by Christina Schillaci
The idea of the memoir has evolved beyond its former printed self. A traditional memoir details the personal accounts of one’s life in a book or a short story. While blogging follows this idea, the style is looser and written in a series of online entries that are updated regularly, giving bloggers the ability to add to ongoing conversations that are currently popular. But what makes these blogs interesting enough to read?
The same could be asked of memoirs on the shelves of our local book shops. When we pick up a book, we rarely question who wrote it. What difference does it make? We choose a book because we are interested in its themes: sadness, hardship, or maybe the love of a family. The author’s name is rarely the first thing to catch our attention. It’s not until we read and enjoy the book that we actively seek books by the same author. So is there really a difference between grabbing a printed memoir and scrolling through the posts of a blog about someone’s life? Successful blogs, like memoirs, use themes to draw readers in. It doesn't matter who wrote it. It’s what the story’s about.
Take, for instance, unknown musicians and film makers who use YouTube as a platform to start their careers as professionals. They aren’t famous. They perform in front of a video camera and post it online to get feedback and throw themselves out into the world. And then they are discovered. Who watches these videos and discovers these young people? Everyday, ordinary YouTube users who share similar interests. YouTube is post-television, in a sense; in turn, it leads us to the conclusion that blogging is the post-memoir.
Say you’re interested in running. Maybe you want to train for a marathon, or maybe you just want to get off your couch. There’s a large running community and with it comes an abundance of books, especially memoirs. You go to the book store and look for just that – a memoir about running, because that’s what you’re interested in.
Maybe, instead, you sit down at your desk with your computer. You want to find out about running through personal experiences. You want trails, warm ups, the best athletic wear. The blogger may log in miles per week and discuss what has helped him work past that knee injury he’s had since last spring. Hey may post about his diet or how he’s been training for a specific race. His success and experiences are different from any other blogger’s. A blog offers much of the same information as a memoir. You get a firsthand account, and instead of reading about something that has already happened, you are in step with the blogger, living and reading as he is living and writing. You are carried along for the ride. It’s a memoir unfolding, and you are observing the process.
In addition to blogs that center on a theme, there are just as many that are personal. These are the bloggers that captivate readers with their lives and the honesty behind their words. Blog posts often read like chapters of a gripping memoir. Instead of focusing on a theme and projecting it out into the digital world, personal bloggers pull the world in. As a people, we are enthralled by the lives of others. We read novels and memoirs about individuals we have never met. We want to know secrets that should be tucked away but instead are splayed out before us like Hershey bars on Halloween.
Let’s not forget that while there are a great number of blogs that are worth reading for literary value, there are just as many that are not. There are blogs that feature pictures of cats in boxes, blogs used as social networking platforms, and blogs for everything in-between. These are wonderful to surf on nights spent sitting pretzel-style on your bed, but if you’re looking for a blog that encompasses the idea of the post-memoir, you’re hard pressed to find it here. Blogging allows the reader to read a memoir as it happens, but that does not go to say that every blog you stumble upon will be literary.
Still, in the trending new genre of post-memoir, more blogs are taking on that literary oomph. Because blogs are kept current, the writer knows what readers want to hear based on responses and trending topics. Individual bloggers give readers information that can’t be found anywhere else but through that one unique lens. Blogging adds to the conversation, and with it come readers who are ready to discuss it.