#Blogintrochallenge 15: Blogging role-models? or, Loving anything, including, Richard Armitage, is complex

blog-intro-challenge[ETA: typos]

Someone asked me last night what about the blog would change now. Right now, I don’t think anything will change. For as long as “me + richard armitage” remains in publication, I will keep my stated goal before my eyes — to analyze and understand the fascination that Richard Armitage exercises on me (still), and to be as honest about things as is workable. If my feelings about Richard Armitage change (things are changing all the time), then I will write about that as well. Was bleibt mir übrig? This is the boat I set sail on, five years ago.

My model has always been the blogger Heather Armstrong, known by her alias “dooce.” Some people object to what she says about herself and her children, regarding it as exhibitionism. I am not all that interested in her dogs, or even necessarily in the details of the twists and turns of her and her children’s lives, but she writes really well. I have often been bowled over by the openness that she has been able to cultivate, even when she is aware that what she reports makes her look bad (and she developed a rather large audience of hecklers over the years who have spent a lot of time pointing that stuff out). When she finally wrote about why she wasn’t talking about her divorce, and what she was trying to do as she was unable to say as much about her private life as she always had, she said this, and I keep it mind when I am writing:

Screen shot 2013-09-19 at 7.05.18 PM

You may not like my heart, admittedly; you may even dislike what you see of it here. But that is how I see this particular blog project. I don’t want to be blamed for that, admittedly, but I also don’t need praise. This blog came out of a deep need to speak. I hope that it will be able to serve that need as long as it persists. When that need goes away, then so will the blog.

I was thinking tonight about the whole question of why we love things and my thoughts turned to Theodor Fontane, someone most people who are not German speakers or comparative lit scholars have probably ever heard of. Most Germans I know are at least glancingly familiar with “Herr Ribbeck auf Ribbeck im Havelland.” I’m in process of selling my professional library, and sorting through the books, and rereading some stuff that I run across, which is how I stumbled over my abridged Reklam edition of the Wanderungen durch die Mark Brandenburg. It’s never been translated into English and the title is usually cited as “Rambles through Brandenburg,” but I personally would call it “Peregrinations in Brandenburg” if anyone I know except me regularly used the word peregrinations anymore.

It’s always been kind of a “thing” for me to say that I enjoy — let alone love — Fontane. First, there’s the snob factor. Somehow it’s even worse than saying I love Thomas Mann, insofar as people thinking I’m boasting to demonstrate the elevation of my taste. Not a lot actually happens in a Fontane travel book or novel — it’s usually more atmosphere than plot, and often Fontane shields the decisive plot element from the direct glimpse of the reader. Not exactly exciting reading. Then, there’re Fontane’s politics, which are decidedly quite far from my own and those of most of my friends. Tonight I was reading an elegiac section of the book about a Prussian general who fought in the Napoleonic Wars, someone else you’ve never heard of, Friedrich August von der Marwitz. Fontane adores Marwitz, but Marwitz stood on the wrong side of history in so many ways — as a neo-feudal reactionary who opposed the guys (Karl Freiherr vom Stein and Karl August Fürst von Hardenberg) who went down in history as having saved Prussia by making it into one of the most financially and administratively progressive German states before the postwar Federal Republic. (Interestingly, the big Frankfurt synagogue is in the Freiherr vom Stein Str., which I’ve always found historically intriguing.) Fontane himself stood on a slightly better side of history than Marwitz, insofar as he was a radical in the 1848 wars, but that radicalism was tinged with a level of Prussian nationalism that many of us would find problematic today, and toward the end of his life, his political positions counted as conservative. There’s the sticker that Fontane was probably an antisemite. Ouch. And the whole problem with something I encounter regularly as a historian: if I met these people today I would probably find them simply impossible. Fontane is definitely in that category. One of his most well known and gorgeous novels, Effi Briest, describes realistically a general social mood that I find hugely distasteful, and which I have to assume he shared parts of (if not all).

So, yeah, I don’t usually tell people (who know who Fontane is) that I love Fontane until I know them fairly well and can hope that they won’t write me off for one reason or another.

