I’m sick to death of reading about ebooks and digital publishing because it all seems to come from the poles — either we’re looking at the Glorious Future or the Terrible End of literature. Plus there’s so much being written and published, both online and in print, by self-obsessed media types, that you couldn’t possibly follow it all. Plus as a wise person once said about Hollywood, nobody knows anything. So why kill myself trying to figure it out when really smart people who are paid to do so obviously can’t?
I chose this image because I recently completed two online book club reads — in both cases, ahead of the official schedule. The first was Neil Gaiman’s American Gods for the inaugural One Book One Twitter. The second was Justin Cronin’s Passage for the inaugural Salon Book Club.
I liked both books a lot — each gets four stars — but in terms of communal reading experience I have to give the edge to Salon — even though they’re only midway through and even though I have spent a lot less time with the online component than I did with the Twitter side and I don’t plan to contribute to the Salon discussion, as I did to the Twitter talk. It might be because I’m more comfortable with someone in charge — and I fully understand that the brilliance of Twitter is that no one is in charge — but if I have a chance of sitting in on a book discussion guided by the brilliant Laura Miller, I’m taking it. The Twitter conversation was necessarily stutterstep and repetitive and without nuance. Salon’s is far more limited in terms of the number of people taking part — but the contributions seem more thoughtful and considered. In other words, more like reading a book.
This is not an anti-Twitter jeremiad. I was mildly Twitterphobic and am now glad to have gotten over that. It’s fun to use it as a kind of personalized wire service; I follow mostly book-related feeds but also a few news feeds and a couple celebrity feeds (Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, OK?). I also follow a couple cycling feeds (Lance Armstrong and Johann Bruyneel).
As for the books — American Gods was good but I really need to re-read it because limiting myself to the 1B1T reading schedule was just too frustrating and too scattered. There’s a lot going on in that novel, with a lot of characters and side stories thrown in, and too much time between reading sessions meant I forgot too much. The Passage is one of this summer’s hot books — it’s, inevitably, about vampires but this ain’t no Twilight/True Blood dreamy vampire. These are bad vampires, initially created by a government experiment run amok and they manage, in short order, to destroy America as we know it. It’s been compared quite a bit to The Stand by Stephen King, which I haven’t read. I don’t even read in that genre. But I found it an engrossing, well written tale that credibly created a world and included characters whose fates mattered to me. Isn’t that what a good summer book is supposed to do?