Au Revoir Not Adieu

Doesn’t it get light early at the moment? I woke just before the dawn, which broke at about half past four, astonishingly, and found myself thinking about this post and how to write it. I’ve decided to take an extended blogging break, probably until the end of summer, and it wasn’t at all an easy decision to come to. Primarily, I’m doing this because I would very much like to finish the book I am writing by the end of August, and it turns out that books get harder to write, not easier, the further through them you progress. And then there are these radio programmes I’ve mentioned before, which will take up rather a lot of time if they go ahead. I only have so many creative hours in the day and I need a bit of focus and concentration to get these projects done. Much as I dislike, ever, having to accept limitations, something really does have to give.

But I also want a break because the blog is the least rewarding of my creative commitments at present (and that’s something I never thought to hear myself say). For quite some time now, I’ve been less than happy with the way I’ve been writing about books. When I first began blogging, I was very much an academic literary critic and blogging was a joyous holiday from the rigorous discipline of academia, a bending of the rules without losing sight of the clear aims and intentions of university-style critique. Over the years, this has changed, and my approach to books has softened up and broadened out. I blog about almost all the books I read now, rather than the ones that mean something special to me. And I’ve fallen ever further into the pit of reviewing a book in a way that is just an elaboration of my experience-based opinion.

I have a lot of trouble with opinion per se, and I find it hard to be… convinced by my own. Reading is an experience that’s 50% reader, 50% book, and I do think that unless you take into account and possess the 50% that belongs to you – your personal preferences, your mood of the moment, the events currently dominating your life – then you are doing a disservice to the book. And I am very protective of books. They don’t deserve half the projections that readers cast onto them. The reasons I’ve heard stated in the blog world for not liking a book have gone from the insightful and interesting on one end of the spectrum to the extraordinary and ludicrous on the other. To take a very different sort of example, I was reading the comments on a blog about American Idol (my guilty pleasure) and someone had put ‘Thank goodness, one more woman down and only one more to get rid of. I can’t bear women singers.’ And I thought, what, all of them? In a nutshell, that’s everything I dislike about the blanket validity of opinion. No one’s opinion can be wrong, by definition. If it’s what you feel, it’s what you feel. But at the same time no opinion is better or more authoritative than any other, and they tell you much more about the reviewer than what’s up for review. And I don’t necessarily want to be told by someone else what I should think about a book, based on their subjective experience of it – I want to know what it’s like but to be allowed to make up my own mind. Well, there are plenty of people who manage to make writing about their opinions sound entertaining and interesting, but I don’t like my own posts when I go down that route.

When I was writing professionally about books, what fascinated me was what stories can do, the effects they can have. I was hooked by the moment in a book when a visceral reaction took place, when a story could horrify you in a hypnotic way, or melt you in a moment of pure emotional recognition. That was what I liked, what I wanted to dig around in. It always felt like an extraordinary form or power, a very special magic, and I wanted to take the narrative apart to see how it was achieved. But quite how to reconnect with that interest I am not entirely sure, except that I need some time and space just to read without the pressure of squeezing something out of the experience for a blog post, three times a week.

I am completely sure I will return to blogging at some point because it’s given me so much – a chance to express myself in a new way, wonderful virtual friends who have been so supportive and encouraging, and a TBR pile the size of Mount Kilimanjaro. I’ll still be visiting my blogging friends, and you know where I am and can email me if you want to chat! But there is an optimum blogging experience and it isn’t what I’ve having at the moment. If you start to slow down when blogging, your traffic instantly plummets, your network dissipates, it’s really quite discouraging. I catch myself wondering whether people come by for my posts because they like them or because I visit and comment at their site. And I don’t want to have such jaded thoughts; they indicate to me that I’m not enjoying what I’m doing enough that the question of audience size becomes irrelevant. I am immensely grateful to the people who have read and commented here regularly, and it is at least in part for you that I want to take a break. I want to come back with something I absolutely need to say, to experience once again that delightful rush of speaking out to a cherished community and have it respond back, lost in the thrill of communication and the pleasure of sifting through thoughts and ideas.

See you in the autumn, and good reading in the meantime.

(ETA: I’ll be here on 31st May for the Slaves next reading group choice – wouldn’t let them down, so will definitely be around and posting on that day.)

