2010 In Retrospect

Without doubt this has been the most troubled, chaotic and discontinuous blogging year I have ever had. And yet at the same time, it’s been one of the best ones for reading and writing. This post was initially destined for the books I couldn’t finish and/or didn’t like, and I abandoned that idea for lack of material. There were no books I put down halfway through and none that I struggled through, cursing. Only one book was a real disappointment to me, and that remains a bit unmentionable because it carries an endorsement from this blog on the front cover. It was by an author I usually appreciate; the publishers asked if I could let them have a quote, and I was delighted to oblige. But then when I read it, I liked it least of all the books I’d read by the author (although it still wasn’t a bad book by any means). Caught on the horns of an unusual dilemma, I have kept quiet about it, and will indeed say no more. But this little blip aside, I’ve read some wonderful novels and non-fiction works, and enjoyed pretty much everything on the list.

Blogging, though, has been a vexed arena. Generally, I like to have a vague plan for what I’m going to concentrate on in my blogging, and when the year began I was thinking that I should go back to my academic roots, given that I wasn’t writing much academically at that point. So I set off in January with a series of reading workshops and posts about literary critics, and when I hit a wave of blockbuster novels in February and March I tried to write about them in an intellectual way. But the strategy wasn’t really working for me; I had moved away from academic writing because it wasn’t scratching an itch and it continued not to do so. In fact, looking back over this year, I think it must be the first in which I have written more personal posts than bookish ones. There has been a notably bigger audience for them in the blogworld, and I felt more motivated to write them.

At the same time, I was working steadily on my non-fiction book, and finding it hard to sustain two voices. The book was proving very pleasurable and taking up more and more of my focus and energy. Plus, there’s a huge difference between writing for a 1,000 word blog post, and writing for an 80,000 word book. The rhythm is all different, the perspective is altered, what you can and can’t do changes. I was finding it hard to switch back and forth, and to muster enthusiasm for writing book reviews when my heart wasn’t in them. Here’s something about blogging: if you’re not enjoying it, it shows. My audience was dropping off rapidly because I wasn’t posting regularly, and I expect the oomph had gone. At the beginning of May, I decided to take an extended break from posting to put all my efforts into finishing the book. I felt really sad about that, but at the same time, relieved. I’ve never got much out of doing things if I don’t feel I’m doing them well.

And then I had an unusually emotional summer. Writing about chronic fatigue was far tougher than I ever imagined it would be, my cat died, I ended up feeling poorly and suffering from social anxiety. I felt like I’d taken myself apart for the sake of writing and needed to put myself back together again. I returned to the blog to talk about all of this and, as usual, you, dear blogging friends showed yourselves to be consistently supportive, sympathetic and insightful. Really, there is nothing like pouring your heart out in a blog post and then finding a swarm of comments coming back that encourage and enlighten and amuse and sustain. I thank you for that with all my heart. I figured you might have to put up with me writing substandard book reviews, as the community here is one I find I can’t do without.

So September I was back in the blogging seat, starting to post more regularly again and I’ve been here ever since, getting back into the swing of writing about books. But there’s been a fair amount of writing about writing about books, too, as well as posts concerning ebooks and the publishing market generally. The biggest effect that ebooks have had on me is to lift the final restraint on my book buying. As an effect, this ought not to be underestimated. I’m stockpiling now, shamelessly, and Mister Litlove is going around looking a bit grim and tight-lipped at the piles of books about the place. In the wider world, ebooks have been the last straw to break the back of a troubled industry. I still maintain that ebooks make a wonderful supplement to reading and a terrible substitute for the book, but I guess we’ll see what happens eventually, when the dust has settled. But I have no illusions about the difficulty of getting into publishing at present, and it seems to me that the audience I have here is the best one I am ever likely to get. Time and again I find that the people who stop by here distinguish themselves by being not just smart and responsive, but by possessing properly open, questing minds.  Where else am I going to find readers like that?

