You may have noticed: instead of posting about books, I’ve been redesigning The Millions. I would love to hear any comments or suggestions. Also, check out the new feature: New York Times book headlines, just below the Ask a Book Question area.
It was my pleasure to do a half-hour interview with Dorian on WFMU-FM’s “The Speakeasy” last night. Our talk ranged from A Field Guide to the North American Family to Julio Cortazar to print vs. online to James Wood (natch). Check it out at www.wfmu.org/playlists/SE, where you’ll also find interviews with Lawrence Wright and Charles D’Ambrosio, among others. (Segment starts at 27:00, following…that’s right…Ashford & Simpson!)
The Millions is six years old today. We’re another year deeper, and as in past years it seems an appropriate moment for reflection.Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the shape and format of what we do here. The Millions is ostensibly a blog, a publishing format that seems to have had a brief heyday around 2005. Prior to that, blogging was maligned as some sort of barely human form of discourse, the rantings of madmen and -women or the laughably amateur efforts of the idle or obsessive.Gradually, the form matured, and was adopted and institutionalized in many corners. For The Millions, maturing meant bringing on regular contributors and working with publishers and publicists to wrangle interviews with and essays by notable writers. It also meant thinking of ourselves as a legitimate (even “mainstream”) publication.But now, suddenly, blogging is feeling a little old-fashioned. First Facebook, then Twitter and Tumblr, have fetishized brevity and broadcasting, leaving blogs looking ponderous and even insular by comparison.There is, no doubt, huge value in these tools. Facebook and Twitter offer connectivity, though with built-in limitations to communication. And add Tumblr to the mix and you have three incredible tools for filtering, or, as it is sometimes better better termed, curation.In the vast wildness of the internet, we rely on curators. Some people are very good at it. There are also algorithmic curation tools and community-driven curation tools, though their output tends to be robotic in the case of the former and reflective of a form of self-reinforcing mass peer pressure in the latter. Meanwhile, through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and more prosaic means like email and chat, our friends and “friends” curate for us, shooting links our way to make us laugh or think.We do some curation here too. Over the last year we’ve regimented our “Curiosities” posts, with all of our regulars providing links, making for a curious weekly mix of goodies from around the web.But much more of our energy is devoted to something else: generating original reviews and essays, some quite short and others very long. Increasingly, it seems, this sets The Millions apart. It dictates that, though there are nine of us, we rarely publish more than one or two items a day. It also means that we tend to have a lot invested in each item we post. We invest time in each piece you see here, but each also bears the promise of The Millions’ survival and future growth – the more that people care about what we write, the more The Millions grows. And, of course, the opposite holds true as well.This isn’t meant to be rant of any kind. I wanted to bring it up because I value the work that the contributors here do and because I appreciate that all of you out there read it and all the professional and amateur curators who link to it. That is a big part of what makes running The Millions worthwhile.In thinking about all this, I spent some time skimming through The Millions archives of the last year, and while these aren’t the longest or most popular or even necessarily the “best” things we’ve run all year, they are, I think, a worthy sample of what The Millions is all about:This year, Garth cracked wise about novel titles. Garth and Kevin reviewed one of the most talked about books of the year, and later, the book’s author made an appearance. We had visits from other illustrious guests, as well. Andrew reviewed a quirky book and wrote about music. And Emily asked, “Why So Serious Batman?” Edan did many a great interview. Garth tried to make sense of tragedy. We did group posts and covered notable literary events and generally offered our own twist on things.Thanks for another great year, Millions readers. We continue to value your intelligence, curiosity, and feedback.
The Millions (virtual) back office is looking for some help again. The site continues to grow, and that means we have an opportunity to add another book-loving person to our team.
We are looking for someone who can help us with a few specific things. The new Millions intern will contribute to our “Curiosities” link blog and will help man (or wo-man) our Twitter feed, Facebook page, and Tumblr. Through those avenues, the intern we seek will have an audience of hundreds of thousands and will be introducing The Millions to new readers every day.
In return for a very modest time commitment, our intern will also join a great group of creative thinkers and have the opportunity to get their work edited by the working writers among us and potentially see their pieces published at The Millions. As is the case with our crew of regulars, our intern will be compensated for the pieces he or she publishes on the site.
Posting to our “Curiosities” link blog
Posting to our Twitter account
Posting to our Facebook page
Posting to our Tumblr
Posting to our G+ page
Coming up with new ideas for fun ways to utilize the above
Here’s what we’re looking for:
A voracious reader – Our ideal candidate will be well-read and have a solid knowledge of contemporary fiction.
A social media superstar– Again, Twitter, Facebook, (Tumblr, blogging, etc.)
