I’m about halfway through my BEA stack. Many of these books will be in the spotlight this Fall. Let’s see what lives up to the hype, shall we? Full reviews to come on some of these.
The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth: Don’t let the whole “Anglo-Saxon shadow tongue” thing scare you. I had to read aloud for the first quarter or so to get the language, but after that it was a snap. You should let Buccmaster scare you though. I was shaking by the end.
When you think of colonizers, you think of the British, right? It was weird and jarring to watch them get colonized a thousand years ago. I blame the Canadian education system for the fact that I didn’t know one thing about the Norman invasion except the year 1066 (and I’m pretty sure I learned that in Billy Madison.) Now I know better. By the end of this book, you’ll question what you know about everything.
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh: I almost didn’t grab this. I was almost an idiot. This story was totally unexpected and everything I love – weird, dark, seedy, with a main character I want to know and save and shake violently. Reviews are starting to trickle in around the blogosphere; check out blogger Ryan Reads for excellent GIFs and Booktuber Just a Dust Jacket for the short and sweet of it.
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware: This could be a genre thing; my mother in law is a voracious reader of mysteries and she liked it. I didn’t care enough about the outcome, which I saw coming a mile away. I did love the settings; the woods were creepy and the glass house was probably symbolic of many things but still felt real.
Home is Burning by Dan Marshall: Why people in their twenties shouldn’t write memoirs exhibit #172. Yes, Marshall is in his thirties now, but this memoir only goes up till his mid-twenties. It’s supposed to be funny but I found it to be trying way too hard. I should have known when I saw the Jenny Lawson blurb on the cover; I also found Let’s Pretend This Never Happened deeply unfunny.
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor: There were some good one-liners, making fun of literary conventions, but it didn’t add up to much for me.
City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg: I’m gonna read this 900 pager before the end of the year. Promise.
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks: Almost picked this up several times. I’m resisting because it feels so serious. But, um, so was her novel Year of Wonders (about the black plague) and I love that, so, I need to get over myself!
Lost Boi by Sassafras Lowrey: I could pair this with a Peter Pan movie night with the kids.
The Scamp by Jennifer Pashley: Started, didn’t grab me, will try again.
Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford: I read Crazy Rich Asians recently and have had my fill of social climbers. Will revisit later.
#1. That I will always click on a post titled “what blogging has taught me” or “blogger confessions” or “blogging life lessons,” even though:
#2 Those posts always say the same fucking things.
So this is not that. I’m not going to tell you to have an editorial calendar or to be consistent or to do guest posts or to use SEO techniques.
Life lessons were on my mind when I was asked to appear on Seen and Heard in Edmonton. The premise of Seen and Heard is brilliant, and will probably take off in other cities before you know it. Karen Unland interviews local bloggers about what they do, and why, and where they’re going. Not only is it fascinating for bloggers, but it’s a great way for people to find local perspectives on whatever they’re into. I’m guest #5. The other four have included bloggers who write about theater, business, food, and history. Seen and Heard also rounds up the best weekly blogs and podcasts every Monday morning, which is just a great way to start the week.
So – what wisdom could I impart to the Seen and Heard audience? I thought back to my biggest blogging moment this year, attending Book Expo America. Then I read this interview with burnt-out mega-blogger Dooce about why she’s quitting:
In 2004-5, I was the first personal website to take advertising. Now it’s why you start one. If you’re doing it for fun there’s nothing to worry about. If you’re looking to make an income, this is not a good way.
I rolled my eyes a lot at the BEA blogger con. So many panels about growing your audience and doing sponsorship and MORE content FASTER… featuring panelists who do not making money from blogging. The only ones making a living either work for Book Riot or spun their blogs into books. I heard “fun money” and “champagne money.” I heard bloggers admit that they were uncomfortable with affiliate links and that they didn’t even make any money from them. And book bloggers burn out all the time due to demanding schedules and publishers and expectations.
What’s the point? If you’re a hobbyist, like the vast, vast majority of book bloggers are, why kill yourself to post weekly, or get all the latest ARCs? Why not post when you want, when you really have something to say? Unless you’re out to make serious money or advance a career in the same field as your blog, none of this stuff matters.
Click here to listen to Karen interview me and to read my list of blogger/podcast recommendations. Also check out the first half hour of the latest Write Reads podcast for more in this vein – Kirt and Tania talk to recently-burnt-out Rick of Canon Fodder/Through the Pages about what’s wrong with book blogging, and I wanted to jump through the computer screen and say “yes!” to all of it.
Okay, one Life Lesson: Whatever you’re worried about when it comes to your blog, no one cares as much as you. Do you think the blogosphere will grind to a halt if you don’t post that weekly meme? Do you think your readership will unfollow and denounce you on social media if you don’t participate in the latest hashtag? I promise you no one will notice. Keep blogging when you can, until you don’t want to anymore. That’s my plan.
I plan to write about a couple BEA-related things, but if I know you guys, you just want to see the BOOKS.
Day one was all about Blogger Con, so I wasn’t on the show floor at all. I did make it to the Editor’s Buzz Panel, though, and elbowed my way to the table full of galleys:
City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (Knopf) aka The Two Million Dollar Book. Nuff said?
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (Scout) aka the next Gone Girl? I read this one on the way home but I haven’t read GG, so I can’t tell you if the comparison is apt.
Home is Burning by Dan Marshall (Flat Iron Books) aka A Heartbreaking Work of Holy Shit It Already Has a Movie Deal. Dave Eggers meets The Royal Tannenbaums, maybe.
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh (Penguin Press) aka The Dark Horse – dark cover, dark subject matter, and for me, the one I was least interested in – but I grabbed it, because it’s BEA.
Day 2: Line up, line up, as if you have a choice
Day two was spent on the show floor and therefore in line-ups big and small.
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (Harper Perennial): One hour line up full of excited young’uns and bewildered olds.
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks (Viking): Half hour line up full of middle aged moms. My people!
Purity by Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux): Tickets, multiple line-ups, general confusion. And he wasn’t even signing!
The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth (Graywolf Press): No line up here, but probably the strangest of the books I took home. Like Home is Burning and City on Fire, the film rights are already sold – to Mark Rylance aka Cromwell in Wolf Hall! Check him out reading from the book here, and you’ll see what I mean.
Lost Boi by Sassafras Lowrey (Aresenal Pulp) and The Scamp by Jennifer Pashley (Tin House): Snagged there from an indie publisher’s party that CJ and I were intensely uncomfortable at. Lost Boi was on my TBR, and The Scamp appears to be Ablutions with a young female protagonist, so, score!
Do I have enough books? Should I run around the show floor aimlessly and grab a few more? Yes, let’s do that.
Pillow by Andrew Battershill (Coach House Books) because I’m a sucker for damaged male protaganists, and for chocolate.
Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford (St. Martin’s Press) because it’s a “Bonfire of the Vanities for the 21st Century” and BofV blew my mind as a teenager.
And that’s it! No extra suitcase needed. Stay tuned for more on the Franztravaganza, the blogger’s con, and where to get pizza in Hell’s Kitchen and not get judged for coming back three hours later.