Why do I love him? Because beautiful is only a faintly positive expression for describing his prose. Because he casts a sort of autumnal light over familiar landscapes that I’ve seen at high noon 150 years later, and over places I’ve never seen but now can imagine because of him. Because he will take a page to relate a lengthy ghost story in the dialect of the March Brandenburg and I get to puzzle over the difference between then (when his readers would have understood it) and now (when we won’t automatically do so). Because he captures a world long gone — even with all its foibles; he is a realist, after all — and makes it live again for me. Not least because he slows my mind down, which is really hard. Der Stechlin is one of the most sunshiningly morose, shinily brooding novels about the passing of time that I’ve ever read.

Admittedly, it’s easier not to have a dealbreaker with someone who died the year my great-grandmother was born; I can forgive a lot of wrong-headed politics that supported a state that hasn’t even existed since 1932. I can acknowledge and hold all of these things in my mind at once, all the reasons not to love Fontane, and to love him, and be honest about them. I don’t need to make the things I find negative untrue, or overlook them or pretend that they don’t exist, nor do I need to downgrade or abandon the things I admire because I find so much questionable. My mind is too big. My heart is big enough.

It’s a lot harder when the person is really existing in my own time span. There are things that, given my notional space in the net, it would simply be hard to overlook. Richard Armitage is my crush, and I’m not going to ignore things he says because they don’t suit me or my picture of him or I disagree with them; I’m not going to change my opinions to suit Richard Armitage’s. Neither will I abandon the crush for those reasons.

If you need to admire everything about your hero, if you can’t bear that I might look at him in ways that you don’t like or can’t accept or countenance that I will defend my opinions when I disagree with you — well, you need to be the fan you are. You should look for contacts in the venues that give you what you need and in which the authors or administrators reflect your picture of Armitage. Unlike my need to understand Armitagemania, and my desire to be open, however, admiring everything about Richard Armitage, or cultivating harmony around his image, are not needs that drives this blog.

~ by Servetus on June 13, 2015.

35 Responses to “#Blogintrochallenge 15: Blogging role-models? or, Loving anything, including, Richard Armitage, is complex”

  1. Interesting. I’ve never heard of Fontane, and since I don’t know German I suppose his beautiful prose would be lost on me. Happen to be in another Burke novel though, and he paints those sorts of vivid pictures of distant locations and bygone eras for me. I was wondering if you were fed up with Armitage or losing your crush. Glad you’re sticking around. =)


    • You could read Effi Briest, it’s been translated. It’s more like Henry James though than James Burke. I think if you like Zola you would probably like Fontane. (I like Zola a lot but not because his prose is all that gorgeous). The restrained emotionality both attracts and repels me.

      re: my changing feelings about Armitage, yeah, that’s coming up. It’s not wrong to say that something died for me this week.


  2. Wenn man aus der Distanz der Jahre auf eine bewunderte Person zurückblickt, ist es in meinem Augen oft leichter, ihnen ihre Ideen, Anschauungen und “Grillen” zu verzeihen oder zumindest zu tolerieren (nicht zu akzeptieren). Indem man sich fragt, was hätte ICH in dieser Zeit/Situation gemacht. Die Frage, wie würde er/sie sich heutzutage verhalten ist rein theoretisch und muss nicht bis in die letzte Konsequenz durchdacht werden. Was praktisch ist, denn es hindert /stört nicht so die Bewunderung des Künstlers an sich. Die zeitliche Komponente ist hilfreich, den Künstler auf die Kunst zu reduzieren. Je weiter wir uns jedoch in die Gegenwart vorwagen, wird es immer schwerer und heikler, den Künstler von der Person zu trennen. Mir geht das so. Er rückt mir und meiner Weltanschauung näher. Und dann beginnt die tatsächliche Herausforderung. Kann ich den Künstler isoliert lieben oder muss ich um meiner eigenen Glaubwürdigkeit willen immer auch das Gesamtbild sehen? Ich kenne niemanden der perfekt ist (mich eingeschlossen) und ich verzeihe vieles im täglichen Leben. Ich mag soooo viele Leute, die wirklich ganz anders ticken als ich ( und werde glaube ich zurückgemocht). Wenn der “Crush” mehr ist, als nur blind sabbernde Begeisterung (die AUCH eine Daseinsberechtigung hat, aber für mich nicht mehr so ganz funktioniert), dann ist es nur konsequent, auf diesem Weg/Blog weiterzumachen. Du bist absolut glaubwürdig in dem was du hier ablieferst und wie du dich präsentierst. (Vergiss die Leute, die dir den Mangel daran vorwerfen re.
    Trip nach London). Stimmt: Nichts anderes bleibt dir übrig. Solange du dich in einer Auseinandersetzung mit ihm befindest, die sich auf intellektueller Ebene abspielt, kann das eine lebenslange Beschäftigung bleiben. Solange er kein Schwerverbrechen begeht. 😉
    Ich habe übrigens auch mal in einer Frh-v. Stein-Str. gewohnt. Da war ich 5 und habe noch bevor ich in die Schule kam ganz konkret Bekanntschaft mit dem Dativ gemacht: Wo wohnst du? In der Frh.-VOM-Stein-Str.24a 😉


