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Armchair BEA Personal Introduction

My boss is off to BEA, but it’s just as fun enjoying Book Expo America on an armchair. I found this from The Boston Bibliophile.

Today is Day 1 of the week-long Armchair BEA, a community event for book bloggers not attending Book Expo America this week. Each day we will post on a different, pre-assigned topic, visit each others’ blogs and just generally share our enthusiasm for blogging about books. Today’s topic is Introductions; instead of pairing bloggers for interviews, we’ve got a set of questions to answer for ourselves and read about others.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?
My name is Matthew; I studied chemistry at undergraduate level, trained as a librarian and now work as an archivist at the main library at the University of California, Berkeley. I’ve been blogging for over six years–a self-indulgent project that has been slowly spinning out of control. The blog began as a record, a self conversation about thoughts and ideas on books I read. Over time the blog has become a connecting point for readers who share similar reading taste.

What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2012?
I’m currently reading three books: Remainder by Tom McCarthy, whose novel C was shortlisted for last year’s Independent Literary Award, of which I was one of the judges. Remainder was his first novel. The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont is a recent release that reminds me of A Separate Peace by John Knowles. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy won the National Book Award in 1961 and he’s an author I have always wanted to peruse. Three different novels and three different moods; they all shine in different ways. My favorite reads so far this year include Emily, Alone by Stewart O’Nan and The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks.

Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you.
When I first started blogging, friends had commented that I divulged too much personal information. Since then I had refrained from talking too much about myself, focusing instead on books. I have an acute fear of height. I have lived in San Francisco for over 25 years but I have never set my feet on the Golden Gate Bridge.

What is your favorite feature on your blog (i.e. author interviews, memes, something specific to your blog)?
Book reviews. They are what make the blog. Reading challenges, book acquisitions, and other bookish tidbits are all good but the focus of any book blog should be the reviews. They are the meat.

Where do you see your blog in five years?
I really don’t know. I never thought about the blog would still stand and have 200 subscribers. Like I said, it was a project I started to keep track of my readings. It gives me an outlet to say a few words about the books I read. Other than to commit myself in giving honest opinions about books, I really have no expectations on the blog. I never expect it to to be something super popular or extraordinary. That said, I do consider it an extraordinary feat since I’ve been doing it repeatedly for six years.

Which is your favorite post that you have written that you want everyone to read?
Again the book reviews. If you only look at one thing in the blog, I wish you read some of the book reviews. I cannot emphasize enough that book reviews are what make the blog. It’s all about the books.

If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why?
I have always fantasized meeting Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby. Not only that I want to be a dinner guest at his luxurious mansion, I also want to meet him and convince him that Daisy is not worth all his longing and love. Not for once do I doubt Gatsby’s love for Daisy, by any affection between them is only preserved by his lust for wealth and possession, for Daisy has a profound hook on his thoughts about wealth. Maybe Gatsby is bound for his tragic fate owing to his love for Daisy, but I always wished the ending of the novel would be not as tragic.

What literary location would you most like to visit? Why?
I would like to visit Darlington Hall if it existed. Ishiguro depicts the house from Stevens’ rather deluded point of view, and so the novel reveals that the aura Darlington Hall casts resides in the eyes of this servant. Ishiguro also appears to write directly against the position that the English country house inhabited in English literature and the rhetoric of national politics. There’s a mythology surrounding English country houses that extols them as magical places and their owners as wise custodians who tend the land, look after their tenants and servants, devote their lives to public service, fill their galleries with beautiful pictures and their libraries with rare books, and are unfailingly hospitable to friends and guests. Darlington Hall is among the one I most covet to visit—and stay.

What is your favorite part about the book blogging community? Is there anything that you would like to see change in the coming years?
My favorite part of the book blogging community is the people I’ve met. Some of these bloggers have become friends and resources for my book ideas. The possibilities of reading ideas just never exhaust. They have brought to my attention authors and books that I otherwise would not have picked up. As much as bloggers being the unique voices, I also feel that many bloggers are reading and reviewing the same books, usually the ARCs or the bestsellers. Instead of fostering an atmosphere of diversity in both subject matters and opinions, I see the same old titles being reviewed across the community as if bloggers are competing for the attention and who is being first. I think the community should be inclusive of any different genres. Over the years more of the YAs, the graphic novels, and literary fiction are represented. The LGBT literature is still, in my opinion, under-represented. I also would like to see blogs/blog entries devoted to forgotten and outmoded classics, so that not only the ones that are hot off the press get all the limelight. I personally don’t review any ARCs because I have the feeling that publishers want me to become some kind of mouthpiece of the book’s publicity. I don’t do any more book tour because I don’t want to feel obligatory. I want to see more bloggers devoted to independent interests–it’s okay, and in fact fabulous, to do your own thing. If classics and NYRB series are all you want to write about, then do it. Bloggers should never feel pressured to follow what everyone else is reading.

Have your reading tastes changed since you started blogging? How?
No, not at all. Tying to what I have said in the previous question, I don’t allow the interests of publishers and literary agents to dictate what I read. I read what I want to read and for years I have been reading the same genres: literary fiction, historical fiction, and high-brow literature. Bloggers, at least the ones whose taste and recommendations I count on, have added on to my reading experience. They have broadened my reading perspective but have not altered my taste.


8 Responses

  1. 🙂 Great post. ❤

  2. Well nice to meet you Matt! Hee hee. Well, you know that you and I share the fear of heights, but I have crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in a car (with my head between my knees, thank you very much). My daughter is reading A Separate Peace for her summer reading, and I think I will try to read it with her. I feel horrible that I didn’t fully appreciate Emily, Alone. I know that it is a problem with me, because everyone else loved it!

  3. Your book reviews are always among my favorites. I get so many book recommendations from your blog.

    Completely agree with you with the underrepresentation of LGBT literature and how certain books/genres are overly so.

    Great post!

  4. I am always excited to hear that someone is reading Walker Percy. My recommendation is to branch out; the Moviegoer is my least favorite of his novels.

  5. Ii secretly stalk your blog because we don’t seem to have the same tastes in books, but I admire your reviews and writing style, so I just wanted to pop in a say a little hi, and it was nice to more about you.

  6. I can’t believe that you haven’t been on the Golden Gate Bridge yet. It is high… but in a car it’s okay.

    I love the diversity of your blog reading. You like the same type of books that I do and it’s like that six degrees of separation thing because no matter what you are reading, I am reading something similar or by the same author (if not the same book). You mentioned Gatsby and I just read it. Review will post soon.

  7. I’m so glad I’ve found your blog, I have a feeling I’m going to find a lot of great books from your recommendations!

  8. I agree about Darlington Hall! I would definitely like to visit if it existed! and the house in Master and Margarita

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