Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Bloggery

A Note from Moose to a Sister in Pseudonymity

Dear Dr. Crazy,

Could I borrow your pseudonym for awhile? I mean, I like mine just fine, despite the obvious challenges of trying to be taken seriously while impersonating a dead dog. Still, I'm not complaining. The old sweater really does feel pretty comfy, if you know what I mean -- and I know you do. Anyhoo, I was hoping we could come up with some kind of barter arrangement whereby I might borrow your moniker from time to time in exchange for, well, maybe delicious low-fat recipes, since I have followed your fine example and embraced a healthy new Lifestyle Adjustment Program. (It's going great, thanks, but do you think there is any correlation between blogging and the need for such adjustments? I have found myself wondering about that a lot recently, while pedaling away on the stationary bike in the basement and not blogging.)

Here's the thing, Dr. C.: Life feels pretty fricking Crazy right now, which is why I'm thinking your pseudonym might be right at home here in our quirky little corner of the blogosphere. If we can't have your name, maybe we'll just borrow a mode you use from time to time of ticking off a list of things you have to do. Your lists both impress and exhaust us, but I'm realizing that my own calendar lately has been jam-packed with meetings, tasks, and Super-Important Things to Do. For instance, in the last week, I have:
This is all in addition to the usual spring tasks of teaching, gearing up for the (fabulous!) lecture series and symposium my program annually organizes, and watching basketball. Lots and lots of basketball. Hey, a girl can't work all the time, and there's stuff worth watching in the Comcastle these days.

It's the Crazy-ness of spring, I guess, exacerbated in my case by bio-familial matters that are currently absorbing a certain amount of time and a great deal of emotional energy. For now, I am finding it impossible to blog about those matters, even from behind the protective shield of my -- or your! -- pseudonym. You might have noticed that I held back in the. recent. conversation. about. pseudonymity in the academic blogosphere, sparked, in part, by the Journal of Women's History roundtable on feminist blogging to which I and the real people behind Tenured Radical and Historiann contributed. I stayed out of the fray in part because I felt I had addressed the matter in the piece I contributed to the roundtable, "The Madwoman With a Laptop: Notes Toward a Literary Prehistory of Academic Fem Blogging." In explaining the significance of my title's allusion to Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's monumental reassessment of 19th-century women's literature, I argued for the enduring attraction of pseudonymity, even for those of us who have published books under our real names: 
[T]he Madwoman With a Laptop has discovered the lure of publishing outside the usual channels as someone other than her (public, official, professional) self. Her words are, by design, un-authorized, disowned, but it is from this self imposed otherness, this cultivated marginality that they derive their subversive force. Her speech echoes the ravings of the hidden hysteric, the whispers of the churchwomen after the service, the gossip of friends from girlhood, the raunchy wisdom of middle-aged women talking sex, pleasure, menopause. There is a lot of Emily Dickinson in this postmodern Madwoman, playing fast and loose with identity, reveling in the space opened up by declaring oneself a delighted “Nobody” rather than a dreary “Somebody.”
Here is my bottom line on the matters of trust and truth that always seem to come up in these discussions of pseudonymity: A liar will lie even if his real name is attached to the words he speaks. (See, for example, Reagan, Ronald W., who once accidentally declared that "Facts are stupid things," the only true thing he ever said.) A truth-teller, on the other hand, will tell you the truth no matter what he calls himself. (See, for example, the searingly honest books published under the fake name of Mark Twain.) When it comes to evaluating the veracity of what you read in the blogosphere, you'd be well advised, as D. H. Lawrence might have said if he had lived to surf the Interwebs, to trust the blog, not the blogger. ("Never trust the artist, trust the tale," Lawrence wrote in Studies in Classic American Literature. "The proper function of a critic is to save the tale from the artist who created it.") Truth is more than mere facts, and a slanted telling of the truth may be the most effective means of conveying it. What's in a name? A lot, but nothing close to the whole truth.

And yet: The comfort of my assumed name is not enough to permit me to speak freely of those bio-familial matters to which I alluded earlier. Not yet anyway, not even here in a world called into being nearly five years ago by love and the threat of loss.  Bear with me, darlings. I don't mean to be cryptic or coy. I am trying to explain why posting has been light around here lately. I am edging my way forward on what feels like new terrain, trying to figure out how much I can or should reveal in this space of public/private intimacy. It isn't easy. In fact, it's a little Crazy-making.

For now, I will let a picture stand in for all the words I am not prepared to write. It's borrowed from a 2007 piece called  "The Impossibility of February," from artist Maira Kalman's gorgeous illustrated blog on the New York Times website. I offer it with love for a woman who, alas, does not have a little dog to be her faithful companion in illness. We got your back, Mom. I swear to dog.
Yours sincerely,
Moose

24 comments:

  1. Roxie, you are a true baddeasse of the bloggeosphere!

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  2. Love the Lawrence and Maira Kalman. Less happy with the cinema verite of Excellence Without Money, but admirable attn to form. Well done, Miz r.

