I’ve been thinking a lot in the past week about why I blog and join in literary discussions on social media, especially Twitter. I know a lot of my fellow bloggers have struggled with these same questions. In addition to my blog being a personal record of my reading tastes from year to year, it also allows me to be a part of a supportive, literary community that has similar ideas, thoughts, opinions, tastes, etc. about books. I would never have discovered, for instance, authors such a Karoline Von Günderrode, Dorothy Richardson or Roland Buti (just to name a few) without the recommendations from my fellow book lovers. I am delighted to be a part of a community that welcomes ideas and thoughts about books from all readers, without judgement, scorn or vitriol. We don’t always agree on the quality or merit of a book, but criticism is given in a respectful, kind way. I feel that we follow the spirit behind Woolf’s opening paragraph in her essay, “How Should One Read a Book?”:
Even if I could answer the question for myself, the answer would apply only to me and not to you. The only advice, indeed, that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions. If this is agreed between us, then I feel at liberty to put forward a few ideas and suggestions because you will not allow them to fetter that independence which is the most important quality that a reader can possess. After all, what laws can be laid down about books? The battle of Waterloo was certainly fought on a certain day; but is Hamlet a better play than Lear? Nobody can say. Each must decide that question for himself. To admit authorities, however heavily furred and gowned, into our libraries and let them tell us how to read, what to read, and what value to place upon what we read, is to destroy the spirit of freedom which is the breath of those sanctuaries. Everywhere else we may be bound by laws and conventions—there we have none.
And I will also share the concluding paragraph of the essay which I enjoyed:
I have sometimes dreamt, at least, that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards—their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble—the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when he sees us coming with our books under our arms, ‘Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.’