Blogroll Shoutout II: Day of Reckoning

I was thinking the other day that it had been a while since I had posted anything steering people to some of the blogs/bloggers I have met in this thing we apparently call “the blogosphere”—which sounds for all the world like some kind of alien technology—but when I actually looked up my last “blogroll shoutout” I found that, in fact, A) I have only done this once, and B) it was two and a half years ago, or ten oil changes ago, depending on how you reckon time.  Regardless, I said to myself that I really ought to doff my cap at a few folks who are posting things I think are worth your attention.  And then yesterday happened and I thought, “man, get this post written!”

By “yesterday happened”, I mean that Jillian at A Room of One’s Own—familiar to anybody here who’s been following my ongoing discussion with Jillian in the comments on Gone With the Wind posts—posted an incredibly kind and complimentary post about my blog and why it might be worth people checking it out.  This single-handedly produced the busiest day at Following Pulitzer in its three year history: plenty of new folks following the blog, leaving comments, leaping around to see reviews and posts from the pile of things I’ve made it through thus far.  So I was incredibly grateful—Jillian’s readership are a thoughtful and friendly crew, and anybody from there who decides to look in on me here is more than welcome!—and I thought I would steer folks Jillian’s way in return.  I have to say, if you haven’t hopped over to her blog already, you really ought to take the journey: Jillian’s posts are all really well-composed and reflective, and she engages with a lot of classic titles that I know appeal to folks who wander through here.  Just as an example, check out her recent review of Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: she digs into the books she reads, and I find her energy in praise of the books she loves really inspiring.  Her comments about why she reads, how she handles reading fatigue, what she loves about reading, etc., are all really sharp also, so even if you’re not looking for book reviews, there’s plenty of other conversation happening there.  Also, if you’ve been thinking of digging in and reading a few classic novels yourself, there’s an enormous group at her blog called “The Classics Club”, and it looks to me like a great place for chatting about books and getting tips on what to read next—if I didn’t already have my own Sisyphean task to complete, I’d be seriously gearing up to join the group and read a slew of books that I know people assume that I’ve read (and which I’m betting I’ll love once I finally do).

Some other recent visitors here have blogs that have caught my eye—I’m still just getting to know their work, but I’m liking what I’m finding out there.  I could list a number of blogs that I’ve bookmarked to return to, but here are two that I’ve seen enough of to know I’ll be back to.  Donna’s blog, Scrambled Books, is a great example of a book that’s a bit less list-bound than mine (or even Jillian’s)—she’s tackling a few Victorian classics this summer, but Donna’s interest in historical fiction (and more generally in reader’s advisory, based on her experience working in the public library) is a great reminder to me of the breadth of reading I want to maintain—I don’t want to read “all Pulitzers, all the time”, and I think Donna’s doing a great job balancing looks at classic titles with some more recent fare that’s definitely worth reading.  And one of yesterday’s arrivals, SilverSeason, is maintaining a blog called Silver Threads that takes on literature in a very different way: rather than posting reviews, she posts these remarkably detailed reflections on particular elements in a book she’s read (a reflection on the choices Jane Eyre makes, for example).  I’ve only looked around a little, but I think the approach she takes is very intriguing (and often really illuminating), so I commend her to your attention also.

Tenzin Gyatso (14th Dalai Lama) 2008, 2005 & 2...

Okay, Tenzin Gyatso would in fact probably have handled Margaret Wilson’s book with a lot more grace than I did. People tell me I’m a “happy kind of guy” but I’ve got nothing on this man. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lastly, although I have no personal connection with the blogger, I have to admit that I’ve started reading Dead White Guys: An Irreverent Guide to Classic Literature somewhat regularly.  Yes, the attitude at that blog is a good Kentucky mile away from the much more reserved and composed tone I generally strike here (okay, nobody haul out the Able McLaughlins review as counter-evidence: the Dalai Lama would have cursed like a sailor at that book).  Anyway, DWG’s blogger is doing something that I definitely appreciate: demystifying the classics a bit, and treating them like a gang of rough-housing old buddies.  Her blog takes in movie adaptations as well as books, and does some of the pondering of why/how/what to read that Jillian does—though with a much more crass vocabulary.  It’s not for everybody, but I’m finding it a nice addition to the other blogs I read, and I think there are a lot of genuine insights in there amidst the humor.

