Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

March 15, 2007

I Don't Know How Personal…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 12:02 pm

…a blog should be. Issues/opinions or diary observations? Or both? Pajamas asked me to do “the kind of thing you’ve been doing” which, alas, is a lot of things, too many things ,a crippling, paralyzing impossible number of things. I should be more focussed.

Don’t know if I should focus on politics the way most Pajamas bloggers do (but I think they wanted me for my non fixed political focus). So I’ve tended to focus on culture the way I’ve done in my columns for The New York Observer and now Slate. (Did I mention that I’ve accepted an offer from the online magazine Slate ( to do a culture column every other week, somewhat like, but not the same as the one I did for 12 year for the Observer. (It doesn’t mean I’m still not fond of the Observer or the people there, it was a sad but amicable–and not total–parting).

But back to my confusion about what I should be blogging about. I think the most successful bloggers are the ones that focus in laser-like way on one subject, build a constituency and become a blogosphere focus for it. Non-focussed Diary like responses to life compel less linkage, but I feel my lack of focus is an aspect of my life. I’m all over the map.

Maybe it will help by contextualizing the strange variety of my life. None more various than last week or so.

Consider, after finishing my last Observer piece and my first official Slate piece (posted March 7–on Hitler, sex and Norman Mailer), I had to get ready to speak on Thursday March 8 at the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism in New Haven, on the question of a “second Holocaust” (“spine chilling” was one e mail response to my talk).

Then when I got back I spent the first part of the last weekend drafting my second Slate column. Then Saturday my girlfriend, up from D.C.. took me tp an engagement party for some journalist friends she knew who had all met in Baghdad covering the war.

Many of the attendees had based their war reporting from the same beyond-the-green-zone rented house in Baghdad and many of them shared a friendship with a woman named Marla Ruzicka who had been murdered while doing humanitarian work in Iraq and whose story has been told in a recent book The Sweet Relief by Jennifer Abrahamson.

I’d never met Marla, heard a lot about her from my girlfriend and her evident charisma was still apparent at the party which, while supposedly celebrating an engagement had a bit of a feeling of a wake or at least a sense of a which united those who knew Marla in life. I felt like an outsider, but I liked the people there and the spirit of the occasion and they made me feel welcome.

Then when my girlfriend left on Sunday, I finished up the Slate piece, worked on my new book (subject still secret) and my overdue screenplay and started selecting the students for the writing seminar I’d be teaching over the next couple months at the University of Chicago. Fascinating how many talented applicants there were and how difficult the choice was. My goal is to get them to make the transition from memoir-oriented “creative non fiction” to getting publishable first books under way.

Then I had to prepare for my Brooklyn Academy of Music “BAM dialogue” with British Shakespearean director Edward Hall, son of Sir Peter Hall (founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company) and himself (Edward). founder of the brilliant Propeller Theater Company which does all-male cast productions of Shakespeare (whose original casts included no women) and whose Midsummer Night’s Dream I’d seen at BAM a couple years ago and thought was hilarious. (If you’re in the BAM nabe, the “dialogue” is at 1-2 pm this Saturday the 17th).

To prepare I’m seeing a 10:30 a.m. Friday rehearsal performance of Twelfth Night, then after the Saturday dialogue I’m seeing their version of The Taming of the Shrew

Then on Sunday morning a phone interview with Norman Mailer (assignment) and on Sunday afternoon I see genius director James Lapine’s production of King Lear starring Kevin Kline.

Monday, back to my new book and my screenplay at last. And preparing for my once a week Chicago seminar. And blogging about all sots of things. Okay it’s crazy and could I have turned down any of these opportunities. Well maybe all but the chance to spend time with my girlfriend.

But I’m freakin’ dizzy. (If you know anyone who wants to be my assistant to sort my life out, let me know. Some perks like performance tickets, screenings. This is a cry for help.)

