In which I make some attempt to keep producing blog content while swamped at work.
I have mostly been ignoring bookish kerfuffles lately. They make me feel bad–about readers, authors, and books. I don’t want to feel that way. But this is more than a kerfuffle. If you don’t know what happened with Goodreads on Friday, these posts from Booksmugglers and Love in the Margins are good summaries, with links.
I’ve decided to leave Goodreads, though I certainly understand why others won’t. Many of my friends are migrating to BookLikes. I might, but I never used the social functions of Goodreads much or got many recommendations there, so I may just take the opportunity to cut back on my social media
use procrastination time.
Here’s what tipped me over to leaving:
- Goodreads announced–on a forum many members don’t belong to–a substantial change to their terms of service–one they had long claimed would not happen–and implemented the change immediately, deleting readers’ reviews and shelves with no warning or grace period to allow those readers to comply with the new requirements. I’ve been dealing with policy for too long to think this is anything but dead wrong.
- Goodreads wants to monetize user-produced content, so they were always going to have to listen to author and publisher concerns. I get that. But having seen the way they are treating readers vs. the gentle if condescending suggestions they are giving authors (screenshots on the links above) I think they have got the balance wrong.
The worst thing about this? I believe it is a response to uninformed bad publicity–things like Nathan Bransford’s post which described snarky reviews as “bullying” (I refuse to link it) or this Salon article. Those pieces are really poorly researched and argued. I think a false picture of the extent and nature of the problems at Goodreads is getting credence in a lot of places, and a wrongheaded definition of bullying is gaining ground. Super depressing and bad for a thriving book culture.
That Review I Kept Complaining About on Twitter:
I finished it! This is the review I was writing for my college’s literary magazine. What paralyzed me (and this happens every time I agree to write for them) is that I have so little sense of the audience or what voice to use. I can’t chat about me, me, me and my personal response. It’s not a thumbs up/thumbs down, do you want to buy this kind of evaluation. And it’s not a literary critical essay. It’s some mash-up of all those things. It takes me ages to find a way to express my response in a form that seems appropriate.
I can’t say too much about it, but the books I read were two debut novels from small Canadian presses, Corinna Chong’s Belinda’s Rings and Claire Wilkshire’s Maxine. They both play with the coming of age narrative in interesting ways, and I especially enjoyed Maxine, which is quite funny (2nd set of links to national newspaper reviews).
This Week In My Classes:
Rohan does a great series on this topic and I’d like to be inspired by her example. But this week I’m too lazy. So I will just tell you the best student lines from Friday’s class, in which we discussed four versions of Little Red Riding Hood (“The Grandmother” and the Perrault and Grimms versions, all of which you can read here, and a parody poem by Roald Dahl).
- “Are you going to ruin all fairy tales for us?” (Yes. Yes, I am).
- “Well, this version is less rape-y.”
I think these were from the same student, and he definitely got the point of our discussion. Another student introduced us to Sam the Sham’s “Little Red Riding Hood.” But in class, I clicked on a YouTube version of the song featuring images of a guy in a wolf mask and a seductive young woman. And in the credits, the video’s maker thanked his lovely daughter for appearing. I hate to imagine what those students think of me now.
What I’ve Been Reading, and Up Next:
In the absence of Goodreads updates and review mojo, I’ll at least try to keep tabs here.
On audio: Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Alexandra Fuller. I loved Don’t Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight, her memoir of growing up in what was then in the throes of ceasing to be Rhodesia. This one’s about her mother/family history. It’s good, but her mother (who really resented her first “awful book”) keeps her at a certain distance–which is part of what the book is about, I guess, but it packs less of a punch than the first. This made me think that I’ve read a number of Africa-set books by white writers in recent years, but nothing by black African writers. I need to remedy that.
On paper (yes! from the library): I liked the second Dave Brandstetter mystery from Joseph Hansen, Death Claims, even more than the first. I can see that this will be one of those series where following the personal life of the character is as intriguing as the (very good) mystery. The style, which I’d describe as “lyrical but spare,” really suits me. Here’s a bit from the opening page:
The sand that bracketed the little bay was so white it hurt the eyes. A scatter of old frame houses edged the sand, narrow, high-shouldered, flat-roofed. . . . The bay glinted like blue tile. The craft at anchor might have been dabbed there by Raoul Dufy. It was still bleak. So were the rain-greened hills that shut the place off. He drove down out of them bleakly.
The bleakness was in him.
I started Tom Reiss’ The Black Count. It’s one of those stories of a larger-than-life historical outlier, and absolutely engrossing so far.
I picked up Goldenboy, the second in Michael Nava’s Henry Rios mysteries, from the library.
There will be some romance in the mix: I’ve still got Meljean Brook’s “Falling for Anthony” to read, I want to finish Jeannie Lin’s Sword Dancer because SonomaLass said she’d discuss it around Oct. 1, and I used the 50% off Kobo coupon (finally! found something discounted I wanted to buy) on Emma Barry’s Brave in Heart because of Miss Bates’ review.
Also, I’ll be rereading Merrie Haskell’s The Princess Curse, which we start discussing in class in two weeks. This is a sophisticated middle-grade (i.e. ages 8-12) fantasy, its sources including Romanian folklore (dragons!), Hades and Persephone, and The Twelve Dancing Princesses. And yes, that mash-up works. It’s got a great heroine in 13-year-old Reveka. And it’s got one of the most romantic romances I’ve read in a while, actually. Sometimes the un(der)stated–which this has to be–is very much more moving than the explicit.
Obviously, I am not going to get to all those in a week.