The title of this post is perhaps slightly misleading, as a lot of what I want to tell you is in fact quite bookish in nature. But there will also be some general chatting involved, so I thought it was a fitting title regardless. In a Twitter conversation with fellow bloggers Iris and Verity the other day, we all vowed to never feel guilty for posting off-topic posts on our book blogs; books are a huge part of all our lives and that will probably shine through in every posts, but everyone feels like chatting about other things every now and again, and there are fortunately no set blogging rules that dictate how to Do It Right. In fact, according to the comments to this post over at Simon’s blog, blog readers do appreciate the occasional general chattiness and life updates. I know I’ve been a reviews-on-weekdays-and-one-essay-post-on-weekends sort of blogger for a long time now, but that’s likely to change now that my life is so different than it was a few months ago.
You’ll most likely have noticed some changes in how I blog ever since I returned from my break, the most obvious of all being a decrease in my frequency of posting. Unlike what I was expecting, though, this isn’t necessarily because I have less time to read as a graduate student than I did when I was working full-time. Quite a lot of reading gets done on my 40 minute commute to university, for example, as well as during lunch break or even between lectures (not really knowing anyone does have its bright side, ha). But I have to organise my time differently now; and if I have more reading time, on the other hand I certainly have far less computer time, which sadly forces me to be a less prolific poster and commenter. Most of you know all about the cycle of guilt and inadequacy that befalls a blogger who feels they can no longer keep up with the community, so I won’t bore you with the details; suffice to say that I’m very very sorry to be neglecting so many of your lovely blogs lately, and that I will continue to try and do my best.
(Some more recent book acquisitions. Oh dear. Yes, some of those are also on the previous picture, but never fear: I have not yet reached the point of losing track of what I have and buying duplicates. The keyword here probably being yet.)
What I have decided to do is stop posting about every single book I read, and instead focus only on those that elicit a strong response in me, be it a positive or negative one. Of course, this isn’t always easy to predict – who guarantees I won’t read five or six remarkable books in a row and want to tell you about them all? I love sharing my thoughts on what I read, but I’m trying to get used to the idea of just letting go sometimes – and if that means never writing about some books at all, so be it. The choice was between consciously limiting myself or risking burn-out, and I need not tell you which one I'd prefer.
So, you wonder, what have I been up to besides reading and blogging? Grad school assignments are keeping me pretty busy at the moment, but I did have time for some weekends away, plenty of visits to bookshops (I so need new shelves. By which I mean I need a shelf, period), and even some bookish events. As part of the Manchester Literature Festival, I went to a talk by Spanish comics creator Miguelanxo Prado, who spoke passionately about all the artistic potential of the medium and told humours life stories in-between. An unintentional funny moment came when he couldn’t remember the name of the famous British comics writer he had worked with in the past – that happens to be Neil Gaiman, and I was amused because I was fairly sure he was the reason why 80% of the audience had first heard of Prado (myself included). I regret not having written a more detailed account of the event, but fortunately this post at the official festival blog took the words off my mouth.
(Enjoying an autumn day in the Peak District)
Also as part of the literature festival, I got to spend a Sunday with the Moomins at a lovely event where Tove Jansson’s niece Sophia spoke at length about her aunt’s work. Though the focus of the event was the Moomin stories and not Jansoon’s books for adults, the majority of the audience was in fact adult – some who likely grew up with the Moomin stories, and others like myself who discovered them later on. This made me quite happy, as I always enjoy seeing adults be unapologetically enthusiastic about children’s literature.
The very charming Sophia Jansson spoke eloquently about the humour, subtlety, gentleness and wisdom of Tove’s work, and as a result made me want to pick up my next Moomins book sooner rather than later. She also mentioned that she always gets asked if the fact that she shares a name with the little girl in The Summer Book is in any way significant – her answer was that her aunt’s writing is of course fictional, but also intensely personal, so it could be that there’s something of her in that little girl. At any rate, she does have childhood memories of summers spent in tiny Finnish islands, which I very much envy her as they sound absolutely gorgeous.
Sophia Jansson spoke a little about the many unconventional decisions that marked her aunt’s life: in the early twentieth century, Tove Jansson decided to devote her life to the arts instead of forming a family like most women of her generation (and yes, it is sad that for so many it was a question of either/or). Furthermore, later in life she fell in love with a woman, a fellow artist, and bravely lived with her as a couple at a time when homosexuality was illegal. All this made me long to read a biography of her; a like-minded member of the audience asked Sophia if one was available, and she said there is one in Swedish, but it hasn’t yet been translated into English. Fingers crossed that it does get translated at some point.
Last but not least, I hope those of you who celebrate it have a wonderful Halloween. If not, have a happy Sunday anyway!