“The intentions of a tool are what it does. A hammer intends to strike, a vise intends to hold fast, a lever intends to lift. They are what it is made for. But sometimes a tool may have other uses that you don’t know. Sometimes in doing what you intend, you also do what the knife intends, without knowing it.”
— Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass
I’m reminded of this passage when I think of this blog, surprisingly enough. Havealittletalk, I’ve discovered, has its own intentions.
I started the blog because I was peeved. I had discovered that whole paragraphs of my book on His Dark Materials had been plagiarized. The stakes weren’t great enough to warrant legal action, but I was mad and I wanted to embarrass that author (What do you mean? I rearranged the words…).
I’ve had other rant series: one about Alabama’s Prepaid Affordable College Tuition program (My PACTS and Their Fictions) that did no good at all, and that series I sequestered in another blog. This summer found me ranting again, this time about the Huntsville City Schools. Again I split these posts into their own blog. Again I think they have accomplished nothing.
Every now and then, I decide to do something nice.
When I was working on my book, I had to search for public domain images. I thought I should give back a bit to the web world that has given me so much by sharing what I had learned. These early posts were fun to do and got a lot of views, and so I developed my second blog, Public Domain Images Online, which on an average day gets many more hits than havealittletalk,
One of the things I discovered in doing that work was the Carol Highsmith Archive at the Library of Congress. Quite by chance, at the time I wrote Is Carol M. Highsmith the Most Generous Artist of Our Time?, Carol was looking for a patron to sponsor her next project, a state-by-state portrait of America in the first decades of the 21st century. As it happened, Alabama was the first state she got funding to photograph, and when she was in Huntsville, we met for dinner.
I hadn’t written any lit crit in a while, and I believe Ted Mooney is an author who should be much more popular and acclaimed than he is, so I did a series on his novels (In Praise of Ted Mooney, Part 1: Easy Travel to Other Planets), sent him the link. and got a lovely letter back. A follow-up post, There Really was an Amorous Dolphin Peter: More on Easy Travel to Other Planets, has been getting steadily increasing attention.
Most of the time I ignore my primary biliary cirrhosis, an auto-immune condition destroying my liver. I was hesitant to write about it. Then I learned about portal hypertension (Varicose Veins in my Esophagus?). started researching and decided to share what I found. Thus I stumbled into doing a sort of real-time chronicle of a slowly progressing disease. One post, High ALP + High GGT + High IgM + AMA = PBC, has received quite a few views and a number of comments by those who have recently been diagnosed or who have no diagnosis yet but do have labs that suggest PBC.
Then my father died. I had the hardest time finding straightforward information about the last days of life, and so, I decided to write about that because I knew others were probably looking, too.
I have one post that is by far the most read on this blog: How to Know When Death is Imminent, Signs Someone is Dying. The title is awkward, but I just used the keywords I used in my own hunt. This post has received seven times as many views as the next most read: Imminent Death: What Happens in the Last Days and Hours.
Now here is the really amazing thing: How to Know, etc. has 73 comments. Some are mine because every few comments I write to thank people for telling their stories. And that is what they do: they write about the experience of being with someone they love at the end of life. Many of these are very long for comments. They are moving, personal, very honest. Often people write that reading others’ comments has helped them.
I simply thought I could save a few people some search time. I didn’t know I was going to provide a place for people to mourn and to comfort. If I had set out to do this, I don’t think it would have worked.
So many times I’ve wanted to use this blog as a tool like a hammer to bang some sense into fools.
But the blog, it seems, has its own intentions.