We listened to Aretha when I was a waitress. Her version of “Respect” was better than Otis Redding’s, we thought.
We thought a lot about respect. None of us was really getting it.
I was a bad waitress. I was too intent on reading Doris Lessing to pay attention to my customers. I once dropped a plate of spaghetti on somebody’s lap. He left a huge tip because I was so embarrassed.
Once a group of 30 Amish people came in and ordered milkshakes. We had one milkshake machine. We served them.
But we didn’t get respect.
We didn’t really expect it.
In the Midwest, even if you’re smart, you don’t get respect. You’re not allowed to brag about your achievements. You are not allowed to brag in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, or Minnesota.
If you’re a waitress, your achievements are minimal.
If you’ve won a prize, it’s hard to work it into the conversation.
If a friend stops speaking to you when you’ve won a prize he or she expected to win, that’s another reason not to brag.
When bloggers congratulate themselves and boast about their achievements, I’m always thinking, They can’t be serious. Sometimes I think English bloggers get more respect than Americans. But then I can think of more star English bloggers than American bloggers. Who ARE the star American bloggers?
So now I’ll congratulate myself. I have been blogging here for exactly a year. When I started Mirabile Dictu on Dec. 11 last year, I wasn’t looking for respect. I simply needed to do better.
I was tired of reading critics in The New York Times, Slate, Salon, The Guardian (and if I’ve missed anybody, let me know) who said that blogs, Twitter, and other social media were too “nice” and ruining criticism.
Well, fuck, I thought. Don’t they know we could do better?
I liked some of these critics; some of them I liked less. I dismissed what they said. We were not writing essays; how could they mistake us? But I was also a little worried. Were reactions on Goodreads changing the way editors edited books? I hoped not.
If they are, that’s too bad.
Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles, used to be an editor. When she said at a reading that she knew what people liked to read, something clicked in my brain that said, Uh oh. I like her book very much, but when people think they know what we like to read…no, that’s not good.
Anyway, I didn’t start this blog to get respect or figure out what people like to read. I just decided to do (marginally) better at keeping a book journal that is also my diary.
So what have I accomplished this year?
1. I intended to write more punctiliously and less often than I did at my old blog. I still write very, very often. Possibly more often than I used to.
2. I intended to be more tactful. I have been marginally. I lost a reader over Jane Austen, though.
2. This year 58% of the books I’ve read so far are by women and 42% by men. Last year my book journal stats were so out of whack in favor of women that I tried to correct them.
3. I have (I think) written about more contemporary writers this year than last.
4. I continue to read a lot of classics and reprints. I have read fewer Viragos. I hope more will turn up at the Planned Parenthood sale. I haven’t read any Persephones this year. I recommend Enid Bagnold’s The Squire (which is one of Persephone’s present offerings): I read it a few years ago. I need to read more books by small presses.
5, I interviewed five of my “Best of 2013 So Far” writers (see sidebar): Peter Stothard, author of Alexandria: The Last Nights of Cleopatra, Steve Yarbrough, author of The Realm of Last Chances, Karen E. Bender, author of A Town of Empty Rooms, D. J. Taylor, author of The Windsor Faction, and Lionel Shriver, author of Big Brother.
SO WHAT IS MY GOAL AS A BLOGGER?
It is about writing for myself, being honest about books (a book can be brilliant even if it’s not absolutely to my taste), trying not to over-explain, and amusing myself with semi-personal essays.
WHAT DO I INTEND TO DO NEXT YEAR?
Interview bloggers about blogging.
WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF BLOGGING? I do need to find out about more blogs. Some seem to have burned out. I recently weeded several from my blogroll, not because they were bad, but because I never visited them. Please recommend your favorites.