Not the new me, by Wendy McClure

Wendy McClure’s I’m Not The New Me is based upon her online journal Poundy.com. We catch up with the author to discuss the internet, novels, narrative, and the connections between them.


“Online journals are the slightly retarded older cousins of blogs”. Can you expand upon this comment (made in an interview on zulkey.com)?

I guess I was being a little coy with the ‘retarded’ part - what I meant was that online journals appear to be part of a slower-paced web culture than the blog scene: they usually cultivate a smaller and more faitful readership. And their communities aren’t quite as gadget-obsessed as bloggers are: usually they’re a few steps behind when it comes to the new stuff like RSS feeds or podcasts.

Both online journallers and bloggers are always trying to come up with new way to read each other’s stuff and be read in turn. The difference is that bloggers usually do it through new technology, whereas online journallers do it thorugh new ideas: memes and things like, “Oh, let’s all answer the same five questions today.”

How much did you want to recreate the experience of ‘web reading’ in I’m Not The New Me?

If anything, I tried to write the book so that it didn’t resemble web reading. There are a lot of novels lately that try to simulate the ‘web experience’ with all kinds of crap interspersed in the text: chat transcripts, fake webpages, so-called authentic-looking emails complete with headers and signature files, and I hate that, especially when there’s cutesy design and multiple typefaces involved. Do we really need to slog through a printed page full of screen names and “@” and “<” symbols and other junk? I did everything I could to make instant-message conversations read like dialogue: I tried to keep the online context clear but I didn’t want to stress the internet-ness of it all more than necessary, or in gimmicky ways.


It seems like a lot of the journals I was reading in 2000 have either disappeared or become blogs instead. Why do you think this is? Do you think there's a time limit on how long an individual can maintain an online journal before they become exhausted and wrung out? Or do you think it's more to do with the pleasures of being anonymous in public, as it were - and once your journal becomes well-known you inevitably lose that anonymity, which affects the way you write? Did you feel that the story you set out to tell had been told, or reached a conclusion with the publication of the book? Did you get bored? Or are you simply too busy?

You know, I think it's been all of those things at one time or another! The decision to go exclusively with a weblog coincided with the decision to try and write a book--it meant I wanted to save some of the energy I was putting into those journal entries for something else, but I still wanted to be "out there" online in some way.

But in addition to all the personal or existential reasons for ditching a journal for a blog, there's also the simple technical matter of weblogs being automated and easier to maintain than journals--back when it was harder and more time-consuming to update a site, new journal entries were precious; you needed to make it worth the effort of manually uploading the page. And then sometimes, after a couple of years of taking your own words too seriously, it just feels right to join the "cheaper" ecomony of blogs.


When reading a journal online, the hook is the usually the writer's personality and voice. There may be narrative incidents - break-ups, career arcs, personal triumphs and disasters - but usually it's simply the writer's take on things that people return for. Whereas with a book, though you May enjoy the narrator's voice, there traditionally needs to be more of a narrative hook - a beginning, middle and end, a sense of closure. Were these issues you struggled with when writing the book - creating a linear narrative from the more amorphous world of an online journal?

Yes, and it's one reason I decided to write about the website itself--to make the story of starting Poundy.com part of the bigger story. There were times when my online persona didn't quite fully mesh with my personal life, and I found myself telling the story of an identity crisis. Moreover a lot of the book's material came from things I never fully related online.

Like in the journal, I'd share how I felt about a recent breakup but of course I didn't have the emotional distance (or, for that matter, the composure, or the masochism) required to write an actual _scene_ about what happened. Really, I couldn't have written INTNM the way I did without at least two years of perspective on the events.

A few years back I had a conversation with a publisher who felt that my journal needed more plot in order to work as a book, and while that made perfect sense, it also would have been totally ridiculous to try and record the plot my life as it unfolded--I can only imagine it would sound so full of shit, a lot of "Oh my God, I can feel my WHOLE LIFE CHANGING THIS VERY SECOND" and that sort of thing.




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