Monday, 11 January 2010

On starting a new decade and NOT making New Year's Reading Resolutions. . .

A new year, a new decade. I can't help but look back to the beginning of the "oughts" and think about how bookselling and the industry has changed over the last ten years. Back in 2000 I was working in an independent bookstore and we'd survived the arrival of the chains (the bookstore still exists but is sadly so unrecognizable to me now that I can barely bring myself to visit; it certainly doesn't have the focus on books that it used to and very few of my former colleagues still work there). Online selling and e-books are gaining greater market share; publishers are looking towards embedding books or e-texts with all sorts of multi-media videos etc; and independent bookstores are still in trouble and closing. What's the future for them? I think it can only lie in becoming really specialized or being a boutique type of bookstore with a very dedicated, knowledgeable staff. Pages on Queen St. in Toronto which closed last year due to high rents, was such a store. Even though it carried a wide variety of books, it was the go-to store for small press, cultural studies, art books, graphic novels and small artsy magazines. I loved browsing there - I was always stumbling on something interesting that no other bookstore had. Cinematheque Ontario will be opening their new Bell Light centre next year - it will have more theatres and be the hub of the Toronto Film Festival. I'm sure there will be a cafe in the building but wouldn't it be awesome if there was also a bookstore that not only focused on film books, but had a terrific fiction section featuring international literature to complement their year-long programs of international films? They could also use the theatres for author events or lectures on literature.

The last decade saw the rise of blogging and a great way of quickly reading international book news and connecting with like-minded readers. Only now there are so many millions of blogs out there with each one leading to another and another. It's so overwhelming and time-consuming, not only to read them, but to blog oneself, as rewarding as the process can be. I've certainly cut down - I still have my favourites, but I don't check them daily anymore, preferring to have catch-up days and limit my online reading time.

I'm embracing SLOW this decade. Slow reading. Slow blogging (no pressure, just when I have the time and inclination). Slow cooking - trying to eat more organic, cut down on the red meat and use my slow cooker more often. Slow weekending - it's okay to take afternoon naps and leave some of the chores until later. I need to get out and walk more - without necessarily any destination.

I was a bit too ambitious last year with reading challenges and while I really enjoyed most of what I read, I kept compiling unreasonable lists and making crazy promises, and then not following up on them, and feeling bad about it and the whole thing just became an unending cycle . . .

So nothing too specific this year. In general terms, I'd like to read more poetry (and try to memorize some of it) and art books (I have a pile of artist biographies and books on various art movements - I need to do more than just look at the pretty pictures). I always like to tackle one of the really huge, monumental classics and this year it will be Robert Musil's The Man Without Qualities (I've already finished Part One and am really enjoying it so far, so this at least seems entirely possible).

I'm also inspired by Susan Hill's latest book, Howard's End Is On the Landing which I picked up after a flurry of blog recommendations. She decided to take a year away from the Internet, blogging, and from buying new books, to concentrate on re-reading the many books already on her shelves. An excellent idea and I'm going to extend it to my DVD watching as well - goodness knows I own enough films, both those I haven't even watched along with many that I would like to see again.

And I desperately need to declutter this year. Clothes, books, DVDs, endless piles of paper that need to be filed or shredded. So these are my mantras: Slow down. Breathe. Turn the computer off. Walk. Bicycle. Live in the moment. Have face to face conversations with real friends, not electronic ones. Keep going to the theatre. Read slowly and think. Re-read. And repeat.

1 comment:

Bloomsbury Bell said...

I am in complete agreement with you about being slower and taking more time over things. It is so easy to feel pressured to go through life quickly and you end up missing things. Happy New Year - I hope you have a great 2010.