A Decade of Novel Readings!

My very first post to Novel Readings went up 10 years ago today. It wasn’t much: a quick comment on Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. Rereading it today, I’m amused to see that careless applications of the label “Dickensian” was already a pet peeve, but I’m also interested to see that my appreciation for Dickens himself, as a self-conscious and effective artist, has increased since then.

As I’ve often remarked, starting a blog was not, at first, a very purposeful action for me. It turned out to be a life-changing one, though. I’ve written before about the ways blogging has opened up new opportunities for me, but today I find myself thinking more about the intrinsic value of Novel Readings itself. For me, blogging turned out to be an outlet, a distraction, a pleasure, a challenge, a learning experience, an intellectual adventure.  In some circles, Novel Readings is the work of mine that deserves the least credit. But in many ways I am more proud of my archive of blog posts than of any other writing I’ve done, precisely because the value of doing this lies all in the doing! I’ve never been under any obligation to blog, or had any extrinsic incentive to do it, or received any external reward (or, god knows, any professional advancement) for it. As a result, there’s an authenticity to this writing, a freedom, that means Novel Readings has allowed me to discover a lot about who I am as a reader, a writer, a critic, a scholar, and a teacher — which is to say that blogging has contributed a lot to my understanding of myself as a person. A lot has changed for me, both personally and professionally, since 2007, and some of that is indubitably because of the degree of reflection this blog has prompted, as well as of the habits, skills, and interests it has helped me cultivate.

At the same time, Novel Readings has never been primarily a personal exercise, a vehicle for self-exploration or self-expression. In fact, I’ve deliberately kept a lot of aspects of my private life off the blog! Though like all blogs Novel Readings ebbs and flows somewhat in its aims and accomplishments, overall I am as proud of the results of my blogging as I am pleased with the process of it, because I think I have actually (if, initially, accidentally) made something of substance here. Over the past decade I have produced a significant body of thoughtful, articulate commentary on books, on criticism, and on academic and pedagogical issues. I have done this in the face of a fair amount of skepticism — even some outright scorn — but also buoyed by some precious encouragement. In the end, though, what really mattered was my own commitment, and that came (as I expect it does for all bloggers) from my belief, born of experience, that it was something that, for me, was worth doing.

So, Happy Birthday, Novel Readings! And sincere thanks, as always, to those of you who help make this effort worthwhile by reading, commenting, and writing your own wonderful blogs.

8 thoughts on “A Decade of Novel Readings!

  1. Amateur Reader (Tom) January 18, 2017 / 4:36 pm

    So great. The “authenticity” you describe was clear to me from the first post of yours I read, whichever one that might have been.

    I think I have mentioned that I subscribe separately to your comments feed, so I read every comment to every post. There are not many book blogs where I would want to do that. The subsequent discussions are so often rewarding.


  2. Robert Minto January 18, 2017 / 6:45 pm

    Happy birthday Novel Readings — here’s to another decade of my favorite live-blogged intellectual autobiography!


  3. Matheus January 18, 2017 / 10:51 pm

    What a joyful thing is to read this! I hope to achieve this goal with my own blog. I discovered yours last year, reading your post about how to having and earning critical authority. Loved it! And then, reading other posts and having signed the newsletter, it became a wonderful thing to discover that behind those texts were a passionate and honest reader.

    (Sorry for my bad english; I’m brazilian and basically I strive to read poems – most of the time – and, of course, criticism. Writing, however, rarely only.)


  4. Dorian January 19, 2017 / 1:09 am

    Happy anniversary, Rohan! I agree with Tom, Robert & Matheus: your blog is a continual source of intellectual sustenance. To keep anything going for ten years is really an impressive feat. I wouldn’t have started blogging if it weren’t for your example. Thanks for being you! Here’s to ten more years of terrific reading.


  5. Mary Ronan Drew January 19, 2017 / 12:36 pm

    Congratulations on your decade. Your blog is one of the best.


  6. Colleen January 19, 2017 / 3:47 pm

    Hurrah! You’ve been a big inspiration for me.


  7. Stefanie January 19, 2017 / 6:07 pm

    Happy birthday and many happy returns! Well done and thanks always for your thoughtful bookishness!


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