I posted my first review here at Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau five years ago last week. A satisfying milestone, especially as more people visited last year than ever before. And surely not all of them are trying to plan a trip to Switzerland…
In preparing these comments, I looked back at last year’s anniversary post. Most of the things I said there remain true. Most of all I still wish I wrote more regularly. But I’m doing better about not beating myself up about it. And overall I’m feeling more optimistic about lit blogs in general. I know there was that recent piece about how book blogs are dead, and I know some smart bloggers wrote rebuttals. I’m grateful to my comrades for doing so, but I confess I didn’t read either the original take or the responses. Maybe some people think blogs are over, but that’s not the way it feels to me. There are still plenty of people out there, ploughing their various fields, and giving me all kinds of new things to think about and titles to hunt down. (I’ve said it before, but I swear to God the first thing I’m going to do this summer is add a blog roll.) Without exception, the people I’ve come to know through the online lit community have been smart, funny, warm, and generous. And best of all, they are real readers. Although I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few in person, most I know only in the spectral way of the internet. And yet I do feel I know them. At a time in my life when I don’t interact with many readers on a daily basis (which might surprise you, given that I’m an academic, but there you have it), I really cherish that community.
As for the coming year on the blog, I suspect it will be much like the last: a series of too occasional, too long meditations on stuff I’ve been reading. I plan to add a few things. For example, I’m writing monthly round-up posts. I’ve pledged to host a group reading of a long nineteenth-century Danish novel in May (please join!). And when the semester ends I will try, as I did last year, to write a few essayistic pieces.
Until I re-read the plans I made last year, I’d forgotten I suggested coordinating a celebration of Primo Levi’s centenary. (I’m puzzled that no one seems to be talking about this milestone.) Having committed to the Big Danish Novel in what is prime reading and writing time (just when the semester ends) I’m not sure when this going to happen, but I think it’s important to commemorate this wonderful writer, so I will devise some kind of plan, however modest. Let me know if you have suggestions. In fact, if you would like to help me (primarily by keeping me accountable) I would be ecstatic. Levi’s hardly forgotten, but his oeuvre is more varied than you might think. Plus, as a writer of witness, and as a person who found the worlds of science and literature mutually enlivening rather than entirely separate, he remains as relevant as ever.
And then there’s Uwe Johnson’s Anniversaries, which I have sadly neglected after such a strong start. I hope to get back to it. But I know the siren-song of another giant NYRB release will be calling my name come summer.
If I can get my act together, the long-suffering Keith and I will continue our slow tour through Zola’s Rougon-Macquart cycle. I’ve loved sharing Keith’s writing, as I have Nat’s. Reading Olivia Manning with Scott was typically satisfying. If you’re looking for a (very modest) platform for your bookish writing, let me know. I’d love to have more contributors here, either regularly or as a one-off.
Before I close, let me list a few highlights from the past year:
- My review of Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry has been surprisingly popular. I mean, it’s all relative, I’m still talking about small numbers, but it makes me wonder if I should write about more contemporary fiction. (Honestly, I probably won’t. I want tons of readers, but I’m not great at doing things to make that happen—starting with publishing regularly.)
- Some writers new to me: Brian Moore, Marlen Haushofer, Philip Marsden, Richard Lloyd Parry
- A little talk on My Life in Books
- A couple of pieces on Holocaust literature, which regular readers know is my passion. I was proud to share my talk on Holocaust diaries, and to compile a list of underappreciated Holocaust books (don’t miss the suggestions in the comments—they are excellent).
Heartfelt thanks to everyone who stopped by the site this year. Your interest and support mean so much.
Onwards! That book mountain isn’t going to climb itself.
This is all very nice, not to mention inspiring, Dorian! I’ve enjoyed reading what you post here, and more recently contributing in some measure myself to this (frankly wonderful) blog. Keep it up. And there’s still life in that slow tour of Zola, we may just need a little push to get going.
Thanks, Keith. Yes, like me finally putting the final touches on this half-finished Plassans post I’ve had in my drafts folder for months!
I’ve only recently found your blog and you’ve already given me a number of great books to read. Looking forward to the Big Danish Novel. Keep up the good work, cheers.
Thanks, Martin–so glad to hear it. Looking forward to having you on board for the Danish Read!
Congratulations on reaching this anniversary. Love those vintage alpine posters. Am tempted by that big Danish novel, but have several other whoppers lined up (including Anniversaries) so not sure I’ll be able to synchronise – but hope to read it at some point.