All right, that’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but I think each of these folks is doing work that’s worth your time, and hopefully from their blogs you can continue out into the world of book bloggers—as I’m discovering recently, there are a lot of us out here, and there’s a lot to gain from the conversations we can have.  If you find a great book blog out there, drop me a comment and let me know!

18 comments on “Blogroll Shoutout II: Day of Reckoning

  1. Jillian ♣ says:

    Aw, thanks so much for the kind words, James! I wasn’t expecting a return gesture, but it’s received with a smile. :) I know and love all of the blogs you’ve listed. Amanda’s Dead White Guys was one of the first I started reading when I joined “the blogosphere” (a real word!) a couple years ago. She’s hilarious and genuinely loves literature, I’d say. I appreciate her efforts to remind folks that books are just books and needn’t be spitted and polished. :) Silverseason is incredibly well-versed in literature. I mentioned I had watched the film Gandhi recently, and she linked me to a group of slides she’d put together telling the story of his life. Fascinating! And of course, she loves Louisa May Alcott, so we share that. :-) Donna is a new friend I met through the Classics Club. I enjoy her bookish thoughts and am still getting to know her. She’s a frequent visitor and very supportive of reading ventures.

    Anyway! Just to say thanks, and I’m glad I could send some folks your way! :D

    • jwrosenzweig says:

      You’re very welcome, Jillian—and I know no return gesture was expected! Like I said, I really had been meaning to post some links to blogs: your post just reminded me of my intentions. :-) I look forward to continuing to meet and chat with the extended network of the folk who know Jillian (to inaccurately paraphrase a character from Anne’s House of Dreams).

      And re: your happy face comment, don’t you think the smileys are a little too enthusiastic at WordPress? The :-) looks about as exuberant as I’d like the :-D to be, and the :-D looks like Dagwood Bumstead eating a sandwich. Where are the sly smiles which otherwise characterize so much of my Internet communication—the step above indifference but below gut-busting laughter? Have these people ever seen the Mona Lisa? Seriously.

      • Jillian ♣ says:

        Maniacal hilarity can cheer up any dry comment. To wit:

        “Great post.” :lol:

        You see? It’s like word mustard. Worth every penny! ;) :P :D :lol:

  2. Jillian ♣ says:

    (That’s a lot of happy faces!)

  3. Jean says:

    I too have showed up here because of Jillian’s recommendation (and I’m on your side where GWTW is concerned! :)). I’m particularly impressed by your project because I’ve spent most of my reading time avoiding American literature as much as possible–I even managed to skip out on it in high school. I’m finally planning on trying to fix that and have Edith Wharton on my list.

    • jwrosenzweig says:

      You’re very welcome, Jean—thanks for commenting! Truth be told, my avoidance of American literature was a motivation for me to actually get into this project: despite having been an English major, and later an English teacher, I had missed Catcher in the Rye and To Kill A Mockingbird until my mid-twenties, and I’d never read Wharton until I had to as part of the Pulitzer quest. So far I’d say the “finds” outweigh the disappointments—Wharton is absolutely worth it, and there are a few other novels/novelists I’d recommend (you can find my ranked list, if it would be of interest, under “How would you rank the Pulitzer novels?” in the top navigation bar. :-)

      • Jean says:

        Sounds familiar. I was a comp. lit. major and got away with one American lit class in college (much to my chagrin, I’d wanted a different one). I read Mockingbird around 22. I’m a librarian at a CC now, btw. And Laughing Boy is definitely going on my list! :) I’m doing a Greek challenge this year, but maybe I oughta think about going American next year…

  4. Sly Wit says:

    Another Jillian reference here, although I’m sad to say I don’t think I’ve left a comment there since I recently discovered her wonderful blog. I mean to, but work of late has left little time for the blogosphere. But I wanted to thank you (both) for the great recommendations. And you both have made me want to revisit GWTW, a favorite of my teen years.

    I’m thrilled to have found this blog as I’m a huge lover of lists and projects. Of course, if it were me, I would start this and then never finish so I wish you more fortitude than I’m sure I could muster. At least you can look forward to The Grapes of Wrath in the near future, a book I recently read as part of my own 2011 challenge: http://slywit.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/2011-the-great-unread/ (okay, so I only managed to finish it in 2012, but who’s counting?).

