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Sunday Salon: More Experimentation

June 19, 2011

The Sunday Salon.comNow, as much as I’m enjoying my new approach to blogging, and as grateful as I am that I’ve found a way to keep such a fun hobby, I must admit to a little bit of internal angst at the temporal impossibility of posting about all of my reads. At most, I’ll be posting four ‘reviews’ a week, and I never post more than once a day (not to mention I wouldn’t be able to handle that much typing). Now, this week I’ve read fifteen books; almost all of the books this week have been great, ones that I’d definitely recommend, but how do I tell you about them? I don’t always read at this pace (obviously not, since extrapolated that would result in my reading over 600 books a year, which has never happened), but bar a fibro flare-up, I do read at least five books a week. And considering I have eighteen books from my triaged backlog yet to blog about, arithmetic has become my enemy.

Last year I managed to blog about almost every book I read, because I used Sunday Salon posts to do ‘mini’ reviews of books I couldn’t devote individual posts to. Due to the pain typing causes me, I can’t do posts with paragraphs about each book; and yet, I can type a sentence for each one. I’m not sure if further scaled back reviews have any value, but I thought I’d give it a go. I feel like every other post recently I’ve been asking for your feedback; I suppose that that’s in the nature of transitions. But do let me know if you think I should continue this or not! Since this was my first go, I just decided to do all of the books I’ve read this month that won’t be getting their own posts, rather than limiting myself to the past week. In the future, I envision TSS posts combining more general bookish musings with a few of these at the end of the post.

Read An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro if…you’re interested in subtle characterisation and how individuals deal with post-war guilt when the cause they believed in is now on the ‘wrong’ side.

Read The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope if…you’re working your way through the Barsetshire series (I love Trollope, but this is my least favourite that I’ve read so far).

Read The Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson if…you’re looking for a light-hearted, corny-humour-filled scientific explanation of Pluto’s demotion.

Read The Postmistress by Sarah Blake if…you have opposite taste in fiction from me and/or your book club makes you. ;)

Read Fireflies in the Mist by Qurratulain Hyder if…you’re willing to ignore structural issues, weak characterisations, and a somewhat dull writing style in return for an issue-filled story and impressively intelligent, panoramic look at the Indian Subcontinent from WWII onwards.

Read The Discarded Image by C.S. Lewis if…you have a soft spot for the Middle Ages or want to better understand the mindset of the Medieval authors you read.

Read Mexican Enough by Stephanie Elizondo Griest if…you enjoy funny, smart, honest travelogues or are interested in self-identity stuff related to biracial or bicultural backgrounds.

Read Jonah’s Gourd Vine by Zora Neale Hurston if…you love your fiction richly textured, your settings Southern, and/or your plotlines classically inspired.

Read Passed On by Karla FC Holloway if…you like your nonfiction short and powerfully written, are interested in the African American community, or are curious about how different cultures experience death.

Read The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery if…you have a taste for old-fashioned stories that leave you smiling and uplifted when you turn the last page.

Read A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper by John Allen Paulos if…a good dose of nerdiness and excellent diction in your nonfiction appeal to you and you’re willing to overlook an author’s occasional biases.

Read Trickster Travels by Natalie Zemon-Davis if…you enjoy history told in a ‘narrative’ style but still scrupulously researched and/or you’re interested in Medieval Europe and the Middle East and relations between the two.

Read Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers if…you’re a mystery lover and/or intellectual reader who hasn’t yet discovered the treat that is Lord Peter Wimsy and Harriet Vane!

Read Thus was Adonis Murdered by Sarah Caudwell if…you’re a mystery lover, enjoy sardonic academic narrators, or have a weakness for epistolary novels.

If the one-sentence descriptions do seem helpful, I’m not sure how to categorise them. They’re not really book ‘reviews’, and they seem too brief to place in my book review directories or link to as ‘thoughts’ on my books read page. But then, if someone’s wondering what I thought about a book, at least one sentence is better than silence! Anyway, I’ll meditate more on that if they become a regular feature.

64 Comments leave one →
  1. June 19, 2011 6:28 am

    they’re like ‘twitter’ reviews

    a sentence is better than no sentence and I suppose it allows you to be succinct so you can capture what makes the book great or crap

  2. June 19, 2011 7:24 am

    Your comment on The Postmistress cracked me up. I’ve avoided that book because I kind of suspected I’d feel the same way. In a very specific mood, I might like something like that, but such moods don’t come along too often.