I’m still not sure what I want to do with this blog, and because I don’t have a big plan at the moment, I find I’m a bit insecure about my writing on it, not always sure what’s working. And then, we’ve just been through a big shake-up in tertiary education, with an 80-100% cut to funding in arts and humanities, and this after years and years of steady attrition of the budgets. It’s going to become ever harder for people to learn about the arts now, and a diminishing place of study. I have all this experience in teaching literature; surely there must be something I can do with it, here in an open, easy access arena? But I don’t have any particularly bright ideas at this precise moment. So, next year has no plan at all attached to it; I’m going to just keep on reading and writing about my reading and seeing what happens. Hopefully something worthwhile will emerge. I thank all my readers for sticking with the blog this year, despite its trials and tribulations, and send you my warmest, most hopeful wishes for 2011 – may it be full of creativity, pleasure and insight.

32 thoughts on “2010 In Retrospect

  1. Your blogging may not have been as consistent or structured as it’s been in the past, but from my perspective it was a great year for the Litlove blog simply in terms of watching you let go of strictures and take different risks as a blogger and as a blogging persona/writer. I loved the Litlove past, and I also loved the Litlove who wrote so compellingly about Valley of the Dolls that I went out and bought it (haven’t read it yet, but I will!), and I loved the Litlove who listened to her internal mandate for space and who questioned the authenticity of the process and dropped the blog for a while.

    I don’t always comment, but I do read each of your posts, and this little haven of civilization is a treasure of my blogging rounds, in all its manifestations.

    (In other news Ghost Song did seem a lot less creaky and turned into a good read around page 70, and I am *loving* Someone at a Distance .)

  2. Did all that happen in 2010? The year seemed to fly by but yet it feels in some ways like it crept along. Have you thought about using you teaching experience to do mini online classes? For instance, what if you put together a syllabus for a 4-6 week class say that focuses on one book or one author? You could try asynchronous teaching through a number of methods like blog posts, a wiki, a forum discussion group, podcast or video. Lots of work to be sure but it might be fun. Whatever 2011 brings I look forward to regular visits to your wonderful corner of cyberspace.

  3. I have to get myself into a dress fast, but I just wanted to stop by quickly and say how nice it’s been to have you around in 2010, but also how nice it’s been to see you listening to your instincts and natural inclinations so honestly. It’s always the best blog reading when a writer is talking about what is preoccupying them, instead of always trying to keep up the content that seemed to first attract an audience (not that I don’t love you talking about books, but there have been some really enlightening personal posts here this year that will stay with me for a long time, like the one where you talked about the weight of expectation people wanting you to be well can produce).

    Looking forward to seeing what you can do on that second post, because surely there must be a way to increase interest in discussions of literature. If anyone’s going to do it, it’ll be people like you who explain concepts so clearly and in such a relatable way. Happy New Year luv, hope it brings good things.

  4. I don’t think that you should worry about being inconsistent with your blog posts because when you do post, the things you have to say are well written and interesting.

    One of the other people who have commented on this post, have suggested online courses and I think that this would be a good idea. Maybe that’s something you could work on in 2011?

    Whatever you choose to do, I hope that you have a good 2011 and I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts.

    Happy New Year!

  5. I adore your posts whenever you get to them. This is why I subscribe – I always know when they’re up! I hope that in the coming year you take stock of 2010, see all you accomplished, survived, and succeeded in and realize that you kept going. Each step is worth celebrating, each breath warrants a party, and so live should always be greeted with an embrace. Your blog is something I’m very grateful for having discovered. Thank you for keeping with it and remember to be kind to yourself. Every choice we make is a result of learning done and will always yield new lessons. Happy New Year, LL!

  6. Happy New Year, Litlove. I have never found your blogs about books or anything else substandard, quite the contrary. For me you keep the bar of blogging high. I’m a planner myself, but I’ve found in the last couple of years my zest for planning has waned, probably because life seems to have its own plans for me and it drags me to them willy nilly.

