Saturday, August 4, 2012


      I figured since I'm having an issue on which book to next bring you guys a review of, I'd explain why I do this blog. It's a topic I haven't gotten into, and I've always been a bit shameless, so here goes:

      I am good at probably two things, talking and writing. From what I hear, I write competently. From what I know, I also talk all right, though it's been getting worse because of some nonspecific anxiety. I've been told I'm good at these things for a long time, though I don't actually believe it myself. I'd like it to be true, because it'd mean my dream job-- a job where I could do what I want without being bothered or having to take shit from a lot of people-- would be that much closer. Now, this is a dangerous affair, as jobs where talking well and writing well are concerned tend to be at one of two extremes without a lot of middle ground: either your job winds up sucking (Tech manuals! Sales! Cold-calling!) or you job winds up being kinda awesome (Acting! Writing! Spoken word! Gonzo journalism! Regular journalism!). Either way, it takes a combination of luck, skill, and a lot of persistent effort on your part to pull off, even at the low end. There's a discipline involved. The internet's kind of fooled us into thinking anyone can be an overnight sensation, and it's never really been that. This shit, my dears, takes work.

       But chances are if you're reading this, you already know that. You're well aware it's a discipline and not one that comes easily, and even if you've got skill, you could go nowhere with it or any number of things. Which brings me to the reason for this blog. I want to go somewhere with this. Eventually. I want to improve my style and the way that I do things. And the easiest ways to do that are by continuing to write on a regular basis, building up the discipline I need to actually tackle the longer forms of written works, and by thinking about what makes the books I like to read worth reading. If I think about what I like and what makes a book good for me, then I'll have a better idea of what to do in my own fiction. If I don't like a book, I know what to avoid by reviewing the book and figuring out all the reasons I don't like it. 

     On top of which, by continuing to write reviews, I'm slowly developing a voice and a style of saying things. This isn't as important in fiction, where you have to adopt several voices for different characters, but giving one's work a sense of personality and style is pretty important in non-fiction works, where it becomes important to be distinct. Any mope can tell you about their day or what they're doing right now, or how much fun an event they went to was. Most people have this skill. But the truly interesting ones know how to make that worth reading, worth showing to other people. So I'm developing that, too, getting the right rhythms down and all of that. Making the dreck I write worth reading, weeding out the know, the usuals.

        The other reason I'm doing this kind of ties into a bigger discussion I should have at some point about the role of critics in the art and entertainment world, but that's kind of a long thing to get into here, and kind of off-point, so we won't completely hop on that bandwagon. 

         See, I read. A lot. Maybe not as much as I used to since I've been out of school and got the internet on a regular basis. Maybe not as much as those nights where I'd sit out on my front steps and then before I knew it, it was dark out and I'd kept reading until the front lamp came on. And I like a lot of the books I read. This leads to me talking a lot about the books I read, and this would be where the blog comes in. People eventually got tired of me talking about every book I read, sometimes even forcing it into their hands, and so one of them, my father, asked me why I didn't just start reviewing them online?

         I'd thought about it, but due to the caustic nature of the internet critic world, and the idea people have about "critics are just people who aren't good enough to write/act/sing/make stuff themselves and instead tell other people that they're doing it wrong", I hadn't wanted to get into it. But then I realized:

        There are a lot of books, and a lot of people who read out there. And I'm going to be reading a lot of these anyway. And no one can possibly find and read all of the books that they'd really dig. They'd have to be omniscient or something simply to find them all. But, if I provide a view of a niche, then there's a chance that there's something someone put down, or something someone hasn't even thought of trying to read. And that? That is cool. That is something worth doing, to provide people with books they haven't read, or maybe a perspective on a book they put down. 

      So that's why I do this. A desire to improve my non-fiction writing the best way I can, and to show the people I know some cool books they may not have heard of on a more credible platform than just waving it at them and going "readthisreadthisreadthis!" I hope I've given a bit of insight into things.


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