Friday, March 26, 2010

An Introduction

I hope the hardest thing about blogging turns out to be coming up with a title. I have been on the verge of starting this blog for a couple of years now—with some increased desire to get underway since about a year ago—but coming up with a title I could imagine living with for an indeterminate amount of time kept stymieing me. Perhaps that indecisiveness is a mark against the chances of this blog’s survival.

I am starting this record for reasons similar to many other book bloggers—certainly those I’ve read who give some sense of why they began. First and foremost is the desire to write more about what I read (in particular, outside of teaching). I am by trade an academic literary critic, but that by and large means writing in specific ways about a limited range of material. I mean the scope of this blog to be much larger and to encompass the reading I do outside of a particular project: not only books in my field that I am not actively researching, but well outside my period and national focus. Since finishing my dissertation in particular I have been able to keep up a little more with current releases and literary translation. And there always seems to be a backlog of “classics” I should have read years ago (every literature PhD has their embarrassing—even humiliating—gaps in knowledge). At the same time, while I have more opportunities to get out of my narrow academic shell, I need a way to keep a better record of my thoughts in reaction to books. Something to ground memory. Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “The Imaginary Iceberg” ends in reference to entities “self-made from elements least visible.” I hope this blog, at its best, will make visible (for myself and anyone who wants to read along) some of what goes on in the shaping of the texts I read. Or, at least, I hope to make clear the icebergs I’ve imagined them to be, as perhaps inevitable any time you attempt to intuit the unseen. While I am an academic by training, and thus less antagonistic to academic modes of reading than even some of my favorite book blogs occasionally are (or so I sense), I am not using this as blog as an academic exercise. I want to write differently here, and to have different kinds of conversations with other readers.

I’m also hoping that this blog will serve as a useful home base for my responses at some of the book blogs on which I’ve been lurking, but not replying, for too long. So look for me in comment threads elsewhere, including those blogs listed in the soon-to-be-added blogroll.

The blog title’s allusion to Bishop might be a little misleading in that most of what I write about will probably be fiction, and sometimes nonfiction or film. Poetry, though, is always a possibility: I find my poetry reading runs in fits and starts, so it may pop up, albeit unexpectedly or short-lived.

First up? I’ve just finished Roberto Bolaño’s 2666. I had planned to read it this summer, but when the group read began over at Las Obras de Roberto Bolaño I couldn’t resist. I am a little over a month ahead of schedule in finishing, so I hope to have a couple of posts spread out at the appropriate times. It’s a long book, with much to be discussed. In the meantime, you should also see posts on other reading.

N.B.: Since I’m learning the Blogger software and dusting off some pretty old HTML skills, expect consistent (I hope small) changes for while.

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