Weekend Reads: WPLongform Picks
Last month Cheri took a look at longform writing on WordPress.com, and how tagging your over–1000-word posts WPLongform can help fellow bloggers, readers, and the editors of Freshly Pressed to discover longer, more in-depth material in the WordPress.com Reader. Since then you’ve shared a huge variety of work under the WPLongform tag, and in today’s post, I’d like to take a quick look at a small sample of the work you’ve published.
Our first piece is a great example of a narrative-driven memoir. In Reflections in a fjord, author Bryan Hemming makes beautiful use of longer form prose to create an evocative, poetic reflection on memory, life, and the things that change and stay the same. Rooted in a family reunion, as much of place as people, he gently layers evocative imagery line by line, paragraph by paragraph, to bring us into a deeply subjective, transformative moment, and its echo many years later in time.
The cabin’s boards resound with laughter. Bjørg giggling so much the words hardly come out as tears of laughter brim. I try to reconcile this old-age-pensioner with the skirt-clad thighs haunting my mind. It is almost impossible. The treacly tones cracked by nicotine and alcohol; the Norse lilt twittering and creaking with age.
With a narrative arc that gently comes full circle, Hemming’s post is grounded in a Proustian moment that serves as the spoke around which his recollections gather. It’s a moving, poetic, gentle piece of writing, perfect for the more leisurely reading experience that longform enables.
In Past Meets Present: Shan Shui Environmental Art, Issac Yuen takes a different approach to longform, exploring and critiquing the paintings-as-advertising of Yong Liang Yang in a more direct, discursive style of writing. Here the longform approach gives Yuen the space to examine the cultural backdrop of the paintings — which reference and play upon the traditional Shan Shui style of landscape painting — before exploring the ramifications, and to some extent, shortcomings of the project in terms of their environmental impact.
Man-made objects have supplanted the natural world. Skyscrapers take the place of mountains. Construction cranes, a common sight in modern Chinese cities like Shanghai, populate the landscape in excess. The ethereal and purifying mists, a common element of Shan Shui paintings, is in reality a miasma of suffocating smog.
Given the space for his prose to breathe, Yuen is able to introduce us to the cultural backdrop of this imaginative play on traditional art, repurposed to contemporary ends, while also reflecting on the bigger picture. This means that his post serves as both a fascinating introduction to the subject, and painter, for the newcomer, but also gives those already familiar with the paintings an engaging exploration into their impact and effect.
The last of our three brief glimpses into WPLongform is a wonderful example of how the socio-economic, political, or academic think-piece can still prove accessible and engaging to a broader audience. Consuming Geeks: Subculture and the Marketing of Doctor Who explores the commodification and mainstreaming of “geek” subculture through the lens of Doctor Who fandom, and its recent popularity in mainstream circles.
…television is littered with a variety of series that openly invoke science fiction and celebrate geeks; anime and manga aesthetics pervade popular culture; and role playing games have become a massive industry whose impression can be seen all over popular culture. Once embracing something esoteric and disinteresting to the masses, geeks now have effected a complete reversal that witnesses them as the leading edge of style: rather than being disparaged as outcasts, geeks have become an energizing fringe fueling mass culture.
WPLongform: your take
Of course, with the sheer range and scope of the work you’ve shared since WPLongform launched, there was no way we could hope to share anything like a representative sample of what’s out there, but hopefully this gives you a brief look at three very different approaches to longform writing that manage to engage readers not in spite of their length, but arguably, because of it.
But our selection is always going to be limited, and subjective. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to check out WPLongform in your own Reader, and if so, we’d love to hear about your personal favorites and discoveries in the comments.
If you’ve decided to try longer form writing on your blog yourself — or write longer posts as a matter of course — consider adding the WPLongform tag to bring in new readers. We look forward to reading them.