This blog is intended to help me write more frequently, with luck more fluently. Most people who write, even those who write a lot, find it hard. At least, that’s my hunch (hope?). I certainly do. Which is a problem for an academic, especially one who spends a lot of time teaching writing. I’m always telling students that writing doesn’t come naturally or easily to people. It happens only as part of a lengthy (maybe interminable) process. So to write well you have to write a lot: start, revise, revisit, eliminate, stop, start again. As a young child, I never enjoyed writing much. I didn’t dislike it, I just didn’t think about it much one way or the other. I was always more of a reader. But when I was ten, I spent the summer with my family visiting our extended family in Switzerland and at my mother’s prompting I kept a travel diary. I wrote entries for every day of our visit, even when I got behind a few times. The first entries were short, only two or three laconic lines about weather. But soon they became more and more elaborate. When I returned to school in Canada that fall, Language Arts became my favourite class, especially when we got to write stories. So the title of this blog pays homage to the place of my first writerly successes, if I can put it that way.
I don’t intend for this blog to be particularly personal, at least for now. Instead I’ll be using it as a place to reflect on the things I’ve been reading, whether for work, pleasure, or both. (“Reader” is still my primary marker of identity.) But I also believe that one’s reading is intensely personal—aspirational, developmental, revelatory of one’s (desired and actual) selves—so readers will be seeing into one of the most meaningful parts of my life.
As to the style or form of these entries, well, that too is up for grabs. My plan for now is to aim to create small pieces of literary criticism that are (I hope) intelligent and sophisticated but not academic. The goal would be something like the work I’ve done for Open Letters Monthly except shorter, more provisional, less structured. Essayistic, maybe, but not actual essays. I don’t read much straightforward academic work, because I don’t like much of it. (I suspect this is true of many academics.) These things are mostly written only because they have to be—for (meaningful) professional rewards—rather than because they need to be. Not always true, of course, but judging the work I’ve reviewed over the past several years, mostly true. But there are other models beyond the academy for intelligent criticism, and in a small way I want this blog to be a way for me to help me figure out how I might contribute to that effort.
Finally, I’ve always been envious of the community that springs up around the lit blogs I like best. I’d be so pleased if something similar developed here. So please comment!