Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

10 Years Blogging + Podcast

A screenshot from The Sims showing a birthday party

On 4th March my blog turned 10; it’s a milestone I’m still surprised by. I’m hoping to celebrate offline at some point, but for now here are the stats:

Posts: 1302
Reviews: 497
Most viewed post: The Ending of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening
Most viewed review: Joanna Cannon – The Trouble With Goats And Sheep
Books read, including re-reads: 602

I started this blog because I was starting to really enjoying posting reviews to my short-term ‘everything goes’ blog and because I’d started to read book blogs and thought defining my subject would be a good idea. It indeed turned out to be the case. I love blogging; I know I’ve fallen behind sometimes but my passion for writing about books continues and I am also very happy with how the podcast is doing. I had thought to start a podcast before I began hosting live events and I’m glad I got my you-know-what into gear and got it started. Books are awesome, the blogging community is awesome, and you readers are awesome.

Thank you all for being with me on this journey. Stay safe, and stay at home.


Today’s podcast is with Laura Pearson! Email and RSS subscribers: you’ll need to open this post in your browser to see the media player below.

Charlie and Laura Pearson (Missing Pieces; Nobody’s Wife; I Wanted You To Know) discuss the process of grieving for various members of a family, writing a book about cancer when you are working through the same, and changing stories almost entirely from their beginnings.

To see all the details including links to other apps, I’ve made a blog page here. You can also subscribe to the podcast via RSS.

 
February 2020 Reading Round Up

Reading in February was mostly in view of podcasts. I have a couple of carry-overs too. The fourth of March marked 10 years of this blog being online. I will celebrate it at a later date with stats and so on.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

Book cover Book cover Book cover Book cover Book cover

Fran Cooper: The Two Houses – A couple buy a holiday home that is in fact two houses, one house with the middle missing, and when they go to put them back together they start to unravel the mysteries therein. Fab.

Fran Cooper: These Dividing Walls – The various lives of those in an apartment building in Paris, set against the current day sociopolitical background. Excellent.

Laura Pearson: I Wanted You To Know – At 21, new mother Jess finds a lump in her breast and as she continues her hospital appointments she writes a series of letters to be given to her daughter. A heartbreaking book, very difficult to read, but important.

Laura Pearson: Missing Pieces – When Phoebe dies, aged three, the resulting grief has a massive impact on her four surviving family members. A very good book that looks at different modes of grieving and the way communication and support is paramount (and a re-read).

Laura Pearson: Nobody’s Wife – Emily and Michael are newly married and Jo has just met Jack, but Emily isn’t sure about Michael and the newly-introduced Jack is very much like the men she always fell for. An easier read compared to Pearson’s other books and very different in content, but also very good.

No favourite this month; all are great books.

I’m currently reading more for podcasts, though I’ve also got a 1700s classic on the go. No further plans than that at the moment.

What are you reading?

 
Podcast Episode 09: Fran Cooper

You’ll have to forgive me for a bit longer, readers. I’ve been unwell and still getting back into the swing of things. Conversations are a lot easier to be had than blog posts, so here is today’s podcast:

Charlie Place and Fran Cooper (These Dividing Walls, The Two Houses) discuss open mic nights, current and recent sociopolitical situations in Paris (and the world), the way we talk about women and motherhood, and the complexity of relationships.

The main page with the various links, is here. Transcript will be coming soon. Photo credit: Alex Mantei.

 
Interests, Time, Frustration, Balance + Podcast

On today’s podcast I’m joined by Andrew Blackman, author of On the Holloway Road and A Virtual Love. Andrew’s also a fellow book blogger. We discuss life on the road, following in Jack Kerouac’s footsteps, offline and online identity, climate change activism, and withholding – for very good reason – the endings your readers expect.

Email and RSS subscribers: you’ll need to open this post in your browser to see the media player below.

The main episode page, which includes the full episode details, the transcript, and a question index, is here. The podcast is also available on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and now Google Podcasts as well. (Those apps may take a few hours to receive the episode.) You can also subscribe via RSS.


A photograph of a conservatory on a summer's day

Something I struggle with, and I had a particularly difficult time of it Saturday evening which is why the concept came to mind, is the way that I feel like I’m not using my free time well if I’m not reading or doing a bookish thing. It may well be a me-only thing; it may be something where the activity that feels important changes based on the person at hand; it might be because I’m a recovering perfectionist; it’s probably because I’ve made books such a big part of my life, that it transcends ‘hobby’, much as it does others who’ve chosen to blog about them. It’s a self-created pressure.

If I’m only reading, however – in other words doing the exact thing I feel I should be doing – I then feel I need more variety in my life. When I’ve read a lot – say most or all of every evening for a week – and I’m not experiencing burnout, I often still have a need, almost, to watch a film or play a video game, and in turn doing those things will feel like I’m having a break.

Yep, it’s a self-created pressure of a recovering perfectionist… But I do know I’m not unique in feeling this sort of way.

It’s likely down to the question of attention span, again. Sometimes – most often when I feel this way – I wish life were more like it was before screens, of all kinds, came on the scene. I think of women gathered together in parlours and men in clubs, visiting cards and so on, and wonder how having less to chose from would have felt. My guess is it would have been less demanding, but without any experience, that’s looking with rose-tinted glasses. Less to choose from probably made what you could choose from feel less… wasteful. No Fear of Missing Out – or less of it. But then of course we know women didn’t have as many options and if we know anything, it’s that sewing all day when it wasn’t your thing got boring quickly.

There’s no conclusion here; I’m still sorting out the best way to feel less unproductive and then less wasteful for differing reasons. Certainly it’s easier to relax into hobbies when on holiday, particularly when Internet signals are weaker. An idea of a schedule works – compartmentalising my days – but it’s something that needs more work and inevitably there are times I cheat a bit.

