I relied on Duncan mostly for Moss news, for a daily dose of beauty in the form of haunting, glamorous photos and for snippets of poetry. Since her blog fell silent on July 10 (only to be updated by writer and editor Glenn O'Brien's encomium on Monday), I've had to follow several of her familiar sources to fill the void Wood's Lot, Professor Hex, the Guardian, random British gossip rags. Still, I'm missing something, and like so many other readers, I feel as if an old friend has suddenly gone.
Why should I? I never spoke to her, never saw her at the gallery openings or lectures she sometimes publicized, never met her strolling the streets of Venice, where she recently lived. I never left a comment on her blog, though I read it each day for nearly two years, even when I disagreed with her far-left politics, or grew annoyed with her anti-Baby Boomer rants and the pretension of her (possibly apocryphal) secret society functions.
But like the best bloggers, she created an illusion of intimacy with her readers. Most blogs are simply unedited confessions for the blogger or for close friends, posted where they might be found by strangers (as, I imagine, the diarist dreads but also desires). And still other bloggers hope for anonymity, only to deliberately push its bounds by revealing too much when readers know all but one secret, they'll search for it, and find it.
Duncan only revealed as much as her readers needed to feel close to her, to imagine we shared a history and a compendium of obscure knowledge, thanks to her relentless cataloging. She shared her mind, and what a strange, lovely chronicle she created perfume reviews filled with daringly allusive reminisces; hints of darkness and occultism; memories of the Michigan of her youth. She called her readers "children of the Staircase"; she kept us informed of her personal and professional journeys; she laced her entries with references that required her readers to have sharp memories of prior posts. An anaylst of glamour, she also possessed it thoroughly, in the original sense of the word.
That imagined intimacy was so thorough that, even after her suicide, I stubbornly stuck to the belief that she wasn't a stranger to me, that I deserved some inkling of her plans, or even a blogged suicide note. It would seem morbidly appropriate for a medium fueled by our compulsion to make private lives into public spectacles, and there's little as private as dying alone in one's apartment, as she did. Or did I simply miss her clever hints, laced in past posts? Should I, as so many commenters did, read some message in what she posted the day she died?
If there is a message in that post a quote from Reynolds Price proclaiming the necessity of storytelling to human survival it is not that her life lacked something. It's that our lives did, and she provided it by spinning her life into a story for us. Now her death is spun in the same way by bloggers and the so-called MSM revealing enough details for us to imagine we understand the full picture of her passing, and allowing us to feel just close enough to the tragedy without being hit with its full force.
And, thanks to the media outpouring, she's become something of a celebrity fulfilling the promise of the persona she created on her blog, which relied on being both of-the-people (as an accessible, regularly posting blogger) and above them (as participant in a rarefied social scene mostly closed to outsiders). Her ability to occupy that liminal space is what attracted so many readers to her blog, and what draws them to see themselves as participants in the tragedy of her death.
The desire to be close to her suicide is related, however distantly, to the urge to read her daily posts, to imagine knowing her, and to believe ourselves more glamorous or brilliant for knowing her. Duncan, then, did for her distant readers what she once credited the far more vacuous Kate Moss with doing for her fawning masses: "[She was] the unmoved mover, [who] sparks desire and leaves a vast blank expanse for the limitless excitement that blooms and mushrooms."