A Visit From the Time Ghost

the time ghost

I spoke with William S. Bur­roughs a few times in the final years of his life. I miss him, and recent­ly I was shocked but hap­py to hear his voice again — it was com­ing out of the pages of Dostoyevsky.

Yes, I’ve been think­ing of Bur­roughs late­ly, and I’ve encoun­tered him, and I’ve been think­ing about many oth­er things that are appear­ing, too.

First pub­lished in Got­News as “A Vision From the Time Ghost.”

Longo intervallo

Vintage screenshot of the dsl.org weblog

Once, at a point that goes back to what can now be only described as anoth­er life, I found myself among a tiny group who were try­ing some­thing the world had nev­er seen: blog­ging. It was the day of Hotwired, Netscape Nav­i­ga­tor, and sit­ting front-row at Jorn’s Robot Wis­dom site as he was hard-cod­ing the form into exis­tence — and there were about a dozen of us care­ful­ly watch­ing in that moment before tak­ing it up eager­ly for ourselves.

What fol­lowed in the fever pitch of the years imme­di­ate­ly after­ward was a con­stant pass­ing-out of links with, what seemed like, the entire world: those were all the oth­ers who were also set­tling the out­back with their home­made sites.

Blog­ging, in that 1.0 incar­na­tion of link-filled “weblogs” — before they mor­phed into a kind of online diary — was like con­struct­ing a syl­labus of every­thing you were inter­est­ed in or were attract­ed to or that you were read­ing or learn­ing at the time, an ever-expand­ing out­line of links, to oth­er peo­ple’s work, held togeth­er by your edi­to­r­i­al eye.

But secret­ly my heart was open­ing out in the form of nar­ra­tive prose, and I knew that the style and the mode of ear­ly blog­ging, with its links and facts and brevi­ty and news, was­n’t at all what I need­ed to be doing — for me it was a timesink, sideshow and dis­trac­tion. Soon enough I’d even feel the same about the lat­er form, the “blog­ging” in diary-like entries of short com­men­tary that would soon take over. Almost nobody was doing it for fic­tion, it seemed there was no online audi­ence for that, and out­side of music writ­ing it just was not my thing. I knew that the work that did need doing, and the doing-of-it to the sat­is­fac­tion of my yearn­ing heart, meant that I’d absolute­ly have to stop. And so I did — I more or less fell off the net completely.

I still remain ambiva­lent toward cur­rent so-called social media, but this site does estab­lish a def­i­nite return — with, this time, the work I know I have to give.