Haven’t posted in almost a year and a half. I haven’t given up on blogging. Let’s say I needed a break and that this was a hiatus, like the professionals have. I’ve been thinking about getting back to this again. I do like writing, or the idea of writing, and lately I’ve had the urge to get back to it. Being notoriously undisciplined with this sort of thing, we will have to see how this actually turns out.
My IP guy is shuttering his business at the end of this year, so I will need to move this to some other platform. WordPress.com seems like the natural choice, blogger the more permanent—but then Google has unexpectedly shut things down before, so who really knows. Maybe I should go with something trendier, like SquareSpace.
In the mail today was my copy of Remainders of the Day: More Diaries from the Bookshop, Wigtown by Shaun Bythell. He’s a man about my age who has been running a used bookshop in small-town Scotland for more than 20 years. This is the third instalment in this series of books and I’ve been eagerly anticipating it. (I bought it from bookdepository.com, where I can get books on the UK release date, which is usually a couple of months earlier than the North American release date.) Each book is a year’s worth of diary entries, reflecting on the work, commenting on quirky and annoying customers and employees. Witty. Sarcastic. Quite enjoyable.
I realized that three out of the four books I’m actively reading right now are a sort of book version of social media. I’m reading the bookshop diary, which is a series of relatively short entries, which I can read in fits and starts. I’m also reading In Patagonia, Bruce Chatwin’s travel book from the 70s, which has short, episodic chapters; and Kurt Vonnegut: Letters, which is also a series of relatively short entries, being a collection of his letters. Bite-sized reading, like Twitter, or watching YouTube. It’s easy to read this way, but it doesn’t make deeper, longer reading—a skill many are losing—any easier.
I suspect I read these kinds of books as a kind of escapism, even though they are all non-fiction and reflect real life. I imagine what the lives and experiences of the narrators are like. World travellers fascinate me, though I’m not sure it would interest me as something to do unless I had all the time and money in the world to do it leisurely and comfortably. No long-term backpacking and hitchhiking for me. Writers also fascinate me, but so far Kurt Vonnegut’s life, at least according to his letters, is very ordinary, which is as it should be, I suppose. Of the three, used bookshop owner is the one that appeals most to me—especially if it’s a used bookshop somewhere in small-town UK, is a sleepy one like Shaun’s that also somehow pays the bills, and also involves writing bestselling diaries (best of both worlds!)
I’ve been on a bit of a book tear, recently. Somehow I ended up reading a list of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novels and several stood out to me. I’ve had good enjoyment luck with Pulitzer-winning books (exception: Empire Falls was underwhelming, but I didn’t read it because it won the prize, but because a “If you liked this book, you’ll like that book” website recommended it, based on my love of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. Turns out that’s not necessarily how things work.) Anyway, I wanted to find some new novels to read and the list of winners seemed as good a place as any to start.
I made a list of books I’m interested in and added them to my birthday wishlist. Then I also came across a “Best Travel Books” list on Goodreads. Wanting to expand my travel reading out from Bill Bryson and John Krakauer, I added more to the list. Then I remembered I wanted to clear out my bookshelves a bit, which I did, and traded for solid credit at George Strange’s Bookmart, as used bookstore in Brandon, the nearby city. There I found quite a few gems—novels, travelogues, some of which were on my list, and an account of some 17th or 18th century disaster at sea. Somewhere in there, after seeing Beyond Van Gogh: the Immersive Experience and being quite moved by the whole thing, including his written words, I acquired a copy of Van Gogh’s letters.
And now I’m set for reading for a while. Because I wasn’t before, right?