WP 10th Anniversary

Whilst laboriously checking through all the WordPress notifications that had accumulated in my absence, I came across one informing me that I have now clocked up a decade on this platform, most of which is due to this blog, est. 2011.  Although it shouldn’t have, that milestone still came as a bit of a shock.

Plenty of things have changed in the preceding decade.  My writing and my taste in books in a personal level, but also the blogger generation that I first started with, sadly few are still writing after all these years.  I often wonder what the ones who left are up to, in my more melancholy moments.

My life has changed immensely thanks to this humble platform.  Travels abroad, new friends met from all over the world – some face to face – introductions to many new books and different ways of experiencing life, forays into the book publishing scene,  and those rectangular packages that sometimes arrive in the post.  And of course, most recently meeting my wife Crissy and subsequent move abroad. Continue reading “WP 10th Anniversary”

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Book Memories #2: Ruminations on Train Travels

The second in a (very) occasional series about experiences that comes to mind about my reading past.  I honestly thought I had done more entries than this but a quick look at the 205 drafts saved, reveals a bunch of rotting posts in waiting, that need to be rewritten.

https://pixabay.com/en/gleise-seemed-train-416460/

Dashing off these notes in that zone of midday when the intersection – of which we reside on one of the corners – is devoid of people and noise thanks to the heat.  Only the whir of the heroic electric fan and the clicking of Rambo’s claws on tile as he wanders around intrude upon my silence.

As I read (the perfect pastime to aid digestion of the midday meal, and it’s not considered a meal unless it is with rice) my latest fiction book, The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, one of those random thoughts arrived at the station of consciousness.  It was a memory of a train journey that I didn’t take.  Although the memory is hazy, I am certain it was a train journey taken by Michael Palin in one of his travel books, probably Sahara or Himalaya.

Judging by the two narrowed down titles, I am certain I would have read both in Summer, thanks to my ‘method reading’ and the reasoning that unless it is a book from a so-called cold country then Summer is undoubtedly the season to embark on book travel, as well as real.  It wasn’t the actual journey that was the focus of my thoughts though, rather the accompanying feeling to reading the words.  It’s that sense of the intrepid, a unique kind that is available only to the armchair traveller, accompanying through the words but layering it with one’s own imagination and experiences.  It’s an exhilarating call to the upcoming adventure and the unpredictability that inspires and excites creativity.

Unlike actual travelling which is on the whole less romantic, where the sense of the uncharted is undermined by all the research and planning, it is rather the sense of open-ended wonder of the unfamiliar that is placed in a comfortable framework of certainty.  This reading experience is by no means a common thing, rather it follows the reader around and creeps up from time to time, a welcome companion who greets me every so often, signalling a new part of a expedition, promising new perspectives and rituals to discover.

Working with Penguin Random House

A while back, I hinted at some good news that I had to share, and now that it has all been confirmed and no jinxes can put a stop to it, I can finally, and with certainty, reveal said news.

The wonderful folks at the Chinese arm of International publisher, Penguin Random House – you may have heard of them – recently reached out to me, concerning my review for Proust’s Days of Reading. Having first expressed an interest, they have since acquired the non-exclusive rights to the review, which I have been reworking into an introduction for the Chinese language version (translated by somebody else) of this entry into Penguin Great Ideas series.

It feels really good to be getting paid for something I love doing and with possible future jobs being hinted at it, there has been much raising of confidence and spirits (as its rainy season in Ph and we are experiencing our sixth straight day of almost constant rain).  I have been working on this blog for years, and working is the right term as well, although it started out as just a hobby to simply chat with bookish folk around the world, it has become so much more than that.  Partly, it is through my own drive to pick up more challenging books, to attempt to read into obscurer subjects, and widen my reading circle.  More than that though, it is because of the standard of writers whom I come across daily and not only provide thought-provoking interaction but also source of inspiration as well as a standard with which to measure myself and keep me on my toes.  This allows me to constantly add to my writing style with new techniques and perspectives, so thank you!  My next iced Americano will emphatically be raised to you!

Logrolling

Do you ever read the cover of a book and see all those great quotes; then after reading, wonder what those people saw in the book that you didn’t?

Now I am not saying either of the above comments are engaging in logrolling (the art of individuals agreeing to promote each others work) but they certainly read a different book to that which I did.

My source for the below examples of blatant (and of course, it must be said alleged) logrolling is the proper journalism and satire magazine Private Eye (issue number 1460, the last issue I got my sticky mitts on before leaving home shores).  It does go a long way to explaining how so many glowing reviews for average – or bad – novels come about.