    • June 19, 2011 12:01 pm

      Yeah, I suspected I wouldn’t like it. And my suspicions were right!

  3. June 19, 2011 7:28 am

    I love them! I hate thinking I’m missing out on what you read, because a lot of it ends up on my own TBR list. I say keep it up!

  4. June 19, 2011 7:34 am

    I like these just because they are short, sweet, and right to the point. I can read these and instantly know if I would be interested in checking into the book further or not :)

  5. June 19, 2011 7:36 am

    15 books in one week is amazing! I didn’t love The Postmistress the way everyone else did either.

  6. June 19, 2011 7:42 am

    This is a really good idea. They feel like a good starting point for looking deeper into the different books. And I too loved your thoughts on The Postmistress

  7. Jane permalink
    June 19, 2011 7:42 am

    I very much like these one sentence `reviews` – short and pithy! So glad to see you back blogging, Eva. Yours is quite my favourite blog. I don`t miss the longer reviews – a paragraph about a book is quite enough for me. Thank you for blogging and my best wishes for your health.


  8. June 19, 2011 8:24 am

    Eva, I think you should just keep doing whatever makes you comfortable blogging-wise. I enjoy hearing about what you’ve been reading even if it is only a sentence! And I’m interested to know more about what you didn’t like about The Postmistress as I’ve heard so many good things about it. Happy Sunday!

    • June 19, 2011 12:03 pm

      Erm, I didn’t like anything about The Postmistress. I found characters flat, plot contrived, setting unoriginal, & writing nothing special. That sounds harsh, doesn’t it?

  9. June 19, 2011 8:41 am

    I enjoyed your briefer thoughts Eva, hope that keeping them up works for you 0:) I laughed too at your comment on The Postmistress. It didn’t blow me away at all either.

    Thanks for your comment on my blog re Gilgamesh – I wil look out for the translation, knowing that it is short might just spur me on to reading it!

  10. June 19, 2011 8:54 am

    You red 15 books in a week!!!! Not even in the most cloistered days of graduate school did I reach that figure. Not even when I was taking the Young Adult literature class.

    That said, I prefer longer reviews. But honestly, you should do what you want to do. I did enjoy your one sentence reviews here, and you managed to bring a few titles to my attention that I’d not heard of before. I think that has long been one of my favorite things about your Sunday Salon posts, that you bring such a wide range of reading to my attention. You’re one of the best sources out there for non-fiction reading, you know.

    • June 19, 2011 12:04 pm

      I prefer longer reviews too, but unfortunately my stupid arms/hands won’t cooperate! So I suppose these are better than nothing. Thanks so much for the compliment CB! I do love nonfiction. :)

  11. June 19, 2011 8:54 am

    Postmistress review = HYSTERICAL!

  12. June 19, 2011 9:00 am

    I love the minis! I adored Artist of the Floating World. I really need to reread it. Haven’t read it in quite a while. And the Postmistress review is totally sublime. ;O)

  13. June 19, 2011 9:06 am

    You reviewed some great books! I love how much you can say in just one sentence! I’m glad you liked Strong Poison and The Story Girl. I have fallen in love with Lord Peter Wimsey myself this year!!!
    Small House at Allington is one that I loved and adored. I wouldn’t say it is my favorite of the six–I read Framley Parsonage, Small House at Allington, and Last Chronicle of Barset this year–but it comes in third or fourth! (My favorite would probably be Last Chronicle of Barset and Barchester Towers).

    • June 19, 2011 12:05 pm

      Strong Poison was a reread for me; I’ve been a Wimsey girl since high school. :D

      I totally expected to love Small House at Allington; this is the first one I didn’t love. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood!

  14. June 19, 2011 9:32 am

    I like your mini-reviews/recommendations. :) And I’m really glad you mentioned The Story Girl – it’s an obvious favorite for me.

  15. June 19, 2011 9:43 am

    I love it…”if you have opposite taste in fiction from me and/or your book club makes you. ;)” Oh, and yes, I think the new format is fine. Experiment away. That’s what a blog is for. You don’t have to stuck in “conventions.” If you do, that would be boring too. Mix it up…personally I love the one sentence reviews. A great way to look at things and just right for the Twitter generation :).