49 thoughts on “Au Revoir Not Adieu

  1. Oh, I’m sad! I really enjoy your posts, and they add many (often temporarily ungettable because I’m in America) books to my TBR pile. But you should absolutely do what’s right for you. I’ll miss seeing your posts, and I will very very much look forward to your return. 🙂

  2. It’s a shame that you won’t be around for a while, but I totally agree with you on your reasons for taking a break.

    Like you said, writing a book does get harder.I’ve been trying to write a book for the last few years and as I’ve progressed further within the story, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to finish it. I’ve left the book alone for months, on several occasions and 5 years on, I’m still no where finishing it. So I really hope that the break will get your book done. Also it’s nice to know that you actually care about the content of your blog for your readers sake,maybe the break will help you get your blogging mojo back!

  3. You’re going to be missed, but I completely understand feeling a little bit jaded and needing to take some time off before that feeling begins to colour your perception of blogging entirely. I was feeling that somewhat recently, and I also considered an extended break. But luckily my joy in blogging returned before I had to. Best of luck with your other creative projects, and I look forward to your return!

    (Also, though I know you never meant to complain about the community and feedback or its absence, I wanted to apologise for being a regular reader but only a sporadic commenter. I seem to forget sometimes that people won’t magically guess how much I appreciate them and their blogs.)

  4. I know I’m not the only one who will miss you and your book reviews very much. I share your mistrust of opinion, though I have always been interested in yours. I horrified a fellow-writer the other day, as we were discussing another fellow-writer’s work, by saying: “Who really cares what either of us thinks? If she has an audience, and she is reaching that audience, it doesn’t really matter whether we think her work has merit.”

    On an academic level, of course, it does matter — there are things that work, and things that don’t; and analysis of how effects are reached, how the audience is engaged … analysis of the mechanics of literature is as fascinating as analysis of the mechanics of music. But you are quite right that this is a different art than the visceral and, in many ways, illusory experience of liking something. I can appreciate how Dickens works, but I still don’t like him, and I never will. 🙂

  5. Oh, I am sad, but as someone also trying to finish a book, I get it. I do find that when I announce a blog break, I immediately start to miss it. Maybe that will happen for you and you’ll come back refreshed and invigorated after a few months’ rest.

  6. Litlove,

    Enjoy the break. It’s a shame, although I don’t comment as much as I should Is till read and I’ll miss your posts.

    On the other hand, I think a long break from blogging would be no bad thing for myself!
    All the best,

  7. This is disappointing news indeed but if it results in your enthusiasm returning and progress with your other projects, then it’s to the good. You should do what’s in your best interests first and foremost.

    Sharing Nymeth’s guilt, I look forward to your return and more priceless lines such as this: “I have a lot of trouble with opinion per se, and I find it hard to be… convinced by my own.” As doctordi observed in response to your Coleridge/Wordsworth post, only you could undervalue the quality of your opinions. For your opinions are always explorations and accompanying you on those journeys is a rare privilege indeed.

  8. Like everyone else, I’ll miss reading your thoughts, but I totally understand the need for a break. I’m a firm believer that among those of us for blog for pleasure, when it stops being pleasurable, we need to take a break.

    You raise some really good questions about subjectivity in reviewing. It’s something I really struggle with at times. I know my reactions have as much to do with me as they do with the book, and I try to be up front about what in my reaction comes from my own biases or other circumstances beyond the book, but it’s not always easy to sort that out. And one of the things I do enjoy about blogging is setting to know people’s subjective tastes and learning whose tastes flow along with mine, and where tastes depart.

  9. I hope your blogging break is all that you hope for. I can understand many of your sentiments here but will selfishly miss your blog posts and your insights into the books you read. Good luck with everything and hope to have the opportunity to read your published book one day!

  10. I read your posts because they’re interest, thought provoking, and I learn from them. I will miss it–but I do understand. I hope that all your endeavours are fruitful and that we do see you back, invigorated, in the fall.

  11. I don’t know about every opinion being valid. There are a lot of people that base their opinions on incomplete knowledge when if they knew more, it would totally demolish what they had just said.

