Welcome again to my little wholly independent corner of the writing, and therefore reading, world.
On this really sunny day here in Ireland, I re-read this illuminating interview with the amazing Margaret Randall and was compelled to share it with friends, readers, fellow writers, website visitors and (later) students.
In my view, the print books business here in Ireland often short-changes many of it’s customers or ‘real life readers‘ by really pushing and promoting that whole ’emerging’ and ‘up and coming’ writers paradigm, it feels like it may often be more about securing and promoting contracted (owned) talent than actually curating careers or offering genuine diversity to a reading public.
Current commercial strategies also sell these fixed agendas within an industry of cultural gatekeepers to the aspirants facing the very barriers to entry that industry erected. As I write here often, (or did for 20 years before the site got spammed out of existence) the book publishing and distribution industry is simply not ‘the writing life’ it is only (with a few rare and valuable exceptions) about commerce, money, and profit.
I don’t want to offer spoilers here to Margaret’s interview so the links here should be enough for now, suffice to say I will be including some of Margaret’s work in my up and coming playshop sessions and I will be asking participants to read this interview as part of our discussions around memoir and technology, and the contemporary writer’s online life.
Stuffafizing should be up and running soon.. thanks to those who have already signed up.
I created the hashtag and neologism ‘#blibloading’. There was no word to describe the act of downloading other people’s pictures of their books, allowing for checking them out and deciding whether any of them are must reads.
Perhaps only writers or true bibliophiles will understand that urge, (or sentence) and ‘my word’ blibloading could itself not be invented before 1996 prior to the www. Yes the phenomena of @bookshelfporn obviously exists but that’s a lot more impersonal and concerns a lusty aesthetics for book filled shelves, rather than a singularly gawking online snapshot into other people’s photographed reading or book buying habits.
‘My word’ was always a gentle expression of surprise I associated with English upper and middle class friends.
Not that I actually have any.
The word on the interwebs was that it promised improvements in information and communication democratization, long and longer tails of niche pursuits and some heretofore sharing of interests, however obscure, as not merely possible but crucial for ‘a web based newer form of communication’.
The early friendlier net already did remediated letters, scrolls, epistles, notes, memos, etc, in various electronic formats via listservs, bulletin boards, etc, but social media platforms of today better facilitate speedy synchronous exchange either night or day, or yes, even at dawn for that matter.. but only if we embrace such new purposes and altered uses.
Yes questions arise; If you can’t judge a book by its cover could you judge it by a social media account or a couple of its tweets ? Traditional or mainstream interests have swamped social media such that much of its true human value potential appears lost in impure pursuits of profit and profile. I mostly use social media to connect with writers and coders, artists, etc whom I want to learn from or more about. After an initial flourish I culled my FB connections down from 4K to 1K or so, I’ve kept my linkedin at around 1.5K but as @cleverelt I follow almost 4K people on twitter and will probably continue to follow more as I encounter them. I don’t use any of my social media as marketing tools as I to date have had nothing to market… or promote….
Others certainly do, and like Laurence O’Bryan (@LPOBryan – @SeeNewBooks ) appear to be making a fantastic job of it. However some wonderfully talented writers have come relatively late to these social media parties and as a consequence have had to sit back with small follower numbers while watching other strategy savvy social media makers stride center stage, brand in hand, selling books, raising their profile and the profiles of others, while others stuff schedules and scatter content, garnering and gathering large follower numbers proffering a valuable blend of virtue signalling and semi-soft sell. To them too I sincerely say ‘fair play’.
Work not promoted by the mainstream publishing houses and their controlled promotional arms may not reach these long tailed parts a friendly personal social media can. Irrespective of their various accounts, money, media, people, and brand guises, most of my own book purchases come from recommendations from fellow writers and friends across social media, those with whom I am (& feel) connected.
