Wednesday, April 9, 2014

You are reading what is now an archive of approximately 500 discrete posts. American History Now began as a blog at the dawn of the Obama era on February 4, 2009 with a piece about "Outlaw Pete," a song on Bruce Springsteen's new album Working on a Dream (which in retrospect looks like one of the Boss's weaker efforts, though the song holds up well). In the years since, a new post for American History Now has gone up anywhere from once to three times a week. They can be categorized the following ways:
  • Posts that chronicled the lives of fictive students and teachers (The Felix Chronicles, The Maria Chronicles, and the Horace Chronicles, which ran at at History News Network in the winter and spring of 2014) and can be seen in their entirety here;
  • Posts that functioned as excerpts of first drafts of books, principally Sensing the Past, which was published in 2013, as well as A Short History of the Modern Media (2014) and an abortive book project on the history of the self-made man (it was eventually published as a long essay in The Hedgehog Review in 2013);
  • Book reviews that were cross-posted at the HNN book page, where I was a Book Review editor from 2009 to 2014;
  • Short posts on what I've been reading, watching or listening to on vacation or traveling;
  • Some miscellaneous stuff (ranging from tributes to Abraham Lincoln to Billy Joel).
I began this blog for two basic reasons:
  1. To participate in some of the excitement about new media, and the opportunities for ordinary people to become bloggers and publish work in ways that had previously been limited to those with access to capital, the professional publishing infrastructure, or both;
  2. To give me a creative outlet at a time when I was between book projects and was unsure what do to next.
So, has American History Now been a success? I guess I'd say yes: any enterprise that helped keep me out of trouble -- which is to say has given me at least an illusion of purpose for five years -- has been valuable. The blog has had about 150,000 page views, which is strictly small potatoes, though a handful of my pieces have been accessed thousands of times, which I think counts as a small audience, one that's both global and unlikely to have exposure to my work any other way.  On the other hand, I haven't exactly found fame and fortune.

I've decided to suspend this blog (and book reviewing for HNN) to concentrate on writing books. I'm currently working on a cultural history of the United States from 1945 to the present, which I hope will see the light of day at some point. But uncertainty, I've discovered, lies near the very essence of the writing life.

In closing, I'd like to thank three sets of people: my family, for sustaining (and putting up with) me; Google, whose Blogger platform has been a truly marvelous gift, and you, dear reader, for the privilege of your attention. May you find a lifetime of pleasure in the written word, wherever you may happen to encounter it.