And you see my dilemma: I could blog about anything I don’t choose to write a formal essay about for Slate. I could blog about my life. Does anyone care? I could have done a more focussed post on the Marla party and the bittersweet quality of it. And I’ll do that kind of thing in the future. But I wanted to try one of those diary-type, this-is-my-life blog entries. This is all thinking out loud, but I guess I’ve learned something from it: I need to focus.



  1. Yes, in fact I do care, and I’m a fan of stream-of-consciousness, as my own site attests. But then, I’ve enjoyed the more formal, structured stuff too, so there’s that. I don’t know about the cry for help, but I do know that your voice is important to me, and no doubt to lots of others. And so, just . . .


    Thank you!

    Comment by Everyman — March 15, 2007 @ 9:56 pm | Reply

  2. Why focus? If you blog about what interests you, won’t that work? As a (somewhat loyal) reader, part of your appeal to me is your cultural radar for things I don’t know about, or know enough about.

    It’s my impression that you write relatively long posts, but blogospheric standards. Perhaps you would feel less obliged to focus if you felt less obliged to write at such length?

    Comment by Tyrone Slothrop — March 15, 2007 @ 10:18 pm | Reply

  3. Hello Ron,

    I take your meaning. Everyone at PJ media seems to be focused. Hansen on the war, Rosett on the UN, Ledeen on Iran, Bradley, Miniter, well you get the idea. Big picture stuff. Focus.

    Your strength, if I may be so bold, is wider ranging. You’ve always seemed to be looking for those little pictures that often give us a more human and complicated and messy view of the big picture.

    I hope you will stick around. We need the Ron who gave us the two spoons theory of nuclear Armageden, Hitlers trashy British relatives, and on and on.


    Comment by Brian Naughton — March 16, 2007 @ 12:03 am | Reply

  4. Ron –

    Thinking of the stuff in Secret Parts of Fortune, for example, it’s not the topics that unify your work, obviously. You’re all over the map. It is your particular take on things that makes the pieces sing in harmony. Your analytic style is the basso continuo.

    My recomendation for blogging: Keep each individual post focused on something, but let the topics vary freely from post to post.

    The blog will be like those computer images of Marylin Monroe they make by using the cover of Life Magazine as each pixel in the picture. Each part stands alone and is not related much to the other, but when you back up enough, a unity will be there.

    I like this description (who wouldn’t?). Thanks!

    Comment by J M Seaver — March 16, 2007 @ 10:56 am | Reply

  5. Oh, my dad and I are so sad to hear that the NYO won’t be running the Edgy Enthusiast any longer. This is the first we’ve heard about it.

    We are big fans of your all-over-the-map approach. I think you have a really good brain, and it’s interesting to us to see what you think about a variety of things. I’m glad to hear that you will still have a column, in addition to this blog.

    Many thanks!

    Comment by Jaime Danehey — March 18, 2007 @ 11:16 am | Reply

  6. Ron —

    I’m with JM; thanks to this blog, i got (should i apologize?) “The Secret Parts of Fortune” from interlibrary loan, after having thrust “Explaining Hitler” on myriad friends and acquaintances, telling them, “it doesn’t matter if you don’t care about WWII — if you care about culture and humanism in the 20th/21st centuries, read this book.” The fascination was not with Hitler, but the view of the human condition you got with Baby Adolf as the lens.

    Likewise, this column is in my bookmarks as a provocation and motivation to think and look differently when i go out the door. Don’t worry, your focus is clear: people are your focus.

    Sorry i’m in Ohio and can’t offer to do some organizing for you; i feel like i owe you enough of a debt over the last ten years that i’d do some for free, let alone tickets. Hint: start by sorting out all the whole newspapers, sections, and torn articles from among your piles, and put them *all* in recycling. The internet is your friend, but wood pulp will eat your life. You’ll be amazed how mangeable the piles are when you get the newspapers and magazines out the door.

    Grace & Peace,

    Comment by Jeff — March 20, 2007 @ 3:54 pm | Reply

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