What’s in an RSS Feed?


Why yes, that is Christian Bale.

Welcome to another week of the Freelance Life where we try to figure out how to survive as writers, one of the most potentially fun, and on the other hand isolating and on yet a third, six-fingered mutant hand, enigmatic professions you could ever hope to choose for yourself. For more on this particular freelance life o’mine follow me on twitter @jonreiss or check out my Tumblr.

It fills me with displeasure and despondency to tell you that your life will never be like the movie Newsies. We no longer live in a world that gets its news each morning from the papes. If you see a little boy in raggedy clothes and a golf hat, run far away. Meanwhile, getting an entry level writing job at a newspaper is not as easy at once was. But there’s a good argument to be made that you’re better off elsewhere, because these days, “Without bloggers no one, would know nuttin!”

However, this week’s blog post has nothing to with newspapers, I’d just found myself moved by Newsies (as I am with each re-watch) and needed to express it in some way.

If you do land yourself a blogging position, a big part of your job is likely to be following what the rest of internet is doing. Many of the most successful blogs are the ones that do the best job culling the internet and featuring the bits that are worth reading. Even if you are a one-man blog machine, knowing what’s going on in your chosen blogging world is of the utmost importance. When I first tried my hand at being an editor, I learned how big a part of the job this was, and had a very hard time keeping up. The magic bullet that I found is called an RSS feed. Sure, most people know what these are. Hell, I did but I didn’t quite understand why I needed to use one. RSS feeds make the internet manageable, so that you as an editor can make it even more manageable for your readers

Google makes the best RSS reader as far as I’ve found. If you’re just starting in the blogging world, I found it helpful to ask other editors what blogs they have in their RSS reader. At first you might be tempted to include every blog of note, but after a few weeks it should become clear which blogs are featuring the same stories, and soon you’ll be able to pare down your list.

Thus we begin a new series here at The Freelance Life where we get a peek into the RSS feeds of others. When I began asking other writers and editors this question, I found it to be much like bringing up politics of at the dinner table with a Louisiana debutante–writers scoffed at or avoided the question. This however, is to be expected. You as a music writer don’t want to be just another blogger banging out the thousandth Lana Del Ray or Odd Future story. Finding a blog that’s not yet entirely known with a certain foresight can be priceless.

This week we begin with the literature section of my RSS feed. Even if you’re a book enthusiast who refuses to engage in e-reading, literary blogs have become the life’s blood of the book world and there are now a handful of bloggers with major influence on which new books will sell and which new writers will receive major attention. This week, Six Literary Blogs You Should Be Reading Daily.

1. The Millions
I don’t know too much about the history of The Millions but I do know that in less than a decade The Millions has thrust itself into the forefront of the lit blogging world (especially in the past two or three years.) While I’m not sure about the how, I believe I could guess pretty accurately as to the why. The Millions is well organized and thorough book blog with content that’s varied yet curated. The Millions writers tend to be aspiring authors and as a result the blogs end up with a feel that’s somewhere in between newsy and narrative, yet influenced enough by blog culture to be digestible.

2. The Rumpus
The lit section at The Rumpus takes center stage, which makes sense as it was founded by author Stephen Elliot, but its other sections, music in particular, are also quite strong. The Rumpus features fun, often conversational writing and solid interviews. Influence-wise The Rumpus feels like it falls somewhere in between Vice and The New Yorker, a weird but welcome concoction.

3. Vol.1 Brooklyn
Full disclosure, I am a regular contributor for Vol.1 but I couldn’t honestly write this post without including them and I believe most other bloggers would include them also, as Vol.1 is a blog with its finger more firmly poised on the pulse of the lit world than perhaps any other. Vol.1 manages to bridge the gap between more mainstream and more DIY/underground literary worlds, focusing not just on the smartest person in the room, or the person with the best taste, but someone with a good helping of both attributes. When it comes to culling the internet, Vol.1’s bits section is possibly the best place to look for a quick and solid dose of the day’s lit news. Also the Band Booking interviews, Vol.1 book-centric interviews with bands, act as a constant search for that place where the literary and music worlds meet.

4. Largehearted Boy
David Gutowski has been writing Largehearted Boy for far longer than the any of the other blogs on this list and for a while seemed like the only place on the internet to find posts about interesting, groundbreaking authors like Sam Lipsyte or Chad Kultgen (disparate examples, yes). Gutowski writes in a way that’s eloquent and somewhat highbrow yet accessible, if such a thing exists. His Book Notes posts allow authors to create Soundtracks to their novels, an enticing reason to write a novel if I’ve ever heard one, and at the end of the year, LHB collects the Best Of Lists from nearly every website or blog on the internet (nearly).

5. The Contextual Life
On my blog, I referred to Gabrielle Gantz’s book blog as a “Website to Watch in 2012”, but at this point it’s seemingly graduated to being a website you should already know about. In the On The Shelf section Gantz pairs books, records, podcasts and even TV shows that might provide context for one another, and the site features original interviews with writers, comics and more. The Contextual Life is in short, a train worth getting on before the cat is out of the bag. Gabrielle is also good at not mixing her metaphors.

6. HTML Giant
HTML Giant is sort of like the Judd Apatow of Literary world. Not the greatest analogy in the world but the point is that the site has been a sounding board for more soon-to-be it-writers than any I can think of. HTML Giant is much more of blog than perhaps any of the above and is structurally more loose, but it’s seemingly focused on a very particular world of post MFA culturephiles of the digital world. For any reader, HTML Giant is likely to be polarizing, but not unlike Howard Stern, those who dislike the site are just as likely to be voracious readers as those who love it. It occurs to me I’ve described almost nothing of the content on this site, but it’s sort of hard to explain, just read it.

One Response

  1. Richardfulco -

    A fine list. I read many of these myself. You might enjoy the music blog, Riffraf (www.riffraf.typepad.com).


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