Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Garden of Digital Fowers: I Added a Dot.Com to My Name

               Website, website on the wall, who's the vainest of them all? Add a dot.com to the end of your name and, voila, you have a website. In this case http://robertcknox.com/
               Not that easy of course. But it got a lot easier for me when I hired someone, a friend of my sister's from childhood who happens to be great at these things, to design and build it. 
               The primary motive, of course is to promote myself as a writer, so here I am -- a self-promoter. Maybe I should tell myself things such as 'If Walt Whitman were alive today, you'd be seeing his name all over the internet.' Whitman paid for the publication of his mid-19th century masterpiece "Leaves of Grass," which sold very, very slowly despite his efforts to promote it such as writing anonymous reviews praising it in newspapers and other journals. And by printing Ralph Waldo Emerson's famous praise-words ("I greet you at the start of a brilliant career") on the cover of the book's next edition without Emerson's permission. Great scandal; few extra sales.
               So self-promotion has a long history. If Shakespeare's company (known as "The Lord Chamberlain's Men" and then "The King's Men") was around today, his plays would be on Broadway every year, battling it out with "Hamilton" for headlines. I'm not sure the bard would be above giving talks explaining his success to the contemporary equivalents of Elizabethan joint-stock companies. How much did Hillary get for that again? 
               So here I am, someone long convinced that his personal ambitions were extremely moderate, doing what everybody else in this era of ceaseless hustle is striving to do: become a brand.
               I'm branding myself: robertcknox.com.
                I should probably have it tattooed somewhere. Actually, that's where I draw the line. 
               When I think about how I've been running around, mentally, telling myself 'you'd better get a website,' I keep hearing the arch-satirist Tom Lehrer's classic parody of the spread of nuclear weapons: "you'd better get a bomb!"
               All right, enough with the apologies: I have a website. It comes with its own blog. Here's an excerpt from the maiden post, which went live yesterday. Naturally (you were expecting this) it's about my novel "Suosso's Lane." 
How I Came to Write This Story:
             As an international cause, the Sacco-Vanzetti case was a big deal everywhere. Many nonfiction books have been written about the case and the highly flawed trial that condemned what most people believed were innocent men. Working for a community newspaper in Pilgrim-happy Plymouth MA, I was surprised to learn that Vanzetti was a Plymouth resident at the time of his arrest. And since I was a local journalist, “Vanzetti in Plymouth” was a local angle on a big, largely forgotten story that intrigued me. Working on a local history for a special issue, I looked into what was known about Vanzetti’s life in Plymouth by  scanning through old, microfilmed newspapers and searching for people who remembered, or were told by older relatives, that Vanzetti once lived in North Plymouth.
              I also read books on the case. The more I looked into it, and the more I learned about the America that produced the Sacco-Vanzetti case, the more convinced I became that the history of Vanzetti’s life in Plymouth offered a multi-faceted opening into a story of what life was like for factory workers in Plymouth, and the rest of industrial America a century ago — as well as a means to examine enduring issues in American society and politics such as the negative stereotyping of immigrant groups, the stark social divisions between rich and poor, bias in the criminal justice system, and the fear that oppressed groups will turn to violence.

(Here's the link for the full post: