Regular readers may have noticed that there has been a lack of book reviews on this site as of late. It's been over three weeks since the last one. What gives? Did I stop reading?
Not hardly. Mostly, I've been growing increasingly disenchanted with our electronic world. I closed down my Facebook account (not that I ever really used it). I switched my go-to search engine from Google to Blekko because I grew weary of sponsored results. I installed Collusion for a while to see who was sharing my info with who. That was disturbing.
It's not like I was naive. I know websites track information. I just was surprised at how much of it is shared with companies who I know nothing about and with whom I have initiated no contact.
Probably the last straw came in an e-mail. I had received an e-mail about an adventure race. I opened it, read it, thought it was not something I have any interest in doing, and deleted it. For several weeks now I am seeing ads for the race all over the place. Not because I'm surfing adventure race websites, but because there's some sort of cookie that is telling websites to display this ad.
So I've been cutting back. I have been checking my e-mail less frequently. I've been trying to surf less. I was greatly disturbed with the way Stephen Colbert treated a guest of his recently and so stopped watching the Colbert Report.
I watched a little video by Gary Vaynerchuk recently and he talked about how we are becoming an app culture. That sickened me.
Facebook, Twitter, eBooks, mobile phones, apps, likes, friends. I just don't want any part of it.
That being said, I like sharing things with folks. Most everyone does, that's why we have way too many ways of doing it. Many "real-life" friends and relatives read this blog. There are also several with whom I have developed online friendships but have yet to meet. So I'm not ready yet to run off to my cabin in Montana. I don't know. I have used blogging as a creative outlet and as a way to get myself to write more and hopefully improve my writing. I don't know how much my writing has improved but I do know that my "writer's club" (a weekly meeting with my friend and co-worker JJ where we work on our respective books) has done more to get me to write my book than blogging has. Maybe at some point what I'm writing about will be what I blog about. I don't know.
If I were to stop blogging, I would miss writing book reviews the most. In case you haven't noticed, I don't read a lot of mainstream books. A little shocking, I know. Right now I am in the middle of four books. One is about the economics of the contemporary art market. Another is a German novel written in the thirties and translated in the eighties. The third is a Ukrainian/Russian detective story (again translated) that involves a writer and his pet penguin. The last is also Russian; a collection of short stories by current writers (I'm on a bit of a Eastern Bloc kick it seems). No Hunger Games. No Fifty Shades of Grey. No James Patterson. No nothing on the New York Times Best Seller List.
It's those things I like sharing. Because I don't know where else you're going to find reviews of the books I read. You'll find some of them somewhere but only I read the books I do. And I know that many of you have given some of the books I read a shot and have enjoyed them (and the number of library patrons who have read Mark Watson's Eleven keeps growing). So I'm going to keep doing that and I'm going to try and do a better job of it.
And that's another reason I've been on a review hiatus. I won a copy of D.R. "Duke" Haney's book Banned For Life. Best book I've read this year. Published by the now-defunct And/Or Press in Vancouver (one of two books they published). Excellent book. Beyond that, though, Duke took part in a book/music/life discussion on Goodreads (this was part of a Goodreads book club (internet has some use) and I found Duke to be very interesting, engaging, and entertaining. The kind of guy I'd like to hang out with, have a beer, whatever. He put a lot of thought and effort into every response he gave on Goodreads and I felt like I needed to put in equivalent thought and effort for the review. Which made me think that for you, good readers (lower case), I really need to be doing the same. I'm not doing that with this post. It'll take time to transition my posts from blogging to writing but it is something I want to do and do well. A lack of time to put forth the effort has partially kept me from doing so, also.
The last reason I have no more book reviews is that I have been reading. In addition to Banned for Life I need to write reviews of Matt Ruff's Bad Monkeys and Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. And we all have to discuss Satch and Diz in the near future. But I did take time to start a bestseller, one I had looked forward to for a couple of years. I thought the time was right for me to tackle Haruki Murakami's mammoth 1Q84. I've enjoyed everything I have ever read of Murakami's, but have never quite been able to put him in the top tier of my favorite authors. 1Q84 did not improve his status in any way. I got through 180 pages of the book, about 20 percent, and was done with it. I leafed ahead to see where it was going, to see if the effort might be worth the payoff, and didn't see any reason to continue. It also didn't feel right. I looked to see if maybe there was a different translator or something that might have prevented the writing from being enjoyable but that wasn't the case. I don't know. I do know that at least two of the four I'm reading right now are miles ahead of that book in terms of enjoyability.
What makes my disappointment worse is that the dustjacket was designed by Chip Kidd, normally a surefire indicator of an awesome book. Here's an old post on Kidd I wrote, another guy I wouldn't mind having a beer with. Also, here's a nice TED video on book design he recently did that made me applaud numerous times from my seat in front of my computer.
Thanks for reading. Hopefully we can get off the internet sometime and have a beer together, too.