  16. justbookreading permalink
    June 19, 2011 10:01 am

    I like these little reviews. So fun! I skipped The Postmistress. I have yet to enjoy a book that’s a book club pick…

  17. June 19, 2011 10:03 am

    I love the idea of one-sentence reviews, especially if it fits your needs. I feel the same way you did about THE POSTMISTRESS. I had all the elements I normally enjoy in novels but was not executed well.

    • June 19, 2011 12:05 pm

      It felt to me like the author was ticking off a list of things a novel should have.

  18. June 19, 2011 10:39 am

    I like the short review format. It’s a good way of dealing with a backlog of books! Sorry to hear The Small House at Allington has been your least favourite Trollope. I’m slowly working through the Barsetshire series and have recently finished Dr Thorne, so I still have that one to come to. And I didn’t like The Postmistress either. I couldn’t connect with the characters at all.

    • June 19, 2011 12:06 pm

      I prob should clarify that even my least favourite Trollope was good fun; I just didn’t fall head over heels in love with it, unlike the others.

  19. June 19, 2011 11:06 am

    Yes, these “twitter” reviews, as someone said, remind me of elevator pitches for books I’ve written. Thanks…it would be good practice for me to create something like this on books I’ve read.


  20. June 19, 2011 11:13 am

    Wonderful post, Eva! I loved your one line reviews :) Books I have added to my ‘TBR’ list after reading your post – ‘An Artist of the Floating World’, ‘The Discarded Image’. I read C.S.Lewis’ ‘Till We Have Faces’ recently (inspired by your review of it :)) and your thoughts on ‘The Discarded Image’ make me want to read it. Your thoughts on Qurratulain Hyder’s book – “you’re willing to ignore structural issues, weak characterisations, and a somewhat dull writing style” – made me smile :) That is some indictment :) Have you read Hyder’s ‘River of Fire’? That is also quite acclaimed. Glad to know you enjoyed Sarah Caudwell’s book. I remember you talking about it on your previous ‘Library Loot’ post.

    • June 19, 2011 11:18 am

      I forgot to add one more thing. You read fifteen books last week? Really??? You are my inspiration :)

    • June 19, 2011 12:07 pm

      Yay! I hope you enjoyed TIll We Have Faces. :D The Discarded Image is MARVELOUS: I’ve already requested another of his nonfic books on Medieval lit.

      The Hyder didn’t work that well for me as a novel, but as a book I still found it worthwhile. Haven’t tried River of Fire. And the Caudwell one was great fun!

      • June 19, 2011 12:45 pm

        I loved ‘Till We Have Faces’ till the end of the first part, but I found the second part a bit weak. Then I went back and read your review of it again and discovered that you had also felt the same way :) I am reading the original Psyche-Cupid myth in graphic novel format now. I am hoping to write the review of Lewis’ book after that. Thanks a lot for recommending Lewis’ book and for your wonderful review of it :)

  21. June 19, 2011 11:23 am

    15 books in one week is fantastic ! Keep up the good work ! So far the micro-reviews are working for me. Once again, keep up the good work !!

  22. June 19, 2011 11:56 am

    Your single sentence descriptions are remarkably effective, actually! I quite like them :)

  23. June 19, 2011 12:09 pm

    Thanks so much to everyone who left feedback! It’s good to know that one-sentence thoughts are still helpful. :)

  24. Jillian ♣ permalink
    June 19, 2011 12:22 pm

    I love this, Eva. I just added the LM Montgomery book because of your review. :-)

  25. June 19, 2011 1:24 pm

    I love these one sentence reviews! Please, do continue with this format! I’ll add the Ishiguro novel and Trickster Travels into my TBR list.

  26. June 19, 2011 2:32 pm

    Like CB, I love longer reviews but think you’re doing a great job with the amount of typing your hands/arms are allowing you, Eva. You’re doing a great job packing a lot into your succinct new format, even when you only have a single sentence to work with!

    And I thought of you yesterday when I read the first 70 pages of Hurston’s Seraph on the Suwanee…you’re right on about the odd combo of compelling writing and characters with problematic gender dynamics.

    • June 20, 2011 1:23 am

      I can’t wait to see you post on Seraph on the Suwanee!

  27. June 19, 2011 3:05 pm

    Is that the real cover of your real copy of The Story Girl? Because I like it way better than the cover of the copy I used to own. Are you going to read The Golden Road next?

    • June 20, 2011 1:24 am

      No, that’s just the one I thought was prettiest in my Google image search. ;) I have it on my Nook, so it doesn’t have a cover. And I’ve downloaded The Golden Road; we’ll see when I get to it!

