Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Jimmy Breslin, Proto-Blogger? Everything old is new again. Rachel Donadio's article in todays Observer proclaims the death of the Mitchell-Liebling-Kempton-Hamill school of New York journalism, and their "terse, atmospheric writers who celebrated ordinary people in the bars, offices and waterfronts of a New York where the Irish, Italians and Jews were still considered ethnic."

"The signs, then, indicate that there’s less of a place for columnists like Mr. Breslin, or for atmosphere-heavy narrative writing in general," Donadio writes.

That may be true for newspapers or magazines but what about blogs? It may be that newspaper editors and readers have lost their taste for this kind of writing but there's plenty of it on this interwebby thing. Want a celebration of ordinary people? Go read the Gothamist Interview. Stories of bars and offices? Try Maccers or Dnasty. (I try to do a little of it around here also.) This stuff may not be indentical to Breslin journalism but it's taking up similar themes and voices.

And there are another, less literary, resemblence. I grew up around Hamill and Breslin, and drinking played a large part in their gig. They met, gathered, bragged and fought together in bars like the Lion's Head and Costellos. New York bloggers tend to drink. A lot. In bars. Together. I've had the hangovers to prove it.

Although from the outside they might have appeared to be an exclusive clique, the ink-stained ones were also very much a meritocracy. You were only as good as your last story. You only counted if you were writing. And this, in my experience, is how the bloggerati operate as well. The entry requirements are simple: write something bright and witty and new. The dues are only that you keep writing. And that you step up when it's your round to buy the fucking drinks.
"Humor can win everything," Mr. Breslin said. "That’s the difference between anything that I do, frankly, and anybody else. I can get now and then something humorous, and nobody else can. There’s one accusation they can hurl which is deadly, which is ‘boring’! If he’s boring, that’s a major sin. That’s a felony."
Spoken like a blogger.