Having reviewed movies and DVDs for the past 13 years, and starting up again recently, I've wondered at times why I don't review books on this blog. I subscribe to many book review blogs to read what others think about certain books and to learn about books I've never heard of, so wouldn't it just be a natural extension?
A movie lasts for a certain length of time. After 85 minutes, 95 minutes, 105 minutes or more, the movie's over and then I'm left to work out in writing what I think, what I liked, what I didn't like, and how I want to express that. Once I'm done with it, I move on. Obviously a book takes more time, and I've written book reviews before, in 2006, for a weekly Southern California publication called Valley Scene Magazine. It's not a well-run publication, rife with spelling errors, and more concerned about exposure in the market rather than carefully creating something worth reading, and it's still that way, but there, I found the opportunity to try it, to do something different from what I was used to.
I reviewed Feet on the Street: Rambles Around New Orleans by Roy Blount, Dewey and Elvis by Louis Cantor, Like Wind, Like Wave: Fables from the Land of the Repressed by Stefano Bolognini, More Than They Could Chew by Rob Roberge, The Average American by Kevin O'Keefe, The Encyclopedia of Underground Movies by Phil Hall (long before I became his co-author of What If They Lived?, and he's still as much an acquaintance now as he was before, since he lives in Connecticut and I live here on the west coast), It's Good to Be the King: The Seriously Funny Life of Mel Brooks by James Robert Parish, The Girl Who Walked Home: Bette Davis - A Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler, and The One That Got Away by Lee Robert Schreiber, and Bollywood Confidential by Sonia Singh. I still have the reviews saved as Word files, but I don't remember why I reviewed some of these books, and I'm sure those at Valley Scene Magazine don't remember me, despite still sending me press releases and other things as part of its mailing list, the editor asking me and the other writers on that mailing list if we want to cover anything offered. I never do because I don't drive freeways and $50 paid for 3,200 words is insultingly paltry. However, I wrote those book reviews for free (I'm sure they still don't pay anything for book reviews), because I wanted to try it out, to see if maybe I wanted to write book reviews more prolifically one day. But now that I only write DVD reviews for fun, I don't see myself writing book reviews, not even for my blog. I know I've done it before for books I really really love, but that's only because I knew I wanted to push those books at you and jump up and down and shout about them and hope that would get you to look them up on Amazon and possibly read them.
Jonathan Yardley at The Washington Post, as with so many other book critics, gets a pile of books for review every single week, and I wouldn't be surprised if they number in the hundreds. From that, he has to weed them out, figure out what he wants to review based on what he's always reviewed, and then get to reading, and then write his reviews and repeat the process. It sounds like a wonderland to me, but probably because I don't do it. Books are like my hands, my heart, my feet, everything that keeps me operating every day. I can't live without them. I don't think I'd burn out from such an arrangement, but being that our future apartment (or whatever it might be, since we're still working out where we want to live in either Henderson or Las Vegas, as it stands now) will also have finite space, I would rather have my local libraries keep what I want to read and I'll just go there and choose what I want. That arrangement worked well in Florida, and here, before the City of Santa Clarita cut the libraries off from the County of Los Angeles system to create their own, and it'll work equally well there. I don't feel like I need to read every new book that comes out. I'll get to them when I feel like them, and some I won't even know about. I like to read those books after the hype has passed, if there is any hype.
I can review DVDs because I've done it for so long that I know what I want to talk about, what I want to pick at, such as with a recently-posted DVD review that I'll link to in the entry following this one. I hated the DVD packaging of this release, though I became slightly milder toward it after I played with it a little while longer, but still cautioned fans of this particular show to store the DVDs safely somewhere else.
Books are my private universe. I have an account on Goodreads, I rate books there, but that's all I do. I want my experience to be just me and the book. To write what I thought about a book takes time away from other books. Right now, I'm finishing Loud and Clear by Anna Quindlen, another collection of her essays, in anticipation of reading her memoir, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, which will likely arrive tomorrow in the mail, courtesy of Amazon, which is always courteous when I give them my money. (There's only one Barnes & Noble in this entire valley. Nothing else. After I become a resident of Southern Nevada, I will explore.) After that, I'm thinking of starting either In Nevada: The Land, The People, God, and Chance by David Thomson, David Hackett Souter: Traditional Republican on the Rehnquist Court by Tinsley E. Yarbrough, Annie Lennox: The Biography by Bryony Sutherland and Lucy Ellis, or Pasta: The Story of a Universal Food by Silvano Serventi & Francoise Sabban. I've been reading since I was 2, and eventually speed-reading not long after that. I reflect on books by way of my favorites, which I reread a few times a year (it's a mix as to what I reread each year), and my writing reflects my reading. That's enough for me.
Besides, I'm working on my own books. Those will also be a reflection of my reading. Because of those projects, I review books in my own way, studying style, punctuation usage, figuring out how I want to write my own. And they're also good for inspiration. Lots of it.