  7. Yes, I’ve read about all the cuts in the arts and humanities, here in Canada as well. Looks like we’re heading towards a technological advanced world, but weakening more and more in the human aspects and ethical directions in praxis. That’s why it’s all the more crucial that you have a voice in the blogosphere… like taking your literature exploration onto cyberspace where you’ll have a classroom without walls, and limitless number of ‘students’, or colleagues, or fellow lit lovers. I’ve enjoyed your posts in the past year and look forward to reading more of your insights in the coming year. Have a Happy New Year, you and yours, and may 2011 bring you rewarding experiences!

  8. Dear LL, thanks goodness you keep going with your blog. I hear you, totally, on finding a blog focus and sticking with it and giving it one’s best (but you do!) and after all, we love hearing about books and academia AND real life. And how you’re doing and what you’re seeing about publishing and how educ. is going/not going along there. All of it.
    It’s funny how we can miss someone we don’t really know, in a hug-or-handshake kind of way. Yet not be to be here, reading or posting, with you and others leaves a void.
    Please know that what you write, because it’s true and real, is on a daily, changing, evolving perhaps basis, exactly what we bloggers (and Litlove followers) enjoy reading and asking about and discovering.

    I have tossed aside TV; I have re-taken up letter writing and love blogging, tho’ there are some weeks where I haven’t even a wisp of a thought to share except to say “hi” and so glad you’re there, posting.

    And so it goes.
    We shrink the world with our global communiques (thank goodness) and yet concurrently expand our worlds by our lively and quotidien exchanges (misuse of quotidien here, perhaps …)
    Anyway, proud of you for thumping through your book which of course would take you into a different and separate place (ok: true confession – only time I’ve really “stuck” was when I did nanowrimo but it totally had me ensconced in writing world and not too “open” to other wrinting or even conversation!)AND that’s a good thing. One must block out the noise to do any writing, and yet we don’t want to miss anything either!

    What am I rambling about? Just want to say thank you for being here and sharing in so many ways. And keeping us on our toes and awake and questioning.

    Happy New Year to you and all the Litloves chez vous!

    from the merry Midwest,

  9. Happy New Year, litlove. I find that too, the essential insecurity of the nets. There is no face to read, no body to gesture acceptance or confusion, no guides by which to ascertain the next thing to say or do. At least I find it so. When I started tailfeather I quickly realized that the only clues I was really going to get besides readership numbers were my own feelings. I can’t really write for numbers, so I write for me, to try to re-member who I am in this new environment, to express that and let others like me, find me. It’s a bit scary really but also wonderful. I mean, without your trust in us to be there, without your trust in a written expression of yourself circulating out in the digital zone, I would never have stumbled over your blog and that would have been awful! So whatever you decide to do with Tales from the Reading Room it will be a part of you, and therefore, interesting and almost certainly moving.

  10. I know from a writer’s point of view you may not have been happy with your work, but from a reader’s perspective, I cannot think of there ever being a time when I thought your writing was substandard! On the contrary your writing (whether it be about your life or literature) is always thoughtful and passionate. I always feel a little guilty that you are willing to share your knowledge here for free. Whatever you choose to write about I think you will always have a faithful audience. Very Best Wishes and much inspiration in 2011, Litlove!

  11. I would add to the chorus that says we’re very happy that you’re still blogging. Also thought I’d let you know that I’m ordering two of your suggestions for psychosomatic illness (Paul Gilbert and Joyce McDougall). For personal rather than (or in addition to) professional reasons.

  12. I’m sorry that it’s felt like and been a tough year for you, but here on the other side, where your readers are, your blog has continued to be vibrant and interesting. I know how hard it is to keep blogging when there’s a tantalising manuscript to be written, but I think you’ve done a brilliant job keeping up with both. Kudos to you! And wishing you a wonderful 2011!

