Thursday, June 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Readerville

So I'm thinking about the word "posthumous." Not in reference to Readerville, heaven forbid, but in terms of being a reader. It's one of those words that I don't care how smart you are or how many times you've seen it in print, you will never in a million years pronounce it right until you hear someone else say it first. Or, if you were a certain kind of bookwormy kid who read a lot beyond your grade level, the first time you use it in conversation and are corrected, either gently or humiliatingly, doesn't matter. The point is that you can get far as a reader on your own, but there are times when nothing can replace an exchange.

Granted, a discussion online isn't going to teach you how to pronounce "posthumous" correctly. But a discussion online about words you've read all your life but never said out loud until the moment you realized you didn't know how to actually say them? It's just one of those small things that become points of solidarity in a community, that make you feel you're not just floating around untethered.

I don’t even know where to start. Usually I like to keep a bit of an impermeable membrane between my real life and my public one. I’m not a confessional blogger or forum poster – I do it more because I like the sound of my own voice than anything else. Just because I have this chattery need to express myself doesn’t mean that I like, or desire, life in a fishbowl. I aim for discretion in general, both as far as my own details go and especially when it comes to other people. True, I posted photos of my son as a little kid without running them by him first, but at least I didn’t include the one of him at age two, standing on the kitchen table naked, wrapped in lit Christmas lights, even though it’s possibly my favorite photo taken of him ever. I do have some self-restraint.

But it’s Readerville’s eighth birthday, and anniversaries of all kinds bring out a sentimental streak in me. Readerville is presently made up of two parts: an online forum for people who love books and reading, and an online journal organized along similar themes. You can find more details on the particulars here.

In the five years I’ve been hanging around the Readerville Forum, it’s influenced my life in ways both small and enormous, and the idea of sitting down and itemizing them is a bit intimidating. Aside from the basic stuff – finding a cool and often smart community of readers from all over, all the books I’d have never found on my own, and all the conversations both inspiring and maddening – I made friends for life there, met the man I love and live with, made a crazy midlife career change so I could work in publishing because I realized that’s where my heart was, became a more critical and conscientious reader, became a better writer, got published, and just… figured out how to embrace my own weird autodidacticism. And that’s just off the top of my head.

I don’t want to enumerate every friendship I’ve made there or what it means to me, or the unexpected ways people have propped me up and encouraged me, or my absolute stokedness about finding a career that I love and am good at, no matter how shittily it pays, or the really wonderful love story that I am – sorry, kids – not going to tell here. That’s all a little more personal than I want to get. What I do want, though, is to publicly thank Karen Templer for creating Readerville. All of us touch other people’s lives in ways we can’t possibly know, and I believe that taking the time to acknowledge that – the fan mail, the love letter – is a mitzvah, a good deed, a karma prop, no matter how ingenuous or effusive it comes out. Especially now, in this age of irony where perceived effortlessness is all, I think it’s an odd and beautiful thing to catch someone trying.

So thanks, Karen, for the cool playground. It has been appreciated in ways you probably never imagined.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Kaethe said...

Damn, woman, now you've got me wanting to see the two-year-old in Christmas tree light, and desiring the love story.

Maybe you could write a novel that incorporates both? With doodles.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Rooie said...

Lovely post, O.

1:37 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

That was beautiful, honey.

One of the best things I ever found at Readerville was you.

10:04 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Aww, thank you. Another wonderful thing about Readerville is that I will forever answer to the name "O".

I'll see if I can find that photo, Kaethe. It's in a shoebox in the attic somewhere.

2:46 PM  
Blogger PatD said...

>I don’t even know where to start. Usually I like to keep a bit of an impermeable membrane between my real life and my public one. I’m not a confessional blogger or forum poster – I do it more because I like the sound of my own voice than anything else. Just because I have this chattery need to express myself doesn’t mean that I like, or desire, life in a fishbowl. I aim for discretion in general, both as far as my own details go and especially when it comes to other people.

Too bad this is too long for a tag line, or I'd confiscate it for my first. I love the way you write, O.

2:18 PM  
Blogger Miss T said...

Lovely.

12:23 PM  

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