I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, mainly because the summer heat makes it hard to be motivated to do much else. I’ve reread some old favorites, gotten serious about some new books in my long reading queue, thumbed through some magazines, and have even read a bit on the internet. I love to read.
When I taught ten- and eleven-year-olds, one of the most common questions I got from parents was, “How do I get him/her to read?” Then they would go on about how they had read to the child as a baby and toddler and how there was a room full of books at the kid’s disposal, but the kid refused to pick them up. I’d let them talk, but eventually we’d get around to the subject of role models. And what would come out ninety percent of the time was that the child never saw an adult in the house reading for pleasure. The truth is, kids like to copy adult behavior.
Both of my parents were readers, especially my mother. Even though she had four kids, she kept a very efficient house, and usually had all her work finished by noon. The afternoons were for reading. She’d shoo us out of the house and then pick up her book. On hot summer days I’d take a book of my own, climb my favorite tree, get comfortable on a big limb, and get lost in my reading.
I didn’t mean for this post to turn into a public service announcement for reading, but there is a lesson in the story. All my siblings are avid readers.
But getting back to original thought, I have been reading a lot, so expect more book reviews in the coming days. Reader Maya asked if I got compensated by book publishers because I was making her buy lots of books. I do occasionally get a free book for review, and I get free previews from a review service, but I buy 95% of the books I review. And, no, I don’t get any money for reviews, nor would I take it. As photographer Bill Cunningham famously says, “If you don’t take their money they can’t tell you what to say.”
The sad truth is that when someone gets something “free” they tend to feel obligated to the giver, and so the review is tempered somewhat. A big shift occurred in fashion blogging after businesses started showering bloggers with gifts. It’s hard to write bad things about a $300 handbag that was given to you. So, if I’m given a book that I don’t like, I contact the publisher and offer to send it back. I will do a less than positive review on an free e-book though. I guess I don’t see the impersonal electronic transfer of a book as being a gift.
Even if I hate a book, I don’t like writing a bad review. I know how much work goes into writing and how personal criticism can seem. It is especially hard when I sort of know the writer through online interactions. Right now I’ve been grappling with a review of a book I really wanted to love, but the truth is that the author just does not fulfill the promise of the topic. And I have just about decided that editing is a lost art. The book’s editor really let this author down.
Since I’m rambling on today, I have also had the idea of fame on my mind, and why it is that humans seem to be so obsessed with celebrities. I usually don’t concern myself with the comings and goings of celebrities, but a post on the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum in London) Instagram irked me to the point that I unfollowed their account. The offending photo was a picture of an unsmiling Kayne West standing beneath a quote at the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the V&A.
The caption on the photo merely stated that Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian paid a special visit to see Savage Beauty. But a quick leap to Kardashian’s account reveals that it was a #SupriseDateNight in an #AfterHoursVisit in a photo of an exhibition of which the public is not allowed to take photos. I really have no opinion on the Wests, but this sort of flaunting their privilege is just tacky. And to think the V&A not only participated, but publicized it shows just how powerful we think one image of a celebrity is. All I can say is I hope Mr. West richly compensated the museum for his after hours tour, and that the V&A got more out of it than two Instagram photos.
So, what’s your beef this week? Post away, but remember to be kind (sort of).