I’m discontinuing my “Reading 20XX” series, starting immediately. It’s not because I agree with Mr. Beattie’s opinion on “challenges” and quantity tracking or what have you (though I very much do agree with his call to read better). I think that paying attention to the numbers, and participating in things like the Canadian Book Challenge simply appeals to a kind of quirk, a kind of geekiness, that Mr. Beattie doesn’t have. It’s much more prevalent in fans of science fiction, fantasy, video games, and so on (and I qualify, in a, er, qualified way), and I don’t think there’s a right or wrong in it. It’s an impulse to classify, to organize, to manage and compartmentalize. In my case it manifests temporally; even my bookshelves are organized (when they are organized) to reflect when a book came into my life, or when in that author’s career that book appeared. I just think that these “challenges” and so on reflect another way in which that kind of impulse manifests. As Mr. Mutford said in response to Mr. Beattie’s post, if these things truly robbed readers of the pleasures of reading, they would probably drop out entirely. One would hope.
The problem is that it’s starting to feel like an obligation. There are some books I read, and I can’t wait to share them with you, and others where I may struggle for days or even weeks to find something to say about them. (There is the odd case, like Pattern Recognition, where I have a lot to say, but am simply having trouble figuring out how to say it, but that doesn’t feel so much like an obligation.) I’m letting those books that don’t move me get in the way of writing and thinking about those books that do, and that’s not good for me, or for this blog. So from now on I’m only going to write about those books about which I actually have something to say. I will be completing the Fourth Canadian Book Challenge, if for no other reason than because I’m almost done anyway, in terms of the reading, if not writing. That I may not participate in the next one should not be taken as a condemnation of the challenge itself, nor of such projects in general.
I’ve also been doing more and more professional reviewing (among other things) that’s getting in the way of blogging, and that work is really important to me right now. I don’t want to feel like I’m neglecting something when I’m doing that work, because it is—as it should be—a higher priority for me. Making this change will eliminate the feeling that it’s “getting in the way.” That work is the goal, not the obstacle, and it feels good to be doing it.
I’m also going to try and use this as an opportunity to expand what I write about here. I’ve said in the past that I’d like to write about television and so on, but it’s never materialized. At the same time I see the amazing work that folks like Tim Maly and others are doing, and I feel like I’ve carved myself too specific a niche here to engage with it. And I really want to engage with what those folks are doing, because I think there’s potential for a lot of crossover with the literary world.
So anyway, that’s what’s going on here this year. I’ll still accept review copies of books, and I’ll still review every book I accept (I currently have four in the pipe), but otherwise no more writing unless I have something to say.
Best wishes to you all for the new year.