Tuesday, 6 October 2015

In which I discover I am not a good book blogger

Two book bloggers I know (and you may know) have started a read-along called the 1924 Club. The idea is very simple: 1924 was a year particularly rich in good published books. Why not find them? Review them? Or search among your archives which ones you have reviewed? Then publish on your blog and send the collection to the founders of the club. Having collated the reviews,
 " we'll have a great overview of the year. It should be really fascinating, to get a wide and varied sense of what was going on in publishing throughout one year."

These are the words of one of the founders of said club.

I was enthusiastic. I roamed through my shelves, the shelves of the library of the house, my stacks, and found lots of material. Happy! I told the second founder of the Club that I would join. Happy to belong to a group. Happy!

And then, little by little, I discovered


I wonder a lot. I ask myself questions. I see issues where there are none. I broaden my interest from the book to a period or to a literary genre. I go across borders and look at what happens or does not happen in other countries. I probe and probe myself and others or gently try to push others to probe themselves about the book and the impact it may have upon them - I mean upon my life and upon theirs.

A good book blogger writes a review and a critique of a book - usually one book at a time and  gives an opinion upon THIS book. She or he does not go rambling upon possible links between this and that.

A good book blogger is focused upon his object. She or he may open the topic at the end of the review in order to stimulate the discussion but she or he does not roam genres, time and space, her or his soul and mind and the others. Very indiscreet, indeed.

I am not decent. I am not fair. I am not a book blogger.

Therefore what am I?

I have tried to make a selection of the books I found at home that were published in 1924. Some are in English, some are in their original language. Some have been translated in another language and I tried to choose the English translation when we had more than one.

Here they are:

Everybody knows Kafka and "The Castle"
And everybody knows Galsworthy and the Forsyte Saga
but what is the meaning of reading the first volume of the
second trilogy alone?

A French novel inspired from the "Princesse de Clèves"
a classic of the 17th century revisited by a young writer who died very young and wrote but novels

Everybody knows E.M. Forster

But does everybody know Ivo Andric?
Everybody knows Pablo Neruda and his poems

And everybody knows Winnie the Pooh

Who has read Paul Valéry who is one of the most important poets
of the last century?
Martin Heidegger may perhaps be less read

O Douglas is known by the  bloggers of this communal reading
What about André Breton
and the French "surréalisme"?
Though German, Thomas Mann may be read
and is known
As will be Arthur Schnitzler - I expect

Richmal Crompton will be more familiar to English readers
But what about the Austrian Robert Musil?
As will be
F.M. Mayor

I  have left several more books aside: Russian (Trotsky), Japanese, Arabic, Northern American (either from the US or from Canada), from Central Europe, even from Western Europe (Northern and Southern) and the UK and France - my two "first" languages". These books have all in common to have been published in 1924, and one may say, as Virginia Woolf did with 1910, that this was a year of changes or a great year for publishing. But is there another link between them? I don't think so.

And that's the rub for me.

Some are written by women and belong to gender studies; some come under the newer study of "under-valued and neglected writers" (mostly women), some go under the label of "middle"brow", others of children literature, others are poetry, some are political, other philosophy, others again full length novels and others parts of "sagas" - rather meaningless as stand alone - others are novellas or short story collections. 

All have a year in common but I find this fact more coincidental than anything. A longer period might have proven more interesting to see what was happening at the time. Otherwise, we find here the diversity of space and genres. 

It is a good idea to collect the example of one year of publishing but only "to get a wide and varied sense of what was going on in publishing throughout one year," as said the co-founder of the club. And only for a short segment of the publishing.

As such, they do not have a real interest for me and I am unable to make a good blog or a good review. I can dismantle a book to show its themes and its structure, and the psychology of its characters, if it is a novel. I am able to analyse the ideas of a philosopher or study the rhythm and images of a poet.

But I cannot forget that these books are keys (or doors) to worlds that go further and grow broader than one year of publishing. And these worlds are more important for moulding one's personality. For why do we read, even unconsciously, if not to learn and project ourselves as upstanding and upright human beings?