ReaderWriterVille

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Tag: sports

Weeknote 10

Things are starting to heat up, what with getting ready to go on vacation, doing California house stuff, and herding cats I mean colleagues for work.

Work

I could just cut and paste from last week: admin, advising, etc.

I did get a book chapter sent off, though, so I can add something to the “my own damn work” side of the ledger.

Reading/Watching/Making

The biggest Reading/Watching event was the Champions League final between Tottenham and Liverpool, which Liverpool won comfortably. The score was 2-0 and Tottenham did press them, but a penalty to Liverpool 22 seconds in (inadvertent handball, but still a handball) meant the game took on a set cast very early. It wasn’t a pretty or exciting game, but I’ll take it, thank you very much. The team was fantastic this year and they deserved to come out with a major trophy at the end of it. Somewhere between 250k and 500k people jammed the streets of Liverpool for the victory parade, which is pretty impressive given the city population is 550k, and I’m pretty sure there are some Everton fans living there.

What does this have to do with reading, you might ask? Well, I’ve been reading David Peace’s wonderful novel about legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, Red or Dead, since it was published in 2013. I start it, get 100-300 pages in, put it down, come back to it, rinse and repeat. It’s a book for literary footie fans, which can’t be a huge demographic. But I find it wonderful and fascinating and I don’t want it to end. I picked it up again this spring and I’m more than halfway through (it’s over 700 pages of minute details about Shankly and the football seasons). The repetition makes it hypnotic and almost zen-like, and Shankly is the hero we wish we had these days. Far from perfect but utterly admirable. I think I’ve been unable to finish because I don’t want it to end, but now that we’ve won a trophy again and look like the team Shankly created, it might be time to finally read the whole thing. And I can always start over when I’m done, right?

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Weeknote 9

This was a less settled week than I expected, but I got a lot done. Not necessarily the things I wanted to get done, but things that had to get done.

Work

Lots of phone meetings and lots of emails. Again! But I have to get this stuff taken care of before June, when people start to take off for various places and become harder to reach. Memos, reading, advising, and the like.

I did get to do a little of my own work, which was nice. It’s amazing how easy it is to get out of the swing when you don’t write for a week. Gah.

Reading/Watching/Making

I read three library books and one from the TBR. I talked about the library books in my last post. They were an interesting mix: one translated lit fic by a major author, one translated mystery by an author who is very popular in his home country, and one recently published lit fic novel that is something of an It Book. I was impressed by the first, enjoyed the second as a good example of its type, and was disappointed by the last. It Books are as much of a phenomenon in the Literary Bookternet as they are in the genre communities, and I won’t belabor a point I’ve made often, but I need to ration my intake of The Books Currently Dominating My Goodreads Feed. So many readers gave the It Book 5 stars, and I just don’t see it. It’s clearly the work of a talented and creative writer, but it was so heavy-handed in its politics. I’m happy to read about politics, but I’m pretty much done with diatribes and choir-preaching.

I also finished up my reread of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by the great John le Carré. I’m slowly rereading all the Smiley novels in order, and this is considered his best novel by many. For me it’s a tossup with The Spy Who Came in From the Cold; TTSS is longer and more complex, while TSHCiFtC is short and taut and hits you like a sledgehammer. TTSS is also something of a Condition of England novel in addition to being a spy story, which gives it a lot of depth. This is probably the first time I’ve reread it where I followed every plot turn and puzzle piece and knew what was going on the whole time, but it was still a page turner.

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Weeknote 8

We’re settling in for the summer, which should mean that except for a trip in June, blog postings should be more or less normal. Which is good, because I’m finding these Weeknote posts both enjoyable to write and useful.

Work

The semester is officially over, which means I’m only working with graduate students (those are a 12-month responsibility) and doing the off-semester admin that never goes away.

Not much this week, since the first half of the week involved the road trip to get here. But I spent half a day doing necessary administrative work and another few hours unpacking and setting up my home study space. Now I have no excuses, which is good because it’s time to get to work.

Reading/Watching/Listening

I read Spring, the most recent installment in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet. I didn’t find it as enjoyable or satisfying as the previous two, but I’m still not sure I’m being entirely fair to it. My review is in the previous post and Janine’s questions expand on some of the review points in helpful ways.