Do you ever feel like this? How do you deal with it?

 
In Which Jane Austen Reviews A Book And Makes Me Laugh

The engraving of Jane Austen

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m currently doing some research for a post, about Jane Austen. It’s taking a lot longer than I’d thought it would so I’ll share a brief part of what I’ve noted and add to it.

On Sunday 25th November 1798, Jane wrote from Steventon to her sister Cassandra about a variety of things that were happening. Her letters to Cassandra are often lengthy, and at present I have a hunch (from the bit of research completed so far) that she is more open about her opinions of books to her sister than to anyone else; this is to be expected – as we know, they were very close.

On this day, Jane included a fair paragraph of fun background context and opinion of a book that had been published earlier that year; I’ve not been able to trace the month, but it was Arthur Fitz-Albini by Samuel Egerton Brydges, a novelist/bibliographer. Here is Jane’s opinion:

“We have got ‘Fitz-Albini’; my father has bought it against my private wishes, for it does not satisfy my feelings that we should purchase the only one of Egerton’s works of which his family are ashamed. That these scruples, however, do not at all interfere with my reading of it, you will easily believe. We have neither of us yet finished the first volume. My father is disappointed – I am not, for I expected nothing better. Never did any book carry more internal evidence of its author. Every sentiment is completely Egerton’s. There is very little story, and what there is told in a strange, uncorrected way. There are many characters introduced, apparently merely to be delineated. We have not been able to recognise any of them hitherto, except Dr. and Mrs. Hey and Mr. Oxenden, who is not very tenderly treated.” (Jane Austen in Le Faye (ed.) (2011), pp. 22-23)

Had they been a thing, I think she may have given it one star.

I’ve made a cursory search for contemporary reviews of this long-forgotten book, but it’s been difficult to find any. What I did find was an obituary for Brydges, written by John Bowyer Nichols and published in The Gentleman’s Magazine, November 1837. I’ve redacted it down to the most poignant sections on the man himself as well as the novel because as you might expect, it’s Dickensian in length:

“The biography of this gifted and laborious litterateur, this imaginative poet, and in one sense we may accurately say, this imaginary character, can scarcely be treated in the sober detail of our ordinary narrative; yet, as our object in this place is always the relation of facts, we shall, in the first instance at least, state the circumstances of his birth and early life as we should do those of any other distinguished individual, premising that the particulars are derived from his own account …

The hopes and disappointments of his early years are disclosed in his Novel, called Arthur Fitz-Albini, in which he clothed a fictitious personage with his own sentiments and aspirations, and at the same time depicted with the utmost freedom the foibles not only of his neighbours and acquaintances, but even those of his own family and relations. In Arthur Fitz-Albini, “the few, whose penetration and freedom from envy enabled them to appreciate such a character, beheld the eloquence of the enlightened senator, with the independence of the country-gentleman, and the spirit and hospitality of the feudal chief, without his fierceness, his tyranny, or his uncultivated mind. Before such a man, all the paths of glory seemed to open, and the ascent to fame appeared to be covered with flowers.”

[…]

In these and many similar passages may be traced the adumbrations of Sir Egerton’s own character, and proofs that he was not unconscious of the defects which repelled the affections of his fellow-creatures, though unhappily destitute of that sober discretion and that Christian humility which would have proved the only efficient means to control or correct them (pp.534-539)

It’s likely that, with this obituary, and references to Brydges’ own forays into writing for the magazine, there is at least one review of the book out there, likely favourable.

Later notes about the book can be found in various biographies. A Biographical Dictionary of the Living Authors of Great Britain and Ireland (1816) notes on page 43:

“Sir S. E. B. has distinguished himself in almost every sort of polite literature, but more particularly as a critic of English poesy, in which character it is not too much to say that he stands unrivalled by any living author.”

Next, a rather lengthy biography, which is titled an autobiography, likely due to John Gibson Lockhart’s over-use of Brydges’ own words (an amount that would cause a superb number of cautions for anyone using another’s material today) was published in the Quarterly Review, no. 51, in 1834. It does cite positive points, but the majority leans towards the negative in a way that rather supports Austen’s own view:

“The other great grievance is Sir Egerton’s literary one. With respect to it, we cannot do better than re-quote an emphatic sentence from Mr. Sharp’s “Letters:” namely, “A want of harmony between the talents and the temperament is, wherever it is found, the fruitful source of faults and of sufferings. Perhaps few are less happy than those who are ambitious without industry who pant for the prize, but will not run the race.” Sir Egerton has all his days been busy without industry — perpetually panting for the prize, but never sufficiently persevering to make out one real heat.”

Over all, biographies and other writings published later than the book was published speak moderately to highly of Egerton, who was an MP who it seems tried to style himself as the then-head of a baronetcy he was not entitled to. Nevertheless, whatever the objective truth to the novel may be (I must say I don’t plan to read it) Austen’s effective review is definitely, if snarky, the most entertaining there is. Unfortunately, perhaps, for Brydges, it’s also likely the one that will last the longest when it comes to literary studies.

References

Books

A Biographical Dictionary of the Living Authors of Great Britain and Ireland (1816) Henry Colburn, London
Courtier, Peter L (1806) The Lyre Of Love: Volume 2, John Sharpe, London
Le Faye, Deirdre (ed.) (2011) Jane Austen’s Letters, 4th edition, Oxford University Press

Articles

Gibson Lockhart, John (1834) Autobiography of Sir Egerton Brydges, Quarterly Review, no. 51, pp.342-365
Nichols, John Bowyer (1837) Obituary: Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges, The Gentleman’s Magazine, New Series, Vol 2, pp.534-539

 

Older Entries