Monday, June 24, 2013

Something Thoughtful

Nicholas Reid reflects in essay form on general matters and ideas related to literature, history, popular culture and the arts. You are free to agree or disagree with him. 


            It is now exactly two years since I began posting the weekly comments that make up Reid’s Reader. The first posting was on 29 June 2011.

            My essential method hasn’t changed. Each week I devour and make copious notes on a new book, then write it up as “Something New”. As often as possible, I try to make that new book a New Zealand book. The comments on older books in “Something Old” come mainly from notes, which I’ve been making in my notebooks for the past twenty-plus years. These are notes on everything I read, serious or frivolous. Often I check these notes against a more recent acquaintance with the older books discussed. Sometimes, however, “Something Old” is a book I have read specifically for inclusion on this blog. Summer holidays are often the time when I find myself chewing my way through books I have meant to read for years. As for “Something Thoughtful”, it is either the easiest or the most troublesome part of the whole blog. A topic or controversy for discussion will come readily to mind, or else I will rack my brains trying to think of something.

            One year ago, while celebrating the blog’s first anniversary, I noted that the counter [which you can see at the foot of the blog] stood at c.20,000. Allowing for holidays and breaks etc., I took this to mean that about 500 people weekly visited the site. Now the counter is rapidly approaching 100,000, meaning the site has received 80,000 ‘hits’ in the last year, or four times the number of visitors it received in its first year. Over summer, I take a four-week break from making postings; and I recently took a three-week break while visiting Canada. Putting all this together, it adds up to a weekly average of 1600 ‘hits’ weekly, but in fact over the last six months, it’s a poor week when the site doesn’t receive 2000 ‘hits’. So the site has built up a sound regular readership.

            Only occasionally has there been anything approaching controversy. One novelist took exception to one of my reviews, and subjected me to a series of strident e-mails on the matter. Two readers took diametrically opposite positions on a book I’d covered, and posted their conflicting comments. (And good for them. That’s what the Comment button is for. More use should be made of it.)

            I am pleased that in the last year, some comments on this blog have found their way into the general cultural “conversation” and have been cited on other platforms. I am also aware that (unlike printed reviews, quarterlies etc.), I often have the advantage of making detailed analyses on books very shortly after their first publication. In other words, sometimes I get my thruppence worth in first. In this respect, I am fully aware that this site is sometimes used as a “source” by other reviewers. I am also pleased that occasionally, some helpful people have contributed “Something Old” essays. My friend Dr Iain Sharp, my brother Christopher Reid, and the distinguished academics Peter Simpson, Harry Ricketts and Brian Boyd have all sent me essays, which have appeared here.

I would, however, welcome any further such contributions.

To put it bluntly, producing this weekly review single-handedly takes a very big commitment in terms of time. Sometimes I have considered easing up on myself by making my postings fortnightly rather than weekly, and I may adopt that option at some future date. Meanwhile, post a comment (leaving your e-mail address) or get in touch by e-mail if you’re game to give me an account of a book you have really liked and want to bring to the attention of a wider readership.

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