I have a friend who is a programmer with a fairly substantial online presence. For awhile he’s been encouraging me to start publicly blogging about my ideas. We both agreed the best framing device would be covering a variety of topics, usually using a book review as the framing device. We discussed possible online monikers that could be used. My friend, the ultimate utilitarian and empiricist, said I should call myself “The Textual Critic”.
I hated the name.
I had good, subjective, reasons for disliking the name: it was dry, clinical, and didn’t reflect the highly personal relationship I have with books. By the time I done with a book I have notes scribbled and passages underlined. The final product is a book transformed from a monologue to a conversation. “The Textual Critic” made that written conversation sound like a disection.
I suggested “Mister Marginalia” might be a better fit.
He hated it.
He had good, empirical, reasons for his distaste: it’s long, weird, and cumbersome to spell. It doesn’t give the best sense of what the purpose of the blog is about. In short, the name is not a good way to build an online brand. These are all good reasons.
As you can infer from the name of the blog I disregarded the admittedly solid objections. The tipping piont came when I realized I don’t want to be a critic who reviews entire books. Most of the time I want to review sections, sentences, or even just a few words in a book or article. In other words, this blog is the place to go when I don’t have enough space in the margins of my book to get out what I want to say.
Also, the lack of topical clarity provided by the name “Mister Marginalia” started to to seem more like a plus to me. Part of what has held me back from making a blog has been the barrier of thinking of a moniker that can cover all the topics I might want to cover. With a name as opaque as Mr. Marginalia I don’t have to decide. I can just keep scribbling at the edges and see what happens.