    (And I naturally always have a sly smile, so no happy face here…)

    • Jillian ♣ says:

      Oh, hello! It’s good to meet you. I’m excited you want to re-read Gone With the Wind! I plan to as well. And Mom just told me she’s going to read it for a fouth time this summer. :D

    • jwrosenzweig says:

      I definitely look forward to Grapes of Wrath, and will look for your comments about it once I get there! :-) As far as reading GWTW, I’d humbly suggest to you what I’ve already suggested to Jillian: also make time to read “The Store” by T. S. Stribling. He’s not as skillful a plotter as Mitchell, and I’ll agree that he doesn’t grab me with iconic characters as fully as she does—what he does do is tackle the South and Reconstruction in a really thoughtful way. By 21st Century standards, I still feel he’s too thin on real insights into free blacks in the South in the 1860s and 1870s, but as a novel of the 1930s it’s a really astonishing accomplishment, and a very interesting novel. I think comparing the two novels would be a really interesting reading experience, and taken together they’d give a lot of insight not just into Reconstruction in the South, but into the attitudes of educated Southerners like Mitchell and Stribling in the 1930s.

      • Sly Wit says:

        As a completist, that means I have to start with The Forge apparently. Between that and Sea Island Lady, which I added to my tbr after a recent trip to Beaufort, I will be thoroughly steeped in the Civil War.

        • jwrosenzweig says:

          As a non-completist, I only felt a little deprived reading The Store without having read The Forge—I think you can get a lot out of it without committing to another novel too, is what I’m saying. :-) But I know I’m much less attentive to these things than most people are—my wife, for example, won’t pick up a book if she learns it’s in the middle of a series, whereas I’ve begun multiple series midstream out of relative apathy. :-)

  5. SilverSeason says:

    Yes, Jillian sent me too, but you probably already know that. I am trying to track your Pulitzer winners year by year until I catch up with your present reading. If you haven’t read Wharton before, I recommend The House of Mirth and The Custom of the Country. The Pulitzer people managed to give the prize to Willa Cather for one her books I haven’t read yet. Please try The Song of the Lark and Death Comes to the Archbishop. If you like Americana, these two books bring the Southwest to you.

    • jwrosenzweig says:

      You’re reading all my posts? Good Lord—I hope they’ve aged well. :-) The only Wharton I’ve read is the 1921 winner, Age of Innocence, which may be the best American novel I’ve ever read. I intend to take on more later, and am glad to have your suggestions. One of Ours was good but not great—I’d guessed that Death Comes to the Archbishop would be the Cather I try next, and I’m hoping to get to it before too many more years pass. So much of my reading time is taken up by the Pulitzer project. :-)

  6. Donna says:

    Your mention of my blog is very kind, especially so since I only really started at this a few months ago. I do believe in reading widely, and since I work with library patrons, to read outside of my comfort zone. I’m afraid you’ll see mostly positive reviews on my site since if something isn’t clicking for me I’ll just give it up. Perhaps I’ll do a post soon on books I’ve decided not to finish. At any rate, I do enjoy reading about all of the Pulitzer winners and intend to follow you as you read through the list. Although, I’m just not that into poetry……

    • Donna says:

      By the way, we had one reader in Oak Park, Illinois, who also did a project like yours:

      http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2007-04-25/news/0704250015_1_pulitzer-winner-prized-read

      • jwrosenzweig says:

        This was great! I certainly understand her decision about Honey in the Horn (though I have yet to “bail” on a book, myself). I’d love to be able to talk books with her: she must have a lot of great perspective on these Pulitzers that I have mostly yet to gain. Thanks so much for sharing the article!

    • jwrosenzweig says:

      You’re most welcome! I think the “just give up” approach is usually mine as well: I don’t normally feel obligated to finish books I don’t like. This Pulitzer thing is my one exception to that rule. :-) I would definitely be interested in that “books I didn’t finish” post, though! I’m glad you’ll be sticking around to see what I’m up to. The poetry….well, maybe I can win you over. :-) Although, if not, I understand! Poetry Fridays are a related but definitely different part of this whole blogging experience for me, and the audience for those posts often doesn’t overlap with my novel posts.

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