Still Looking Up
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.