  28. June 19, 2011 4:52 pm

    Your comment on The Postmistress made me laugh and laugh. I sort of liked it and loathed it in very weird and differing ways.

    I like this one liner in brief feature. I think it works for us… but only if it works for you. Its your blog after all.

  29. June 19, 2011 6:48 pm

    Huh, somehow I missed The Story Girl growing up–I’ve read most of Montgomery’s other works, though–my library must not have had it! And you seem to be continually reminding me that I want to check out Trollope. Someday…

    • June 20, 2011 1:24 am

      I missed it growing up too! But it was a treat to read it now. :)

  30. June 19, 2011 7:45 pm

    Love them – you do have a way of capturing the essence of a book.

  31. June 19, 2011 8:15 pm

    re: your review of The Postmistress – This made me laugh so much! I remember seeing it in one of your library loot piles and thought it was an interesting choice for you. I read it when it was released and thought there were some interesting elements, but it didn’t seem like an Eva book to me! ;)

  32. June 19, 2011 9:39 pm

    Eva, I think this is great. I know it’s easy to say, and you’re probably not thrilled with losing some freedom of form, but I think you’re doing a great job of embracing constraints as a way to stay creative. It’s like Oulipo–your formal constraints bring you a new freedom to experiment and get creative with the medium of blogging. And I really enjoyed the format of this post!

    • June 20, 2011 1:25 am

      Thanks Nicole! That’s a great way to look at it, and just the perspective I need when I get frustrated. :)

  33. June 19, 2011 10:56 pm

    good lord! i start getting all prideful when I get through 3 books a week.

    damn my kids for having needs!

    • June 20, 2011 1:25 am

      LOL This is part of why I never plan on having children! ;)

  34. June 20, 2011 8:02 am

    I love your “Read this if…” Not everyone could pull that off, but you surely can! Big bow to you…the forehead on the floor kind of bow! Go, Eva!

  35. June 20, 2011 8:40 am

    Okay, seriously, Eva, how long did it take you to read all those?! My heart got all aflutter just thinking of so many books in one week! I’m dying to read Anthony Trollope, haven’t read one of his yet (I know, can we still be friends?!) as well as Dorothy Sayers. I think I need to copy this list and read most of them myself. (Your comment about The Postmistress made me smile.)

    • June 21, 2011 11:14 am

      I have far too much free time, so I’m not sure how long, but I try to read at least 400 pgs a day. I only recently started reading Trollope-maybe in 2007 or 2008-so I’m still quite a neophyte myself! I have been a Sayers girl since high school, though; this was a reread for me. Such fun!

  36. June 20, 2011 10:29 am

    Wow, quite the mix / list of titles here. So happy to see some LM Montgomery :) And your comments on The Postmistress are HILARIOUS. You and I have kind of opposite tastes when it comes to fiction but I still intend to avoid it, I don’t think that I would enjoy it either.

    • June 21, 2011 11:13 am

      I think we have opposite tastes in a different style than that; I can’t see you enjoying The Postmistress! Could be wrong though. ;)

      • June 21, 2011 11:17 am

        No, I think you are very correct on that :)

  37. June 20, 2011 12:31 pm

    Yes, I’m loving the one-sentence reviews. Too much fun! I loved the one for The Postmistress the very best! Too funny.

    I hadn’t even heard of that C.S. Lewis book but that definitely catches my eye. I’m pretty sure I read The Story Girl years ago but if I read it again I’m sure it would almost feel like the first time. I’m thinking of working some Anne stories into my summer reading this year.

  38. June 20, 2011 3:22 pm

    I’m so sorry you’re forced to adjust your reviews but you do it so well! Those one-sentence reviews are amazing (The Postmistress! :D) and I really feel that they say as much as long reviews (though I still love your gushy ones).
    Also, “sardonic academic narrators”! Must-read! Although I feel I get this from my professors in uni, too ;)

  39. June 20, 2011 11:32 pm

    I love these one-sentence reviews! I’m sure they are an intellectual challenge for you, and fun to read for the rest of us. :)

  40. June 21, 2011 7:36 am

    I LOVE this format, Eva. Keep it up.

  41. June 21, 2011 11:16 am

    You guys! You’re all the best at making a girl feel good about herself. :) One sentence reviews are here to stay!

  42. June 24, 2011 9:03 am

    I think short reviews when you can’t do longer ones are great — even getting a brief idea of what you thought is valuable and interesting.


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