The Sunday Salon

The End of an Affair and Turning Over a New Leaf

I won't tell you anymore what I'm reading

I won’t tell you anymore what I’m reading

Goodreads was never an affair for me. It was a marriage. It was the social network that I visited the most, counting Facebook. I can get lost in it browsing books, reading reviews, sorting shelves, and deliberating discussions–most important. And last week, something happened.

I was merely checking my spam mailbox when I caught sight of an email from an unfamiliar name with the subject “Librarian Status: Under Review.” This is what it had to say:

Hi there,
It’s great that Goodreads has so many hard-working librarians, and we are happy to count you among them. But it seems you are working at cross-purposes to established policy, not to mention causing other librarians work.
Please keep in mind that to qualify as a book, an item must have been published. Goodreads Groups are not authors, and discussions in a group are not books.
If you have any further questions, feel free to come discuss them in the Librarians Group, which I’m happy to see you are a member of.
Goodreads Librarians Group Mod

So I responded to the invitation to discuss the issue at the Librarians Group. And this is what I had to say:

Our Goodreads-based book club privately published two books, which are collections of short stories written by some of our active members. We’ve added these books under good faith for our respective shelves. Since these items are published, they count as books, right?
This moderator who emailed me argues that discussions in a group are not books. I agree. However, our two publications are not discussions. They are creative works of our members, works which are inspired by books that we’ve discussed. No, they are not reviews. I’ve browsed the books last night and they may fall under the category creative nonfiction.
I also verified the guidelines when adding a new book. It is stated there that books generally have ISBN numbers (but don’t have to), and are usually published. Periodicals such as newspapers, magazines, and comics are not books. However, a volume of comics or articles or a graphic novel is considered a book.
Our book club’s publications do not have ISBNs. They don’t have to, that’s clearly stated, and they are definitely not periodicals. So why were our books deleted from the Goodreads database? Is it because they are not popular? Or it because of the author name that we chose?
Here’s another thing. We used our group’s name as the author name because those publications are results of our collaborative efforts. The Paris Review is listed as an author, so I don’t see any reason our group’s name cannot be used. Reality check: The Paris Review is a well-known institution. We are nothing like it, and we respect that. But in a technical point of view, using our group’s name as the author name is not a violation of any policy.

I posted this, a longer version of it, at the Librarians Group. A few minutes later, this topic was deleted. I reposted the whole thing (I had a backup copy) and this time, I took screenshots. There was no system error or anything. The topic was deliberately deleted, twice. A few minutes later, I got an email from the same moderator. It advised me to email their support group because the Librarians Group is not an appropriate place for such discussions. My head nearly blew up with vexation. What’s with that deleting of books and authors, and inviting you to discuss issues, and deleting your topics, and telling you to redirect your concerns elsewhere?

Before I read this last email, I sent private messages to the other moderators of the group who are also Goodreads administrators, and I asked about why my topic was deleted. One of them replied, telling me to email the support group instead because it’s inappropriate to discuss the matter through private messages. Whoops, my mistake, I guess.

So there you go, with two moderators saying the same thing, I emailed the support group. I only intended to raise a concern about books being deleted. The issue expanded to include the behavior of that moderator, who by the way still trickled in a last email. This email said that discussions about general policies are perfectly fine in the group. Debating decisions already made and specifics of emails sent to me would not be.

Whatever. Email support and wait. And wait. Nada. Zilch. It has been a week. The support group is usually responsive based from previous experience. What happened?

In a rush of impulse, I decided to take a stand against the Goodreads bureaucrats. I decided that I don’t want Goodreads to use my book data anymore for whatever reasons. I deleted all my books and moved on to Leafmarks.

Actually, I don’t think this is merely an impulse because I’ve given this thought for two nights. And I could have just deleted my account, right? I can’t. My book club lives in Goodreads City. The Goodreads community is the best feature that it has. The best feature is powered by the people who have a passion for books, and this is what can happen to those people.

There could be some self-serving purpose or at the very least vanity when we added our group’s books to the Goodreads database. But do they cost terabytes of disk space? They are only two lines in a database filled with dirty data. There is no policy against it. If that’s the case, we are free to do it so long as it doesn’t harm anything, so long as it uplifts a group of readers’ pride and spirit.

