Stayed home from church and with a sick husband sleeping on the couch, I did one of my favorite things: escaped back to bed with a big mug of coffee and a book. In my younger days, there was nothing more wonderful than a morning spent in bed with coffee and books. This morning, it was Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life, Merryman’s biography of this iconic Pennsylvania painter. I feel a connection with the Wyeths as I lived in Chester County and frequented the Brandywine River Museum. This past December, my parents and I headed down and were treated to a tour of the Wyeth gallery with Victoria Wyeth, Andrew’s grand daughter. She was charming, funny, and incredibly knowledgeable. I’m enjoying the biography and after reading four of them so far this month, I can say that I prefer the “illustrated” style where pictures are included throughout the text rather than the more typical practice of dumping them together in one central location, like a scrapbook within the textbook.
Now a moment of honesty: I really struggled with that last sentence as I wonder if a real book reviewer would use the word “enjoy” or worry about how the pictures are handled? And, why do I care what a real book reviewer would do? Well, yesterday I made a point of watching a panel on book reviewing that had been conducted during the Virginia Festival of the Book that centered on the business of book reviews. The main theme was that book reviewing was never a lucrative profession and it was becoming less so with the move towards the Internet, neither of which were a surprise. What did surprise me and made me nervous about that sentence was their negative reaction towards all the amateur book reviewers out there. Katherine Weber, in particular, seemed to feel like amateurs were more about commerce than good reviewing. I’m not completely sure I got her point but decided that I needed to read more “real” book reviews (as opposed to my fellow bibliophiles at LibraryThing) to see if I can determine for myself what makes a worthwhile, non-commercial review. I’ll spend some time today with the New York Times Review of Books. Meanwhile, I’m going to plug along with my pedestrian ways. I have found that knowing that I’m going to be writing about the books makes me read a bit more seriously, something else the reviewers talked about.
Of course, there is the possibility that they simply feel a little threatened by all the book reviewers out there. They did agree that there were some very well written amateur reviews but that it was often difficult to find them among the growing dross. I was reminded of the commercial for a job site where the tennis court is overwhelmed by everyone and the professional player was lost amongst the crowd. But the beauty of book reviews on the Internet is that you are not restricted to the few people that the newspaper or magazine decided was a good reviewer. It takes longer to explore on your own, but the journey takes you some interesting places and, in the end, you get to choose the people you want to read.
I’ve been reading away…since my last post, I finished Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac and Zen Effects: The Life of Alan Watts. I also had several road trips and listened to The Weed That Strings The Hangman’s Bag, an absolutely marvelously presented audio book, written by Alan Bradley and read by Jayne Entwhistle. I got online this morning to download the other one in the series, The Sweetness At The Bottom of the Pie, and am wondering if I have time to get in a walk before book group.
I’ve completed 18 books so far…right on track for the 75 book challenge!