What makes a good blog?
My favorite blogs, 1.
Obscenity is refreshing, and when I say "obscenity" I mean taboo words in the context of well-aligned, clearly written prose, not words of four letters in every sentence. I had a long-running discussion with a college friend about my fear that true obscenity was disappearing: if everyone uses those words, where's their power to shock? Are f and s and a no longer to be the first words excitedly looked up in a new dictionary, or Googled in an idle hour? (Or perhaps racial slurs are the new cuss words?) If we've forgotten how to blush, who now knows to keep the fire in check so she can let it out to scorch the invaders in the hour of battle?
Then I click over to Dooce, and I am cheered by the highs and lows of the English language. Dooce is a narrator whose real name is Heather Armstrong. She is an ex-Mormon, a new mother, a Web designer, and a blogger. Little about the character Dooce makes her a great figure of fascination intellectual or spiritual: she's no Prince Hal, or Holden, or Emma. She's a quick-witted cynic, a whiskey-swilling junk-food-chomping mamma like thousands of others.
But there are a few things about Dooce which do set her apart and make her writing something to savor in small doses. First is what she rejected: Mormonism. This experience of the religious life, and the constant, bemusedly tolerant but disapproving presence of her family, gives her something to push against. It also gives her access to the Biblical and fundamentalist registers of speech which are not available to many bloggers. (In a recent post, she used the phrase "hot forks of displeasure." "Hot displeasure" is from the King James Version of the Bible, and I would love to know if that's where she got it. Incidentally -- not that Dooce would know or care -- this is from the Psalm that Jews recite at Tachanun.)
Second is her swearing. She does it in every post, but with such flexible power that I envy her willingness to be so foulmouthed in public. Obscenity is cathartic, and the combination of something as earthy as a good cuss word with the tender juiciness of Leta's cheeks -- well, that's something any restaurant critic would dine on with satisfaction.
Third is her psychological (and pharmaco-psychiatric) distress. I wish Heather Armstrong all the best, a speedy exorcism of her mental demons and a positive attitude for her to have and hold all the days of her life, amen. But such mental health can be death for a diarist, and I am guiltily glad, oh, so glad!, that Dooce has her up and down days.
Fourth, as mentioned, is Leta ("Her Screamness Who Screams A Lot All The Time Every Day With The Screaming") Armstrong, Dooce's daughter. Every post has at least one suspenseful moment: when will she start bleating? And when? Will Dooce freak out? How much? And in whose company?
Fifth is her drinking. A shot of whiskey's on me if we ever meet.
Now all of these qualities do not redeem Dooce's every failing. A blogger is not a novelist. She is not grappling with larger themes on the sprawling canvas of World and Life. She can be as insufferable as any new mother who doesn't know when to stop sharing her pictures. I'm glad she loves her husband, and (since by her account he is stable, considerate, attractive, a responsible father, and gainfully employed) he seems like a great guy to have around. But he's not the main attraction, so, if you please, Ms. Dooce, keep your kvelling to a minimum. And many's the entry that repeats something we've heard many times before.
But that's like criticizing a box of chocolates for having too much chocolate. Dooce is to be joyfully consumed in regular doses, like York peppermint patties -- or Maker's Mark.