The province of Leafmarks doesn’t feature groups yet, so it can get quite lonely. I’m still in a state of shock with the move, I guess. But I’m getting the drift of it. Their database is not as refined as that of Goodreads. I think I’d like to help them make it better. I applied to be a Leafmarks Librarian and within 24 hours, I had a Leaf for it.

I hope this is the start of something great, of a real marriage between a reader and a bookish social network.

The dog is as happy as I am.

Channeling Desiderius Erasmus: A Weekend of Splurging

The Sunday Salon

The Sunday Salon

There is nothing philosophical in this post unless one wants to ponder the philosophy of book hoarding. So I got a little money and I bought books; and whatever was left, I bought food and clothes. This sentence is the only thing that has something to do with the 16th century figure.

I feel that I have to talk about this because it’s the first time that I have spent so much on books on a single weekend, and that practically is my rent money. Nine new shiny books that I probably would not read anytime soon and that currently occupy the bedroom book shelf (for there is a mezzanine book shelf that I like showing off to pest controllers and visitors, heh).

This is not a phenomenal thing, but what I would like to know is how much is too much when it comes to book buying. Of course, one has to consider the background of the book hoarder. Do you have the means? I have a job. Do you have financial obligations? I do, and I happily perform them. How often is the hoarding? I bought some books last week at a book fair (and online), but prior to it, not too often, I guess.

Digression: I did a quick count of the books that I amassed this year, and I got 63. Add 3 more once the books in the mail arrive. It’s a combo of new books, books from second-hand book stores, and gifts. That’s more books than I could read in a single year, and it’s only nearly half of my 2013 progress (I’m at a sloppy 34). So that means I am just adding piles of books that are abandoned in the to-read shelf, which is a happy problem and which somehow summons the philosophy of eternal recurrence. Nietzsche, it is impossible to escape!

To continue, do the books need to be urgently read? No, but they might not be available when they need to be read. Has there been a shortage of food? No, but I seldom indulge on food (I stared at slices of pomelo at the market and I was horrified at the price, which is around a fifth of a common trade paperback). Are your clothes becoming threadbare due to regular use? No, but I have developed the habit of not buying clothes as long as there is something to wear that does not have holes. Was there ever a notice of eviction posted on your door? Never.

The basics are all met. Now, let’s dig a little deeper. Do you have a savings account? Yes, but it’s not worth talking about. Do you have insurance? I have only thought of getting one last week; I’ll probably start next year, I swear on my grandparents’ graves. Do you have a house? No. A car? No. Have you traveled a lot? I’ve never been out of the country. Any business plans? None. A foundation, perhaps? None. Any investments? My … books.

But I don’t feel bad about it. Is there something wrong if I don’t really work hard to be rich or something, or at least to secure my future? I think I can do better if I put my money elsewhere, but would that make me happier or at least contented? I would usually argue that the future doesn’t owe me anything, but don’t get me wrong. I still worry a bit about my future; my recent job transfer is a proof that I am continually, albeit slowly, looking for ways to improve my life.

Besides, had I not been a book lover, I am pretty sure that my money will be spent on other things. Perhaps I might have been a traveler who goes to exotic places at least twice a year. Or I might have been a violinist who collects six-digit instruments. Or I might even have been a business man who invests here and there. That kind of person is probably the person that I am least expected to become because I simply do not have that business frame my mind. And I could only vaguely speculate the what-ifs because it’s like changing myself into someone who is remotely me.

I realize that I am making excuses for my lack of financial security. I even think that this is an attempt at guilt-tripping. Just think of all the hungry and homeless people in the world! But no, I don’t feel guilty. Yes, I have a social responsibility, but I suppose the taxes that I pay will do, which are supposed to be splurged for a better country and just look at where they are flushed! I am not a saint. I am merely a book nut. It is not a lofty image, but I believe it is noble enough.

