Like some of you, I’ve been struggling with my blogging style. I know my reviews are long, of course, and that as a result, people may only skim them. I’m painfully aware, in retrospect, that the posts sometimes digress or lack a tightness I much desire in others’ writing. As a copy editor and writer, this shames and disturbs me, and as I compose 350-word reviews for the Quill, I realize with chagrin how much my “real”-reviewing skills need honing. The last words I want anyone to use when describing my writing, no matter what I’m writing, are “over-dense” and “larded.” (See Jennifer Egan’s review of Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue. Ouch.)
This blog, though, is not the New York Times. The thing about personal blogs is they allow us unlimited, nonadjudicated space in which to also relate our experiences, reading or otherwise. This is, after all, why reading is so subjective, why judges pick books we may not agree on, why one reviewer raves about Telegraph Avenue and another considers it seriously flawed: because we bring to a book who we are.
As we noted in an impromptu (excellent, too-short) blogger meet-up session at yesterday’s BookCampTO, while we’ve been labelled amateur and irrelevant, non-professional blogger reviews are becoming increasingly popular and valuable, particularly among authors—so long as we write with substance and truth, I add—precisely because of our conversational, revelatory material (by revelatory, I mean of us as readers). Our reviews, whether positive or negative, aren’t cold treatises that, while they have their place, perhaps cause us to envision the reading experience as preparation for an exam. (Nor are they as lazy [hopefully!] as some newspaper reviews). We can be analytical, too, but in general, we bloggers are more like booksellers than critics when we engage with books. It’s important, this distinction between book blogger reviews and newspaper ones. Seeing it helps us find and become comfortable with our voice.
Being personal doesn’t necessarily mean long reviews, of course. Mine are long for other reasons first. But they’re even longer because instead of deleting what I’d like to share with you in the interest of revealing the person behind the blog, things that may not have direct bearing on the book being reviewed but may tell you why I responded to a book the way I did, I’ve decided, finally, that it’s okay not to trim the fat as much as I would have to on another platform. Layered with my exploration of a book’s intentions and merits and shortcomings, there’s going to be a little lard. I might relate a personal experience at the beginning or during a review. I might mention my day or how I feel. I’ll engage with the book, that’s certain, but I also want to engage with you. If that means being the “fat” girl, so be it.