I was reading Joan Acocella’s vampire essay, In the Blood, from last week’s New Yorker (I am always a week behind), drinking coffee, and flipping through C-Lab’s bootlegged issue of Urban China. It was an unsettling combination—a crisis of attention, really. Tidy columns versus san serif sprawl.
Acocella dissected Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Methodically, she traced its history, and then she pinned down the novel’s structure:
And here I pause. A narrative built out of collage?
Could Stoker’s 1897 fiction, a work I started to read as an undergrad but never finished, really mirror the cacophony of blogs, news reports, tweets, pieces of journalism, and status updates that make up my daily life online?
Ah, too strangely heady to answer with a straight face.
But look at Crisis, it’s doing it too. Essays, interviews, photographs, roundtable discussions, and blog gleanings tumble over each other across the pages. Everyone weights in. Laura Hanna talks to a 9-1-1 operator in Anaheim, John McMorrough tackles the Apocalypse, Geoff Manaugh sees foreclosure. Infrastructure crumbles. The Biosphere and the economy have meltdowns. We are sandbagged by shock, awe, and Obama urbanism.
It’s less the DIY bootleg Jeffery Inaba describes—“an improvised, illegitimate work… largely motivated by a wish to share”—as it is a horror story told with classic technique. The crisis is amplified so it can be separated from daily life before being analyzed and digested. I turn back to Acocella:
So, what do we do with this belief? Does it motivate action or does it suck us dry?