  12. Oh no. A big hole is left in my blog feeder. Eagerly await the day when there’s a new post on Tales from the Reading Room. But fully understand your wanting to get back to the magic of a perfect reading experience. Best wishes for a refreshing break and with the book. Do please come back.

  13. I’m really sorry to hear this but completely understand the need for a break and time to read and work on other things! You will be very missed online, but maybe in the fall will be feeling inspired once again. And there is always email! 😉

  14. I’m not surprised that you need a break because when you blog you do it with all your soul and that must be tiring. I was interested in this comment: “I catch myself wondering whether people come by for my posts because they like them or because I visit and comment at their site.” I would say, for me personally, it’s both. I’m very interested in what you have to say about books (and all other topics of course) but you’re also now a friend and there’s a feeling of reciprocity, loyalty and so on.

    This way I’ll get a chance to catch up on some of the posts I’ve missed. Best of luck with the book and the radio commentaries. And happy voting today!

  15. Excellent decision, Victoria. Pulling the breaks on what one doesn’t enjoy doing as much any more is already a giant step into the direction of whatever will come next, even if that ‘new thing’ isn’t apparent yet! Love, B.

  16. Dear Litlove, I’m really going to miss your posts! I do understand the need for a break though and I hope you enjoy your other creative pursuits better for it. Actually, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s some sort of follow on effect happening in my blog world at the moment as a number of bloggers that I follow have either slowed right down or stopped posting lately, myself included. I think IRL we have some idea of why we don’t hear from a friend for a while, whereas in the blogging world someone may tell us they won’t be blogging for a while and why, but it’s not usual to tell someone you’re not going to be commenting for a while because you’re going on holiday or you’re struggling with your work committments or whatever. I think it’s very easy to feel discouraged because of that. Anyways, I’ll definitely be looking out for when you come back.

  17. I shall miss it all, the humour, the information, the common sense and my course in theory (which I may never get the hang of now), but enjoy the break, the things you want and need to do. I shall be watching the blogging skies for the return of your comet, like the astronomer with his eye glued to the telescope of the screen, so if there is a season to everything under the heavens, then turn, turn, turn – but make sure you turn back again. Kindest wishes, good luck with the projects!

  18. Au Revoir! I always read your posts and will miss them but I quite understand wanting a break. I hope you have a productive hiatus and come back re-enthused.

  19. I hope a blogging break gives you the time and energy you’re looking for to get through your other projects right now. I share much of the feelings you’ve so eloquently explained in this post – about blogging and what it accomplishes, about how to even begin discussing books in ways which are useful (and I hesitate with this adjective, because it isn’t exactly what I mean) and interesting. I’m not certain how my own blogging will evolve over the next year or whether it will be something I’ll give up entirely…but in the meantime, enjoy the books you read, enjoy your writing, enjoy yourself!

  20. Oh no! But umm yes supportive things that are not about ME and how much I will miss finding posts here.

    I so understand needing to put time into other creative outlets, there are only so many hours in the day and you also have a family to spend time with so it’s not surprising that you feel unable to continue blogging at the same kind of high standards you’ve kept up over the past few years. Good luck with your break and the exciting new radio programs (make sure to add me to any emails you mgiht send out about when those will be coming out). I hope cutting blogging for now releases some more energy and inspiration for you.

    As for wishing for a bit more taking apart and a bit less opinion I am so with you. I actually would like it to be acceptable for us all to write infrequent, really long posts where we talk about how we expereinced the book and how the book works, rather than the trend being for shorter posts more frequently that focus on the liking of books (I am so not referring to the whole wide blogging world here at all just so you know, some people do this so well, so much better than I can). I also wish it seemed ok for us to disect books a bit more in the blog world without having to worry about spoiling the plot for others. I’m going to sound so old school here, but remember when message boards were big and you could create discussion threads with spoiler warnings?

  21. When my son was small he would tire of his toys and I would sometimes put them away for a bit, and then bring them out in a few months to see how he would react to them after the passage of time. Quite often, he was overjoyed to see them, and it seemed almost as if they were new again. I suspect blogging is a bit like those toys that are so much fun we become obsessive about them, so much so that we occasionally need to put them away for a bit in order to see them afresh.

