Disconnected Archives

Last Friday, January 12, Ron Hogan wrote a really nice post on GalleyCat about Emily’s and my reading that night. Ron’s mention drove more traffic to this Web site than any other link ever has in a single day, which put me in a somewhat frantic (Unexpected guests are coming over! Quick! Better clean the house!) frame of mind. So for the past ten days or so, whenever I’ve had a spare moment, I’ve been trying to tidy up this Web site. I’ve been checking to make sure I’ve used the same editorial standards across all two hundred or so pages—e.g., my use of italics and bolding, quotation marks and block quotes, parentheses and brackets, ellipses and em dashes, etc. In other words, I’ve been applying—or trying, slowly, to apply (I’m certainly not done yet)—a jury-rigged house style, retroactively.

I’ve also been deleting posts, recategorizing posts, and making occasional copy edits. I’m pretty sure that according to some theories of blogging, or schools of blog thought, this is not okay (i.e., a blog should be a static record), but to my mind, it’s kosher; I think you can lightly clean up copy you wrote a year and a half ago on your own Web site and still be maintaining a public journal in an ethical manner (or to put it another way, I think a personal site ought to adhere to certain standards, but that those standards are somewhat less rigorous than the ones that apply to journalism).

The most miserable task I’ve self-punishingly chosen to take on in this whole project, though, is checking for dead links. Anyone with a web browser and a set of bookmarks will be familiar with this experience, but really, it’s amazing how quickly pages get moved, or torn down completely; how often Web sites get redesigned, or site architectures or file hierarchies get totally revamped; how suddenly entire Web sites stop getting updated, or go blank; how many domain registrations lapse completely. (Speaking of editorial standards, I ordinarily try to follow Strunk and White’s advice about the passive voice, but it feels appropriate here; there’s a kind of anonymity to dead links, like something has mysteriously happened to these pages. The designer, writer, owner—the one responsible for a link’s deadness—seems, somehow, invisible.)

Earlier this past week, for example, I noticed that Michael Chabon‘s “about” page was gone, and his home page said something, if I remember right, about how he’s had difficulty typing lately; it made me wonder if, and hope that, he’d noticed Richard Powers’s piece in the NYTBR about speech-recognition software. But now, only a few days later, that note is gone as well, replaced with an image of the Indian Head test card. I’m not sure what all this means; but I suppose that, in the future, whenever I read something on the web that I know I’m going to want to read again sometime, I’ll make sure to print it.

Pictures from our reading are viewable—as of this writing—here.