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Pickle Me This

August 5, 2019

Keeping Blogging Weird

In the spring, @hkpmcgregor recorded an episode of Secret Feminist Agenda about “Keep Podcasting Weird,” and I’ve thought about the episode a lot in relation to blogging and book blogging. I had been blogging about books for awhile when publishers started sending me review copies in 2007ish, and while I was grateful for their attention and consideration, I lament now what it did to my blog. Because it turned my blog into a blog that looked like everyone else’s, and at the time I even thought that meant I was finally doing it right. But what gets lost—attention to obscure novels, my own unique perspective, the indulgence of my own curious avenues. It’s also just not as interesting to be blogging about exactly the same books that everyone else is, and what exactly is the point of this pursuit, beyond contributing to online homogenization. 

I’d started blogging about books while I was a graduate student, so I’d been writing about Virginia Woolf and Victorian entomologists, and I was obsessed with the works of Margaret Drabble and Laurie Colwin…and then all of sudden here I was reviewing the new Ian McEwan. Yawn.

From my new online blogging course, Find Your Blogging Spark

More than ten years on, I’ve learned the virtues of keeping it weird, who wins when we do (hint: it’s everyone), and what a more interesting place is the blogosphere and #bookstagram when we make space for novels purchased for a dime at a provincial park camp store.  Books you decide to spend that dime on because of a description that begins with, “Only the pub and the pet shop are still inhabited in the boarded-up wasteland of Crow Street Southwest London…”

I spent much of this long weekend reading Miss Gomez and the Brethren, an early novel by William Trevor, whom I’ve never read before, and the novel reminded me of Muriel Spark, that curious midcentury mix of slightly old fashioned and shockingly sly and subversive at once, with an outsider’s view of Englishness.

I absolutely loved it, and have been thinking a lot about serendipity, partly because the book is about just that (although in a darker and less whimsical sense) and also because of the odds of this book and I finding each other, the most perfect literary match. Whoever left this book—which I’d never even heard of—in the camp store so that I would find it because we’d ducked in to get out of a thunderstorm, lingering over ice cream cones to avoid going out into the rain. Someone left it and I happened to find it, picking it up because William Trevor’s on my long list of authors I’ve been meaning to get around to reading, and here was one of his books in my hands, the kind of summer reading magic that is impossible to manufacture, but I’ve been grateful to be a beneficiary, and have this book be part of a wonderful long weekend.

3 thoughts on “Keeping Blogging Weird”

  1. theresa says:

    You have so much to look forward to, re: William Trevor and his amazing books. A Death in Summer, Other People’s Worlds, Fools of Fortune — just to begin…

  2. Dora Dueck says:

    I remember you talking in an earlier blog post — way back when — about this kind of reading, the serendipity that sometimes (even often) happens –and I resonated with that and with this too, because it happens to me too, so thanks; in fact, I’ve been wanting to write about some of the places I’ve gone via books lately… I’m rambling, but just wanting to say thanks for the ongoing subtle encouragement both about reading and blogging! (The only Trevor I’ve read is The Story of Lucy Gault; twas good.)

  3. Rohan says:

    What wonderful serendipity! I picked up my own first William Trevor novel in London on my recent trip: he’s one of those authors so many people praise I finally thought it was more than time I tried him myself. I agree with you about following our own idiosyncrasies in our blog. That freedom is one of the gifts of blogs, I think – for both writers and readers of them. Who wants to read about the same thing over and over?

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