    • Funny, that the London trip occurred to you, too. I think that’s the only thing I have ever been knowingly dishonest about, and even then it was silence.

      LOT re: dative. I wish I had learned that when I was five, would have saved me a lot of trouble as an adult. 🙂


  3. I too thought you might step away from blogging now. Good to see you won’t, especially as I guess there may be some non-RA-related stuff occupying your thoughts and feelings right now.
    I read many of Fontane’s novels at uni and actually enjoyed them (whereas I never ‘warmed up’ to Thomas Mann). I know you referred to Fontane for a reason but it brought back memories to me 🙂


    • yeah, there’s definitely a practicality / need issue apart from the encounter with Armitage that’s going to take up a lot of time this next year.

      Fontane is so beautiful, it’s hard not to have memories. I’ve always had the Reklam editions and they have spent so many months in my backpack during travel. So contemplative, so calming.


  4. Thank you for blogging with your heart, for being open to show us so much. It does come through, at least for me. Your last sentence states your purpose succinctly enough, and that’s what draws me here. For however long it works for you.


  5. I am one of those who often doesn’t whole heartedly agree with what you have to say; but, I find coming here informative and enlightening and worthwhile (and sometimes fun) and I rather like the back and forth of views and opinions of the commentators. I don’t articulate as well as I should, and you of course have mad reasoning and deductive writing skills and as I have pretty much only a highschool education a lot of what goes on here is way over my head so oft times I am tempted to ‘comment and run’ lol. Although I try and resist the urge, I have seem to have a compulsion to comment when perhaps I shouldn’t. So, I am hoping that your final paragraph means that those of us who may not always agree with your opinions are still welcome here.


    • Everyone who can hold herself to the comment policy is welcome here whether they agree or not 🙂

      I think I was responding to a few things in this post — one was the fact that I was confronted with a decisive shift in my perception of Richard Armitage this week; one is the amount of time I spent in comments just clearing space to justify what I was writing about — i.e., if you want to disagree with what I have said that is no problem (if you don’t engage in personal attack) but I’ve become very tired of the repeated objection that I should stop writing about the things that interest me (I assume because they upset someone else or someone else wouldn’t have said them in that way or at all). This is tiring because if I have to spend all my time justifying my existence as a writer I don’t actually get to write or think or talk about what I’m thinking or writing. I keep thinking that will go away, that eventually the fandom will get to a point where people don’t routinely engage in that kind of delegitimation, but I suppose given that there is now a new influx of fans about every six months or so, that might be impossible. One consequence of the repeated influx of fans is that they start reading the blog and think it is about Richard Armitage when it isn’t. This isn’t a news blog or any attempt at an unbiased view on Armitage, but it’s exhausitng, explaining that over and over again …


  6. Effi Briest… how strange it has been years since i’ve thought of Fontane. Sometimes it makes me wish i could cover as much literary ground as i did as a kid and also what i would think of the same things if i re-read them now. Some i have and mostly the encounter is good, but i do remember not being able to shake off the feeling of German literature being for long stretches so depressed and dark. It feels more realistic than depressed today but i wonder if the ones who put the curriculum together back then thought how it could weigh down a younger mind. I always used to flee to French stuff at home 🙂 Anyway, thanks for reminding me of Fontane 🙂
    Also meant to say: this is your place, you should say what you need to and feel. Sometimes turbulences help realign dynamics and connections.
    I feel ok about not agreeing with you about everything, i hope that is ok and i hope you feel the same. I’ve not been nearly as conflicted about recent event as most other people have, but also realised that i don’t need to pitch in every time, especially when i’m neither here nor there, but somewhere else entirely. And that it is ok to disagree with friends 🙂
    I’ve given myself permission to sit on a rock and think or just take a breath and only comment on few things.
    The bit that has felt stressful is caring about people more than about the debate and not getting into it. But it was the easiest choice of all (not easy in easy way out, but as in it was a no brainer for me to choose the people over the debate). I care about you much more than i care about a debate, even if the debate is a really good one and on important ideas.
    So, for as long as you feel you want to write and share ideas with readers i’ll stick around (even if for my own peace of mind i might decide to sit some stuff out, which from prior experience will rather be the tiny minority case). Hugs


