On January 23, 2003, I started keeping a weblog on Diaryland, which I called The Palinode. I kept it up for a year and a half until frustrations over Diaryland prompted a move to Blogger. This year I hit my five-year blogging mark.
I have friends who, though they seem like genuinely nice and normal people, from time to time go to a hotel or the middle of a field somewhere and dress up as vampires or medieval knights. It’s a full-body immersion in gameplay.
Given the ubiquity of live action role playing games and cosplay, I was thinking the fundamental appeal lies not in the specific world you enter, but the notion of being able to enter another world by force of will, to inhabit an artificial place where you have the privilege of being able to commit to certain of its aspects but retain the best parts of the bland 21st century technotopia from which you’ve stepped away. Members of the SCA may look foolish to outsiders, but within their gated community of the spirit, they get to exist in multiple timeframes at once. It’s an experience that permits play and power simultaneously.
Therefore I’m starting my own live action role playing game. I call the game Afternoons of Palinode, in which a married speechwriter in a western Canadian city gets up every day, goes to work at a downtown office, makes soup in the evenings and watches The Wire on his computer. He’s married to a woman who’s bending the iron rod of identity blogging into a professional configuration. He makes good soup. He makes perfect paragraphs, organic and rounded as a honeydew melon.
One thing he is not making is literature. He’s not making literature for a variety of reasons, but part of the reason is his weblog. It is a limited form that claims a disproportionate amount of his energy. At first, when Palinode was writing on Diaryland, he felt free to experiment. Now he has assumed an identity, and that identity is too close to who he is. Unable to step outside of himself, encased in his identity, he has found that he has become estranged from his imagination. He is tired of that estrangement.
Part of the problem is that, in the years that weblogs have been around, a standard has been generated for web writing. That standard demands concision, clarity, liveliness, and strategically deployed vernacular. It is highly opinionated, endlessly entertaining, and usually designed for rapid consumption and response.
My imagination adheres to a very different standard. My imagination is a cartoon nightmare with musical numbers. And a weblog, which always bends to the rational even as it rages, cannot contain something as irrational as the junk that jumps around in my head. Literature is still a rational container, but it’s much more elastic.
I’m not talking about giving up on this weblog. I’m talking about opening things up a bit. I’m talking about doing more with my imagination than 500-word squirts of text. I’m going to play my live action role playing game and see what a little dislocation can do for me.