Sunday, June 07, 2009

Still Looking Up

I loved Readerville. Unapologetically, no irony, no reserve of cool to draw on. When I first joined almost exactly six years ago I had friends who read copiously and passed books around, I was adventurous about picking things I'd never heard of off the library shelves, and I had piles of those beautiful little Common Reader catalogs dogeared and marked up with Sharpies. But finding a place where a bunch of smart, snarky people wanted to talk books and pretty much just roll around in them, that was like coming home.

I met a lot of excellent people there, many of them face to face -- really good friends who will be friends for life. I met the man I love and live with on Readerville. And while I suppose it's remotely possible our paths might have crossed otherwise, the chances of a girl from the Bronx and a boy from Texas meeting up randomly, no matter how much they both love reading and old movies and cooking with cast iron, would have been awfully slim otherwise. When I first started posting there I was working a deadly boring office manager job, and as I realized how comfortable I was immersed in a bookish world it also occurred to me that I could possibly scrape a living out of it (this being in the days when you could). And when I got laid off five years ago I decided it was now or never and took the plunge, found a cool job at entry-level wages, nearly starved, but never looked back. And when Karen offered me the gig blogging for Readerville, I thought about it for five minutes and then jumped in. As much work as it turned out to be, dutifully plowing through RSS feeds every night after dinner and through many a lunch hour, I loved it -- loved figuring out what the hell I was doing, working on the craft of it, and finding myself in the middle of a whole litblogging community I hadn't known about. A year ago I would have laughed my head off at the phrase "litblogging community." Now I'm trying to figure out what I need to do to keep the momentum going, because I like doing this.

I'm sure most people read my last blog post on Readerville Friday and rolled their eyes, thinking I was being awfully drama queeny. But I knew that Readerville was closing up shop and I meant it as a bit of an elegy, and also as a reminder -- to myself as much as anyone -- that there's always a next thing, so long as you keep looking up.

I'm posting it again here. Sorry if you've read it - indulge me, OK? It's the best goodbye I could muster to a place that meant a lot to me. Thanks, Karen, and everyone else there who made it feel like my favorite local watering hole -- overindulgence, bar fights, fixed pool games, generous pours, kisses, and all.
Anyone who's spent time in Readerville's Judging A Book thread knows that for the past few years one of the most common book cover tropes has been shoes -- big and little shoes, shoes next to feet, you name it. Shoes have become a standard Readerville snowclone, especially when talking about book design -- for a while there orange was the new shoes, and antique labels, and hand-drawn type.

Dan Chaon's You Remind Me of Me, back in 2005, was an early adapter. The first galley I got my hands on at this year's BEA was also his -- Await Your Reply, out in September from Ballantine. Looking at that expanse of clouds on the cover got me thinking, and then comparing galleys with fellow Book Expo visitors. So it's settled: This year, sky is the new shoes.

In the next six months alone we have Iain Banks' Transition, Kate Braestrup's Marriage, and Other Acts of Charity, Joshua Ferris' The Unnamed, Amanda C. Gable's The Confederate General Rides North, Lauren Grodstein's A Friend of the Family, Ha Jin's A Good Fall, Naseem Rakha's The Crying Tree, and Richard Russo's That Old Cape Magic. All of them feature low horizons or no horizons, with skies blue or gray, cloudy or clear. Some have birds, some have folks.

But the message maintains: Look up, not down! Publishing, the country, the entire world is unsure and in flux; things are changing, and not always as we wish they would. There is the temptation to stop in our tracks and look stubbornly down to see if in fact the earth isn't shifting under our feet. But we as readers know that books are microcosms of the world, whether in sympathy or as fantasy or fact, and their covers have advice to offer us all, right there out in front. Enough with the shoe-gazing, enough self-absorption. It's time to move past the personal to the universal, to expand our horizons outward, to see what these times want from us. Nearly 100 years ago E.M. Forster advised us to Only Connect, and it's time, again, to remember.

The world is changing. Look up, up and out.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kat says: Love you, queenie.

1:30 AM  
Blogger Debi said...

Just beautiful, honey.

6:56 AM  
Blogger Rooie said...

That was a beautiful blog entry.

Trying to look up, here.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Devon said...

I felt all weekend as though I was grieving the unexpected death of a close friend, but I was too embarrassed to try to explain it to anyone, fearing the eye rolling response you mention.

Readerville has been such an important part of my life for so long that I can't imagine being without it. That's where most of my book recs came from, and there are so many authors I would never have known about otherwise.

I told Kat that I feel as though I'm now in a homeless swarm of bees. :)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I know just how you feel.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Devon, keep in touch, OK? There's a button on the blog sidebar that should link to my email. I feel rather strongly that all is not lost so long as I can stay connected to you good people.

9:30 AM  
Blogger kbw said...

I was late in hearing about the end of Readerville (computer problems). I am so, so sad, can't get used to the idea. Glad to find your blog, Lisa. Didn't know your sweetie was from Texas. Where?

12:14 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

KBW, he lived in Hill Country when we met, but spent a chunk of time in Austin before that.

1:45 PM  
Blogger lynn said...

Readerville changed a lot of lives, profoundly. (And I don't mean just in the pocketbook - Kat's rec's alone are going to bankrupt me.)

Not to get all gooey and teary, because that's what so many of your posts do to me - but I will be eternally grateful that I got to know you.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Miss T said...

You said it. And said it very well.

9:34 PM  
Blogger Margarita said...

Beautiful post... I hope we can all look at the horizon and see a new ray of sun coming up. Sad about Readerville, though...

11:41 PM  
Blogger Mary Catherine said...

It's such a fine line, isn't it? Between inspire and stymie.

You confound me, Lisa with your eloquence.

5:17 AM  

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