I’ve never understood this bittersweet narcissism within myself. I love to wander lonely streets in unknown cities. To find a cafe and order a coffee and think to myself — here I am, known to no one, drinking my coffee and reading my paper. To sit somewhere just barely out of the rain, and declare that my fortress. I think of myself in the third person: Who is he? What is his mystery? I have explained before how I’m attracted to anonymous formica restaurants where I can read my book and look forward to rice pudding for desert. To leave that warm place and enter the dark city is a strange pleasure. Nostalgia perhaps.

[Roger Ebert, “All the lonely people“]

The internet has a strange sense of death. There is a rush for immediacy, for action, for content of all kinds. Functionally, it’s like that unknown city, rush and bustle and bother and noise noise noise. Especially noise. There’s noise of colour and noise of words, noise of image and noise of news, noise of opinion and noise of importance. Anything less than the loud alarum clamour of constant updates is seen as death. Or at least terminal illness.

So I savour, perhaps, that bittersweet narcissism that Ebert talks about. I remember with sharp, longing clarity my discovery, on a bitterly cold night in Chicago, after I’d been on a stage in front of several thousand people, that I could walk one street over, and vanish. No one knew who I was or where I was going. I stepped into a coffee shop, to get out of the cold, and people were friendly but not friends. They were enjoying anonymity too–at once the curse and the blessing of the city.

It would be traditional, if a fashion so new can be called a tradition, for me to apologize for not updating enough. As if by some perversity, I owed the world my noise–as if we were all Whos down in Whoville and I was the little one stubbornly not doing his part. Shall I play the barbarian and YAWP?

Perhaps in this age of punditry and opinion–when every day we’re told to promote ourselves, to be distinctive and attractive and, well, popular–perhaps it’s suicidal to admit that I’ve had nothing to say. Nothing to say till now, nothing to say in a blog shape, any rate.

So the internet would say my blog is dead. But of course it isn’t. Silence is not death, though perhaps death when we get there will be silent.


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