10 January 2007

Blog Envy

As part of my launch of Between the Covers v2.0 I hunted around for some sites to kickstart the Links section. Not only did I get to choose some favourites, I got a good look at the competition. The experience gave me a serious case of blog envy.

Some blogs had an elegant minimalist layout. Some had gorgeous header images that were truly custom-made, not just a reworking of an eighteenth-century painting. The design that had looked so nice when it was a file on my desktop began to seem amateurish in comparison.

The content also lost its shine. There were bloggers writing about Kafka and Coetzee and other such intellectual authors. There were bloggers writing reviews that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a state newspaper. Bloggers thinking critically about characterisation and meaning and symbolism and like examples of the literary art. And I began to think - what on earth made me think I was qualified to write about books?

Sure, I read a lot of them. I have always loved to read, and I have a true book addiction of five years’ standing. But I’m not a critical reader. If I do see the profound underlying meaning of a literary masterpiece, it will probably be by luck or accident. My reviews aren’t anything that anyone would publish and they certainly don’t examine the books very closely, and a lot of the books I read are quite . . . common. I began to wonder if I hadn’t made a very wrong move in daring to set myself up as a book blogger.

Then I realised none of this makes me wrong, it makes me what I am: a girl who reads, not to experience fine literature or complex characterisation or layers of meaning, but to escape from an unhappy life and to spend some time in the persona of someone she likes more than she likes herself. A girl whose literary voracity drags her through books too quickly to appreciate the subtleties, and whose addiction frequently leads to her borrowing so many library books that such speed becomes a necessity. A girl whose fourteen-year love of mysteries means that she prefers a fast plot to high art. A girl whose writing has a tendency to be concise (except when she’s waxing eloquent like now). And a girl who never aspired to write newspaper-worthy reviews, but to say what she thought and chronicle the adventure of her life between the covers.

And that, at least, is one thing for which it’s okay to simply be myself.


  1. Have you been reading my mind? LOL

    There are some amazing blogs out there--very sophisticated ones with reviews that put my own little ones to shame. For a long time (and still on occasion when my confidence is flagging), I felt out classed and considered giving up blogging. As you suggested though, no one is wrong and there is no one right way to go about it.

    As I get closer to finishing up my first classic, I am getting anxious about my review. Since joining the challenge, my blog has become more "popular" and I'm starting to worry that my review won't be good enough. Like you, I'm not much of a critical thinker--or at least not to the degree that many bloggers seem to be. It's intimidating!

    And then I remind myself it doesn't matter. I'll write my review just like I do for any other book I read because isn't that how I'm reading it? I went into my classic novel with the intent to enjoy it, not to analyze it and search for hidden symbolism and the like.

    I've found that I most enjoy reading blogs that talk about books that fit my tastes and interests. Some are very simple and others are more complex. They all have their place. Just like yours and mine.

    (sorry for being so long winded--you hit on a topic that's been on my mind for awhile now.)

  2. Love your blog! I just came across it today, but have been reading all of your posts - it's provided a much needed break from work.

    I enjoyed reading your reviews - I'm glad to hear you liked Labyrinth also. I loved it, but have seen a lot of negative press about it in the blogosphere, I was starting to think I was the only one! You might like Katherine Neville's The Eight if you liked this.

    Enjoyed your version of the 12 days of Christmas too - very clever!

  3. Literary Feline, I happened to visit your blog about ten minutes before reading your comment, and I'm glad you decided to stick with it. Fabulavore -- what a wonderful word!

    Good luck writing your review; I'll be sure to stop by again and leave an encouraging comment when it's posted.

    Kirsten, The Eight is now on my ever-expanding wish list of books. Glad to hear you liked my carol -- I keep hoping the muse of parody will strike again, but so far no luck.

  4. Oh how I empathize with this post. I'm not a very critical reader either and tend towards reviews consisting of "I really liked this book and you should read it too!". I figure that I can continue to challenge myself to read a bit more critically and frankly if people don't like it they don't have to read it!! Keep on blogging the way you enjoy it!!



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Header image shows detail of A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1776