The OF Blog: August 2015

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Belatedly, The OF Blog Turns 11

Tuesday marked the eleventh anniversary of this blog, but as was par for the course this year, I was a bit too busy (jogging 7.63 miles that night) to celebrate it until now.  But really, there are things to celebrate even now, even though I haven't yet finished a book since my birthday over six weeks ago (that will change this weekend).

A year ago, I had suffered a back injury at work that left me unable to work for nearly six weeks.  I was on a lot of muscle relaxers and other steroid-based medications and my weight ballooned.  I took a picture that night, August 25, 2014, and I looked miserable.  I recall writing a rather pessimistic 10th anniversary post here that day and while I retain some of those sentiments, it is rather amazing that I am still writing, albeit sporadically until now.

I am now able to do stretches that I haven't done since my early 20s.  Balancing on one leg while doing alternating toe touches, followed by a jump scissor kick makes me feel young again (not that 41 is old, mind you).  Spending more time outdoors, even if much of it is on a local track, has also revitalized me in a way that reading alone cannot.  It is interesting to see the changes in my mood doing things that I used to do before I began reading so much.  Although reading is a pleasure, some pleasures can have deleterious effects on the mind and body and I think my re-found dedication to balance between mind and body, between activity and reading, has helped me not just get limber again, but to enjoy those moments even more when I do sit down and read some.

As for this blog, I said earlier this month that I would be "making it new again" and I think that'll mean more, miscellaneous essays, maybe along the lines of a Montaigne, in addition to occasional reviews.  Taking a break from most social media has led me to become more of an observer than an active participant and perhaps there'll be some "heresies" to espouse on occasion.

There is also a professional accomplishment that I'll discuss in the near future, when things are finalized, but it is something I'm excited to discuss when things are complete.

Finally, autumn is coming.  The Serbian literary squirrels are scurrying back to their reading dreys.  You have been warned.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Some more brief thoughts on the 2015 Hugo Awards


No, I have more to say than I did a few months ago when the finalists were announced.  I haven't really had much to say on those awards (or pretty much, any awards longlist or shortlist these past few months) because I have spent much of the year not reading.  It is interesting how one's perspective on things can change when removed from the immediacy of almost any situation.  I didn't care much for the way the shortlists were decided, but I just didn't have much of any real interest because there were some non-slate nominees (at least the initial list before an author withdrew from Best Novel consideration) that I thought were also mediocre to poor works.  

Since much of my Twitter feed is comprised of SF/F fans and authors (although I have several squirrel and sports feeds I follow there as well), I quickly grew bored with the same sentiments being reiterated over and over again.  Had nothing really to say; I have never really put much stock into the Hugo Awards because their finalists/winners rarely overlap with what I considered to be recent years' best fictions.  So I decided to wait until around the time the awards were announced (here's a link that shows the votes/nominations) before I would say anything really about this year's slate/winners.

I am very pleased to see that Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem won Best Novel.  Before it was added to the shortlist after Marko Kloos withdrew his novel from consideration, I thought every single one of the Best Novel nominees were not worthy of award consideration.  Needless to say, when it was added, I thought it was by far the best of the bunch and a deserving winner.  

As for the other categories and No Award winning over all of the slate nominees, nothing much to say other than people exercised their voting rights and that (like the slates did in nominating them) was that.  Nothing controversial about it in terms of procedures being followed, but I suppose there'll be months of factional arguments over next year's nomination/voting process and then maybe, eventually (right?) this will die down into the usual internecine sniping about age, group voting identities, and all the picayune things that can make SF fandom so tedious for outsiders.

But then again, I'm probably not the person to turn to these days for scintillating coverage of SF fandom awards.  I was too busy either getting in a late night 5.5 mile walk/jog or watching a replay of NXT Takeover:  Brooklyn (by the way, the Women's Championship Match was one of the best matches I've seen this year) to pay any attention to Twitter until hours after the winners were announced.  Priorities and all.  With that being said, time to rest, as I have another 10 miles I'd like to walk/jog before work Monday. 

Monday, August 03, 2015

Renovatio blogis

I said four months ago (using April Fool's Day as a cover) that I was contemplating shuttering this blog after nearly eleven years.  There were many reasons why I had reduced my blogging frequency (and by extension, my overall online profile) since mid-January:  focusing on weight loss/fitness improvement; burnout on reading much after a decade of reading on average 400 books a year; general ennui with the circular nature of tangentially book-related discussions; increasing discomfort with the sorts of "conversations" I was seeing on social media; etc.  I didn't really go into detail then and I'm not going to now, but being the sort of person who prefers thesis-antithesis=synthesis in the realm of ideas to rehashing ad hominem attacks or feeling pressured to give "hot takes" on ephemeral social controversies du jour, it was easier to just bow out than to continue to be inundated with repetitive crap.  I'm also much more of an extravert than many, so it was easier to find stimulating conversation at work and elsewhere than it was online, so naturally I gravitated back to things that gave me much more pleasure and less irritation and aggravation.

But there is something in the art of communicating one's assessment of ideas and people via a written, electronic medium such as a blog that continues to have some appeal to me.  Oh, it's not about the number of "hits" I draw for certain pieces or about who is talking about what I said as much as it is about expressing something that might aid another in his/her search for greater understanding on a topic (especially if it's one as august as squirrel adulation).  It is interesting to see which posts draw a steady stream of visits, month after month.  One such example was a March 2014 entry where I posted my 1994 university course-assigned translation of the final 100 lines or so of Book I of Vergil's Æneid.  As of this writing, it has been viewed 768 times, more than almost all of the 2014 releases that I reviewed that year.

It is not an anomaly; more often than not, the "classics" and older literature have stronger, longer "tails" than recent fiction when it comes to views here.  My William Faulkner and Zora Neale Hurston reviews (which were first posted at Gogol's Overcoat and which receive even greater views there than here) average in the high hundreds or low thousands for page views.  Doubtless a good portion of this traffic involves high school and college students seeking something they could utilize (plagiarize?) in a report/paper, but I suspect there is something more to it than just that.  I know that from time to time I search for others' opinions on works that I'm reading and it is so difficult at times to find something that isn't linked to Amazon or Goodreads, but instead is more of a "proper" length review of the work in question.

Realizing that some, even if they rarely (if ever) comment here, see value in what I write about older literature (or even the snippets that I translate into an English-language first draft) makes it easier to continue writing in spite of the above-mentioned irritants, which likely will never completely fade away.  So while I probably won't be writing more than a handful of times a month for a while still (my desktop's motherboard failed last week and my Macbook at six years is ancient; blogging via my iPhone is out of the question), I believe that when I do resume writing on a more regular basis that there might be a renewal of spirit to be found.  After all, I'm the critic whose opinion is the only one worth considering here, so the new content will reflect my interests more so than anyone else's.  So there might be some language-related material mixed in with discussion of which Library of America editions I've bought lately, topped off with occasional scandalous squirrel pornography.

Now excuse me while I try to decide which books I'm going to keep and which 150-200 I'm going to sell/trade this month.  Maybe I should post photos of those?
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