It’s been just over a year since I launched this blog with a stirring call to brand myself. I started it on a lark, thinking that I simply wanted a space to opine about the issues of the day and paste comments I was already making (totally uncompensated) on website discussion forums. For some reason, my first several posts devolved into totally unserious satirical takes on topics such as racial perceptions and Adirondack vacations. After adjusting my self-image (hm, I thought, I am a totally unserious person), I quickly became obsessed with writing absurd satires of cultural and political commentary. I spoofed television recaps, book reviews, travel writing, political commentary, parental advice, and sports journalism. After a while, however, I realized that I was expending a lot of energy writing pieces that were seen by a population which mostly consisted of a large percentage of myself. Also, the dishes piled up. So, like all bloggers, I entered blog semi-retirement and relegated my pages to an eccentric senescence. That’s nice, benwdalton.wordpress.com. Just sit in the corner and eat your deviled eggs.
In other words, the blog is mostly dead. But I haven’t been willing to bury it yet.
My feelings about it are mixed. It certainly hasn’t taken off like I secretly expected but told no one. For some reason, my post about xanthan gum didn’t go viral (I don’t understand) and my screed against listicles was ignored by the cognoscenti (it’s funny and serious!). Apparently a self-named humor blog with a tagline implying food reviews but covering politics and culture is not a great way to reach a wide audience. Most perplexing to me was the fact that no literary agents were interested in the satirical book I patched together from a random sprinkling of my blog posts and a variety of unrelated conceptual pieces I wrote in solitude.
That wasn’t a joke. Honestly, I wrote a book. No one wants to read it.
I conceived the book only a month into my blog. It was to be called The Terrible Republic Magazine, and would be a collection of the first (and last) twelve issues of an ill-fated political and cultural opinion journal. TTR, as I began to think of it, was an unholy combination of The Atlantic, The National Review, The New Republic, Travel & Leisure, Entertainment Weekly, and Buzzfeed, peopled by incompetent editors and ridiculously uninformed staff writers. It was the brainchild of a young internet tycoon and involved hiring freemium bloggers and moving the back-office operations to Davenport.
I began to compose “Editor’s Notes,” making fun of those useless page-eating descriptions of what is in the magazine you’re about to read—but didn’t post them. I took pieces I had already written (“I Hereby Announce I Am Striding for President”) and rejiggered them to fit the emerging narrative (the tycoon runs for President). I took series of pieces I had already posted and created backstories for their authors—a drug-addled, visually impaired travel writer who got the job because he was roommates with the publisher at Yale; a medically troubled TV recapper who abandoned her pony blog to review episodes of Antiques Roadshow and the 1988 Nagano Olympics; and snippets from the book-review newsletter published on the back of a retirement home’s laminated placemats. I slotted pieces I had written as stand-alone posts as “feature stories” for each of the months—some of which I posted (“I Went to the Bathroom. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next”) and some of which I kept to myself (“Somebody Hacked My Connected Dresser”). I created a spreadsheet with rows as months and columns as departments, and began filling it in with things written and planned.
By Christmas 2015, I had a draft of 90,000 words—a gloriously absurd collection of faux articles by authors surreptitiously sniping at each other, striving to court controversy, failing to conduct basic research, and generally avoiding any semblance of journalism, all reflecting the decrepit state of public debate and informed argument.
Meh, said every agent I emailed. Are you a well-known stand-up? Do you have a YouTube following? Most of the time, though, I heard nothing from them or the small presses I contacted. I slowly, dimly came to realize that no publisher in their right mind would take a risk on such a bizarre and obscure work from an unknown and unproven writer. In fact, very few readers would be interested in such a thing. So I shelved it, became grumpy for a while, and then moved on with my life and the dirty dishes which were, by now, spontaneously engaging in nuclear fusion.
Of course, I’ve not been without my triumphs, such as the time that an obscure comedic website based on the west coast accepted my list of uncomfortable reactions to a baby, and the moment my piece about a food sedan made it onto McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. With each validation of my comic genius, I thought: Wait, The New Yorker STILL won’t accept my pieces? No one will ever publish my book now!
So the blog endures, Frankenstein-like, lurching from one unrelated topic to another poorly conceptualized piece. I continue to work on the book, have started a half-dozen other projects, and keep sending in pieces to The New Yorker, because that is literally the only other major humor outlet in our nation of 320 million people and the broader world of 1.5 billion English speakers that accepts unsolicited written material. Well, there’s Funny Times, but, um, it’s literal newsprint. Even I’m not that desperate (just kidding: I will eventually become that desperate).
However, my mother continues to be supportive of the blog, my wife continues to roll her eyes and hope I don’t embarrass her, and my list of blog followers continues to grow. At this rate, I’ll reach ten thousand followers in 32,051 AD.
Regardless of all of this, a sincere thanks to all of my readers. I really, really, profoundly appreciate your questionable decision to have read even this one post, and am surprised you’ve reached the end of it. One day I will throw a party for all of you. It will be in Salon A of the local Days Inn, which holds 35 people.
I will definitely blog about it.