With my one-year anniversary of this blog in the recent past and The Book Blogger Convention fast-approaching, I've been thinking about what I want this space to be and about book blogging in general. The two recent posts about reviewing and subjectivity generated such interesting feedback that I'm going to write a few more in a mini-series about a few issues in book blogging. Here's the next.
There is a great scene in Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous where the excitable, huckster frontman of up-and-coming Southern rock band Stillwater tries to describe what rock and roll is all about:
JEFF BEBE: What it all comes down to is that thing, that indefinable thing when people catch something from your music. What I'm talking about is...wait, what am I talking about?
WILLIAM MILLER: The buzz!
JEFF BEBE: The buzz, yes. And the chicks and the whatever is an offshoot off the buzz.
As much as Bebe is selling himself to his interviewer, he strikes something true here about music and the arts in general; it's damn hard to talk about how a work of art affects you. The right words for how you felt at the end of The Grapes of Wrath or the experience of As I Lay Dying or the delight of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are frustratingly elusive.
And so we get "offshoots of the buzz"--placeholders and substitutes for the "indefinable thing" of reading something great. This is a particular malady of book blogging, rather than try to relay our own experience so that someone else might understand it, we make lists of our favorite sci-fi settings. Or fetishize bookshelves. Or geek out about meeting an author or completing a challenge of reading a book for every letter in the alphabet or doing a weekly round-up of what we picked up a the library.
That's not a critique of these practices; I know many people enjoy them. Still, I can't help but wonder if sometimes we mistake the trappings of reading with the thing we like about reading. Do I really like deckle edges, or is just a Pavlovian expectation of something new and interesting? Do I really care who won the Pulitzer Prize or is it just something I can discuss more easily than how sublime the descriptions in say, Gilead, are?
Are we really writing about what we love about reading or just writing about those things about reading that are easier to write about?