst Says:

    Have you ever read Schopenhauer? I mean, the author himself,not someone’s description of his works.

  17. Elif Says:

    O yes they make you read Schopenhauer in Tolstoy classes. I was TA’ing once and was daydreaming in lecture and smiling about something, and the prof (my advisor) demanded a bit tensely “What is Elif chuckling about.” I was startled and said “I was thinking about Schopenhauer.” She said, “Oh, OK. Yes, Schopenhauer is very funny.”

  18. Hans Wurst Says:

    Schopenhauer’s ehtical teaching had a great effect on Tolstoy. It explains Tolstoy’s ascetic behavior in his later years, as well as his attachment to the New Teatament Gospels. One of Schop’s best jokes was the one about Voltaire and Leibniz.

  19. Hans Wurst Says:

    By the way, that joke appeared in chapter 46, volume 2, of Schopenhauer’s main work. It ran as follows: “…I cannot assign to the Théodicée [of Leibniz], that methodical and broad development of optimism…any other merit than that it later gave rise to the immortal Candide of the great Voltaire. In this way, of course, Leibniz’s oft-repeated and lame excuse for the evil of the world, namely that the bad sometimes produces the good, obtained proof that for him was unexpected.”

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