Here it is August 20th and the end of the month is eleven days away. It's also, following this post, the day I'm going to make the first post about reading the novels on the Booker longlist. Now, I do this every year, but this year I'm downright sluggish in getting started for a couple of reasons, but one in particular worth noting.
I've been having a bit of a rethink lately on writing about books I've been reading. It all started when I finished Deborah Levy's Swimming Home, did my writeup and then started perusing other reviews -- the normal sequence of events since I don't want anything to intrude on the way I think about a particular novel. When I came to one literary review that talked about the novel's title being based on John Cheever's short story "The Swimmer," I just about panicked. I'd never read that story before so how in the hell is it even remotely possible I would get what the author of Swimming Home is trying to say in her book? I gave this a huge amount of thought and came to the realization that well, I can't. It's really no fault of mine if I haven't read Cheever's story; I mean, sheesh -- I can't have possibly read everything, but still, it made me feel really kind of stupid thinking that I can read Swimming Home, get every nuance, every subtext every yada yada yada and then actually write about it in some kind of meaningful way. I actually finished this book last week but have just kind of sat here in a great deal of distress wondering why I even bother to do this at all. The same goes for other novels. I'll find a book I like or even dislike, write something about it and then go read what other people with a more literary bent say and feel like a dumbass for what I've missed or didn't pick up on. So after a lot of inner turmoil, I've decided that what I'm doing here in this online reading journal shouldn't really be called writing "reviews," but rather I'm keeping a record for myself of what books I've read and why, what I think the novel was about, and how I engaged or didn't with a particular story, and offer my humble opinion as to why. And to settle my inner angst and feelings that I'm stupid, that's the direction I want to go with any future books I read and write about. The other thing I like to think I'm doing is calling attention to books that are not on any bestseller list or which have not been nominated for any spectacular literary prize, but that's another whole story I won't get into right now. The long and short of it is this: I can't pretend to be someone I'm not or to write in a way that is "sophisticated," and if I don't get something that seems obvious to everyone else, well, there's not a whole lot I can do about it. Enough. On to the next paragraph and a change of topic.
REALLY COOL PUBLISHER
who took an interest in my tale of woe about my inability to get my copy of their novel and emailed me over the weekend with an offer of a copy of the book. I didn't answer right away just in case pb shop had taken pity on me and had actually sent me the copy to which I was entitled, but this morning's BS email prompted me to respond with a grateful yes. Thank you again, Ed. You deserve a medal.
end and on to the next post, which puts me back on the Booker track.