Sunday, 20 January 2008

Reviewing How I Review

This wonderful picture came from - go and have a look!
Lynne has been sharing the secrets of her success, as it were, talking about how she reads and reviews - and, along with a few other things, it's got me thinking.

The first time I was offered a review book I was beyond excited - thank you very much lovely Ellie at Hesperus Press, and if you ever want to send some more..! - and I still get a little joyous at the sight of a review request in my inbox. I'm not inundated with them, so every one is still a nice surprise, and I have only turned down one so far, because it was an area of non-fiction which I didn't feel qualified or interested enough in to read.

That's the thing, you see - unlike Lynne, I haven't got to the point where reading every book sent, cover-to-cover would be impossible, and so I can maintain my strict reading of everything that is sent. Perhaps it is the dizzy naivety of a 22 year old who believe that an eternity of reading lies ahead of him, or something like that, but I can't start a book and leave it unfinished. Yes, yes, I know that liberation of putting aside reads which don't satisfy, and it is a trait I almost admire, but I feel I have made something of a contract with the author. Let's ignore Reception Theory for the moment (and forever, if that's ok) I just think to myself "Hmm, well, if I'd spent months writing this book, the least I'd expect would be for the reader to spend a few days on it." Which isn't espeically rational, but is fixed in my head nonetheless.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a chore to read the books I'm sent - far from it. Some have become firm favourites. But I can't cope with many more!
I was recently asked to have my name put down as a blog reviewer in an article which would be circulated to vast numbers of writers, and, with regrets, I had to decline (well, first I excitedly accepted, but then my sensible hat came out of the wardrobe and was dusted thoroughly). I never thought I'd turn down piles of free books, but I'd feel obliged to read them - and I don't have the time to read many more than I do, especially with a potential Masters looming. I'll still accept everything sent to me, trust me, I just won't court attention for hundreds... and writers can be content in the knowledge that I will read nigh on everything sent to me, though sometimes it may take a while...

My other issue - almost everything I'm sent has been written in the last year or two, unsurprisingly. And I want variety! Hence the picture - I'm embroiled in some wonderful re-reads... However wonderful a novel is, a modern writer can't write it in 1840. So what I'd really love is more reprint publishers to send me things... can anyone recommend a reprint publisher who might be pleased with some publicity? Or perhaps I should get back in touch with my first firm friends, Hesperus Press...


  1. Hi Simon,
    Don't you just love that print? I could find no attribution for it.

    I found it interesting, some might call it a harmonic convergence, that when I received you comment, checked out your blog, I saw that you are a librarian at Oxford, I had just, and I mean JUST, finished reading the first book in a trilogy set at Oxford University. I wrote a short entry about the book at Seasonal Soundings. You might be interested in reading them, if you've not already.

  2. I essentially agree with all you say here! and I too had some lovely books from Hesperus, which also seem to have dried up! Perhaps they will see your blog and take mercy.


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