The title for my first blog entry, ever, is a riff on one of my favorite lines from Citizen Kane: “You think it would be fun to run a newspaper.” In the film, young Charles Foster Kane, who is now just old enough to spend his millions the way he wants to, buys a failing newspaper on a lark because it suits his whim and he thinks it would be “fun.” His legal guardian Walter Thatcher, now powerless to prevent this foolishness and nearing cardiac arrest, exclaims, “You think it would be FUN to run a newspaper?” as if fun could ever be more important than sensible business and making profits.
I like this line because I also think it would be fun to run a newspaper but sympathize with Walter Thatcher’s astonishment and scorn for anyone taking on the role of editor on mere whim. In fact, after 25 years, I’ve just recently stepped down from the editorship of the Melville Society where my primary duty was running a newspaper, of sorts: a scholarly journal called Leviathan. It’s hard work editing a journal; it makes no profit, or very little, but it is rewarding work, with its own kind of “fun,” despite the relentless deadlines three and four times each year for 25 years.
Now I am no longer running a journal but preparing to leave for a five-month stay in Rome with my spouse, Ginny Blanford. I will be teaching Melville and the American Renaissance at the University of Rome, Sapienza, and for my research project, I will be using Melville’s journal to track his daily itinerary when he visited Rome in Feb/March of 1857. Sad, I know; it’s probably not the way one should tour the city, following someone else’s footsteps; I really must get a life. (Ginny is a writer, also a retired editor, and my best friend; I’ll let her introduce herself in her blog, which you can access by clicking the link in the sidebar. Our idea is to blog independently but linked.)
Anyway, Ginny and I think it would be “fun” to run a blog, or rather side by side blogs, offering a daily record of our different experiences and impressions in the Eternal City from our different perspectives. What we hope to achieve is one site that contains our two blogs, sharing equal space, run side by side. But apparently, that is easier said than done, and suddenly, I’m worrying that so much writing might keep me from seeing more of Rome. And I am thinking that having to make daily blog entries might become an obligation, with more relentless deadlines. And what if I begin to say more about myself than I should rather than report on my class in Rome and new students or my view of the city in each entry, or thoughts about Melville. How shall I keep from spilling secrets? Now I can hear the Thatcher in me rising up: you think THIS would be FUN? But some Kane in me thinks it might indeed be fun to run a blog.