And by brief, I mean obnoxiously long, apparently. Hopefully I got it all out of my system.
Anyways, still figuring things out a little, blog-habit-and-review-writing-wise; thought I’d self-indulgently blab about it since in my mind this blog is as much about self-reflection and personal growth as a reader (and hyphens, apparently) as it is about the books themselves. I’m keeping a good pace with reading through my book list; along with The Neverending Story, I’ve finished A Plague of Demons, Uprooted, Options, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, and The Xipéhuz, and I have plenty of ideas and opinions and notes jotted in phone and notebook about all six but I somehow got stuck after the first couple of reviews and I want to think about why that is a little.
One reason is that my original plan was to review everything for the week on Sunday, with the exception of truly exceptional books (The Neverending Story qualifies; it jumped right into my list of all-time favorites) but that’s just a recipe for procrastination. Plus, I’m having trouble being brief. I want a very natural reflective vibe, and my thoughts just tend to branch out and multiply too much; editing 3-5 books worth of thoughts into a not-annoyingly-long review is not the kind of work I want to do for a fun, casual summer project. So the first step is adjusting my plans and expectations for writing; I’ll start to integrate a little prose writing into my daily habits. Reviews should go up on the night when I finish a book, and on nights when I don’t, I’ll try to write more generally about my experience with this project (like this!)
The bigger issue is that it’s a surprising adjustment to make to write casual criticism. I’ve always been pretty successful with writing literary analysis for school, and when I write poetry I don’t really get a sense of how bad it is until later. I work as a writing tutor. The point I’m trying to make is that I usually feel pretty self-assured and confident when I start a piece of writing, but I feel very uncertain trying to blog. Maybe it’s because I’ve developed my other writing skills gradually, starting before I knew enough to recognize my own shortcomings. Now I know enough to recognize that I don’t really know what I’m doing here. I feel a need to be stylish and witty and light, and that’s a muscle I haven’t really flexed that much in my academic writing. I actually like this discomfort quite a bit; it feels productive, like an obvious growth experience with value beyond the act of learning a new genre and form. I just have to acknowledge it and be comfortable with improving gradually.
Hand in hand with that is that I’m not really an expert reader in most of the genres I’m tackling this summer. The one area that I have a pretty deep knowledge and a lot of opinions about is fantasy; those reviews should hopefully come a little easier (though transforming years and years of disorganized rumination into coherently expressed ideas is a feat in itself). And I have enough of a feel for storytelling and for my taste to talk about the effectiveness of stories in general. But I get stuck trying to talk intelligently about the tropes in, say, a detective novel. Sf, I’m getting there…but I’m no Joachim Boaz, for example, and that makes me wonder what the point is. Why do all of this writing publicly at all? Bloggers with a wealth of knowledge and experience provide an obvious service to readers, who can benefit by learning from their expertise. Why should I expect people to want to read my blog? Am I accomplishing anything here or am I just being self-indulgent? I think the answer is: who gives a damn. Even if no one can take anything away from reading this but me, it’s better than watching Netflix shows I’m barely interested in. In the meantime, I’ll just write to the best of my ability.
Alright. Back to books tomorrow. The Nevereding Story! I’m very excited.