Girlfriend of an Obsessive Reader

Revenge Blogging: When Writers Attack

Consider the notion of revenge blogging. According to the Oxford Dictionary (compact, 1996), revenge can be categorized as: an act of retaliation and a chance to win after an earlier defeat. Revenge blogging might also be a statement of existence and survival; I blog, therefore I am. Ignore me at your peril. But what slight and defeat via blog might instigate a revenge blog, and what form might it take?

Take for example My Revenge Blog which states ‘The purpose of this site is to get shit off your chest, have fun and avoid getting ripped off by bastards’. (Topically) this might be paraphrased as don’t let the bastards grind you down.’ Titles on the forum include People – Assholes, Bitches & Backstabbers; Media – Crappy Television Shows, Garbage Movies, Shitty Music, etc; Places – Dumps & Shitholes;…you get the idea. It is a less sophisticated blog version of The Caravan Gallery the ultimate pictorial revenge on the notion of Englishness and nostalgia (their complete works should be sent to Nick Griffin and David Cameron).

The internet has become not just a place to share knowledge and opinions, but also a place to bite back.

Interesting though it is to note the power of blogging and tweeting on national and international events, more compelling is the question: what happens when writers start blogging about each other? Essentially we are writing about our lives – personal and professional aspects of our lives – and offering it up to everyone. What happens when couples, friends or family members start blogging about shared situations? Well obviously you get the same event from multiple points of view. But what if one person blogs and one doesn’t? What if one is private and doesn’t want to be written about, or if a situation is re-written with their part in it erased or highjacked altogether? What if that situation was emotional or personal to them? Is revenge-blogging a way to exact revenge on guerilla bloggers who edit and appropriate our personal lives and ideas without fear of blogging-retribution? And where might it end if we all start slugging it out online – albeit mostly under pseudonyms?

The notion of repercussions from writing about other people may dawn more slowly on writers of fiction, unlike journalists (for the most part) because in fiction while plots and incidents may or may not be inspired by real life, characters are often amalgamations of many people, not factually represented with consequential limitations. Events are often spliced together and their timelines disrupted.  The conflation of a nugget of truth into a magnum opus using poetic license is something that many writers admit to, and others refute. Inspiration has to come from somewhere after all – albeit a newspaper article or some detail of family life related by an unsuspecting friend. In the words of Alison Dunne (The Book Doctor) “don’t date a poet if you don’t want to be written about” (I hope she’ll forgive my paraphrasing of her excellent poem).

But what about if you are NOT being written about? What if every event and incident your writing partner relates in his (ok, I’m personalising this) blogs and articles excludes your presence in his life? What if ex-girlfriends feature, friends and family feature in his writing, but you – who shares his house (ok, so he shares yours too), makes his sandwiches (ok, so he makes your sandwiches too), edits his manuscripts (ok, ok), and reads his blogs and articles – are never mentioned; in fact, the implication through his writing is that this lonely book lover has only the pages of his latest novel to cuddle up to at night.

Of course, you understand at once that this is a professional device to build and support a writing career, a creation of a brand and identity in blog, mag and broadsheet to explore certain ideas about literature and open the way for irony and humour…

By coincidence, in the book I am writing  (A Beginner’s Guide to Running Away), the heart of the conflict between a famous feminist writer/journalist and her daughter is due to a regular column written by the mother in a broadsheet. The column is ostensibly a narrative of the experience of the single mother but causes a rift when the mother reveals a family secret the daughter is not aware of….the issue of course is that the mother is writing from a certain bias, within the celebrity brand she has created, while her daughter feels that her life and her identity are being exploited as a commodity.

Surely this is the danger in ostensibly writing about our personal lives, especially when in fact we are bending the ‘truth’ or inferring/ implying personal relationships in order to make our point, be humorous or create our own celebrity brand – ie Feminist Survivor Mum, Lonely Literary Lothario, etc. What happens when friends, colleagues and family take issue with how we portray or refer to them in our on-line writing or even take umbrage that we have edited them out of the accounts of our lives – when the professional turns personal?

The personal aspect to these questions relates to a recent blog post by my partner (he of the sandwiches, manuscripts and obsessive reading). He is an Obsessive Reader (OED: obsess (often in passive) preoccupy, haunt, fill the mind continually…besieged, possessed) and according to him I am a Reading Assassin, due to the fact that I foster unreasonable expectations of a conversation when our paths converge in that 3 storey house of his (in his blog) ours (in real life) … (you see the danger here, how writers focus on small words like ‘his’ and ‘ours’ and all their implications).

The problems with a writer dating a writer are obvious; among other things, the writer is always the protagonist of their own book. I don’t mean in the autobiographical sense, but the soul, the nugget of the main character is the soul/ nugget of the writer in an alternative dimension, a what-if or might-have-been. We are all of the characters and all of the places in our books; our own heroes and villains, the creator-gods and narrators of our own world…the suns of our own galaxy. So what a slug to the ego and cuff to the romantic spirit to find that we are actually only the bit-part player in someone elses story, the erroneous extra, the unnecessary (slightly boring or annoying) character who is edited out of the final draft to improve the flow of the text. And with a click of the key –  gone. No wonder if we stamp our feet like spoiled brats at such cold-blooded omissions.

Back to my partner’s blog entry (Unbound Books) An extract:….

‘Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

Each girlfriend that i’ve been serious about has been presented with a copy of this book and warned, if you don’t like it, we won’t get on…When I split up with my previous girlfriend – soon after she confessed to not liking Dirk Gently – I went to Kefalonia…’

Well I have never been offered the above novel to read, am I therefore to deduce he is not serious about me? And indeed this was not his previous girlfriend but his previous previous girlfriend. Worse still, note the (almost misogynistic) implication that his choice has absolute sway here, that the novel holds precedence over the relationship, and is ultimately preferable.

And on the subject of Cold Mountain: ‘Yet another historical, romantic novel. Maybe I should start giving this to girlfriend’s (sic) instead?’

Well guess what …he did. A year ago. I saw it as the defining romantic gesture that switched our relationship from friendship to love…I didn’t realise it was a kind of literary girlfriend-selecting mechanism. And girlfriend’s??? (Note the misuse of the singular possessive for plural). My god, the utter cheek of it. Who can blame any red-blooded Devonshire-celt woman – and poet to boot – for rising up at this literary slight? I’m not sure if I am more upset by the bad puncuation or the relegation of my position (romantic interest; princess; happy-ever-after) to another authorial doxy to be filed for reference only when the next girlfriends come along (so long as they share his taste in books, presumably).

The question remains, what happens when we start slugging it out by blog (blogging it out)? What verbal punches can we land, what blogging blood-feuds, what stanzas lay waste with, what internet vendettas of purple prose might drag on for decades? Surely this is the grave danger of writers dating writers. I have a mental image of two writers, in two separate rooms of a house, on separate floors, each tapping frenziedly into their laptops, updating blogs – their arguments vented into the internet, their personal blogs the burning tools of literary revenge.

But in fact, revenge implies a bitter aftertaste, a darkness I don’t really mean. Perhaps to blog therefore I am is just a way to say, don’t blog me out of your life, however annoying, unnecessary and erroneous I may be.

I’m not just a character in a story, I’m a real person with real feelings….aren’t I?