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Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Good-Natured Shot / At James Wolcott

James Wolcott

[Update 9/15 - 7 days later: The post in question has been "edited."]

I first want to put it out there that I am a huge fan of Wolcott and his blog at Vanity Fair. I check it daily for new missives from the politically and culturally wise, and entertaining writer. And to pile on a bit, I've always accepted the adage that to become a better writer, one should read a lot, and read good writers.

But some things are just too hard to resist.

Early last month his Vanity fair blog was given a facelift, and I was delighted to discover that comments were enabled! I, along with many others I'm sure, occasionally feel a pithy moment coming on while reading James, and what a perfect place to test myself when bravery reared.

A few of us dove in with cheer. And then, after some days of silence from our author rolled by and one commenter expressed dismay, I jokingly commented (and I cannot accurately quote, since those now-historical tidbits are hidden from sight - though, as of this writing, you can still see the comments count attesting to the truth of this), something along the lines of:
No worries, our man is probably shaking in his boots at the appearance of a comments section, and will no doubt return when his courage gathers.
(I have no idea whether this reconstruction is better or worse than the original, but there it is.)

And then, comments stopped "working."

A week after his post, Mr. Wolcott peeked out and offered:
Yes, I have heard the cries emanating from deep space regarding the distortions and contortions that have beset this blog, making it look as if it is under alien attack. Be assured, people of earth, that these temporary irruptions are the result of a platform shift/redesign/relaunch/iPad makeover/colonic therapy/transmission repair operation being performed by the crew of Das Boot, and things should return to normal shortly, depending upon your definition of “normal” and “shortly.”
Ah, I understood, things will return to... normal. I now understand "normal" to mean "no comments on my blog," as they remain to this day disabled. Now, that is perfectly fine and acceptable - there are many reasons why a blogger (such an inappropriate diminution for James!) would forego the rabblings of his readers, and this is a commonly found choice throughout the blogosphere.

Two days ago, Wolcott posts Advice for Editors, quoting Richard Ingrams:
As for the readers, I have always thought they should be ignored. One of the great mistakes newspapers have made in recent years is to work on the assumption that with the help of market researchers and focus groups they can discover what their readers want. But readers don't know what they want until they get it...
The emphasis is James', and my tinfoil hat says that this is a not-very-subtle apologia for the turning away of us potential comment posters. (My tinfoil hat is often wrong.)

But here's the funny part, and I waited two days for this post to see if the condition remained. That very post displays the glaring error of having the entire text of it repeated. (As of this writing, of course. If it is corrected by the time you read this, you will simply have to take my word for it.)

Therefore, I rib: Methinks that James might have some more "advice" for his own editors. Unless, of course, he self-edits his blog, as do most of we bloggers.

[Update: I wanted to include this link to a 2008 post at Wonkette, as evidence of the prescience of Wolcott.]

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