Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Oh brave new world that has such bloggers in it

     I don't wanna write reviews anymore. Either positive or negative. 
  I want to write about reading.  
No one is paying me to do this.
I have written both old-school "professional" reviews and "amateur" reactions to books (and plays): I was a paid staff member of a small newspaper; I now have a blog.
  When I was paid by someone else, I wrote my opinion in a manner that presented me as a representative of that paper. I kept a lot of "I" stuff out and focused primarily on the way the work worked. I wrote a lot about structure of the book or play and how elements interacted. I tried to keep the focus on the work and not me -- that meant not saying something clever or showing off at the expense of the piece. I used language appropriate to my audience; we were a "family" newspaper in a sophisticated town. 
  I could assign staff or freelancers to write about books I didn't have the time or interest to review myself. I had the same kind of expectations for them. I had to write about the plays I went to --- whether that reaction was "positive" or "negative"  or so bland I didn't want to care, and I tried to explain my reaction. Often I was more interested in who might be the audience for a book or play, even if I was only marginally part of that audience. My job was to have an opinion, even when I didn't feel like having one. My "voice" was not less authentic, but  subdued, my language more composed than what I admire in so many blogs, particularly by young bloggers.  I was edited.
       Blogging is freeing because my reaction can be quirky and personal --  I can go into parts of my life and how the book reflects this life. I can drift and wander. I can be random. I can disclose "spoilers." I don't have to waste my time  on books I don't want to spend time thinking  or writing about. I can choose to target my reactions for others who have read the book rather than only those who might. I can write long.
  I can do whatever I want. 
  Other bloggers can too. If they want to complain or even whine about a book, they have that right. If they want to write snarky insults or sycophantic praise, they can. If some just want to summarize, list, quote or rate, that's okay too -- it's just not very interesting for me, and I will likely scan such blogs.  What I want to do is explore.
This is a brave new world. I leave stodgy newspaper-style reviews behind to curl and yellow in their old-fashioned expectations. The problem for me, of course, is that I am so used to my old style, I have difficulty reinventing myself in the new.  But I'm trying. 
I am less interested in positive or negative reactions than I am in questions such as what does it feel like to read this book?  Why am I reading this book?   What does it remind me of? How does this book work, or not? Or what question does this book ask me, and how is it answered?
        I like the democracy of blogging, the inventiveness.  I know there are many out there who view bloggers as a "market" or worse, as marketeers, and would like to exploit and corral the community.  Frontiers have always attracted both opportunists and adventurers. The more formulaic blogging gets, the less interesting it will be. So I celebrate the diversity, the good, the bad, the boring and the playfulness of blogging.
There's more than one way to react to a book -- readalongs, lists, comments, memes, challenges. The Estella Society has even created a "playground" for readers ( Yeah Andi and Heather!
      Bloggers are making it up as they go along.
      They are forming and reforming a community of readers. 
      The review is dead! Long live talking about, writing about, reacting to reading!

Note: I started this blog as a comment in reaction to Florinda's post today about authentic voices being priceless on her blog Then I found myself going on and on, so I made a post out of it. Florinda, whose blog I admire, was writing about Book Blogger Appreciation Week. This is my small offer of appreciation.

1 comment:

  1. Such a thoughtful response--I'm glad you didn't limit yourself to a comment on my post, but put it all here. Having been on both sides, I think you've done a wonderful job of describing what book bloggers do so well, and why there's a place for it.