Experience with WordPress is a huge bonus.
More details: This isn’t going to be anything close to a full-time gig. We’re thinking 5-10 hours a week realistically, plus as much time as you want to spend writing for us. We think the internship would be a great fit for a college or grad student, but are certainly open to hearing from non-students whose schedules will allow them to do this. We’re looking for a one-year commitment, though we can be flexible on the duration. The Millions has no dedicated office, so this is a remote position and can be done from anywhere in the world.
The position is unpaid, but any long-form pieces that you write for the site and are approved for publication will be compensated using the same system we use to compensate our regular writers. And there will most probably be some free books here and there and also opportunities to attend interesting literary events.
Why should you do this? The Millions is read by hundreds of thousands of people every month. Our readership is a laundry list of influential, brilliant folks in the publishing and media industries as well as in academia, not to mention the most engaged, avid readers of literary work that you’ll find anywhere. Aside from learning about how a site like The Millions operates, you’ll have an opportunity to write for all these people, and you’ll get experience running a Twitter account with 150,000 followers.
How to Apply:
Please send the following to [email protected]
Three sample Curiosities, using the format we use on the site
If applicable and you are willing to share, we would like to see the following: Twitter account(s) you use; any Facebook pages you’ve had the opportunity to run for schools, publications, companies, etc.; your Tumblr(s) (Essentially, show us that you have experience using these, even if it’s just your own sparsely followed, but very entertaining Twitter account.)
In addition, show us the other cool stuff you are responsible for online, your blog, etc.
The deadline is one week from today: 5/15.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Though it passed unremarked (I was on vacation), Monday was the five-year anniversary of The Millions. This blog started as something quite inconsequential. At the outset of The Millions, I would have put the chances of me sticking with it through the end of 2003, let alone for five years, at somewhere south of 5%. Making it this far is pretty astonishing.Those of you who have been with us for a long time know that I soon settled on books as a topic, discovered other people who had blogs about books, and eventually was joined here by some incredible writers (and readers).I used to use these annual occasions to expound upon the state of literary discourse online. In years past, there seemed to be quite a bit of excitement as individuals – talented enthusiasts and seasoned pros alike – staked out some online territory and sent their musings about things literary into the electronic ether. When the world, both readers and the mainstream press, began to take notice, it was thrilling. Certainly, we had some notable moments this past year: we talked Harry Potter, The Millions landed on NPR, and our Year in Reading set the bar high for year-end roundups (and that’s just to name a few. Check out the Notable Posts on the sidebar for more.)Nonetheless, there isn’t as much to say about the state of litblogs anymore. As I’ve noted in the past, they really have become assimillated, if not into the mainstream of traditional book reviewing culture, then undoubtedly into the massive miasma of personal publishing all over the web, where anyone can find their favorite nook and where no one will any longer bat an eye at hundreds of cross-pollinated blogs discussing books and whatever else.For this reason, I wasn’t all that surprised to hear that the Litblog Co-op folded recently (Dan Green made the announcement). It was an idea of an earlier period (only three years ago, but things move fast these days), when there were a few independent bloggers writing about literary matters with each, to varying degrees, commanding a small but measurable and loyal audience. Pool our resources, the idea went, and we can make an impact. It started off well and garnered a good deal of press, but it was doomed from the beginning in many ways. It wasn’t built to scale as the community grew, and there was no way for the hundreds of new bloggers and thousands of new readers to take meaningful part in the experiment. Combine that with the inherent challenges of managing a leaderless, decentralized group and it’s a testament to the people involved that it lasted as long as it did.I bowed out from the LBC early last year, facing too many constraints on my time and needing to cut back. Still, the end of that experiment prompts me to take stock of The Millions. Though some folks in the bookish corner of the blogosphere shy away from it, and others criticize their colleagues’ ad placement but stop the presses for flashy pledge drives, I am unashamedly proud of The Millions for marching onwards towards being a legitimate literature and arts publication. In a time when many are fearful of the diminishing commercial viability of literature and the arts, it is heartening to see that The Millions has grown from a hobby into a business, albeit one that is still nascent and that is, because of the small sums involved, still very much a labor of love. While I harbor no delusions that The Millions will become a heavyweight of the blog world, the opportunity is there to keep making it better, and I find that exciting.Before I wrap this ramble up, I want to thank our readers. We very much enjoy writing for you, and we value your intelligence, curiosity, and feedback. Thanks for another great year at The Millions.(And thanks to Mrs. Millions for creating the nifty “5” graphic above as a birthday gift for The Millions.)Birthdays Past: An Historic Day; The Millions Turns Two; Thanks for Three Years from The Millions, Four Years of The Millions.