I am not sure that it’s still there, but there was a notice backstage in the lyric theatre Belfast that spoke to me about relationships between writers, artists, actors, creators, performers and their supporters and friends:
I recently followed the writer @andrewhankinson over on twitter and bought two of his books which are next up in my reading pile (see the image below). As you do, I flicked through the newly purchased books, basically because Bibliosmia always beats unboxing . Unlike flicking through older shelved books which may hold earlier secretly stashed cash from another era (We wish).
In some senses blibloading is Twitter meeting Tsundoku I suppose, but serendipity and synchronicity are wonderful aspects of modern creative life. For someone like me who has spent much time and energy with technology and creativity mostly framed formally, theoretically, academically, or seen through some sort of pristine professional practice lens, in a pandemic world, honest human connection and the hairy edges of existence blend better into authenticity when the elements of luck or chance intrude.
I have been working on a couple of commissions lately and I am looking forward to writing about those and other activities. Like so many others I lost someone close to me during the Covid 19 pandemic, and normal service has simply not been resumed, I doubt it ever will. I want to write something about the incredible connections between two of the books above in the respective images of six covers and the seven in a pile, I will do that if I ever get the time to.
Finally do feel free to comment, I get lots of comments, mostly Spam, which now has it’s own uses for me, but I do enjoy genuine comments.
I’d like to thank those of you who have kindly already signed up to my (ir)regular newsletter that’s about all sorts of stuff…. It is something that I am finally getting around to working on alongside all the other abnormal creative stuff, I’ve called the newsletter:
The raised concentration of trees in the distance above the river at the centre of the twilight image is Castletown motte, or Cúchulainn‘s castle. In simpler times it was part of our teenage playground, and where my friends and I first encountered the material reality of Irish mythology taught at school. My photo also shows the reflection of the planet Venus in my local river from a point on ‘the big bridge’.
Modern industries have created their own myths to serve their purpose of profit and shareholder value. We as a society daily participate, spread, and reinforce such market driven myths; the myth of efficiency, the myth of merit, the myth of equality. Societies solely driven by economics and market forces visibly stratify various groupings, Shakespearean Plebeians below their Patricians or an Aristocracy above born into a right to rule. As above, not so below. Today’s billionaire class are both figuratively and literally out of sight.
There is evident entitlement that accompanies being in a more economically advantageous ‘position’. Whether the offspring of a surgeon or clock-maker or child of an unmarried mother, one of the greatest myths to persist in Ireland today is the possibility and desirability of social mobility, the idea that we are born into one economic level in our society but can and should ascend (further compete) in(to) higher social positions, enjoying consequent improved personal prosperity. Were it true, might it be worth wanting ?
The American Dream was built on such a concept, European fairy stories are crammed with it, believing in the proximity of attainable prosperity rungs keeps a globalized lid on the archetypal parochial Irish begrudger while also encouraging various arms of the Irish civil service to intermarry one another. We love the idea that such myths are really truths. There is justice and fairness and people in power will do the right thing, despite so much evidence to the contrary.
The benefits of Success are no longer about a shared myth but just another hard commercial commodity to be bought and sold, listed and exploited, aligned and structured, a fact that makes me quite sad.
A recent press release from my local football club aligns them with a british gambling company through shirt sponsorship, I had already reached 100 meaningless spam comments on this website a number of weeks ago, those two unconnected facts prompted me to write this post.
that old version of my website (12+ years of Drupal) was completely corrupted by a spammer, my then hosting provider explained to me, after I requested they please restore that deleted content, that they did not, in fact, provide any back-ups of the server which hosted my website(s)..
The truly ephemeral nature of life reflected in the bleak professional ineptitude of a bunch of ‘chancers’ calling themselves service providers.
and thus moving on to our new beginnings…. Thanks for visiting I really appreciate it..
this new version of my website will be updated with various types of creative content as days and weeks trundle on.. I also hope to excavate some of the more visited/popular legacy content if.. (BIG IF) I can find it.