Musings on the Blogosphere

by Victoria Madden

Ashokbhatia has kindly reblogged my piece on my first foray into the world of social media and his mention of ‘Blogosphere’ in his accompanying comment has had me thinking further on the topic.

Blogosphere is a far more interesting and complex world than I had realised as an outsider; but the element I find most fascinating, and encouraging, is that it works in a very similar way to that of Wodehouse’s period: on the basis of introductions to those of similar ‘backgrounds’.  When someone leaves a comment that shows they ‘get’ you or your tastes you can go to their blog and hover round the edges of the conversations with your drink.  Perhaps someone will leave another comment there that shows an affinity to your own interests, so you go over to their party in turn.  You discover a variety of interesting houses to visit and become emboldened to leave cards, to which people reply, and before long you have found your own set to hang out with.

The concept of ‘followers’ is also an interesting one.  Followers in the Wodehouse period, and earlier, were the male swains of maid-servants; and at their interview for a ‘place’, by the mistress of the house, new maids were often told that it was a condition of their engagement that they were to have No Followers.  Which seems rather tough.  (Thinking about it, this attitude filtered down to nearly the present day: until a few decades ago women often automatically lost their job on getting married.)

I seem to recall a line in a Sunday supplement article to the effect that people were no longer judged by their achievements in a particular field but by their ‘cultural weight’: the number of people who followed their comments in various forms of social media.  This, it implied, was the measure of success in today’s society, rather than the Booker Prize.

In that sense, my favourite blogging discovery, Honoria Plum, is doing rather well.  She has over 500 followers (the UK branch of the Wodehouse Society has 1,000 members) which strikes me as something of a serious literary achievement.  In all my wanderings around Blogosphere I have yet to come across a writer with anything like that number.

I am now the proud possessor of four followers: my own little coterie.  I know nothing about these people beyond what they write in their blogs so I have whiled away an unproductive hour and created little personas for them all, in the spirit of Wodehouse and his period, to amuse myself – and hopefully you.

To me, the wonderful Honoria Plum is the owner of a delightful country house in idyllic surroundings, in which she hosts amusing house-parties where one meets the most interesting people.  Every now and then she races up to Town in her little two-seater to meet people for lunch or cocktails, and find out the latest News, scattering invitations to all the best and brightest among her vast acquaintance to join her at Plumtopia.  Everyone is agog for her to finish her widely publicised roman a clef  and secretly hoping to be in it – though declaring aloud they’d be simply furious if they were.

Zanyzigzag, I see as one of those intrepid females which the period seemed to produce: an aviatrix or explorer-naturalist who returns to London only at intervals between her travels, to call in at her club for messages and get her guns repaired.  Encountered on Piccadilly she is scooped up by Honoria and, protesting that she really hasn’t the time, taken to Plumtopia for a Saturday to Monday to meet some people she is sure to find interesting.

Ashokbhatia is clearly a diplomat, or princely potentate educated in England; he is the first person you see at any social gathering, amid a gay throng, which he is entertaining with his witty opinions on topics du jour and little allusions to the company around him, cocktail in hand.  No hostess considers her party complete without him; his amusing conversation has rescued many an otherwise dire situation at the luncheon-table and elevated many a tedious evening surrounded by stuffed shirts and assorted Aunts.

I am basing Tom at novelreading on the picture at his About page – he is obviously a struggling writer in a garret somewhere, so involved with his great novel that he forgets to eat or get his clothes mended.  His landlady is very concerned about him and brings him special little meals, that he eats politely but absentmindedly when the Muse is with him.  Perhaps there is a cat, belonging to the landlady, that he gives the meals to, in order not to hurt her feelings when he is busy.   Honoria has him down for the less crowded houseparties and he wanders about the gardens somewhat bemused as he tries to work out a plot line.

I cannot work out, myself, whether I am in a rambling cottage in the country writing bijou articles on my sweet garden, whose bizarre pronouncements on flower arranging no Society hostess dare ignore; or whether Moulders Lane is a Campionesque side street in an unfashionable part of London, where I have a tiny flat, and am either the writer of a satirical little column in a low-circulation periodical with pretensions or the slightly androgynous playwright of very modern plays, which no one really understands or likes but feel they have to go to in order to be thought Current.

I probably get invited down to suburban Literary Gatherings, if the latter, where I eat sandwiches in the corner in a gloomy manner and feel that my Art is Misunderstood, while wondering if I can stick them for a taxi fare to the station, seeing it’s raining.