  13. Happy New Year, litlove, and I hope it feels like a better one to you. I just want to add my voice to all the others: whatever you write, it is always engaging and thought-provoking. Even when you are not trying to be academic, your insight is such a sharp constant and makes your blog such a treat. I suspect you could write about bathwater and leave us wondering why we’d never seen it that way…

  14. Happy New Year, Litlove. So pleased you continue to blog and share and be real and do what you gotta do! I don’t always comment, but I do always read. I feel that the blogs I visit regularly are like opening the door of the advent calendar – you never know what will be there and it is ALWAYS a nice surprise.
    So thank you for being incredibly generous in sharing your opinions and thoughts and personal life – it’s all good!
    Happy reading and best of luck in your professional life this year. And as so many have mentioned in an earlier post, I do hope you start with One For The Money (J. Evanovich)… Mr. Litlove will really wonder what you are roaring about in the next room!!

  15. I think you need to follow your own instincts in this blog, for when your heart is in it, and I can’t recall it ever being otherwise, you will continue to fashion your engrossing pieces, full of wit and amusement, passion and knowledge, which keeps me happily reading, even though I have been a miserly comment-maker in the last year. I know that won’t be of any help in offering suggestions. Let’s say I want to hear what you want to say. My very best wishes to you and yours for the New Year.

  16. Happy New Year Litlove! I sort of had a mixed year with my blog last year too. I had some major health issues earlier in the year and that totally put off my blogging and reading stride but I’ve always found that the book blogging community is really just the best. Everyone rallys behind you and before you know it you are back. So, looking forward to seeing where your blogging takes you this year. I’m sure we’ll enjoy whatever you share with us.

  17. It has been a pleasure to read your blog in 2010. I was happy to have you back after you break and will continue to read your blog, whatever direction you might take with it. Wishing you all the best for 2011 and am betting that good things will happen for you.

  18. I’m so glad I found your blog this year, your more personal writing is wonderful, even though I was too shy to comment at first! I’ve found your writing inspiring, I used to blog just about anything on a different site, but now try to stick more to books with firmer boundaries on not sharing as many personal things, although I often wonder about that, how personal or professional I’d like it to be. When I was leaving my library job just this week, I finally mentioned to a few co-workers that I kept a book blog and then one of them suggested I share the address of it with everyone in the library! I did, since they’re interested in promoting books online, but I’m not sure how I feel about it now and again, that old issue of online boundaries comes up. I’d like to write more personally though and you’re the only blogger I really like who writes the way I’d like to, so I very much admire that.

  19. It has been an odd blogging year for me as well, with several long breaks from posting. I think I need to make peace with being an irregular poster — lots of posts occasionally and times with hardly any at all. But it’s hard for me to accept that. As the others have said here, your blog is always a pleasure to read, and I’ve enjoyed this year’s posts greatly. I’m excited to see what 2011 brings!

  20. Happy New Year! You’ve sounded discontented with your writing and your blog several times this year, and it always makes me a bit sad because I love reading whatever you post! And you recommend me good books. 🙂

  21. David – what a wonderful start to the year your comment made! Hugs to you. I can’t think of anything nicer or more life-enhancing than being appreciated in all my different manifestations. Trust you to be astute enough to spot them all as they go past! And delighted you are loving the Whipple – she is pure class. I have a copy of the Houdini Girl here already, and it looks great!

    Dervish – happy New Year to you! And you’re welcome – post more in 2011, okay? 🙂

    Stefanie – this blog would not be the same without you! Running a class sounds very exciting and a little bit scary (most of all for my non-existent techie skills). I’d be intrigued to try, though, maybe in early summer? Well, definitely something to think about.

    Jodie – oh and a big happy New Year to you, too – hope the celebration was fabulous! I really agree that blogs work best when the owner is following the energy and writing about what’s really on their mind. And it helps no end knowing I have such a sympathetic audience! I really want to keep up both parts – the personal and the literary criticism, because that’s always been the natural thing to do for me. I couldn’t have better blog friends to work it all out with. 🙂

    Bluestocking – amen to that, my friend! 🙂

    Spangle – what a nice comment, thank you! The thought of doing some sort of online course, or at least discussion group, is very interesting – I’ll think about it! And thank you for visiting – I do appreciate it so much.