Thanks, Simon. Impossible to read even close to all the things we;d like to, isn’t it? Especially the long ones. I’ll be curious how you make on with Anniversaries.
I’m such a sucker for those posters. They made a ton of them and they’re pretty much all great!
Congratulations! And keep on climbing that book mountain (they don’t get any smaller, do they?)
As for Primo Levi – yes, yes, yes. I don’t know what I will do but he’s such an important writer to me that I feel I need to mark his cententary somehow. I have his massive complete works box set but there’s no way I’ll get through the whole thing. Maybe I’ll just dip in during the year – his poetry is calling to me quite strongly at the moment.
I’ve got that set too (I enjoy seeing his kind face look out at me from the spines). No way I’ll make it through all. But I’m thinking of devoting June to organizing discussions of some of his stuff. The poetry is a good idea. I will let you know what I decide; if you cook up an idea too, please let me know!
Yes, he does have the kindest eyes, doesn’t he? Not sure what I will do yet, but if it’s going to be June I will try to chip in!
That would be great!
Happy 5th! I too cherish the (un-dead) community of book bloggers and I’m so glad you joined it and stay part of it!
Thanks, Rohan. Wouldn’t have done it without your example.
I know I’ve said it before, but you and your blog have really helped me in the struggle to try to maintain some kind of balance in my life and to rediscover the joys of reading non-professionally. Not to mention that it has served as a gateway to that wonderful online reading community you mentioned. So, I really do appreciate what you are doing here.
I’m willing to commit to doing something Primo Levi-related if that would help with accountability. I’ve read most of his Holocaust-related material, and I have been thinking for some time now that I need to re-read The Periodic Table. I also have a number of his other books (The Monkey’s Wrench + 3 collections of stories) which I have not yet managed to explore. In short, I’d love to do something to commemorate Levi, and am open to whatever you may suggest.
Thank you, Nat! It’s so nice to think I’ve been able to help you re-discover reading. A great boon not just to you but also to all of us in the online book world.
And *very* pleased to hear you’re willing to help me with the Levi. I’ll send you a message soon with a possible course of action.
Oh right, the long Danish novel. Gotta get hold of that.
Thanks, Tom! I hope you do.
Congratulations, Dorian! Five years is a great achievement. I love what you do here, and hope to see more of the same in the future. There’s definitely a place for the monthly round-ups alongside the longer, in-depth pieces. Oh, and the occasional post on films too – your analysis of Jonathan Glazer’s Birth remains one of my favourite pieces.
Thanks, Jacqui. Maybe once my daughter is older I’ll have more time for film again. I did see Beale Street recently, and loved it.
In the meantime, looking forward to continuing our online book conversations.
Warm congratulations on five years, Dorian! And speaking of anniversaries, how did I miss that you’d already put up a post on Anniversaries? I’ll be heading over to comment on that soon.
Reading your blog and having the opportunity to co-blog with you on a few works has been terrific. And I can’t even begin to estimate how many great books I’ve discovered thanks to you. I think I may join you for the Lucky Per group read and will almost certainly join in with whatever you’re planning for the Primo Levi centennial. Thanks also for alerting me to Stalingrad; I did not know about the book and wonder how Grossman is going to approach the subject given the riveting treatment he gave it in Life and Fate. Anyway, those are some big books, so I’m strapping on my climbing gear.
Best wishes for the next five years of EM&J and beyond!
You need crampons for those babies, that’s for sure!
Very pleased you’re interested in Lucky Per and celebrating Levi. I will make a more formal plan soon.
I’m super curious about Stalingrad, too, especially since it comes *before* Life and Fate. Written much more in the Soviet style, I gather. At the very least, it was published, though I think there were a lot of variants. Definitely my most anticipated book of the year.
Here’s to many more years of enlivening book chat! To that end, I will go see what you’ve had to say about Anniversaries.
Congratulations, Dorian. Five years of blogging is great. And it’s also wonderful that you gain more views and followers.
Book blogs, like books, have been declared dead so many times. Possibly, that’s only click- bait. I haven’t read that post or article. When I started, professional critics tried to belittle book bloggers. Maybe jealousy? Becasue we can read and review whatever we like, unless we rely on free books sent by publishers.
Anyway, we’re not dead yet. I think we’re doing something that’s vital. I wish you many more, successful years of reading and blogging. Hopefully. I’ll be able to visit more again this year.