Monday, August 31, 2009


Frank Beekman posted the last part of his final entry last night. It was the best writing on the Internet, and I've loved his unflinching (if overly harsh) self-examination, coupled with a novelist's sensibility and eye for detail, for years. He's been planning the end for some time now (posts have gotten less and less frequent) and it's a very graceful and fitting departure, but it still makes me sad, for a variety of reasons.

There is, by the way, no point in reading the last entry if you haven't read any of the rest of it. The archives are immense, but worth making their way through (you can cheat and read only the entries marked on the sideline as "quintessential accidental") if you like brilliant autobiography and can handle regular heartbreak.

One great thing about the Internet is that it allows me to explore aspects of myself that aren't well-integrated with my familial or professional life. And then to share that aspect with people who would otherwise find me mostly uninteresting. In that vein, Frank (and/or his altar ego) and I have had (very) occasional correspondences over the last few years, and for unknown reasons (i.e., the more suitable candidates all turned him down, I reckon) he asked me to help him launch his new web site. This involves reading a book and discussing it with him via email. Then he posts the discussion online. The first entry is up, and I'm signed up for one more book, after which he'll find someone more appropriate. I'm not denigrating my own reading or discussion skills, but he and I approach reading in very different ways, and I think his site would work best with a correspondent who shared his approach but has radically different literary opinions. Our first discussion was about Don Quixote, where we had radically different approaches but pretty much the same basic opinion of the book.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun discussing the book with him, even though it was very challenging for me to write about a book that utterly failed to engage me. Reading the book wasn't so much fun, but Don Quixote has its good points, and it's an accomplishment to have survived it. Besides, the next book is significantly less than half as long.

The web site is an intellectual endeavor, and I've long said that true intellectual discourse is not possible on the Internet. But the impossibility of attaining an ideal is no excuse not to work towards it. And it will be interesting to see where Close Reader takes the site, even though I'll sorely miss the further adventures of Frank Beekman.

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