    • I don’t think Fontane is all that much darker than most of what I read in English / American lit classes in high school — thinking of The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables, Edgar Allan Poe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dickens, Hermann Melville, Shakespeare. Maybe serious is a better term than dark?

      I don’t understand completely why the fact that I won’t let people tell me what to write on my own blog, or call me names or insult me or others personally on my own blog, or accept people who simply pester and pester and pester in order to eat up my energy without saying anything new, somehow always ends up meaning that I can’t accept disagreement. One of the bizarre paradoxes of the last five years is that I am frequently the most vigorous exponent in this fandom of having people say what they want to say (and not get mobbed or passive aggressively suffocated for saying it), I am often the one who is actually articulating the non-consensus petition, and I am regularly charged with suppressing people’s freedom to disagree …

      so NO I DO NOT MIND IF PEOPLE DO NOT AGREE WITH ME ABOUT EVERYTHING. In case that is not clear to anyone who is listening. (That wasn’t directed at you but I am approaching explosion point on this topic).

      I am afraid that I do care about the outcomes of debates, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care at all about people …


      • ack, see i didn’t want to sound wishy washy or cheesy which is why i wasn’t probably clear 🙂 I wasn’t implying that you don’t care about people. I think you care very much which is why you take a stand for them when others would shy away or from where i sit and read, you always try to see the other side and think of various implications and interpretations. And take the time to explain your position to people again and again and go through discussions. People don’t realise probably how much easier it would be to close comments more often and say these are my thoughts, i needed to express them but i don’t necessarily need the whole world’s opinion on them 🙂 But you do listen to the whole world’s opinion on it very often 🙂 however noisy it may become.
        It may sound a bit silly but it hurts me sometimes to disagree with the people i care about, which is where i was coming from. I like debating with you 🙂 It stings some when i find myself in strong disagreement. It takes ME some time to process through that and be ok with it. And there is the inherent fear or anxiety of what people will think if you disagree with them. I don’t want to hurt somebody i care about with an argument. A bit chicken of me, but there it is.
        Sometimes the outcome of a debate is maybe that there are many views on things and all are valid 🙂 I rarely believe in the one truth any-more. That is however not how fandoms of any kind typically behave unfortunately:-)


        • Thanks for getting that about the comments. I find the comments generally harder than writing, which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy them, but at times …

          Liked by 1 person

  7. I can see how exhausting all this must be for you. Personally I appreciate that you stick with it though.


  8. I appreciate that I can come here and share my opinion and don’t have to worry about stepping on any toes; I don’t comment often but when I do it’s usually because I’m of two minds about something and it’s part of the process to voice my uneasiness / doubts / frustration etc. – usually when I have done that it’s easier for me to see things clearly. When I’m perfectly happy I don’t tend to comment (then I reblog things on tumblr). For me it’s part of the “Aneignungsprozess” (idk what it’s called in English) and this is actually one of the few places where I dare to do it. Otherwise it only happens in private messages.


    • I’m always glad to see you — “process of appropriation”?

      I have this regret — it is true in my fandom life, too — that conversations we used to have publicly are now relegated to private messages. Maybe that was just inevitable. It makes me sad, though.


  9. Nope, I don’t need to admire everything about my hero, which is why I like coming here – reading your honest thoughts and feelings, even if the man frustrates you! I mean, even in ‘real life’ we are critical of those we love…I hope you will continue this blog for a long time yet!


  10. When I was a kid I had a childrens version of “Herr Ribbeck auf Ribbeck im Havelland”. I have no idea where this book might be but when I read your post I remembered the books illustrations and some of the rhymes… 🙂 And I loved reading Effi Briest in school!
    I am glad you’re going on with blogging (for now)!!!!


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