Driving home last night I had a moment imagining writing the ten year post for Literary Vice, thinking it would be at least a few years before the anniversary arrived. So when I checked this morning and realized this thing launched in November 2009 (on tumblr!) I was surprised. And sad? Maybe sad. Or maybe nostalgia, remembering where and who I was when this collection of my reading reflections began: living with M. and Titus, finishing my PhD, surrounded by friends who loved to read as much as I did and we had All the Time in the World to do just that.
This year I’ve read fewer novels than in any of the past ten. I’m tempted to make excuses, but I’m sure a lot has to do with a smart phone and how I used to fill the quiet moments of waiting with novels, and now I fill with Twitter. Sad. (A sure sign I’m reading a book I love is when I slip back into my old habit of walking across campus with my book open to squeeze in just a few more minutes with characters).
Maybe more than sadness it’s an observance of change. Certainly to my life – where I am, what I’m doing and who I’m doing it with. But more the way and what I read has changed, I listen to audio books now because I commute for two hours a day. I fall asleep earlier and forget what happened pages before. I read many, many children’s books because I am raising a kid and one of my (too many) hopes for him is that he will find as much comfort, joy and light in reading as I do.
For all that changes that gift – the total love of reading – remains true. I wasn’t a popular kid in high school (shocked face). I remember being in drama class and every time (which was all the time) there were group activities, I wouldn’t have a group. And so I started skipping class and finding my way to the library to read. And it was in every way a better education in the expression of human emotion, I promise. Not that I had a Tragic time or anything, I had S., J., and J. and they got me. Just that I knew then and I know now that whatever else might be happening around me – and there is so much happening – there is this space of mindful, quiet, slowness. Of absorption and warmth. Of conversation with characters who evoke and provoke and we are so lucky.
And I have been and am so lucky to continue to be surrounded by people who love me and love reading, too. I’ve formed too many book clubs over the past ten years, and the one that remains is full of smart, caring and wise friends. I continue to have some of the best chats with my mum about what she is reading and what I am reading (and why I’m not reading more than I am) (and I know differently now, in the fiftieth recitation in one night of Where the Wild Things Are, how much I owe to her and my dad for giving me this reading joy). I swap book recommendations with friends and colleagues (and strangers) and in each of these moments of connection through books I am grateful.
Proud, too, I suppose. For ten years of writing here and ten years of reading. It’s about 500 books in the last decade. Almost all of them novels. You could look for trends in what I read and when and you’d probably find I read more in the summer and I read a lot of Canadian literature and I have attachments to particular authors and unpopular views about others.
At one point I imagined I’d stop writing at ten years. It’s one more thing and now I almost always forget until several weeks have gone by (see my latest post for evidence!) and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve used the same adjectives to describe the same things in different books. And I’m not sure who my audience is or what the point is (is it a summary? a critique?). But in recalling the original purpose – to help me remember what I’ve read – it seems like it might be okay to continue. To scale down my expectations from the high of the 2010s when I wrote 3000 word thoughtful reviews to something smaller and more in line with what I can do right now: I read this book and I liked/didn’t like it.
And maybe you will continue to read here, too. Such a humble imagining to know there have been thousands of you checking to find out what I thought about a particular book. And I’ll try to keep thinking of you in writing reviews, but really – and selfishly – this is really for me.
So cheers to ten years. Thanks to each of you for reading. Reading this, sure, but reading.
One response to “Ten Years of Literary Vice”
Thank you for putting your thoughts down regarding ten years of reviewing books. I particularly relate to your observation that your reading habits change. While I’m reading more ebooks than ever before, mostly to avoid running out of shelf space in our smaller home, it’s so easy to become distracted away from a good flow by social media. I guess we all need to avoid distraction more and more these days. I’m on Goodreads.