The New York Review of Books, highbrow home of Joan Didion letters and occasional epic literary feuds (or "nerd fights") today undertakes it greatest challenge: explaining "blogs" to its million-year-old readers. The author assigned to the task? Journo (and cartoonist!) Sarah Boxer, who has assembled a little print anthology of blog "writing." Which means that her task is two-fold, actually: explaining blogs to old people and justifying collecting them into a book to herself. How does she fare? Hilariously!

There is, first of all, the all-important definition and etymology: "blog" is short for "web log" or "weblog." There are 100 million of them. Many of them in Japan! The "culture of linking" makes it difficult to anthologize blogs in print! Also, "bloggy writing" (oxymoron?).

Sometimes they don't even stop to punctuate. And if they can't put quite the right inflection on a sentence, they'll often use an OMG (Oh my god!) or an emoticon, e.g., a smiley face :-) or a wink ;-) or a frown :-( instead of words. (Tilt your head to the left to see the emoticons here.)

Sometimes bloggers they use something called "snark" ("read: snotty and catty"). Also, "Following links is like putting on 3-D glasses."

Then Ms. Boxer compares a random post from a mommyblog to the first paragraph of Plato's Republic.

Also bloggers are mean! "I'm pretty sure that bloggers have fouler mouths, tougher hides, and cooler thesauruses than most of the people I've read in print. Here's a sampling of words gleaned from some of my favorite blogs:"

anyhoo, bitchitude, fan-fucking-tabulous, hole-esque, nastified, alternapop, coffin-snatching, YouTube-ization, touzing, Daddio, manky, nutters, therapised, Boo-Ya Nation, dildopreneur, dudely, flava, haz-mat, nut sac, sexbot, underwearian, fugly, vomit-y, consciousness-jumped, tear-assed, fetbryo, grapetastically, mommyblogdaciousness, Nero-crazy, Engrish, pidginized, votenfreude, angsty, malgovernment, bejesus, JumboTron, man-dresses, babe-aliciousness, droit de senny.

Many of those words may be confusing and frightening to you, but don't panic: they will never again appear in the NYRB. Well, except "malgovernment", probably.

Of course, considering that her audience is the readership of the damn NYRB, need Boxer actually explain (and nearly apologize for) the vitriol, bile, and unhinged cruelty of blog criticism? This is the publication in which Norman Mailer once compared reading a Tom Wolfe book to fucking a fatty. ("Once she gets on top, it's over. Fall in love, or be asphyxiated.") Gore Vidal has been making the letters section of Review of Books his own de facto blog for 40 years!

(NB: The list of "books mentioned" will make you cry.)

Blogs [NYRB]