Online Life, Comments, & Not My Homeboy/Homegirl

It’s the wolf that knows which root to dig to save itself
It’s the octopus that crawled back to the sea”–R.E.M., “Country Feedback”

exhausted-woman with head down at deskI’m spending less time online and more time reading Tolstoy’s Resurrection.  (I just finished it, and it’s great.)

I still spend a lot of time online.

Here’s a checklist of what I do.

Read email.

Read my homegirl and homeboy blogs.

Read Michael Dirda’s reviews at the Washington Post.

Read the TLS.

Do you read Mary Beard’s A Don’s Life at the TLS?  Beard, a Cambridge professor, historian, classicist, TV celeb, and a classics editor at the TLS, is also a lively, popular blogger.  I very much liked her book The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found, which I used for a unit on graffiti in an adult ed Latin class I taught.

Oddly, Beard attracts a lot of negative attention.  People criticize her looks (why, I can’t say; she looks confident, which is half  the beauty thing), trash her ideas, and are often bizarrely malevolent in comments and on Twitter.

In her recent blog, she talked about a lead-up interview in the Times to a London Review of Books public lecture she was giving on “The Public Voice of Women”:  she talked about how “women play a higher price than men if they want to make their voice heard.”

Then The Mirror and The Mail apparently lifted and paraphrased the Times interview, and emphasized a few comments she made about the image of Kate Middleton.

The resulting comments at the newspaper were half  favorable, half not, she said.  But here’s the kind of stuff she quoted, which in general is the kind of thing she has to put up with.

Leftist feminists should not comment on the looks of other women but should rather look themselves in the mirror.”, “Who is Mary Beard and who cares what she thinks ?”, “Mary Beard has very little grip on the real world, as reflected in many of her comments. She is cocooned in her safe world of academia”, “These two writers should stick to their typewriters. (They both have a typewriter vintage look.)”, “Mary Beard is to be pitied if she truly believes that she is making any contribution by being unkind for no reason other than envy”, “Cheap publicity for Beard (who does what exactly?)”,  “Mary Beard is a leftie professor who just talks nonsense like all other lefties”, “How I wish that Mary Beard would just shut-up!”

Horrible!  And for God’s sake, is she really that leftist?  I’ve never noticed, and, heavens, I’m an almost-socialist.

I am unlike Beard in all ways, but we also get negative comments here. At my old blog, I went a little over the top sometimes by nice-girl blogger standards, and some of the comments were hostile.

Mirabile Dictu has a similar traffic flow, but in general the comments are nicer.

Sometimes I delete a comment.

I can rarely think of much to say, but I try to support my fellow bloggers by leaving comments at their blogs.  I usually say something like “Nice review!”  which is true, or “I’d love to read this” (which is true), or, in the case of blogs about contemporary fiction, “I’ll skip this one, but good review!”  I wish I were a more fluent commenter.

I have many friends online, and had a wonderful three days last fall with my friend Ellen Moody, the blogger, in D.C.

Nonetheless, I discovered recently that some of my homeboy/homegirl bloggers aren’t entirely on my side.  Recently I discovered a nasty comment about me at a blog.

The truth?  If anyone had left an ill-natured comment about him/her, or any of my friends, at my blog, I would have deleted it.

When I was a freelance writer I never got negative mail. At blogs, however, you sometimes meet with a little craziness.

I must admit, I got my husband to read the negative comment at this blog (and since he thinks all blogs are stupid, he only did this as a favor).

He says, “You’re a better writer than both of these guy/gals and they want to stop you.”

He also said, “Get offline.”

Anyway, it’s good to have spouse support.

And now here’s an R.E.M. video of “Country Feedback,” because if we’re going to be online, we have to put up with some nastiness, and we might as well listen to some good music.

5 thoughts on “Online Life, Comments, & Not My Homeboy/Homegirl

  1. I’m with you (natch) and respect Mary Beard enormously. The TLS has gone reactionary and that she’s still central (she is liberal-left I’d say) shows the TLS still values people with knowledge. They are keeping up their reviews of classical literature, archealogy and all that has to do with what used to be called ancient history.


  2. Ellen, Mary Beard is brilliant, but I must admit I’m only interested in her views on classics. She often blogs about stuff like her OBE, her portrait at the National Gallery, etc., etc., and I don’t see her as a “leftie.” Heavens, she’s even ambivalent about bicycles, thinks they’re too hard to see or something, and you can imagine what I think about that. She has done a LOT for classics, and that’s why I like her.

    But actually Peter Stothard the editor has a degree in classics from Oxford, and also writes about classics, so he is also pushing the classics.

    The TLS is very intellectual, and if you subscribe, you see there is a wide range of subjects (including German lit NOT in translation) and many points of view. I just don’t see it as conservative.


    The New York Review of Books has gone to hell, so what are we going to read? In a recent NYBR article aboutMargaret Drabble’s The Pure Gold BAby, the reviewer said the narrator was not named. Trust me, neither the TLS nor I made that mistake.


  3. I occasionally try the TLS but usually find that only a small part of it is of interest. I subscribed for years to the London Review of Books which has some great articles, but I found I really didn’t have the time to spend in it. The Daily Mail is the most negative commentator of the lot and invokes either contempt from the intelligent or adulation from the dim (forgive me). Debating with a Mail reader is easy because they usually know nothing about the topics they get so heated about and a few well-chosen facts generally shuts them up.

    Mary Beard is frequently called on by BBC radio to comment on various topics and is always worth listening to.

    Much food for thought in your post.


  4. The media in this country are just total c**p basically – they’re biased, sexist and hypocritical and totally controlled and I guess that’s maybe why I no longer watch the news or read a newspaper. My OH is constantly commenting on the hypocrisy and double standards – and their attitude towards women sucks. I mean, have we not moved on from the stereotype of the plain blue-stocking feminist??? Go Mary Beard, I say. As for the negative comment about you – well, that sucks too. I haven’t encountered anything much nasty yet, but then I’m fairly low-key. If someone posts a nasty comment I will delete it – I don’t mind discussion or constructive criticism, but nastiness is pointless. Thanks for the REM!


  5. Tom, I find I read only a small part of these publications, too, but I do enjoy the TLS. I pretty much limit myself to the TLS and the Wash Post for reviews. The TLS is great on classics and books in translation (as are you); the Wash Post is energetic. All books go on the list. I’m not sure I’d even heard of The Mail till I read Beard’s blog, but I’ll stay away from it. Yes, I had the impression that Beard was very well-respected, so I don’t know where all these malicious comments come from.

    Karen, I do know what you mean about the brutality of the press! Why on earth do they care how Mary Beard looks? She is actually lucky enough to look very good. There is a lot of hypocrisy. I have to say, it surprises me that reporters in England take other people’s interviews and then interpret them. (I’ve seen this at The Guardian, though overall it is good.) In the U.S. this is/was much frowned on. Writers are expected to do their own reporting. And I can’t even FIND any comments at most of the newspapers here: possibly a good thing from what I’ve seen.


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