We Know What We Like
I never wanted to be a blogger. I don’t want to be one now, which may seem like an odd way to begin a blog post, but it is true nonetheless. It’s not that I object to sharing my opinions. Obviously, I don’t. I’m a writer. Most people, with a little encouragement, will tell you what they think, or what they believe, which is a different thing entirely. The first is based on rational connections and can be explained; the latter is based mostly on feeling and is far more personal.
So why am I blogging? Well, because it’s something novelists have to do now. They need a ‘platform,’ which includes a media presence, a large part of which is a blog. My problem with the whole blogging thing is that I prefer to spend my time writing novels rather than blog posts about what I think or feel about one thing or another.
Some bloggers write about their lives. Mine wouldn’t make a very interesting story. I was born at a very young age, survived several years of mediocre schooling without any serious emotional or intellectual impairment, worked a few tedious jobs until I managed to escape to what, at a distance, appeared to be somewhat less tedious jobs, got married (twice), raised some wonderful kids… The same things many people in the Western world do. Now, I write novels, and despite what you may think, this does not consist of dashing off a few brilliantly creative words in the morning and having the rest of the day free. Mostly, it involves sitting in front of a keyboard until an idea hits you hard enough for you to notice. This can often take quite some time, ranging from minutes to weeks. Eventually, this idea becomes a jumble of words on your computer screen, which later need to be extensively reorganized, revised, and rewritten.
Some bloggers write about things they’ve discovered. Computer geeks (for whom I have the utmost respect) especially do this. Information in blogs like these can be very helpful, and if I find out something I think might be useful to someone, I’ll share it. Normally when I learn something, it’s because I found the information on line or in a book, though, and you would be better off finding it there, too.
Other bloggers share their opinions. I’m loaded with those. Like most people, I have opinions on all the subjects people normally feel they are inherently entitled to have opinions about, such as politics, religion, music, the future of mankind, and what makes for a good breakfast. Also like most, I don’t really know enough about these things to justify my opinion in any purely rational sense. My opinion, like everyone’s, is based on incomplete knowledge and understanding. It’s probably also subconsciously influenced by mostly forgotten and seemingly unrelated personal experiences, and there may be some genetic factors as well. The point is that my opinions are just MY opinions. They are the conclusions I jumped to using the incomplete knowledge at my disposal. If I’m sane, (a debatable point I won’t dwell on here) my opinions are consistent with what I know, but they rely just as much on things I do not and probably cannot know, which means I could be wrong.
Possibly the only thing we all know for absolutely sure is what we like, although we often only realize this after the fact. We may not know beforehand. Not for sure. Whether it’s a movie, or a book, or an idea, or a tasty treat, we discover we like it after we’ve tried it. Likes are opinions but without any implications. When someone says, “It’s my opinion that the Earth is flat,” it implies that it should be your opinion, too, or at least that they have some good reasons for it. When someone says, “I like the idea of a flat Earth,” it implies several things, but not that it should also appeal to you, unless it’s your boss or someone like that and it is said suggestively.
Because of this, my blog posts tend to be short reviews of the books I’ve just read, and what these say, for the most part, is what I especially liked about the book. If I didn’t like the book at all, chances are I didn’t finish it, and I don’t review those.
Now, what I like in a book may not be what you like. Most people agree on a few things such as spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but even these are not absolute, and they certainly are not sufficient. A book can be technically correct in all these regards and still be a stinker. On the other hand, a great book can include nonstandard spelling, punctuation, and grammar and be quite wonderful. Dr. Seuss comes to mind in this regard, although in his case, it’s intentional, and few novels I’ve read adhere strictly to the Chicago Manual of Style. Still, whatever objective criteria you choose to name, coherent plot, realistic dialog, author intrusion on the narrative, or believable characters, you can find books you enjoy that fail these tests in one way or another.
When you read books published only a few decades ago, you see things that would probably make them unacceptable to traditional publishers today. Would one take a chance on something as quirky and rambling as Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy if it were submitted today? It’s one of my favorite books. Would they say Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings starts too slow, or is too long, or too wordy, and has too much backstory? Few of the books written earlier than this would stand much of a chance. I doubt anything by Charles Dickens, for example, would get into print now, although to be fair, writers in the middle of the Nineteenth Century had more words and many more commas available to them than modern ones have. Although these older books may not meet current fictional norms, they are still great books, and a book written today that does not match contemporary expectations does not mean I, or you, won’t like it. It just means it’s out of the ordinary, which could be a very good thing.
So, if you’ve landed on my blog intentionally or by chance, let me just say that if you see one of my posts and it says I like something, it just means I like it. It doesn’t mean that I think you should like it. It does not imply that it meets any objective standard or that it will have wide appeal. I’ll normally say why I like something, whether it’s a book, or an idea, or something else. If I notice things about the subject that others may not like, I’ll mention them and say why I do or do not consider them flaws. This is really all I can do with any confidence. You many not share my opinions, beliefs, or tastes. I don’t know what appeals to you. All I really know is what I like, and knowing what we personally like may be all any of us can know for sure.