    I enjoy reading others opinions on books (and yours particularly!) because I think it gives me a better glimpse into the personality of the reader. In the end, a great deal of my pleasure in blogging comes from this interaction with others. Thus, I will miss interacting with you in your space here, but will send lots of good thoughts toward you, writing away over there ‘cross the pond, and finisihing your book!

  22. What?! You mean writing a book is more important than posting insightful and thought-provoking blog posts which I eagerly look forward to reading? This news is going to be such a setback to my TBR pile. Mount TBR was hoping to become the highest peak in North America and we were doing so well too! I was going to plant a flag at the top in your honor. That’s in jeopardy now. Are you sure you don’t want to rethink your decision? I’ll make the flag twice as big. C’mon, that’s got to be tempting. 🙂

    I will miss your posts dear Litlove but I know how to find you. Have a good break.

  23. Very sorry to hear you are feeling a bit stale flat and unprofitable right now. I hope the break does you the world of good.

    As for opinions, I agree with Teresa that part of the fun is finding like-minded (like-opinioned?) bloggers. I’ve even found bloggers whose opinions I aspire to. You’ve been one of those. Do take care.

  24. As usual, Litlove, you’ve expressed feelings all of us have had at times, but you’ve done it with the eloquence that is so uniquely yours. I’ll miss you. Now go and recharge those batteries!

  25. We’ll miss you Litlove but enjoy your break! Best of luck with all of your projects and looking forward to seeing you in the Slaves discussion later this month.

  26. Pingback: Links: Go Tell It on the Mountain « Mark Athitakis’ American Fiction Notes

  27. I’ll miss reading your thoughts Litlove, and hope you will find inspiration to blog again. In the meantime, enjoy your summer!

  28. Well, you KNOW I undertand, being on a blogging break myself! Quite franky I am amazed with the quality and quanity you have been able to keep up over the last several years. One of the reasons I “stepped back” was because I found myself jaded as well…not with the traffic/commenting so much as finding myself discouraged by how the form is changing. I’ve found myself cynical about writers and writing and I need time to soften my heart towards all of it. I think I will blog again – I think – but then again, like there is a time to reap and a time to sow, etc – there may have been my time to blog, and my time not to blog…

  29. All good wishes to you Litlove and I hope you enjoy your break and that you finish your book. I enjoy your blog greatly even if I don’t comment very often I do read it regularly, so I’ll miss it, but I’ve also been slowing down with blog posts feeling it’s all getting a bit repetitive. Have a great summer.

  30. “Reading is an experience that’s 50% reader, 50% book, and I do think that unless you take into account and possess the 50% that belongs to you – your personal preferences, your mood of the moment, the events currently dominating your life – then you are doing a disservice to the book.”

    Well said. As I get older I’m increasingly aware of how much my experience of a book depends on the weather (in the Shelleyan sense) and the season (in the Keatsian sense) — that is, on my mood and my age.

    I also often think, as I open up a book and start into the first paragraphs: a couple of years worth of effort, probably, led up to this moment … but I’m a little sleepy.

    Kind of sad, kind of funny, and kind of sad again.

    Enjoy your hiatus — see you in the fall.


  31. I shall miss you a lot, but I doubt if anyone could keep up the depth, length and quality of your writing here indefinitely without a break. I do hope you will be back. And all my best wishes with your other projects.

  32. I’m sorry to hear you’re taking a break, but I hope your book writing proves easier without the distraction of blogging. Good luck with all your plans.

  33. I am so overwhelmed by all your lovely, lovely messages! My dear blogging friends, you most certainly need not worry that I won’t return – I’ll be back in the autumn and haunting your own sites until then. Not writing my own posts, I should have a bit more time to read around the blogosphere. I feel extremely privileged to have made so many wonderful friends here online and I won’t be deserting you at all. Expect to see me in your comments often over the next few months! And if I have any news in the meantime, I will be back in the reading room to let you know. Big hugs all round in the meantime – and DO email me for chats if you feel like it!