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  3. I hope the bio-familial matters work out for the best.

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  4. We who read you hope that all is well, Roxie--er, Dr. Crazy.

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  5. This sounds so dire and sad. Sending a flock well wishes shaped like faithful little dogs your way.

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  6. Thanks for the kind words, everybody. You are the loveliest pack of readers on dog's earth, truly.

    Didn't mean to make the situation sound dire, Clio. It's challenging in the way that such things tend to be these days (aging parent, siblings scattered all over the country). Moose is having a hard time writing about it because it involves the lives and stories of others. At the same time, she's had a hard time not acknowledging it around here, despite all she's learned from bloggers like you, for example, who blog so eloquently about intensely personal things. Who knows? Maybe next time she will try to borrow YOUR pseudonym! ;-)

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  7. I am happy to share my pseudonym! But only if I get to write as Roxie, because who KNOWS what sort of things I might blurt out with the much longer leash that writing as a dead dog provides?

    Whatever the case, congratulations on your new Lifestyle Adjustment Program, and sending all good vibes your way about the Crazy-making schedule and the bio-familial stuff. The good thing about being Crazy is that it allows you to compartmentalize and at a certain point you do tick the things off your list and the unbloggable things find a way to manage themselves.

    So, Dr. Crazy, just take care and don't write anything I wouldn't write! I'm off to go consider my future of blogging as Roxie and all the wonderful things that might entail.

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  8. Thanks, Dr. C -- Er, I mean, Roxie! Hey, maybe we could launch a fun new blog project -- Pseudonym Exchange Day or Week or Month. You could be me, I could be you, Historiann could be TR, TR could be Historiann. I guess the key question is:

    WHO WOULD GET TO BE COMRADE PHYSIOPROF? That would be one [string of Anglo-Saxon expletives deleted] tough act to follow, wouldn't it?

    Game on reader/bloggers: If you could be anyone in the blogosphere, who would you be and how would you be it in the space of your blog?

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  9. I'm on it! pseudonymexchange.blogspot.com. "The Pseudonym Exchange: for those times when your own pseudonym just won't do"

    I've invited you to join. I feel like our first order of business will be to come up with an application process - because surely such an exchange program would be very, very competitive! Ok, I have to go do actual work now :P

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  10. We are ALL Comrade PhysioProf!

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  11. There is no fuckken wayye that any of you motherfuckkers could rippe and shredde it like PhysioProf.

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  12. Dr. C (or whoever the heck "you" "are"): You=Genius!

    You are right, of course, that the application process will have to be elaborate and rigorous. Hmm. Let's see. How 'bout we tell folks to leave a comment here or at your place saying something along the lines of, "Hey, I want in on this thing. Send me a freaking invitation already!"

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  13. (((Crazy-Roxie))) I've been thinking of you and about your blog silence. No explanations are needed, friend.

    Not everything has to be blogged, and certainly not in real time.

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  14. Meanwhile, the world wonders where in the heck is Comrade EnglishProf? Probably in the basement, brushing up on her Anglo-Saxon vernacularisms.

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  15. Thank you, Historiann. You are a true pal.

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  16. Totally in on the Pseudonym Exchange. And Moose, having once-upon-a-time participated on the Committee to Assure That All Incoming Students Read At Least One Fracking Book in Their First Year of College right there at QTU (think Fred Phelps, if you must), I can only offer my sincerest sympathies.

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  17. Speaking of crazy, the world is so crazy that when you speak the truth about it, people think you're crazy! WTF?

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  18. Love this: "Her words are, by design, un-authorized, disowned, but it is from this self imposed otherness, this cultivated marginality that they derive their subversive force."

    You all -- Roxie/Crazy, Crazy Original, CPP (of course, nobody can "rippe and shredde it" like you!), all of you -- inspire me. Never would have thought of blogging at all, if not for reading you for a long time first.

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  19. @Horace: QTU? Fred Phelps, you say? Careful there, man, or you may need a new pseudonym because you've given yourself away. Don't worry, though -- Dead dogs tell (almost) no tales. Welcome to Roxie's World!

    @recentPh.D.: Welcome to you, too -- and keep up the blogging. We are glad you've joined the fun.

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  20. A picture by my friend I'm reminded of...I hope there will be these moments too. http://patraftery.net/woman_on_bed.htm

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  21. Ah, lovely, Richard. Thank you, for the image and the thought.

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  22. @RSL: I give myself away quite easily: I remain pseudonymous to protect from the Google searches, but I've no illusions that a pseudonym leaves me actually anonymous. Plus since I am acquainted with both you and Dr. Crazy IRL, I thought it unfair that you shouldn't be in on the party (because really, parties are always better with Moose, Goose, and Roxie!)

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  23. Yo Team!

    Let us bond, anon. Life is short, eh?

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  24. Feel free to borrow, Roxie!

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