  • David Krynaston selected Joining the Dots by Juliet Gardiner in The Guardian. The two share an agent in Georgia Garrett of Rogers, Coleridge & White.
  • Debut novelist Sally Rooney ‘loved’ The Idiot by fellow first-timer Elif Batuman, with whom she bonded when they were paired in a Foyles reading.  A fortnight after the plug, Batuman was one of the judges who chose Rooney as Sunday Times/PDF young writer of the year.
  • Hollie McNish picked a book edited by Sabrina Mahfouz – not only are they pals on the spoken word circuit, but McNish and Mahfouz also write a play together.
  • Craig Raine, both a Faber poet and a former Faber poetry editor, chose Simon Armitage’s The Unaccompanied from Faber, and ‘another terrific Faber poet’ Matthew Francis as his sole TLS picks.
  • Little known Bojangles Books seems to have only published two titles, both by the investigative journalist Bob Woffinden.  Both were picked out (and nothing else) in a Spectator contribution by Richard Ingrams.  Ingrams’ book about another righter of judicial wrongs Ludovic Kennedy, (Ludovic and the Power of the Book) was by coincidence praised as ‘an important book’ in the Catholic Herald by…Bob Woffinden.

When you have to research the links between book  and critic to get a clear picture of their affiliations, it doesn’t seem worth the effort, which is where we bloggers come in.  Giving honest feedback with no agenda makes such reviewers much more compelling to read.  I only read reviews on WordPress from my fellow bloggers these days, whose opinion I hold in high regard, and appreciate the fairness with which the subject matter is treated.  Not only are the reviews thorough and engaging but when a book does catch my eye it remains in my mind due to the hard work and no compensation that being a reviewer brings.  Keep up the good work of sharing the love of books and informing potential readers of what’s about. With Amazon’s new review restrictions squeezing the field for honest reviews even more, it would seem we could have a potentially bigger role to play with authors (and maybe publishers) in the future.

Paid Book Reviews on Amazon? Yes, If You do the Paying

Once again, digressing from my original blogging plans and adding more and more to my nearly 200 drafts, this one needed to be spoken about.  Thanks to Michelle’s post, a reblog of the original post from Barb for bringing this to my attention.

Battle of Greeks and Amazons. Marble sarcophagus. Pio Clementino Museum; Octagonal Court. Vatican Museums.

Rarely do I bother with Amazon, only going there to add the odd book review but now it appears that that won’t be happening; unless I want to fork out £40 a calendar year for the .co.uk, or $50 minimum for the .com sites.  That’s what it takes to be eligible to give your opinion on books (or anything else you wish to review). It will go some way to stopping fake or biased reviews but will put off the honest reviewers but you can still post biased or fake reviews if you like but now you have to pay Amazon for it.  It renders the drive for honesty a bit pointless. Here’s the fine print from the .co.uk site in full:

Eligibility

To contribute to Community Features (for example, Customer Reviews, Customer Answers), you must have spent at least £40 on Amazon.co.uk using a valid payment card in the past 12 months. Promotional discounts don’t qualify towards the £40 minimum. You do not need to meet this requirement to post Customer Questions, create or modify Profile pages, Lists, or Registries, or to read content posted by other customers.

We’re all familiar with the mix of reviews on the site, from the one star one, one word review, or the one blaming the supplier. The badly written rant that just attacks the author or makes clear to the reader they haven’t read or understood the book; and then at the other end of the scale the blatantly biased and/or overly gushing writes ups.  Rare is the well written, thoughtful review, with which to base your buying on and now it will be as rare as a coelacanth in Slough bus station.
Continue reading “Paid Book Reviews on Amazon? Yes, If You do the Paying”

Cadent Displacement

Taken at the beach of Costa de Oro

Shaded within the trees, nature’s noises, a tranquil soundtrack
A moment’s reflection on a short time, relaxing in an idyllic locale
Sea lapping at the shore, rhythmically punctuates the stillness
Aimless thoughts – no rush – peace; and a cool fruit drink

High above the industrious city, a cacophony of blaring gradually filters up
Life, here thick in smog and noise, a seething mass of kinetic energy
The full force of being in all its verve, the ebb and flow of traffic and people
The purpose in mind means everything, focus, dry throat

 

Finally found the football stadium, hidden behind some tall residential buildings. Photo taken from Century Park Hotel, Manila

Tuning Out

After my last post based, based on a song I heard, which created some fanciful writing of my own, I decided to add some more musical pieces that make my mind whimsical. On a side note, I won’t be around from the 26th for a while, as I shall be getting married and catching up with my parents and best man Tom who are coming over for the occasion.  If I don’t get around to moderating and replying to your comments in the in the next week, that is the reason why.

Both these pieces I came across whilst playing the atmospheric flash game 6 Differences.

Who could say no to a bit of Sigur Ros!