    Kimberly – ah such wise words! Completely with you (no surprise there, then!) on the learning and the kindness, and on taking a few moments to look back and think things through. I am struck over and again as I get older as to how much processing needs to be done where both creativity and emotions are concerned. It’s endless! But it’s the valuable bit. Equally delighted to have found you this year – and looking forward to what 2011 brings to our blogs. 🙂

    Lilian – I used to be an uber-planner, but I found it took up so much time and energy and I completely agree that in the end you have to go with the flow (struggling against it gets you precisely nowhere!). And thank you for your kind and much appreciated words! I have the best blog readers, and you all deserve the best I can do. 🙂

    Arti – and a very happy New Year to you, too! I’m so pleased to have found your blog this year. It’s the most heartening thing, to come across writers like you (and Mary, and Kimberly and Carolyn to name some new 2010 friends) who are writing so intelligently about art, social issues, cinema, books. It goes to show that even if study in these areas decreases formally, there’ll be places and people who will keep the debate alive.

    Oh – what a sweetie you are! I do love your comments (and your blog, too). It always strikes me so profoundly how much a person comes through in their writing, how possible it is to get a really good sense of who they are and what they care about. It may be a virtual community, but what we end up with is somehow the best of ourselves, even in the gaps and the ‘ordinary’ posts and the ‘nothing much to say’ posts. You’re right that something is missing without them. Here’s hoping you have a wonderful year in 2011 – I’ll certainly be around to hear all about it!

    Mary – oh bless you for that! I do know what you mean – there are posts that I come away from, feeling right in myself because I’ve said what I wanted to say, I’ve been present in the way I wanted. And that seems to be the satisfaction I’m seeking. I find myself always drawn to the blogs where you can really feel a person behind them, because those are the ones that it’s easy and natural to respond to, and it doesn’t matter what’s said if you can feel the honesty in it. I love that about your blog – always interesting because always real.

  22. Danielle – that’s such a lovely comment, thank you! How long have we been blog friends now? Four years? And I appreciate your blog as much now as the first day I found it. I think you are responsible for about a third of my recent acquisitions and I’ve loved everything you’ve recommended. It’s so nice when you come across someone with just the same tastes. Here’s to a wonderfully book-filled 2011 for both of us!

    Pete – so glad to have you back safe and sound from Dafur. What a year it’s been for you, eh? And I’d love to know what you think of those books. I’ll drop you an email in a bit – keen to know how you are after all your recent experiences.

    Charlotte – it’s been lovely keeping up with you here and in Litopia – I can’t wait to see what happens to Balthazar’s Gift next year – I’m looking forward to being one of your first reviewers when it’s out! Happy, happy New Year to you, my friend, may it be a VERY prosperous one. 🙂

    Deborah – hugs to you! What a lovely comment. Funnily enough I nearly did write about my bathwater once because I’m mildly obsessed with making a map of Europe out of the bubbles, and can only ever get the Southern side or the Northern side, never both at once. But I thought at the time it sounded a bit bonkers and even now I wonder whether I actually wrote that down… 🙂 I am SO happy to know you are still reading. I appreciate it no end. Happy New Year to you – I’m hoping you’ll have another novel out soon..?

    Qugrainne – it is SO good to know you are out there, reading! I am so very delighted to know that. And I have actually ordered that Janet Evanovich. We might not mention it to Mister Litlove just yet, but I’m looking forward to it enormously. 😉 Thank you for your lovely comment and wishing you a wonderful, peaceful, happy New Year!

