How does a blogger write wisely and well and not step on anyone’s toes?
I am wary about committing to a blog. It’s not just keeping up with the entries, although that is a somewhat staggering thought. My self-imposed schedule is emerging—I’m thinking I’ll post on the full and new moons, on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, mid-summer and the winter solstice, and on a smattering of personal holidays that I love—Groundhog’s Day, my half-birthday, Dr. Seuss’ birthday—or something along those lines. It’s a plan that represents what I am—an old soul, a practitioner of ancient arts—story telling, parenting, teaching, yoga—in a twenty-first century world where I adore social media, coffee bars, electronics. The momentum is compelling, and who am I kidding? If you’re reading this, you know I’ve plowed in and am giving it what I can.
In spite of the playful spirit I enjoy here in Neverland, (a.k.a., cyberspace) the doubt lingers. It was fueled most recently by the very electronic possibilities I profess to embrace. In September last year I set Google alerts to notify me via e-mail any time “Bourjaily” pops up in the current news. At the time I was watching with a mix of horror and fascination as the story of my father’s death went mildly viral. Setting the alert was the best way to keep up as websites in Italy and New Zealand carried clipped versions of his obituary. After, I left the setting alone, liking the pleasant buzz of occasional notice when my brother publishes in Field & Stream or one of his children gets noticed in the local paper.
A few weeks ago I was startled to read a new Google Alert from the Maui News: “Taxes Don’t Matter”—the e-mail displayed a clip from the article—“But when they had to provide an example, the most serious defection they could come up with was Vance Bourjaily, a third-string novelist (“The Man Who Knew …”). I could complete the book title (The Man Who Knew Kennedy, published in 1967), of his entire oeuvre an odd choice. I was stabbed by the “third-string” reference. A click on the link took me to the full story.
It was a blog by Maui News business reporter Harry Eager. He had then and has as of this writing no comments to his story. His blog title, “Restating the Obvious,” suggests he doesn’t have time or inclination toward original thought. But apparently, lampooning my recently deceased father and his talented MFA students in Tucson didn’t faze Mr. Eager at all. The reference, in a piece about a raise in taxes not being the end of capitalism, reads in part:
Now, we are told, businesses are deserting California for Arizona because of taxes.
Well, first, that’s just a falsehood.
Second, it reminds me of a campaign that the University of Iowa faculty ran some decades ago when the Legislature was balking at requests for money. If the school didn’t get so much money, then top academics would desert the school for more green schools.
But when they had to provide an example, the most serious defection they could come up with was Vance Bourjaily, a third-string novelist (“The Man Who Knew Kennedy”). As I recall, he did move to Arizona, and, as we all know, a hundred flowers bloomed in the Arizona literary desert.
Nearly 4,000 miles from Maui on a freezing March morning, I spent a little too much time obsessing over the clip, finally sent the link to a couple of confidents I knew would tell me to shrug and move on. After, I thought I had let the matter drop. I certainly wasn’t going to stir the pot by responding. Still, here I am thinking about it. This is not the way I want my father’s legacy to be memorialized.
And I’m thinking—what if Mr. Eager has Google Alerts set on his computer for his name and somehow, seems unlikely, but somehow my tiny blog shows up on his radar? What happens if my family members read about this incident here and don’t like that I shielded them from a man who maybe didn’t even bother to check out the full extent of the story (the University of Iowa also lost popular basketball coach Lute Olson to the Arizona Wildcats and a fast search suggests faculty from the law school and a well-respected provost have also made the same IA to AZ move). What’s off-limits in a blog that could be accessed by anyone at all? How do these attempts to make just a little sense out of the world we live in also not tread on anyone’s toes?
With these questions I live, trying not to let them be a worry. And I’ve managed, in spite of the questions, to wade in, liking the temperature of the water. Blog entries can aim to be like tide pools, revealing tiny beautiful moments that, if we writers do our work well, resonate with truth for ourselves and our readers. Here, standing at the edge of the ocean, I’m wary. There are big waves out there, undertows, poisonous creatures, bullies, writers who word something wrong, readers who misconstrue meaning. The unpublished page can be revised, erased, crumpled, burned or shoved in a drawer. In Neverland everything seems at once ethereal and permanent. So I wade in, but on tip-toes. Peering, uncertain. Cautious. And even so, with glee. Especially grateful to all who come to see me test the waters.