Let me add a final chapter to the recent blogs about G.F. McFetridge’s essay on Mobius. In addition to what was posted here, there were some heated emails between us. Being the ex-New Yorker I am, I gave as good as I got. But somewhere in those messages both McFetridge and I read between the lines and picked up on a touch of integrity. Between insults, I admitted I had gone too far and too fast with my column. He appreciated that. A couple of days ago, George emailed me with his phone number and suggested we talk. I called.
We each apologized for the impetuousness of our remarks, and then talked writing, philosophy, and more. There was common ground, which led to some mutual respect.
George explained the history of his essay, how it had grown from a small joke between friends to more of a prank and a wakeup call to the literary establishment. It typically had received more praise than criticism (it’s been printed several times in the last ten years). Had I known these things, I would have written my blog differently, focusing more on the message than the messenger.
Afterwards, I considered taking the two posts down—to bury the bad feelings the way we had in real life—but my site stats show that the exchanges were the most viewed blog posts I’ve ever had—by far. Controversy sells. No surprise. Seeing it happen on my blog is like spending a million dollars to conduct a study that reveals what everyone already knows. Too bad, too. I’ve written other, more interesting and informative posts, but hardly anyone seems to care. The experience also says something about the nature of the internet—it’s mostly about immediacy. That breeds inaccuracy and misunderstanding, and often sacrifices integrity for controversy.
As a writer in 2012, I understand that “platform,” one’s online presence, counts as much as writing talent—in many cases more. That means Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and this blog. I don’t mind that so much—it can be a means of keeping in touch with friends and colleagues I might never be able to visit, but it also means searching for subjects one can have an opinion on, subjects possibly controversial, subjects that might add a few more hits to the site stats, get my name out there, throw another plank on the platform.
I’m glad George made the gesture and suggested we talk. A literary feud might have gained notice in the writing world, but it wouldn’t have been much fun. Talking things out was much more satisfying.
Talking—I recommend it.