While the platform has been around since the early 90s, the term “blog” emerged in the 97 and gained immense popularity throughout the following decade. Today, roughly 6.7 million people blog using blogging sites, not to mention the tens of millions reading and even engaging with those sites. But even with the popularity and far-reach of this relatively new platform, there remains a need and desire for print publication, and for some, the desire to make the blog available in said form as well.
Hair Hearts Flip, which ran on-line from 2006 to 2008, calls itself “an autobiographical epistolary blog.” It is composed of letters or better yet, digital exchanges between Sabrina Calle and Feliz Lucia Molina under the pseudonyms Hair & Flip. According to its authors, during the two year period that they interacted online, they only physically saw each other about four times. By reading this exchange, we the readers, are supposedly provided with an introspective and intimate gaze into the development of an intellectual, artistic, and tension-rife relationship.
The book-length work can be entertaining at times, particularly with respect to its use of multi-media. There is often a great deal of wit and humor in the interaction between text and image, or even more enjoyable when their relationship is questionable and left for the reader to interpret. The writing is most successful and engaging in moments that feel like genuine stream of consciousness. These instances provide a specific detail-oriented connection with the speaker, and through negative space, connect the reader to the person being addressed as well. One such instance is in the response post to July 6, 2006:
“Your poem After Dinner In Guadalajara hangs by a thumbtack just above the bookcase altar in the kitchen. I am walking around a New England calendar with summer pages that anticipate autumn, how odd to see a Filipino walk by.”
Additionally, the exchange between Hair & Flip is at its absolute best when it doesn’t take it self too seriously, instead makes fun of itself and the very medium of interaction that it is perusing:
“I’m ordering more drinks I can barely stand and we’re sitting on a couch taking pictures of our shoes and saying dumb shoe-gazing hipster shit like ‘Wow, shoes are so awesome, let me see yours.’”
Here, the interaction is playfully described as based on superficial connections between the individuals involved. They are brought or held together by the influx of alcohol as well as a defining wardrobe that helps them relate to one another while at once identifying as distinctive, and if nothing else, serves as a much needed ego boost. Moreover, such interactions can perhaps be read as self-referential to those, which Hair & Flip are themselves engaged.
While the aforementioned moments of connection and wit stand out as pleasantly amusing, the dialogue as a whole can be likened to a haze, or a conversation people have when they are drunk, during which topics of discussions, images, and references seem suddenly more entertaining, meaningful, and important than they would be otherwise. However, this is only true for the individuals under the influence, to a sober person, or in this case the reader, it is an interesting spectacle that does get somewhat old after a few minutes or in this case, a few pages in. Nevertheless, this kind of narrative construction does create a particular space, one that requires a kind of suspension of disbelief to enter into fully. It is possible that a more giving reader will have an easier time entering into this exchange and taking on a more intoxicated state. However, the question remains, what does it mean if such web-based interaction requires an altered rather than a more rational state? Is there a way in which this medium is appropriate for said level of interaction and engagement, reproducing a space that is already present in-person under certain conditions? Or, has this kind of web-based, public address intruded on a personal exchange that was once under a higher level of pressure and scrutiny?
The aforementioned unique space of the composition is largely defined by its basis in melodrama, which reminds me of the earlier Xanga platform (which I myself confess to using during my high school years) on which users have the opportunity vent about their day in a diary-like fashion, and a circle of readers could interact with these daily exchanges. When the writing doesn’t take itself too seriously and recognizes its own exaggeration, the melodramatic quality is toned done, and the event or sentiment described becomes more readable and relatable.
Within the framework of the epistolary tradition, a genre which asserts sincerity and intimacy, many of the statements or confessions made by Hair or Flip contrarily feel somewhat contrived, not wholly directed at a specific individual, and oddly aware of a larger audience in a way that makes the writing feel disingenuous. For example, this can be felt in the July 30, 2006:
“I tried really hard going to mass yesterday morning; that time aligns with bagels and such.”
The bagel metaphor wants to convey a deeper meaning and at once call out to an inside joke, but ends up sounding forced and devoid of any meaning for the reader. Does this suggest that within a publicized, private, literary exchange, access at meaning is always foreclosed to the reader? If this is the case, then there has to be an alternative goal for the composition, perhaps that of emotional affect? But, even the emotive quality is limited because the work’s tonal registers are so conflicting: it tries to maintain a secret narrative to which we, the readers, have no access, and at once hold a position of profundity and relevance to a larger audience. While there are advantages to these two perspectives, and the exchange does give us some concrete emotional and physical plot footholds, for the most part, investing in loosely connected moments, and likewise loosely connected speakers, can prove difficult.
My chief complaint about the piece however, has to do with the indistinguishableness of the two voices employed in the exchange. And the real question: are their two voices or one? Do we ever get Hair or is it all just Flip? The description of the exchange seems to suggest that Flip and Hair are writing to each other, but is Flip writing and Hair responding? Is it the other way around? Does it really matter? On the one hand, the blending of voice is interesting in that it could be read as the manifestation of influence of one writer over the other, but on the other hand, the confluence of voice takes away from the dynamic, dual-character exchange that seems to have been intended by the authors, and instead makes the composition read more like an extended, self-indulgent rant. Nevertheless, despite these criticism, if you, like myself, enjoy “reality” TV, with all its carefully edited and even scripted “real” drama-filled moments, then you too can happily indulge in Hair Hearts Flip, even if afterwards, you feel slightly guilty about the voyeuristic enjoyment you receive through the willful suspension of disbelief regarding “real” autobiography and meaningful interaction.
Hair Hearts Flip is available for free from Gauss PDF
Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach came to the United States as a Jewish refugee in 1993, from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Oregon and is a Benjamin Franklin Fellow in the University of Pennsylvania’s Comparative Literature Ph.D. program. Julia’s awards include Lilith Magazine’s 2013 Charlotte A. Newberger Poetry Prize as well as honorable mentions in Spoon River Poetry Review’s 2010 Editors Prize and Consequence Magazine’s 2013 Poetry Prize. Her poetry has appeared in Guernica, Commons Magazine, JMWW, and The Doctor T.J Eckleburg Review, among other journals. She is currently working on completing her first full-length poetry collection Like Honey and Milk. Julia is the Poetry Editor for Construction Magazine.