But it would be nice, too, if more of the people who live the low-wage life year in, year out, could get a chance to tell their own stories, and finally get the attention they deserve.

It lead me to a couple of interesting questions. For one, why aren’t there more working-class weblogs?

Recently, The Atlantic had an little back-and-forth between one of its book critics and Barbara Ehrenreich. It’s worth reading — as is the MetaFilter discussion which led me to it — but Ehrenreich, who worked three different pink-collar "invisible" jobs (as a waitress, a house cleaner, and a Wal-Mart employee) and attempted to live off the income, tosses off an aside:

But it would be nice, too, if more of the people who live the low-wage life year in, year out, could get a chance to tell their own stories, and finally get the attention they deserve.

It lead me to a couple of interesting questions. For one, why aren’t there more working-class weblogs? Almost all of the weblogs I read are by computer people or academics. Academic. Computer person. Academic. Computer person. Academic. Computer person. Academic. Computer person. And so on, ignoring such anomalies as doctors and newspaper columnists. (Of course, V. is an academic, and I am a computer person.)

Part of it is specific to weblogs. If you’ve read a story on weblogs and want to start your own it takes, even with such systems as Blogger, at least a smidgen of knowledge of HTML, the ability to get a page at Geocities, and (most importantly) a computer; more than half of Americans still aren’t on the Internet, and making use of a computer at a public library just isn’t a solution for what is (in the form I like best; I’m less interested in the link-with-snarky-comment model of weblog) a regularly-updated journal of commentary. Hauling oneself to a library to try to knock out something brilliant in the twenty minutes before one is kicked off for the next patron doesn’t make for such a good procedure; there’s a reason that most of the weblogs I like best are done by people who spent much of their day in front of a computer.

But there’s something else — writing takes time. It’s hard enough for me to make time to get the paltry amount that I write finished. It must be worse for people with kids or second jobs, and I don’t think I’d be able to muster the energy to do it if I were bone-tired every day coming home. One summer in college, I worked on the receiving dock at a warehouse, and every day when I got home I would slump on the sofa and stare at the mid-afternoon cartoons. That, plus occasional runs to the kitchen for Pepsi, was all I could muster the energy to do for a few hours.

This isn’t new, though. For hundreds of years, the only people who wrote professionally — where by "write" I mean poetry, prose, and plays written to entertain, not the letters and treatises that were written in the service of other causes — were sponsored by the nobility. The nobility and members of the court wrote for themselves, though not professionally, but the idea of a member of the laboring class writing poetry was novel through the 18th century — Burns and Clare were marketed as "ploughman poets" to capitalize on the unusualness of the phenomenon.

When Woolf wrote "A Room of One’s Own", she was putting forward the proposition that upper class women be encouraged to write. But as the act of writing comes to be perceived as one more and more divorced from everyday life (which I attribute at least partially to the decline of poetry’s prestige to the everyday reader; as V. noted, poetry is something that can be written on napkins during a coffee break), is the idea of being a writer becoming something that the average blue-collar worker (presuming he or she is at all interested in the idea) can’t realistically imagine?

I can think of any number of exceptions. Behind the Scenes at the Museum won the Whitbread Prize; its author, Kate Atkinson, is a former cleaning lady. Stephen King lived hand-to-mouth working in a laundry before he hit it big with Carrie. Rivethead is by an auto worker. But will the professionalization of writing bring more working-class voices to the public market? I can’t say, but like a number Ehrenreich’s ideas mentioned in the interview — the rise of class segregation, for instance (and I wonder whether class mobility is rising or falling in today’s America) — it’s something worth thinking about. I just wish that I could swoop on over to the WaitressBlog or the LumberyardBlog or the HotelMaidBlog, because there are a thousand stories that could be told that I’ll never get to hear.