And because the word “noble” reminds me of the Nobel, here are those books that got me reeling (two of them are from Nobel laureates). Most of them are on discount because of the Fully Booked discount card that I also bought:

  • An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro – A stripey edition that I’ve been ignoring for quite a while. (Php 549.00, September 20, NBS – Glorietta)
  • The Collected Stories of William Faulkner – Because Faulkner’s stories amazed me when I first read them back in college. (Php 719.00, September 21, FB – Bonifacio High St.)
  • A Heart So White by Javier Marías – Suddenly, his books are everywhere. I must get one before they perish. (Php 609.00, September 20, NBS – Glorietta)
  • Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset – It just pulls me. And you have to love the Penguin Deluxe editions. (Php 899.00, September 21, FB – Bonifacio High St.)
  • The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster – Our book club’s book for November. (Php 576.00, September 20, FB – Greenbelt 5)
  • Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro – A replacement for my swapped copy. (Php 549.00, September 20, NBS – Glorietta)
  • Sodom and Gomorrah by Marcel Proust – The fourth in the series. The third book, The Guermantes Way, is currently and unfortunately out of stock everywhere. Gah! (Php 809.00, September 20, FB – Greenbelt 5)
  • Speedboat by Renata Adler – My NYRB purchase for this month. (Php 504.00, September 20, FB – Greenbelt 5)
  • The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov – Because Lolita, our current book of the month, reminds me to get this one. (Php 795.00, September 20, NBS – Glorietta)

So you see, I also bought a shirt (Snoopy!). The food is down my digestive tract (no pomelo though). I already paid a significant amount for my sister’s college (I have the strong faith of becoming the proud brother of a future number-cruncher). My savings account is still so-so (I am working on it). The future is a blur (and the present is filled with happy books). There’s a mountainous pile to scratch (well, isn’t life something like that?).

Why am I not reading?

The Sunday Salon

The Sunday Salon

These are the things that are happening when my reading gets out of focus:

  • I have too much work that needs to be done (and heavy traffic on the way home) and I just want to hit the sacks early. The problem is, I just lie around doing nothing while waiting for hunger to strike me down.
  • I am looking for a new place. And you know what’s on the top of my list of considerations? Book and shelf space.
  • I am spending way too much time on mobile games and I can’t seem to delete them from my phone.
  • I have an inner turbulence that I have to get through. Fortunately, this does not count now.
  • I am reading more books than I could handle. Infinite Jest, Great Expectations, and Love in the Time of Cholera (and Les Miserables). I realize that I am not a good polyreader. So I am going to finish these three and return to monogamy.

I may not be reading a lot of books but I am definitely reading a lot of online stuff. Here are some of the interesting links that I found this week:

The lines were too long

The Sunday Salon

The Sunday Salon

A friend and I went to the anniversary sale of a leading book store here in the Philippines. The books littered at the sale tables weren’t that impressive, but the 20% discount for regular items was appealing. I picked up (and returned) The Pale King, The Collected Stories of William Faulkner, and Kristin Lavransdatter. I didn’t know what to buy, but after seeing the long queue of people, plus their respective carts of books, we decided not to push through.

But I made a last attempt. I remembered Vladimir Nabokov, so I asked the crew if they have his collection of short stories. I am willing to line up for it. Fortunately, they have one copy, but unfortunately, they couldn’t locate it. So yeah, we went away and ate somewhere. Chicken steak with bits of bacon in white sauce, garlic rice, corn kernels, lemon iced tea, dark chocolate tiramisu. Yummy.

Anyway, this is a bit bothering. Before, I would compulsively buy books thinking that I’ll get around to reading them when I get enough time or when I’m older. Now, I would resist buying books because I have too many books that I haven’t read, not to mention that I’m still in a rut. What’s with this change of heart? Am I becoming less of a reader?

Not quite. Probably I metamorphosed from The Hoarder to a mix of The No-Time-to-Read Reader and The Book Clubber. Or more precisely, I’ve changed to The “It’s Complicated” Reader. Find out about your own breed of reader with this infographic shared by Candid Thoughts.

Here are more interesting links that I came across this week:

