Long before I started my own blog back in October I used to visit the Grumpy Old Bookman on a daily basis. His erudition, wit, informed opinions and inside knowledge of the publishing business inspired me. I determined that he was the benchmark against which I would measure the success of my own blog.
At the end of my first week’s blogging I realised that I had set my sights at a totally unrealistic level. I couldn’t begin to match this venerable polymath for originality, breadth of learning, professionalism and just about any other metric you care to name.
I changed tack. I decided I would set out, thorough diligent application and dedication, to earn a link from his site. A link would be like an endorsement, an award for services rendered to the literary blogosphere. Equally important, a link from his site would lead a steady stream of visitors to my nascent blog. A virtuous circle would be created.
But how to earn his approbation? I decided to build a temple to literature. A quiet place where learning and contemplation could flourish. Within the temple the air would be cool and still. Laughter would never disturb the tranquillity. Only the occasional smile might be permitted, a brief shadow across my acolytes’ furrowed brows.
So. Knob jokes were obviously out. Likewise swearing. References to Jeffrey Archer and Dan Brown were also banned – they lowered the tone. The tone of the blog was all-important if I was going achieve the authoritative aura I craved.
As my model I decided to create a twenty-first century online version of the Bloomsbury Set. As the host I would be both a male Virginia Woolf and a female Roger Fry (most members of the Set were bisexual. Not that I am, I hesitate to add. Definitely not. Anyone more rampantly heterosexual than me you would go a long way to find. Not that I have anything against bisexual people either, of course. Far from it in fact. Homosexuals too, they’re fine by me. I don’t actually know any but I’m sure they’re just like the rest of us. Better probably. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it, I always say.) The glitterati would drop in on a daily basis for aperitifs and a cucumber sandwich.
Rarefied opinions and brilliant apercus would spew forth from my blog like a tidal wave of effluent from a badly maintained sewage farm. The GOB couldn’t fail to notice my presence on the blogosphere.
The weeks passed. I checked my stats hourly looking for traces of the GOB in the ether. (GOB is his acronym; I like to imagine that in Antipodean literary circles – if that’s not a contradiction in terms – he’s known colloquially as GOBBO). Tragically, the great man was conspicuous only by his absence.
And then things started to go wrong. I made a fatal mistake. Gobbo, like Zeus, never descends from Mount Olympus. If you leave a comment on his blog he never responds. Sadly, I did not exhibit similar lofty restraint. I gave way to temptation. As a result a rumbustious dialogue between me and my readers developed all too frequently. Chaos ensued.
Dear readers, and I intend no offence with this observation, it is undeniable that the tone of the blog slowly and inexorably went downhill. In stark contrast, if you read the intelligent and authoritative Comments appended to Gobbo’s blog you are left with the distinct impression that he has garnered to himself a coterie of readers. Sadly, after even a cursory glance at my Comments section the epithet rabble leaps inescapably to mind.
It’s okay, dear readers. Don’t feel guilty for my demise. It’s not your fault. A blogger gets the readers he deserves. That’s the way the world works.
In the end, the sad fact is I set out to build a Harvey Nicholas department store to house my literary blogging ambitions and I ended up with a Matalan. My Neiman Marcus erection turned into Kmart. Aldi took the place of…oh fuck, that’s enough of the retailing metaphors. You get the idea.
It is apparent to me that if Gobbo has ever visited this blog – and surely he must have stumbled upon it from time to time in his wanderings around the literary blogosphere – the sight that greeted him must have filled him with dismay. Raucous, unruly, foul-mouthed, ignorant ruffians. More like a borstal than a temple.
No link ever materialised.
So, no hard feelings Gobbo. I wouldn’t want to embarrass you anyway. Stay well clear. I’ve been an outsider all my life and that’s how I’ll stay. As you trudge wearily back up Mount Olympus I’ll settle down for the night, alone and neglected on my sterile promontory, resigned to my fate.
I might have guessed it would end this way. Me and failure are frequent bedfellows. Perhaps I should have heeded our old family motto:
If at first you don’t succeed – give up.