My webby little heart is broken, as I have just read that author and scholar Alan Jacobs is retiring his blog Text Patterns. It’s hard for me to overstate Text Patterns’ influence on me and this blog. Jacobs opened up a whole new world of topics to cover in my own blog writing, helping me discover a passion I barely knew I had; exploration of the history, fate and role of the written word in our modern technological landscape. This is a common enough topic, I suppose, on the Internet, but Jacobs covered it with erudition, accessibility, humor, and humility. When I blog about books, writing, and communication, I am very much aping — if only aspirationally — Jacobs and Text Patterns.
I don’t remember how I discovered Text Patterns to begin with, but I suspect it was probably via a linking by Andrew Sullivan, or perhaps I was googling about for things Kindle-related. Whatever the first cause, I found Text Patterns at its original home, the now-defunct “Salon-for-conservatives” known as Culture 11 (which also featured the likes of Conor Friedersdorf and David Kuo). When I realized what Culture 11 was, I was a little trepidatious to be hanging around there, but it became apparent very quickly that Jacobs’ blog was not some ideological screed in a web browser (nor was the wider Culture 11), but a thoughtful, independent-minded destination. When Culture 11 went under in 2009, I presumed all was lost, but then the magazine The New Atlantis picked up Jacobs’ blog, and Text Patterns continued. Now, I have to suffer its loss a second time.
And it is Jacobs’ more conservative roots that make my affinity for his work all the more remarkable to me. I spent a couple of years blogging nearly exclusively on atheism and the harm done by religion. Jacobs is not only a Christian, but a scholar whose frequent focus has been theology. Yet, like Andrew Sullivan, he is clearly no Tea Party know-nothing, but a brilliant man who has arrived at very different conclusions than myself in regards to things like the nature of reality and, presumably, (because I have not read any political writing he may have done) policy.
Those differences matter little. In fact, they make him and his work all the more fascinating to me. My tens of readers will already know how I adored his recent book The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. I hope, as Jacobs notes in his final post, that this ending means more writing along those lines.
I am glad that Jacobs will be able to pursue new avenues of discovery outside the bounds of his blog, but the end of Text Patterns leaves a gaping black hole in the Internet that will not easily be filled.