Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Reason Why

The reason for this blog comes from several places: the first was the prospect of spending New Year alone.

The best way to deal with loneliness, I've found, is to give yourself a colourful, time-consuming project. It's a much more effective (and productive) technique than pouring yourself a fifth glass of wine, eating your own weight in chocolate brownies and howling along to Jools Holland in your nightie (which may or may not be my plans for New Year...)

I am a connoisseur of little projects. My first project this year was bread: I obsessively spent each night baking white rolls, brown loaves, honey and spelt bread, sourdough - more bread, in fact, than you could shake a baguette at. I happened to be suffering from insomnia at the time. Now, I'm suffering from nothing more than a lack of my favourite people, who have all dispersed themselves across the country and, in some cases, the world.

The second reason for this blog is that I read too much. A student! Who reads!

It's true. Ever since I was faithfully raised by a devout librarian, I find books to be more important to me than anything else, with the exception, perhaps, of food and human interaction - although even they get forgotten when I'm on the last chapters of a newly discovered gem. Mostly, I read novels and poetry, but I am one of those people that will read anything if it's lying around within a mile. Non-fiction, newspapers, criticism, cereal boxes, shampoo bottles, shoe sizes.

And I get so excited by what I read (less so about the shampoo bottles), that sometimes I can't get the words out to describe why. This is something I've had to overcome since working as a bookseller - I remember being asked by a customer to explain what I liked about Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. My face lit up, my hands started gesticulating, and I rambled on about aliens, the Dresden bombing, and 'What it means to be human!' In the end, however, the rather bewildered customer did not buy the book (so it goes). I find that writing what I think often makes it a whole lot clearer than when I speak, as well as controlling that annoying hand flapping motion that I have. Hopefully, the excitement still comes across, and rubs off on the next person.

The third, final and most important reason why this blog exists is this: I hate book reviews.

Which is why I'm not going to write any. Not proper ones, anyway. I took journalism as part of my degree last year, and while I have nothing but respect and admiration for the lecturer who took my class, it didn't half suck the life out of book reviews for me. We were told (and rightfully so) that most reviews should be impersonal, concise and well constructed. The last sentence should be a brief opinion summarised in a sentence.

Well. My book reviews are going to be mostly opinion, for starters. Opinion is what I want to share with you - I've got opinion coming out of my ears. They are going to be poorly constructed and go off on tangents (the book reviews, that is, not my ears), have anecdotes, and probably cross-reference lots of obscure things that nobody has time to google. And they will be unflinchingly personal, telling you every reason why I read it, and what it did to me, and whether or not I was in the bath.

There can be so much more to a book review than the damn book - what about the country in which it's read? The time of day, the cafe? Who gave it to you, and how does that affect how you read it? And the book as an object - was it love at first sight? Or did you hide it behind a dust jacket of something more literary? Did it stay on your shelf for years until you finally discovered that your favourite book had been waiting for you all along?

These are the kind of things I'm interested in, and these are the kind of things I want to write about: the story behind each book I've read.


The first reason for this blog has disappeared: one of my favourite people has come back from Sweden, and I rather think a New Year full of cheese, wine and foreign swear words is just what I need. So, my blog won't be an all-night book fest to welcome 2011 as I intended it to be, but more of an ongoing project to occupy that ever-widening gap between what I should be doing, and sleep.