I still read and I still write


I have been reading.

I have been reading a lot.

I’ve read the full longlist from the 2019 Booker Prize, all thirteen titles, I’ve read Nicola Barker’s latest release, ‘I Am Sovereign’, and a number of her earlier titles, I’ve read Laszlo Krasznahorkai, Roberto Bolaño, film theory, books of literary criticism, a number of Ezra Pound’s Cantos and titles on the recently announced shortlist for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. I’ve read Fernando Pessoa, Samuel Beckett, Lydia Davis, James Kelman, Daniel Defoe, Julio Cortázar and Robert Musil. I’ve read poems in journals, books by π.o., Dorothee Elmiger, Richard James Allen, Zenobia Frost.

I have also been writing.

I’ve written criticism, poems, short stories, non-fiction, experimental pieces that fit somewhere between poetry and prose. I’ve written lists, ideas in notebooks, I’ve collected quotes, I’ve scribbled ideas on dockets and receipts, transcribed interviews. I’ve written submissions to journals, emails to editors. I’ve sat with friends whilst we workshopped our pieces, frantically brainstorming ideas.

What I haven’t done is written about what I’ve read, not for this blog.

I toyed with the idea of a piece about the demise of the Booker Prize, the longlist had a few enjoyable titles, the shortlist contained a number of ordinary books, but the chair and the judges didn’t need outside prompting from myself to turn the prize into a joke, they opened themselves up for further ridicule by awarding joint winners, which is against the modified rules, and then a judge had the audacity to publicly state that one of those winners was for their “body of work”, not the book that was nominated. Books made the longlist and the shortlist without being publicly available – one of the joint winners wasn’t published until after the shortlist announcement. I didn’t need to write about the prize, it wrote itself, meanwhile the organisers raise their glasses of imported champagne and spruik increased publicity and sales.

I toyed with writing a post for each of the thirteen titles in the longlist, I tossed up whether a short piece for each would be worthwhile, I debated whether criticism of any title would only instigate hate responses. I didn’t need to write about these books, other people did so, you can find glowing reports of the shabbiest and formulaic of the titles.

I thought about writing about the developing themes in Nicola Barker’s work, starting with her debut ‘Reversed Forecast’. I wondered if anybody understood the Colonialism theme in her latest ‘I Am Sovereign’, a title that came and went without raising a murmur.

I thought a travel literature post could be in order, using Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s ‘Destruction and Sorrow Beneath the Heavens’ and Christoph Ransmayr’s ‘Atlas of an Anxious Man’, instead I wrote about my own travel.

I have several pieces of work that have been accepted for publication in journals and magazines in the coming months.

I now feel less is better.

I read and I write, I’m just not writing about what I read.

I may write something that I’ll publish here, I may interview another poet or a bunch of poets and publish the results here, I may not.

It is not the effort involved, it is not because I feel I am not adding to any meaningful debate, it is not because I’m seeing a worrying trend of people talking up the same titles, it is not because I’m disenchanted. I don’t know why; I just don’t feel the need to share anymore.

I still read.

I still write.

I just don’t write here.


9 thoughts on “I still read and I still write

  1. Good for you, Tony. I barely have time to read, let alone write about what I read. When I was in India recently, a poet friend of mine arranged for me to give a talk about book reviewing at a bookstore in Pune. I was even interviewed for the city newspaper. And yet I have only written three critical pieces for publication in the last two years! It was extraordinarily successful but I felt like a fraud. I write on my blog because I don’t have the time or energy to write for anyone else. I’m afraid there is a volunteer editing albatross hanging around my neck that may have to go in the new year…


    • Keep at it Joseph.
      Two favourite pieces I’ve written never get picked up. One I purposely blur the genders as the characters merge & form a relationship. The reader can’t tell who is speaking, or performing the action, I’ve been told it is unclear and obtuse – the editor has missed the point. I even referenced a Lydia Davis short story where the same happens – to no avail.
      Another was accepted by a guest editor but the main editor told me it needed a “twist”, it had a twist they just needed to pay attention to the periphery & (again) the genders.
      I simply soldier on, eventually another editor will get it.

      I hope to read more of your work & thanks for stopping by. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So many bloggers who were very active when I started out, have all but abandoned their blogs. Like you they run out of enthusiasm.
    I would have enjoyed your reaction to the Booker list. I didn’t read a single one from the longlist this year; none of them held any great appeal. I’m afraid the prize has really gone downhill and is now being terribly ‘woke’ instead of doing what they are supposed to be doing which is to celebrate the best in literature regardless of gender, nationality, colour etc ….
    As for seeing the same books reviewed – I blame book tours for some of this…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by.
      My stopping is not a lack of enthusiasm, it’s a combination of many things.
      I agree re the Booker, two of the shortlisted titles this year were poor, I presume they got there for reasons other than literary.
      Re book tours, I refuse to participate and I will not read any post that is part of a tour, to me it is advertising, so I don’t think that is to blame for the blanket coverage some books get. An example of a book that was covered everywhere is ‘Ducks, Newburyport’, Galley Beggar Press doing a great publicity job, ramping up coverage leading into the Booker, complaining when it didn’t win, cheering long and hard when it won the Goldsmith & the Twitter coverage was like a Trump 2020 campaign (and it still hasn’t died down). Why should I add my thoughts to that noise?
      On this year’s Booker there were some worthwhile titles so don’t just dismiss all because the award sucks.
      Thanks again for your thoughts.


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