I have fallen out of the habit of regular blogging in the last little while. One of the odder features (to me) of my blog archive is that early on, I actually posted much more frequently, even though my life back then was much more hectic. I think in those days writing blog posts felt intellectually liberating–which it still does, but less urgently so, given the ways in which my life has changed. Time to myself is a less precious commodity now, too, so blogging feels less like an escape and more like another task (which is silly, of course, as it remains entirely voluntary). Then when I find myself in the doldrums, as I have recently, it is hard to muster up both the energy to post and enough faith in myself to believe I have something to say.
Still! Though I posted only four times in July, two of those posts were about really excellent books (Love and Summer and Hamnet), so that’s good, and another, about binge-reading P. D. James, pointed at one of the chores that was keeping me from reading or writing much else. My TLS feature on James was due in to my editor by August 6, so I was quite preoccupied and stressed out over the last couple of weeks as I wrestled all the notes and rough material I had generated into tight enough shape to send it off. 1400 words doesn’t seem like much when you’ve read thousands of pages! But I got it in on time–and though I have some revising to do based on my editor’s feedback, it’s not a lot, which is a big relief.
Things were a bit hectic and stressful around here for some family reasons too, so I have been struggling to concentrate on the more demanding books in my reading pile. I read Amy Jones’s Every Little Piece of Me but didn’t like it nearly as much as We’re All In This Together — its protagonists just didn’t appeal. (I think I was the wrong demographic for their stories.) Then I ordered a couple of recent crime novels I’d seen recommended (thanks, Dorian and Kay!) and happily they hit the spot. One was Ann Cleeve’s The Long Call. which was good–better than solid, though not gripping in the way the other, Susie Steiner’s Remain Silent, was. Steiner’s is the third in a series and usually I wouldn’t start at the end like that, but it was the only one available locally. It convinced me I should read the other two when the opportunity comes. Steiner’s was an especially interesting contrast to all the P. D. James I’ve been through lately: she writes briskly and colloquially, and her story was both timely and explicitly political. (The absence of timeliness in James is something my essay touches on.)
The other reading I’ve been doing is in the Broadview anthology I ordered for my first-year class, as it contains a lot of stories and poems I don’t know at all. I’m impressed at the range of styles and voices in the reader–and mine is the concise edition, too! I haven’t quite pinned down the specific readings for the course yet, but in this, as in my other fall class prep, I do feel I am making progress. I have spent such a lot of time thinking about online teaching this summer that I was starting to panic about not actually having built my course sites or created content for them. I hope that theoretical time will pay off, but in any case it is definitely time to stop thinking and start doing–and since the TLS piece went in, that’s what I’ve been focused on. It is daunting to feel September is so close, but at the same time I am looking forward to it for the same reasons I usually welcome the return to classes: activity, conversation, intellectual exercise, the stimulation of being busy in more concrete ways. Sure, it won’t be the same kind of activity or conversation, but I’ll take it.
Anyway, the main point of this post is to break the silence–here and in my head! I have another writing deadline coming up but it’s not as onerous (a shorter review, of Sarah Moss’s Summerwater, which I’ve read twice already). I’ve got My Antonia and Kathleen Rooney’s Cher Amie and Major Whittlesey at the top of my TBR, both of which look very tempting, and at the moment things are quiet on the home front, so I hope to be in a better space for reading and blogging.