Tuesday, June 16, 2009
  Books by Bloggers

A review in the Observer of More Blood, More Sweat and Another Cup of Tea (a follow up to Blood, Sweat and a Cup of Tea) by Tom Reynolds got me wondering about other authors who've had their blog posts published.

Tom Reynolds, his pen name, is a London ambulance driver. Jakartans may not realise that some capital cities have such public services, with dedicated public servants such as Tom. I've long been dipping into his blog, Random Reality, which is an honest portrayal of a man's working life, of a job which others take for granted until in need of his services. He's an honest man, often blunt but generally kind, especially to old folk.

He reckons his royalties may afford him a much-need foreign holiday. Maybe it's not so much but on a basic salary of about £1,700 (c.Rp.27 million) a month - before tax, such a holiday is beyond the means of Londoners.

I like books, so wondering about others by bloggers I went googling. Most of those listed were for bloggers; sorry, but I'm not interested, been there, done and still doing that.

Tom's motivation is similar to mine.

He says, "Blogging lets me organise the thoughts that have been going through my head during the day. I get them down, and then I sleep better at night. It's a way of emptying my brain."

Living in a war zone is enough motivation for a brain wash.

Salam Pax: The Baghdad Blog by Pax Salam was probably the original of this genre, and I suspect that Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq by Ahdaf Souief is similar.

Others blog because they're trying to organise their thoughts from a philosophical basis.

Steve Esser is one such blogger who is trying to comprehend the thoughts expressed in a couple of books by bloggers.

For example, he writes about C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason by Victor Reppert and A Paradigm Theory of Existence: Onto-Theology Vindicated by William F. Vallicella.

As I have difficulty in understanding the titles of the two books, I'm unlikely to make much headway with either. I'm not given to much philosophising about why or whether I exist when there far are more immediate practicalities to deal with.

If you want a book deal, I've discovered a couple of editors who've been looking for 'interesting' bloggers, though they may have been caught up in the early hype about a simple tool for documentation and communication. Five years ago there was an article in the New Yorker and more recently one in Bookseller.com suggesting that many of us are budding authors.

There's even a site dedicated to cashing in on our efforts. However, what they're all probably looking for are books for bloggers, which is a major theme of, erm, many bloggers, as are blogs about the ever-changing world of food, widgets, gadgets and other technological ephemera, and how to save or make money.

It seems rare to find novelists who've used blogging as a means to put their literary fantasies into shape. There's Rebecca Agiewich who wrote BreakupBabe: A Novel and The Intimate Adventures Of A London Call Girl by Belle de Jour, whose blogging days seem to be over.

The Indonesian blogosphere does have some notable book authors - in Indonesian. Let me start with someone who saw the potential in what we do before I did, and that's Isman H. Suryaman, who has two blogs, one in English, The Fool, in English, and one in Indonesian. His books include a selection of film parodies, Parodi Film Seru, and another, Bertanya atau Mati, which roughly translates as You Gotta Larf (At Life), or Die. His wife, Primadonna Angela, is famous for her series of eight teenlit novels, although she has at least five other books to be proud of.

Together they are part of the Indonesian Writer's Tavern which you can join, especially if you're based in Bandung, here.

Isman's influence is quite wide. He was the editor of the Indonesian Anonymus book, Kopi Merah Putih, a collection of commonsense essays on contemporary life, a kopi copy of which they kindly sent me.

No doubt there are other books published by bloggers here - feel free to leave a comment, preferably with URL. In a world which is beginning to think that texting and twittering are evidence of innate literacy, think again. A writer's craft involves a lot of thought and hard graft, but surely there is nothing more pleasurable than settling down on a sofa or toilet seat with a good paper-based read.

Let me end, not with a plug for 'my' book but with a request for some co-writers.

Two years ago I posted a mock wiki page about Jakarta in the year 2107. I thought then that it might make a fine futuristic novel. I still do and am looking for co-writers, preferably with reasonable English (which I can always edit). The topic remains current, with both Indonesian Anonymus and my friend Simon Pitchforth posting their thoughts on south-east Asia's pending waterworld.

For the time being, non-swimmers are more than welcome to contribute.
Update June 17

Blogging Policeman Wins Prize

Two months ago, the NightJack blog by Richard Horton -
chronicling his immersion in the world of drugs, drunken brawls, rapes and runaways - scooped the Orwell Prize and was hailed on blogs and in newspapers as an unusually impassioned, eloquent and informed piece of frontline reporting. He was also wooed by agents and publishers hoping to secure the rights to the police procedural he was writing.

Unfortunately, the culture of 'celebrity' has meant that he can't hide behind his pen name and he's been 'outed' ~ his bosses weren't happy.

Tom Reynolds (see above), described the high court decision as "not a brilliant ruling … and not a very helpful one". He said: "It's about whether you allow people to be honest. It's like journalists being told to give up their sources; if we're told that we're all citizen journalists now then we should have the same opportunity to protect ourselves."

Read extracts from NightJack here.

Belle de Jour calls the ruling "a dangerous precedent".

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