I also spent a few hours trying to read one of the new It Books in the rom com subgenre, Red, White, and Royal Blue. I tried it because a friend and I were having a long discussion while she was reading it and it was easier to just read parts of it myself. I abandoned it after 4 chapters or so because it was just so dire. It has loads of 5-star reviews at Goodreads, which reinforces my belief that people read books for a wide variety of reasons. I can only conclude that the readers who love this one are reading into the book a great deal that is not there and ignoring what is actually on the page. The characterizations are inconsistent and insubstantial, the setting bears no resemblance to anything in the supposedly real world in which it’s set (it’s an alternate timeline but not an alternate universe setting), and it is clearly supposed to be snarky and witty but for me it failed on almost every attempt. Some of the other negative reviews have described it as Tumblr-type fanfiction, which seems about right to me. The author has written an RPF fanfic of actors in The Social Network and after reading a bit of that story, I can see definite similarities in the approach and writing style.

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Weeknote 7

I’m so late this week! Blame it on more cross-country driving. We had beautiful weather and we had the chance to visit relatives and catch up, but I’m glad we’re done and settled.

Even though this week is more than half over, for consistency’s sake I’m writing this weeknote about last week.

Work

More meetings. Most went well. More tasks assigned to me, some of which are fine and some of which I wish I didn’t have to do. But what else is new! If I manage my time well I can take care of the administrative and teaching stuff without sacrificing research and writing time. I could write lots more on the work front, but I’d rather talk about other things!

Reading/Watching

I finished North and South. I really enjoyed it and I’m glad I finally read it. There were passages that felt as if they fit the world we live in today, especially those which talked about Milton’s workers and how they were constantly busy and had almost no time to stop and think about their lives. I found the way Gaskell brought John and Margaret together to be quite interesting. Margaret slowly lost everyone around her that she most cared about, which pushed her toward John. She also had a chance to visit her home in the South and she discovered that it had changed and so had she. And John suffers setbacks which bring him closer to Margaret. By the end they both knew they were meant for each other and that each was right for the other person. It was an interesting way to bring about the happy ending. A bit contrived, obviously, but effective.

My library holds are coming in with a vengeance. I’d suspended a bunch because I knew I wouldn’t have time, and I cancelled some as well, but apparently I have a hold problem. 😉 One long-awaited hold was welcome, though: Ali Smith’s third installment in her Seasonal Quartet, Spring. I’ve read about a quarter of it so far. It’s very good in places and I like the characters she introduces first, but it hasn’t grabbed me the way Autumn did. It might be that I’m not giving it enough attention. I’ll finish it this week and report back.

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ReaderWriterLinks

This article feels as if it was generated by the Slate Contrarian Bot circa 2005. In Bookriot, a librarian (and aspiring author) says she thinks that tagging authors in all discussions of their books, including negative ones, is a great idea!

I can understand why some authors might be hurt by negative reviews. Criticism is hard! I’m just not convinced that the “risk” outweighs the “benefit” here. Easy access to more information on authors is important to me and authors are not required to read reviews. Most books don’t fall within categories that are strictly positive or negative. If we lean toward caution and decide against tagging authors in negative reviews, we can’t tag authors at all—it’s rare that any review worth anything doesn’t mention anything that hasn’t gone well in a book. In that case, authors are losing out on additional potential readers.

Is this a huge deal? Absolutely not. If it was, I’d go on with tagging authors regardless of the kind of reviews I write. But I do think it’s worth considering who the reviews are for, at the end of the day.

This is a bad argument. As many, many Twitter responses and some site commenters are letting Bookriot and the author know. However, given that she seems to be one of the site’s most active contributors, and the content maw is never sated, I’m sure it’s not the last #slatepitch piece we’ll see with the same byline. Sigh.

UPDATE: The post is still up on Bookriot, but the original Bookriot tweet publicizing it, which so many people replied to (and probably ratioed badly) is gone. Which … is kind of missing the point?


I posted a link to Christian Lorentzen’s Harper’s essay on the demise of book reviewing a while back, and now LitHub has used it to generate more content published a roundup of responses from his fellow critics. They run the gamut from complete disagreement (mostly by critics who run or work in these listicle- and Q&A-dominated sections) to overall agreement (from a critic at the TLS, which is hardly a surprise).

This is at best not addressing his points at all, and at worst confirming them:

Are book reviews drying up? Is the world of serious criticism shrinking? It seems to me that, actually, the world of book reviews is expanding. There are readers everywhere, of all kinds. They all deserve to know what books are out there that might be of interest. We do our best to reach them all.

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