What makes a good blog?

The post-game analyses of the DNC blogs have been made elsewhere, so suffice it to say that (a) most of them were banal; and (b) a select few were worth reading. It comes as no surprise that the most valuable convention blogs were those written not by amateurs, but by people with at least some experience thinking and writing about politics; I'm thinking here about Mickey Kaus and Oxblog. David Adesnik, on Oxblog, points out, reasonably enough, that blogs are useful if they share with the reader a certain store of expertise. (That's why Andrew Sullivan didn't need to go to the convention. He knew what he was looking for, and helped me find the weak spots in Kerry's speech that I overlooked even though we both watched the same thing on TV.)

That's one criterion that can be used to assess a blog: usefulness. A blog can provide the interested reader with an entree to liberal-hawkish (or Christian-rightish) politics, linguistics, Jewish academia, cooking, Holywood gossip, Torah, or any one of a number of spicy, tangy, or wonky subfields.

But most people, shocked by the new, tend to ignore the fact that blogs are also (primarily?) a literary medium, stuck midway between the essay and the epistle, awkward despite its shiny newness and still trying to find its own way to eloquence. That is, a blog can be worthwhile even when it's not backed by expertise, and the je ne sais quoi which confers this worthiness is something old-fashioned folk call good writing.

A civic-minded citizen of the blogosphere should gird his or her loins to become the Michiko of the blogs, wielding a sharp red pen to sort out the reading matter from the packing material. (Note that literary quality is separate from blog popularity. Any fool can see that Instapundit has the most readers in the universe, but your fool here still fails to understand how anyone can bear up under his constant, uninflected staccato.)

Such a critic would ask a few basic questions. Which blogs are written with more than a modicum of style, energy, innovation, intelligence, worldliness, refreshing obscenity, plot-driven suspense, or colorful characters? Who manages to stick their identifiably quirky nose above the unending blizzard of daily posts required of a committed blogger? Who has created a memorable literary personality, or a set of concerns that manage to challenge and infect the reader? If the entire blogosphere were to disappear tomorrow, whom would we miss?

A blog critic would review a different blog every week. They could sing the praises of an already well-known blog, or pluck a gem from obscurity and hold it up to the light of public acclamation. No, I don't want to play the role of Kakutani. I'm not Micheeky enough. But maybe I can start with writing about those blogs I like a lot, and why I like them -- and that might in some small way encourage more thorough blog criticism done on a wider scale by more popular blogs.

More on this later, dear readers, if you'd find it interesting. (If so, let me know!)

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