Compost 1


Like compost, a post full of decomposing and recycled material. Possibly nourishing. Potentially fertile.  May contain shit and piss.

It’s a post that’s a combination of things.

We’re just back from a four day trip to my home state, Rhode Island, for the regionals soccer tournament. Maine teams typically get crushed, thanks to demographics and not having a strong soccer culture. The highlight was tying the 31st best team in the US. My son scored the lone goal that day (he’s a striker), and he did a Wayne Rooney style celebration. I wasn’t sure about the celebration, but I was happy to see him so overjoyed. He’s a nonfiction guy, currently reading I Am Zlatan on his ipad mini and Why Do Men Have Nipples in paper. Here’s an action shot:


My other little guy is having a great summer on his own terms, which means a lot of all-day-in-his-PJs, meeting his friends at the park, watching episodes of the Simpsons and playing Chivalry: Medieval Warfare and Minecraft on the computer. He’s way into The Walking Dead comics on his ipad right now, but also reads a little in his paper Hitchhiker’s Guide set (he’s on book 2). He also likes to just sit and think about things. He’s a natural philosopher, as you can tell from this picture:

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In other news, I’m still working on my Penhally Bay paper. I’m very undisciplined and prone to forgetting my original research question in search of some more foundational issue. I guess it’s a hazard of being trained in philosophy. So, I haven’t even gotten to talking about the actual romance novels. Instead, I’ve written several pages on method in popular fiction studies and on the dangers of mimetic representational analysis therein.

One thing that’s helped is being part of Jo Van Every‘s Monday writing group. Every Monday we all call in to a conference line and share what we plan to work on. We work. Then we call back 90 minutes later. Over the past year I have tried a few different writing groups, coaches, apps and writing strategies. I keep meaning to write a post on that.

One of the papers I’ve read recently is a classic article in reader response theory from its heyday. The author says reading involves an interaction between self and other. The nature of that confrontation depends on the background of the reader and upon the specific text. 

She says there are three modes of reading, including the dominant pole:

The dominant pole is characterized by detachment, observation from a distance. The reader imposes a previously established structure on the text and in so doing silences it. Memory dominates over experience, past over present. Readers who dominate texts become complacent or bored because the possibility for learning has been greatly reduced. Judgment is based upon previously established norms rather than upon empathetic engagement with and critical evaluation of the new material encountered. The reader absents the text.


The submissive pole, in contrast, is characterized by too much involvement. The reader is entangled in the events of the story and is unable to step back, to observe with a critical eye. Instead of boredom the reader experiences anxiety. The text is overwhelming, unwilling to yield a consistent pattern of meaning.


Productive interaction, then, necessitates the stance of a detached observer who is empathetic but who does not identify with the characters or the situation depicted in a literary work. Comprehension is attained when the reader achieves a balance between empathy and judgment by maintaining a balance of detachment and involvement. Too much detachment often results in too much judgment and hence in domination of the text; too much involvement often results in too much sympathy and hence in domination by the text. 

The author of that article makes some claims about gender, etc., which are not my interest (namely, that men are more likely to take the dominant mode, women the submissive). I also would not characterize the three modes of reading in the way she has (her interests were pedagogical, and her readers were students). But I found it interesting to think about my own reading somewhat along those lines. for example, I just listened to a Bella Andre Sullivans book, From This Moment On, which I did not like at all. I could not get into it, and instead of enjoying the text, I kept judging the text (for example, thinking things like,  “If a computer were programmed / or a committee hired / or a focus group consulted to write a romance novel, this would be the product. Utterly bland.” Or when the heroine thought,

Oh God. He was beautiful, but so big. Bigger than her brain had computed, even though she’d seen him, felt him inside of her, more than once already.

…and my immediate reaction was “this is clearly a problem with your brain, not with his penis.”

On the other hand, I’m half way through Tessa Dare’s Any Duchess Will Do, and am so engrossed. I’m not anxious, but I am immersed and not judging, just enjoying. It’s a very funny book, and full of the kind of self-aware characters I love.

Google reader is dead. Long live Google Reader. I’m actually now a contented Feedly user, but this was my favorite tweet from today:

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A few people have noticed that my old blog, Read React Review, is defunct. The reason is simple: I stopped paying my web host. I just couldn’t stand the idea of paying for a blog I don’t update. I *thought* I had moved it over here to, but apparently not. I’m definitely pleased that people remember specific posts well enough to miss them, and I apologize for the inconvenience.

On that note, I’ve been thinking about the many significant ways Romanceland has changed since I started reading blogs (2007). I hope to write a post on it this month.


I hope you are having a good Canada Day or Independence Day week, or July, or whatever it is where you are. Let me know what you are up to!

On Her Profession’s Secret (Blogging) Service


I received an invitation the other day to join a new academic blog in my area. I would be emailed news clips and items of interest by a coordinator and produce 1-2 posts a week.  My first reaction was that while 2 posts a week is insane, I might be able to do one. Yes, I thought, I could do this. And we really need a blog in this area! And how nice to be asked! And isn’t this great! I drafted an immediate affirmative response. But something happened (my dog was probably trying to eat someone again) and…

Thank God I did not hit “send.” It’s true that I love to blog. I am blogging right now! About blogging! But if I took this on, I would be in the following ridiculous situation: I am a member of a professional academic organization, I review article and conference submissions for them, and I blog for them. But I have never actually published a peer reviewed article in their journal.

I asked myself if the fact that I truly support academic blogging and that I truly believe we need a new blog in this (feminist) area means I am being hypocritical not to sign up. But I have to look at my own situation. I’m an academic for whom academic writing is a tremendous challenge. And not just a challenge, but, if I’m honest, the area of my professional life in which I am the least accomplished and (this is very hard to admit) underachieving.

Continue reading “On Her Profession’s Secret (Blogging) Service”

Trying this blogging thing again


I quit blogging about 5 months ago. I have missed it all that time, but haven’t been able to really start up again. I am completely disinclined to go back to my old blog, and I wish I could intelligently articulate why.

It may have something to do with the wrong turn I made last year in blogging. To shore up my flagging enthusiasm, I started taking ARCs, signed up for book tours, attended Book Expo America, started to develop relationships with publishers. In no time, blogging felt like work. I was reading to blog, on someone else’s timeline, not reading for the fun of it, so even reading felt like a chore. In short, at a time when I needed to (a) take a break, and/or (b) write more for myself, I (a) committed to writing more reviews, and (b) wrote more for some mythical audience than about what I was really thinking or feeling.

In January of this year, I didn’t buy a single book. I donated most of my paper books to local charities, and got to know my digital TBR a bit better (I have about 400 books on it). I’d like to continue mining my TBR (although I can’t promise a complete book buying ban for 2013. I’m reformed, not insane.) and chatting about interesting bits on this blog. Right now, I cannot imagine being able to write a formal book review — I’m exhausted just thinking about it —  but then again, five months ago, I couldn’t imagine writing a blog post for a new book blog.

I still read so many great book blogs. I have a follow list of those on WordPress in the footer, and plan to add the rest to a links widget. It’s reading the blogs that inspire me that has made me feel like blogging is a worthwhile hobby to get back to someday.

I recently read four posts that coalesced into a concrete direction for a new blog, and to which I owe this blog’s name. My thanks, or apologies, to the following: