Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Social and non-social networking

I don't social network. Yes, I tried Facebook twice and Twitter once but left each after a few months. I did see value in them. At Facebook I connected with old friends I hadn't talked to in ages, which was cool. But in the end, I seemed to be duplicating my blogging more than anything else. And I didn't care what an old friend had for lunch, really.

Twitter was more interesting. My first experience was in reading tweets from Iranian students as the cops were beating them up. Powerful stuff! But when I went online myself, well, it all struck me as pretty trivial and uninteresting. I'm not that much of a news hound that I need to know something instantly.

Lately it occurred to me that I do other networking, of sorts, which has no social component at all -- but which is very important to me in many ways. Let's call it networking with dead, or personally unknown, writers.

The origin of this awareness goes back to 1959. In Berkeley QP and I were drinking beer, listening to Sinatra's album "Only the Lonely," and bullshitting. Suddenly QP announced, "All my best friends are writers -- and are dead!"

He nailed it. That's what a favorite author is, dead or alive, a best friend, someone whose mind operates on a similar wave length. Thus when I first encountered the fiction of Josephine Hart a few years ago, or the mind of Elena Ferrante right now, I am blown away by the realization that here is a soul mate, someone who speaks a language I deeply understand. True friends. True companions. And it all happens in the head.

I would not be who I am without my exposure to this network: Bertrand Russell, Tobias Dantzig, Denis de Rougemont, Norman O. Brown, Morris Berman; Wilder, Albee, Durrenmatt, Weiss, Churchhill; Dos Passos, Steinbeck, Connell, Cheever, Coover, Sorrentino, Cummings, Hart, Handke; and others, of course. My literary companions, who nourish me, from whom I learn, who keep me going. Non-social networking.

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