Four years is the time we set aside for high school, undergraduate degrees and presidential terms. It happens also to be the length of time that Identitytheory dot com has been broadbanding across the Internet firmament. This anniversary probably requires some (few) words to mark it and its progress, if not for its readers, certainly for its creators and contributors. Or at least for me.
I am struck, these few years later, by the consistency of Identitytheory approach and—forgive the loaded word—its ethos, exemplified by my first contact with its progenitor, young and noble Matt Borondy. Four summers ago, Matt approached me desiring my contribution of a Howard Zinn conversation for his yet-to-be online website/webzine. My reaction was one of ambivalence. Harboring at that time the opinion that the Internet was the first refuge of scoundrels and thieves in a new economic paradigm, I was wary. On the other hand, I didn't see how propagating the name of Howard Zinn and his good works could be for a scurrilous end. At the time, I demurred, preferring to wait for the site to be launched.
When finally I offered young Borondy a conversation with the brilliant and peculiarly amusing Jewish cartoonist, Ben Katchor it was quickly accepted—as were my talks with writers Alan Furst, Julian Barnes, Adam Gopnik, Susan Orlean, Alan Lightman, Manil Suri, Andre Dubus III and Amy Bloom. Finally, in the spring of 2001 I once again sat down with Howard Zinn and produced the first of the two conversations for IDT with the author of the People's History of The United States.
At this odd point in time, Identitytheory is the repository much of my work (for lack of a better word) of the past few years. It is as well, the (at least vacation) home of a number of other writers and poets and artists (you might even find Matt's NFL picks for the past two seasons somewhere), and I encourage everyone within eyesight of my words to kick around IDT's side streets and back alleys. But that self-promoting suggestion didn't need the exhalation of a three of four hundred words. So what justifies this celebratory verbiage?
Okay then, let me join the issue at hand. The remarkable work (I still haven't found a better word, in spite of current superlative devaluation) here is all the more worthy of commendation because none of it was done with an eye to an appreciation of bank accounts or the enhancement of purchasing powers. Dreams of SUVs, Ipods, 52" HD plasma screen TVs—or any of the panoply of toys and distractions that are available to citizens of this mighty and righteous nation—were not the engine for the conversations, poems, meditations, photos and all manner of literary stuff that comprises this creative sanctuary. And that's all that this sceptered site content may have in common—that it to say, it wasn't about the Benjamins.
Perhaps this is not so satisfying an answer. People of an artistic bent are always special pleading on this or that (self-serving) issue. No, I came to recognize that in pursuing the creation of the works that you find at Identitytheory, the disabling of one's consumer identity doesn't make any of us unique or particularly noble (as much as I would be pleased to make that claim). What it does do is put us within a tradition and a culture that values ideas and feelings and images that are always seemingly marginal and on the verge of extinction. That is the culture of literature. The mistake here of course is that when we substitute 'story telling' for 'literature' we see that the danger of extinction is really unlikely.
Okay, okay, I am rambling. Here's the thing—in addition to being able to indulge whatever dictates of ecstatic artistic urgencies present themselves, this strange little boat sails uncharted waters with a flotilla of other strange and drunken boats. What a fine thing it has been to meet in some unlikely way, fellow sailors Mark Sarvas, Carrie Frye, Maud Newton, Huree Babu, Dennis Loy Johnson, Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, Daniel Green, Rosecranz Baldwin, Michael Ortofor, Tom Rakewell, Sam Jones, Ed Champion, Jimmy Beck, Ron Hogan, Dong Resin, Lizzie Skurnick, Sarah Weinman, Laila Lalami and more. That's the really energizing and inspiring thing: that the never-ending conversation goes on, bringing meaning and meanings to its participants. That's a pretty good thing, no?