  34. I reeeally hate it when I turn off the computer for a few days of sanity checking only to return to an announcement of this magnitude – you can see, I’m sure, how it’s possible that I completely missed 9/11 for, oh, the entire day. I was in London, actually, and spent that day walking and museum-dwelling (Chihuly at the V & A a particular highlight), and didn’t know a thing about any of it until stopping at Tesco’s that night and seeing the afternoon edition’s ghastly front page. So awful and surreal to realise what it was I hadn’t known, I just about fell down. Anyway, nothing remotely so terrible here, thank goodness, just a clearly required respite everyone understands and supports.

    You do give yourself such a hard time, you know, LL, but it’s these high standards you set for yourself that set this blog so apart and make it a must-read, so I completely respect your unwillingness to lower your own standards – even if I could never hope to meet them myself. Enjoy the break, finish the book, do whatever is needed, and then come back to us renewed. Darling Litlove, all great luck and best wishes for the book and all else while you’re gone. A big hug to you! xx

  35. All the bestests! I will devote myself to reading all your past posts (I know I have missed a few) and await your return. Recharge and keep smiling. You are one of my very favorite book bloggers because I learn so much and you make me feel welcome.

  36. It’s been ages since I last blogged, but I have still been reading yours.

    I find it difficult for similar reasons; it’s difficult to react to a book without building a narrative around your reaction to it, and once you’ve fictionalised the reading experience it’s hard to express what you feel in a meaningful way.

    I hope you return sometime soon. 🙂

  37. I read your post with interest a while back but just realized I hadn’t commented — so I need to rectify that! I certainly understand the need for a blog break, and I’m glad you are taking one for the sake of your other projects, but I’ll certainly miss you! I’m so glad you are planning to come back in the fall and I’ll look forward to then. In the meantime, enjoy yourself!

  38. Dear, what you said and what everyone else said, ditto! I do come and read every post but only comment occasionally. The time!!!!! This whole blogosphere is a very strange creature, Every week I tell myself I am giving it up….. but I miss the connection with the interesting folks I have met, and there I am writing a half-a___ post just to be there. I shall try to follow your wise lead for the summer and become a bit more focused. Good luck with your work. I look forward to your return.

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  40. Oh, dear! Having been away for a while, for essentially the same reasons (but I am not writing a book; nor participating in radio programs), I do understand what you mean. I will miss your tales of the writing class, the perils of academia, and the breadth of your mind and your bookshelf! Summer will be quite dull without you. 😦 Hope the work on the book goes well, and that the blogging batteries re-charge. Be well.

    50% book, 50% reader. Yes. Even while saying “ta-ta for now” you teach!
    All best…

  41. I’m not sure whether you’re still checking your blog comments during your break, but I came across this article about how the internet is affecting our reading habits which reminded me of a blog post you wrote some time ago about e-books, and I thought I’ll share it.

    Quite an interesting article as it talks about psychological experiments done to show that internet-browsing encourages a more cursory and hurried form of thinking in place of the deeper thinking that comes from reading a book.

  42. Hi LitLove – there seems to be a lot of this withdrawing in order to rediscover the pleasure of reading. I hope that as you finish your book you will know that I’m cheering for you to finish it, and hoping that reading for pleasure will let you come back and write to us about what you love. That’s the only reason to blog about books, for me anyway. I’ve been taking much longer breaks between posts than I intended, and I’ve learned to let go of my own expectations in this – it was hard, I wanted to write about books regularly, and I had to recognize that other things were going on that I needed to do also. The good thing is, the internet is always here, and certainly the book community is. So come back if you can, I’ll be waiting, and I think many of your regular readers will be. Have fun writing this summer!!

  43. I’ve felt this way on and off too, (especially?) including the part about not being convinced by my own opinion. I hope you have a wonderful summer and that you’ll come back refreshed in the fall!

  44. Just to say thank you again to all the wonderful comments here. I do so appreciate everyone’s understanding and your ongoing support and help. What an incredible community there is in the book blogging world. This is how come I know I’ll be back in the autumn – who’d want to miss out on an asset and a resource like that?

  45. I hope you have a wonderful and creatively fulfilling summer. It certainly sounds like you are taking a break for all the right reasons, and rather than slog along with something out of habit or for the sake of doing it, focusing your energies where you are most passionate really does sound like a wonderful idea. I sincerely do wish you all the very best. I hope that you will come back to blogging in some form in the future. I do not get over here much at all, but when I do I enjoy what I read.

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