Origin Story: The (un)Book Review
Atualizado: Jul 2
When I was fifteen*, my family took a summer vacation. My uncle (by marriage) was attending a medical conference in Orlando, Florida. My aunt (by genetics) and cousin used that as a pretext to come up from Brasil. My step dad's aunt lived in Miami at the time and joined us. That just left my mom, step dad, brother and I to fly down from Michigan. It was the closest I'd ever come to having a family reunion.
The sun shone down on her beloved state and temperatures were reliably summer hot and humid—or so it seemed when I peeked out from behind the blackout curtains in my air conditioned hotel room. I did not socialize with family. I did not spend time tanning and did not visit Disneyland. I spent all my time reading Interview with The Vampire by Anne Rice. A testament to how much I preferred reading to any other person or place.
That trip introduced me to my two truths. One, books are superior to all other things. Two, New Orleans is superior to all other places. (While on that family summer vacation, I joined my aunt and uncle for a two day trip to the Crescent City and have been trying to find a way back ever since, a musing for another day).
When I finished Interview With The Vampire (IWTV), I didn't comment on it to friends. I didn't deconstruct it or put it in a socio-political context. I didn't research the author or read other reviews (a far harder task in 1994*). I simply enjoyed every page and fantasized about being as glamorous and spectacular and ruthless as Lestat and Louis and Claudia.
I cannot remember if I saw the movie before I read the book or if I was still getting a quarter from my parents for every book I read (a set up that originated when I was in elementary school and had long ceased to be necessary to motivate me to read, but proved too financially lucrative to inform them of such). All I know for sure is there is nowhere I wanted to be more than in a hotel room with a book in my hand, for no other reason than the desire to read.
I spent many years contemplating my 20's with regret and disdain. I did nothing political. I didn't find my ideal career. I didn't settle down in a place or with a person. And worst of all, I didn't read books.
By the time I came back to books in 2013, largely spurred by my desire to write, reading had morphed into something to be documented, measured and announced. Goodreads had been purchased by Amazon, who had shaken things up with Kindle and e-books and being the cheapest. Reading had been marketized; there were book bloggers, book tubers, soon to be influencers, clubs, boxes, totes and everything in between.
In that new (to me) world, I attempted reviewing books. My reviews tended towards dissatisfaction and pointing out shortcomings, which left me second guessing if my criticisms were insight and preference or racism, classism, and ignorance. Reviewing books robbed me of the pleasure of reading them, so that was quickly abandoned.
When I decided to self-publish, the pressure to have a presence and to always be saying something made me reconsider book reviews. This time, I thought, I'll just focus on what I love. And then I published my novella, and while I was hyper aware of the importance of reviews, it reaffirmed that I didn't want to evaluate and opinionate ABOUT a specific, positive or otherwise.
I have nothing that NEEDS to be said/read about the structure or content of a particular book but I always have thoughts when I'm doing reading a book. I'm a writer and I understand who I am and what I'm thinking (about books or anything) through wrestling it into words.
(Examples of what that looks like in practice)
(Almost) Five Books in a Row
Open Heart Surgery or Smoke & Mirrors?
*fifteen could be sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen. My family and I couldn't recall the exact year. I think it was 1994, my mom thinks it could have been 1998.