  • The most anticipated books of the second half of 2013 – I see Julian Barnes, Jonathan Lethem, and Jhumpa Lahiri. Other notables are books from Margaret Atwood (I must read The Blind Assassin), Paul Auster (I must read The New York Trilogy) J. M. Coetzee (grumbles), E. L. Doctorow (not bad), Jonathan Franzen (I must read The Corrections), Paul Harding (I must read Tinkers), Javier Marias (I must read A Heart So White), Alice McDermott (irritable sigh), Flannery O’Connor (I must read her collected stories), Thomas Pynchon (uh-oh), W. G. Sebald (I must read Austerlitz) Robert Stone (I must read Dog Soldiers) John Updike (yes, he’s dead), and many more.
  • Why do we abandon books? – In this infographic created by Goodreads, I am justified in abandoning Ulysses by James Joyce. It’s the third most abandoned book. The reason I abandoned it is not included in the list of reasons at the infographic. And this is my reason: I just couldn’t understand it. Perhaps I am trying to hard? Or perhaps I have to wait for the right time to pick it up again?
  • A list of lists – A ranking of the Top 10 Top 100 lists. I was surprised with the topnotcher because it’s my first time to see it. When I browsed through it, I am happy to see some favorite novels (Blindness! Hunger! Independent People! Lolita!) but I have to admit that this list is classics-centric. I also ignored some of the lists (e.g., the most influential books list). And why is Time’s List at the bottom? It should be in the Top 3! The Modern Library List should be lower. And The Novel 100 should be included. Sigh.
  • Joyce Carol Oates tweeted something – If I were a writer, I wouldn’t be on Twitter. Hey, I am no longer on Twitter, and I’m not even a writer. Hmm.
  • Do you want to explore Roberto Bolano? – I’ve read 2666, and I must say that Bolano is a genius. I’ve been thinking of reading Between Parentheses, and I am glad to see that it is included in the nine essential Bolano reads listed in the link.
  • Are you a book snob? – Am I? I used to be, but I think I’ve changed. :D
  • Eyecandies: new covers of classic novels (watch out for the cover of Lolita), a list of literary Google Doodles, and an artistic midyear report.
  • Book reviews that I managed to read and, of course, love: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, A Heart So White by Javier Marias, Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan, and Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan.

This is an attempt to sort of explain the lack of activities here

The Sunday Salon

The Sunday Salon

I usually don’t do this. In fact, I sometimes raise my eyebrows when I read posts where the blogger explains with so much fervor why he or she hasn’t been around. It’s as if the blogger owes the readers an explanation or the readers are demanding for it.

It’s all fine. Probably these bloggers and readers have deeper relationships than I assume. The same is true with me. A lot of my readers are also my friends. I sometimes feel that I have readers only because of my friends. Still, I try my best not to include very personal matters here for fear that it would alienate other people. Besides, this is a book blog. I don’t feel like mashing it up with other stuff.

And besides, there is The Sunday Salon as an excuse to post not-so-bookish-but-still-sort-of-bookish stuff. Like what have I been doing as far as reading and blogging are concerned? Have I been reading at all? Why am I not reviewing books lately? Why am I not buying books?

I have sunk into this phase of anxiety from which I hope I could recover soon. That generally explains why I haven’t been around. I still do read though, although it takes me longer than usual to finish a book. There are a lot of things in my mind and I find it hard to focus. But it’s not like I’m depressed or something. I sometimes think that I am but since I am still in touch with reality (am I?), I think I’m okay. I just think I need to take a vacation to clear my head and bounce back.

And that is why I am posting this on the first Sunday of the second half of the year. I am doing my best to get back. I cannot just sit and wait for the drive to come back. I think I need to somehow force myself to make the gears start turning. Later, I will parts of the books that I am reading, which are Great Expectations, Infinite Jest, and Love in the Time of Cholera. Fine, I’ll also read a bit of Les Miserables. When will I ever finish this book?

I’d also like to do something new to help me get back. I’ll be posting links that I find interesting on my TSS posts. Let’s commence, shall we?

  • Ian McEwan talks about Stoner by John Williams – I’ve read this over a year ago. I borrowed a copy from someone. It’s a great novel, and now it’s selling like pancakes thanks to all the writers who are raving about it. So you now see how big an impact writers have on the sales of books. They are somehow responsible in shaping what readers will pick up next. I hope they always pick intelligent choices and unearth more of those forgotten classics.
  • An analysis of grief – Can philosophy help a person cope with loss and grief? Coincidentally, I have just finished that part of Infinite Jest where two characters had a phone conversation about the same topics. Hmm.
  • Book launch of Manila Noir – I’ve seen copy of this, but my state of flux made me not buy the copy that I held and skimmed. And now I am so jealous of my friends who have signed copies. I am going to look for a copy this week.
  • Midyear reports from some of the blogs that I’m following – I’ve seen more, but I could only remember the lists from my friends’ blogs. Check these out: It’s A Wonderful Bookworld, One More Page, The Book Hooligan, and The Misanthropologist.

More to follow next week. Note to self: start bookmarking those links that you visit during your breaks.