January 15, 2007

This Week In Blog

Mindy from Proper Noun brings up a bunch of really great points about the whole Cybils thing, and what she's learned from it. She comments,
"...I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t blog very critically. My reviews are more likely to capture my personal reaction than discuss literary devices, and I’m okay with that."
It is, in fact, true that people who read blogs aren't usually after things like long discussions of story arc and protagonist motivation, but I find that once I'm sitting down to write a review, I kind of have to do that kind of thing anyway. For me, it helps to think of story and characters from every direction that I can, because I tend to be a bit... inelegant with my descriptions. Inarticulate. Scrambling for words.

See, here's the thing. I get a book. I breathe in that Book Smell. I ignore the flyleaf and check out the cover art. Then, I settle in to read. For me, reading is much akin to sampling desserts. There are some you instantly like, some that are too sweet, some not sweet enough, but since I read quickly, I tend to just take myriad books in at once. When I find a tasty book, I just want to squeal "Ooh! Ooh! I like that one!" and with no further thought, go on to the next one. That's... not really reviewing, but more recording-gut-reactions, enjoying the experience, and having far too much fun, which is why I tend to defer to a. fortis when any actual thinking about writing is done.

Sure, once I've thought about a novel for a bit, I can start deconstructing... I eventually (ahem)managed to do the work for my degrees in litarature. The problem is, like many others, I tend to only blog about books I like -- or ones that I dislike so much that I must let everyone know how disappointed in them I am. I am hoping to learn to be more balanced and intelligent about literature (like A.F or Tockla or MotherReader, who can be counted on to say what she thinks quite clearly and hilariously), but sometimes I don't care... Frankly, it's just a lot of mad love and catching-up-from-a-fiction-deprived-childhood that I'm doing, and that's okay, too.

Of course, when you're being looked to to provide a bit more... discrimination in your reading responses (as in, you're a Cybils nominator!), you have to really slow down bolting your books and chew each chapter thoughtfully. That was the hardest thing about working with the list of eighty-some books we had - to tone down the enthusiasm at being allowed bunches of free (!!!!!!) books and try to sift through, reading and re-reading them critically and consideringly.

The second painful thing was that shortlist -- and discovering that four of the final five are from one publishing house. We hadn't noticed until we 'heard' that house described as having a stranglehold on the category. Ouch!

Additionally, it was hard not to feel regret for those books that we could not choose. I had to laugh, the night after we'd turned in our list -- our team emailed each other about ways to highlight our personal favorite books that didn't make the cut. It was difficult for people with such varying temperaments to choose well as a group, and I continue to hope that each of us felt our opinions were heard and respected. Certainly I think next year will be harder, as people will be more familiar with the format and maybe more confident. I can say this: we chose well this year - next year we will choose awesomely!

Finally, the worst thing about all of this? Parting with the books. I actually sat down to take a few to the library of a school. And then I said, "But I like this one. And this one. And this one..." and I was quite dismayed that I could part with no more than five or six of them. Am I that big of a book hoarder? Why, yes, I am. I'm still going to be giving some away -- that's a personal goal, to pare down the list by two-thirds -- but to salve my wounds, I promised myself new bookshelves.

It's the little things, people.

More on the Bay Area Children's Book Blogger's Brunch (the truncated version, since it was sort of spur of the moment, and there were only three of us) and the reason I'm saving my resolutions until the Lunar New Year on February 18th... later.


MotherReader said...

Thank you for compliments on my reviews. It was so sweet.

I'll tell you my little secret. I make notes on the books soon after I read it. Sometimes its just little reminders, a quote from the book, or a thought I had while reading. Once in a while my notes come out almost ready to post. I tried writing them in a notebook, but I kept misplacing it. I tried writing in a word doc, but I found I would want to add to it at work. So, now I send my notes in an email to myself and file it.

Jen Robinson said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this whole reviewing thing. It's something that I struggle with, too.

Re: Random House's stranglehold - I didn't notice it right away either, because of the different imprints. I think it actually shows that the committee was NOT paying attention to who the publisher was, because if you had known you would have been tempted to drop one of those books in favor of a non-RH title.

Sorry I couldn't make the brunch. I'm sure we'll have another opportunity!

Jennifer said...

I love your description of the process of beginning and digesting a book.

I also struggle with sharing my thoughts and impressions, in a blog-friendly format, but with some sort of literary nod.

Jackie said...

I totally like you.