Earlier in the week I mentioned that I am keen to get back to doing some book reviews/thoughts on lots of titles I have read over the last few months. Yesterday I got down to it and blooming heck this book blogger has become a bit rusty to be honest. Whilst I have admittedly written some reviews of the Graham Greene’s I read last month, yesterday I was really struggling to write anything cohesive or comprehensive about Anthony Marra’s amazing debut ‘A Constellation of Vital Phenomena’ and it took me about four hours which is just over double the time it normally takes on and off.
I sat and tried to work out where the block was coming from. Was it a) because I admired the book so much I felt I couldn’t do it justice b) that the author was living so I cared more about if they should happen to read it (which I don’t assume authors will do) than I would have if the author had croaked it (which makes it highly unlikely they will ever see the review) or c) I simply didn’t have anything intelligent to say. These are all the normal doubts that I have when I review, especially books I love and therefore want everyone to read yet don’t want to just gush about. I think the real reason was that I was out of the loop and therein lay self doubt.
I don’t mean that I am arrogant about my reviews, because I don’t think they are the dogs proverbials and more times than I would like to admit I read other reviews and think ‘why oh why can I not be as prolific and profound as that swine’. In fact I did this reading some reviews of Anthony Marra after I had posted mine – I could have wept, especially over this one though admittedly it is a little bit long which can look a little bit self indulgent. This then led me to the question… what do I want my ropey old reviews to achieve?
The instant thought I had was ‘who gives a toss, this has always been my personal diary of the books I read’ which is true and the back bone of why I write this blog. Yet it is also slightly naive to have that attitude as now, without sounding like an utter tool, this blog does get millions of (ha, ha , I am joking it is really just thousands) a fair few readers which is lovely and whilst I don’t want to feel I am writing a blog that is for an audience I do want to leave readers with something. Even it is to scoff at my ridiculous thoughts or grammar.
Hopefully though the aim I think every genuine book blogger, not book blagger, has is not to make the reader dash off and read the book in question (which is beyond lovely when it happens), or to never touch the book or author again (though I think any visitors are intelligent enough not to only take my word for it, you also shouldn’t touch authors without permission anyway) but to get people enthused about books and (ironic considering I haven’t caught up on comments, it is on my to do list) have a conversation. And not just a conversation where everyone says ‘oh yes I completely agree’, I mean a proper natter – that is my new aim.
For it is reviews, blogs, podcasts and vlogs that have an unwavering enthusiasm for books (even ones they might think are a bit shit), create interesting discussion, have emotional reactions to books (as unlike Mr Peter Stothard, who was on Woman’s Hour last week saying emotions don’t count in criticism, I believe books should be emotive even if the emotion is simply enjoyable entertainment – rant over, though I will now never work for the TLS) have their own identity and personality and don’t take themselves too seriously which are the ones I myself turn to. It is also those clever sods who I also read and make me want to claw my own eyes out with jealously, until I cleverly realise this would severely hinder me in reading. I will be updating my ‘blogs I love’ with a fresh new list of these clever clogs in the next week as I catch up with them. I will also find a better name for this than ‘blogs I love’ – I am currently thinking ‘Brilliantly Clever Bookish B***ards’, ha!
Anyway, that it seems is the answer! Simply write what I want to whilst also being a teeny bit aware of what I love to read review-wise. In fact, it seems I have sorted my problem out in my own head using this blog as a sounding board – thank you all so much for your help even if you weren’t aware of it until this sentence.
Though whilst we are on the subject of reviews/book thoughts/critiques… What are your favourite book reviewers styles and why? Do you like longer or shorter? Personality or plot? Which are your favourite reviewers (link to them) and why? What is an absolute no-no for you if you read a review which may make you never return again?