For the past two and a half months, I have busy with two jobs that take up 13 hours of my waking days/nights during the weekdays. I have not written as much here or at Gogol's Overcoat as I would have liked due to prioritizing sleep (an...
For the past two and a half months, I have busy with two jobs that take up 13 hours of my waking days/nights during the weekdays. I have not written as much here or at Gogol's Overcoat as I would have liked due to prioritizing sleep (and to a lesser extent, some reading) over writing reviews and commentaries. Now while this will change for a couple of months this summer to some extent (only working/driving 10 hours/day compared to 13), it does take a toll on me now that I'm approaching 40 (weird to think that is less than 14 months away now).
Lots of thoughts lately on what I've been reading that I haven't yet put to e-print. Memories of past selves, dreaming and envisioning things that have not yet come to fruition or have shifted with age and experience. Not as many speculative fictions read lately, not because I've suddenly become inveterately opposed to them, but more because what I am seeking involving more a turning inward, for a time at least, and that seems to be more the province of poetry and realist literature, although certainly there are some "weird" fictions that explore things that jibe with my current desires.
So with these thoughts in mind, it was interesting to discover this weekend this post written about two weeks ago by Tobias Buckell in response to a book blogger's (n.b. I reject this term in describing what I do) lament about his change in reviewing focus. Buckell raises some interesting points about the "maturation" of online reviewers/book bloggers, particularly in regards to his first point:
1) When you get to a point where you’ve read an amazing number of
books, you change. You’ve read so much that what may seem new or
interesting to most (and even to the writer of the book you’re reading)
is just a variation to you. Your expectations regarding the work change.
Due to subjectivity being what it is, many writers can mistake what’s
happening and view it as the books getting worse, not their own
aesthetic changing. Two things can happen. One, despair at what they
perceive is the dying of quality. You see this a lot with people who hit
a certain number of books read: they begin to rail against the
dreadfulness of everything. It can lead to bitterness, cynicism, and
outright hatred of something they previously loved.
There is certainly a lot of truth to this. Over the course of 21 years (since my high school graduation in May 1992), I have probably read a little over 10,000 different books. Histories, cultural studies, monographs, poetry, religious tracts, novels, short fiction – in aggregate, reading and, even more importantly, commenting on these disparate works has helped me mature not just as a reader but also as a person. But I do not fully agree with Buckell's comment that "what may seem new or interesting to most (and even to the writer of the book you're reading) is just a variation to you." This statement implies a static relationship on the part of the text in contrast to a dynamic paradigm shift for the reader. This does happen often, yes, but not necessarily always. At times, texts can seem to shift themselves due specifically to the reader's own maturation.
For example, I just finished re-reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night for the first time in at least 15 years. I recall thinking back in 1997-1998 that it was superior to The Great Gatsby and that it had to do with how the characters of Dick and Nicole Diver were drawn, but re-reading this weekend (and also having just watched the 1961 cinema adaptation of it) made me appreciate it even more. Due to 15 years' greater experience with reading and reviewing fiction, I feel as though I have a greater understanding of how Fitzgerald came to spend so much time working on this novel; it has a raw, visceral quality to it that The Great Gatsby mostly lacks. It is not a work that has "aged poorly" for me, but instead one that speaks at least as well to the 38 year-old me as it did to