    Bookboxed – I am so happy to know you are are reading – and you know you only need comment when you want to (although I am always delighted to see you in my inbox). This year I am definitely going to get to The Enchantress of Florence, and Penelope Lively’s Consequences, both of which you enjoyed I do believe. Your recommendations are always wonderful. Very warmest wishes to you, too, for a happy and healthy 2011. 🙂

    iliana – I was thinking about your blogging break when going back in my mind over my blogging friends’ 2010. DO hope you are fully recovered now, and back to excellent health. I’ve thought of you a lot this year as your notebook was the one I used when writing my book, and a great job it did, too. I’ll have to come and order another one in 2011 when I decide on a new project. I think I’ve made you a tradition now! 🙂

    Amateur Reader – Having no plan saves that bit of energy for the doing itself, no? A very Happy New Year to you, too. Can’t wait to see what you come up with in 2011.

    Kathleen – thank you for those lovely wishes, which are much appreciated! Hope you also have a wonderful 2011 in prospect, and I’ll look forward to hearing all about it (and to the continuation of the Oscar movie project) on your blog!

    Carolyn – your comment is one that I’ll cherish – thank you so much for that. I never post a personal piece without hesitating over it and wondering whether it’s the right thing to do. And then I do post, and my readers are just so kind and sympathetic that I am always glad. But I do know what you mean about those boundaries – it does feel a little odd when people you know in a different life are reading and commenting. But it always seems to work out. When I began this blog I only really did book reviews, but then it seemed to me that writing about my response to a book was about as personal and revelatory as anything else I might write. Somehow we’re always really ourselves when reading. Then the crossover to personal didn’t seem quite so big. I am delighted to have found you, too, this year, and look forward so much to getting to know you better in 2011. 🙂

    Dorothy – we began blogging about a month apart, and I think that fourth year is a tough one! I was kind of comforted in a way to think that you were taking breaks too – it seemed like it wasn’t just me! Although I miss your posts when you’re not blogging, I do know how very busy you are. How you manage to cycle 6,000km in a year I’ll never know! But it is coming to terms with the limitations that is both tricky and necessary; I’m not very good at it, either. But I’m sure we’ll work it out next year and I’ll certainly be in your audience whenever you have a chance to post. 🙂

    Jenny – aww that’s nice, thank you! I think I am probably more open at the moment about how I’m feeling, and so I’m expressing myself more often than usual when grumpy! 🙂 But having such lovely blog friends means I’ll never be away for long. I’m fully intending to nourish the old blogging mojo in 2011.

  23. Pingback: Into the New Year… « This Writing Life …

  24. Here I am, late as usual, adding my voice to the chorus: no matter what you write about, litlove, you are unfailingly interesting and just so darned good!! You are a true intellectual with a mind & vocabulary you do not flinch from, and an eye for the telling detail. Oh yes, and a heart. We come here because you are you and there is no one else like you. Blog on!

    A happy healthy 2011 to you, to Mr. Litlove, and to your son.

  25. aw, sorry it’s been such a rough year. I like the blend of posts you have here! IT’s so nice to visit your blog, and it’s always so wonderfully written and thoughtful, no matter what kind of post you write!

    Here’s to a 2011 with few plans! I’m with you.

  26. Pingback: ID and Other Reflections: 2010 in Retrospect: Top Few Blogs and Books « Fredzimny's CCCCC's

  27. Dear Dr B,

    Thank you for linking your blog on Bookface – I had forgotten to subscribe, an oversight now corrected. I’m going to have a good read through your archives, too. 🙂

    Last year was a bit of an odd one for me, too; fabulous in some ways, dreadful in others. Ah well; new year, new start, and all that.

    I may well be writing to you in a more official capacity soon, as I am going to do a Master’s this year, and I’ve found a wonderful course at Birkbeck that looks right up my street, all to do with cultural and critical studies. Dr Catani is there, too, so I would have a familiar face in the department! If you have any advice or comments, do please let me know…

    I know what you mean about the joy of comments; I don’t blog, as such, but my Flickr account has become a kind of blogstitute, and whenever someone adds a comment to a photo of mine, it gives me a little warm glow.

    Anyway – best (!) wishes for 2011, and I hope to be in contact with you soon!

    Jo xxx

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