April has been a mixed month in my blogging life. I put aside a third of the time available to read a book that was big in both size and scope and which I was excited to receive. It jumped straight to the top of my TBR pile and I took great care that my review accurately reflected my thoughts when I finally finished the tome. Within an hour of posting the publisher had requested that I take it down until closer to publication date – something that has never happened to me before. I have previously received early proof copies with an embargo clearly marked on the AI sheet. No such instruction had been included with this book. On the contrary, hype was being built on social media with photos of proofs received, tweets from readers about their initial thoughts while reading, and side by side comparisons with other big books.
I acceded to the request to take down my review and have since felt conflicted. The points the publisher made were understandable but the whole episode took the wind from my sails. Becalmed and feeling blue I was grateful that my children were home and therefore available to discuss with me what to do next. I pondered the sensitivities of writers and how low I was feeling, no doubt exacerbated by the effect of the book’s subject matter – something I had wished to warn prospective readers about. As with any issue that messes with my head I wrote out my thoughts: Who am I writing books for?
Feedback from readers, especially those who read the review in the hour it was up, suggested that I should post it, which I still plan to do. I need to decide when. I have no wish to alienate a publisher whose work I admire – but I value my autonomy.
As a result of this upset, ten reviews remain for the month: eight fiction (two translated) and two nonfiction. These were supplemented by write-ups of two literary events.
The first of these was The Republic of Consciousness Prize Winners’ Event 2019, held at Foyles on the Charing Cross Road in London. I then published the transcript of the speech the founder of the prize, Neil Griffiths, gave which included his thoughts on each of the shortlisted books. From amongst the strong contenders emerged joint winners – Murmer by Will Eaves, published by CB Editions, and Lucia by Alex Pheby, published by Galley Beggar Press.
I did, of course, make a purchase whilst at Foyles – a title I had been wanting to read for some time, so did as soon as I returned home from my trip to the capital.
Shitstorm by Fernando Sdrigotti, published by Open Pen
Most other reading this month was taken from my pile of recent or imminent publications.
The Book of Tehran: A City in Short Fiction, published by Comma Press
Two book reviews had been written for and first published by Bookmunch
I attended a talk by Ariana Harwicz and her publisher/ translator Carolina Orloff at Toppings Bookshop in Bath which I wrote up here. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy of the book they were promoting, and read it in preparation.
Feebleminded, by Ariana Harwicz (translated by Annie McDermott and Carolina Orloff), published by Charco Press
The final review of the month was a repost of a review and part of a blog tour. As I no longer take part in blog tours this led to some personal questioning but Under the Rock by Benjamin Myers, now available in paperback from Elliott & Thompson, contains such beautiful writing I decided to help spread the word.
Under the Rock: Stories Carved from the Land by Benjamin Myers, published by Elliot & Thompson
Next month I have two short breaks planned to visit my student children in London and then Edinburgh. With my mood still a little shaky I will be aiming to balance family fun with my blogging activities, posting only what I can easily manage. It is vital to me that my reading and writing remains pleasurable to give authors a fair chance of a positive review.
As ever I wish to thank the publishers who send me their titles – the arrival of a book parcel makes my day.
My thanks also to those who share my words across their social media platforms. Your support is always appreciated.