Monday, June 4, 2012

Armchair BEA Day 1: Introductions

Today is Day 1 of the week-long Armchair BEA, a community event for book bloggers not attending Book Expo America this week. Each day we will post on a different, pre-assigned topic, visit each others' blogs and just generally share our enthusiasm for blogging about books. Today's topic is Introductions; instead of pairing bloggers for interviews, we've got a set of questions to answer for ourselves and read about others.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

My name is Marie; I trained as a librarian as a second career and now work as a bookseller at an independent bookstore in Cambridge, Mass. I've been blogging for almost five years (it'll be official in August). I guess I got into blogging to connect with other readers and to create a kind of digital calling card- here's what I do, what I read, how I write and what I'm interested in. I created the blog to have a sort of digital sandbox where I could mess around and invite others to come by and participate.

What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2012?

I'm reading a bunch of books right now. My bedside book is Freedom in Exile, the autobiography of the 14th Dalai Lama. I'm in the middle of Pure, by Andrew Miller, a fantastic novel set in pre-Revolutionary Paris about a man who's brought in to demolish a cemetary, and Heat and Dust, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's 1975 Booker Prize winner about two women in India at different points in time.
They're all fabulous in their own ways. Pure is a great novel with a wry humor and sly, careful writing and I'm really enjoying it.

My favorite 2012 release so far is probably Patrick Flanery's brilliant Absolution. From the backlist, I loved The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Moffie, by Andre Carl van der Merwe. But I've read a lot of great books this year; I think 2012 is going to be a fantastic reading year overall.
Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you.
Well, I'm pretty much an open book, so there isn't much, at least without getting very personal. I never learned to drive!

What is your favorite feature on your blog (i.e. author interviews, memes, something specific to your blog)?
My favorite thing is the Publisher Spotlight series. I wish I could get my act together to do more of them. I love interviewing publishers and authors and bringing attention to some of my favorite small presses.

Where do you see your blog in five years?
I don't know! That's a tough question because my blog has changed along with my life and who knows what I'll be doing in five years. Maybe I'll shut it down by then, or stop taking ARCs, or who knows. We'll see.

Which is your favorite post that you have written that you want everyone to read?
The post I want everyone to read is whatever book review I've written most recently. It's all about the books.

If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why?
I would like to meet Amara Lakhous or Massimo Carlotto, because their books are crazy good and I'd love to meet the personalities behind some very idiosyncratic and off-beat books. Especially Carlotto, who I imagine must be a kind of maniac in real life.

What literary location would you most like to visit? Why?
I would like to visit Thornfield Hall if it existed. I adore the idea of big gothic houses with room after room after room and secret passages and such. Or Manderley, which is similar if more sinister.

What is your favorite part about the book blogging community? Is there anything that you would like to see change in the coming years?
My favorite part of the book blogging community is the friends I've made. I guess honestly I'd like to see it become less involved with the publishing industry- more independent. Right now it seems like lots of bloggers read all the same books, get all the same ARCs, compete for and brag about books, interviews, access, etc. I'd like to see book bloggers just do their own thing. And I guess that includes myself. I do all that stuff too, and I'd like to not do it but one does get both spoiled and star struck.

I'm tired of all the talk about negative reviews. I'm tired of being made to feel guilty if I don't like a book, and I'm tired of feeling like the publishing industry only tolerates our existence to the extent that we are willing to be mouthpieces for publicity departments. I would like more tolerance of diversity of opinions, less panic that a negative post on a blog will demolish the career and/or self-esteem of all the nascent Faulkners and Austens out there, less pressure to "say something nice or don't say anything at all." One thing I've learned is how small the book world is, and I know for a fact I've lost more-prominent and paid reviewing and writing opportunities because I'm not Polly Positive all the time. I guess that's the price I have to pay.

Recently I was offered the chance to do a readalong of an upcoming book by a very well-known, award-winning author. We're not talking debut here- we're talking about a literary star. Then I found out a publishing executive affiliated with the author nixed it due to fear of negative publicity. That's disappointing. This person's success and celebrity would not be affected one iota by a negative blog review. Ridiculous.

Have your reading tastes changed since you started blogging? How?
No. Not really. I've always had lots of interests though blogging has given me more knowledge about publishing and more incentive to try genres like science fiction and crime fiction. But I still like serious literary fiction, small presses and translations. And I'm always happiest when I eschew the latest-and-greatest and go back to my reading roots.

Go to Armchair BEA Central for more posts from other Armchair participants!