My journey through books this year
It has been a very pleasant year in books for me. The activities on Seven Circumstances as well as the blog statistics reflect my personal journey through the world of literature. There were many high points, such as engaging with new authors and publishers, discovering new books and genres and developing an understanding of further aspects of literature and critiquing. Here are some of the memorable moments:
I reviewed Greg Hickey’s unusual debut novel, The Friar’s Lantern, continued the conversation with Josiah Bancroft on his Books of Babel tetralogy (the 4th and final one is coming in 2021), and watched with delight as Brian Bilston’s first poetic novel, Diary of a Somebody, took off. I am one of his superfans in Facebook.
Serendipity played a role when I read and reviewed Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists, shortly before the film of the book premiered. I love it when these things happen.
I discovered the interesting fictional world created by the writers of Rebusfontein, and the quiet but compelling voice of Nick Cave, and waded in on the merits of the Hugo, Nobel and Booker prizes for literature. I thought and wrote about fictional fiction (made up books read by fictional characters) and read a few of author Sjón’s favourite novels to test whether those kinds of shortlists have any merit.
Taking the opportunity to read what I want, just ‘cause I want to, I read, for the first time, works by Jeff VanderMeer, Rawi Hage, Naomi Novik and Patrick deWitt. I was introduced to the stable of Canadian authors of publisher Linda Leith and new books by Denis Coupal, Martine Delvaux and John Delacourt.
All was not wine and roses. I wrote quite a few middling, maudlin poems. I was quite put off by the dreadful printing of Knife, the latest Harry Hole novel by Jo Nesbo, through no fault of the author. I had accidentally ordered it in large print and every second sentence in the book has been bolded for effect, making it completely unreadable. I have also failed to finish a good few novels, now languishing on my bookshelf.
Holding down a full-time, highly distracting day job leaves precious few hours for reading and reviewing. Contents-wise I felt that this year there was not enough quality reviews and that I’m falling into the same trap of writing social commentary rather than critiques, as The London Review of Books does. On the other hand, I do have three more blogs to maintain (five if you include the Tumblr sites) so I have an excuse!
Stats for 2019
The past year has shown a 50.71% growth in views and visitors. From 2016 to 2018, the growth was huge, but has now stabilized to a more realistic rate. Whether this has a correlation with the reduced number of posts, I do not know. I understand that unless I post more controversial, shorter and more emotional posts, on more commercial, current subjects, there will not be more views or visitors – since that is the way search engines and social media work. But since I really do not care about likes, or about how big this thing gets, I never will. If there is one lesson I have learned this year it is that writing a book is so hard, so fraught with opportunity for failure, that I should really be cautious about shooting down anything. I will, like Nick Cave, try to cultivate a quiet conversation with visitors to the site.
Growth year-on-year at Dec. 29, 2019
The top pages on the site shows a two-fold trend:
- A liking by many for reviews of high-profile or “difficult” books and authors – for whatever reason.
- A genuine requirement for understandable information on poetry and how to dissect poems.
Followers are more or less stable at 164. Welcome, fellow readers. I’m sorry that I don’t have the time to visit each of your blogs and have a look at what you’re writing. But I do read and appreciate every thoughtful comment.
I don’t pretend for one moment that I am an expert in English Literature. I am just an experienced reader. I can only give my point of view and hope that it will contribute to the wider discourse about books and authors, thereby sustaining and growing the market for the good stuff.