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Joe Mac

Looking back

I just stumbled upon a Big Readers conversation from back in 2008 and was struck by how much fun I appeared to be having discussing Patrick O'Brian and Bernard Cornwell - compared, that is, with my relative lack of enthusiasm for posting on the forum in recent months. I'm not sure what's happened. Perhaps it's inevitable after the novelty wears off.
The same sort of thing has happened with several other discussion or chat groups I've belonged to. Anyway, my apologies for not holding up my end. I value Big Readers Forum and enjoy all your contributions. Long may it continue!

Below is the link to the 2008 discussion I mentioned. I'm still waiting, by the way, for someone here to fall for O'Brian the way I did.

http://bigreaders.myfastforum.org...=0&postorder=asc&start=30
Caro

Hi Joe,

I think these boards just don't have as much activity as they used to have which means there isn't as much to respond to, which means it is harder to find the fun and enthusiasm.  I still enjoy them lots, but some mornings I turn on the computer to find there has only been one or two posts overnight (and that's not just this board but the four that I visit).  Or the posts - not on this one - are trivial and don't interest me.  

I am still keen to read Patrick O'Brian, since I enjoyed The Golden Ocean.  Just haven't got started.  But I find I am often very excited by a book or series that others just don't seem to feel the same about!  Alwasy a little disappointing.  

Cheers, Caro.
Chibiabos83

Yes, things used to be so lively when we were still under the auspices of the BBC, but since then the number of active members has gradually fallen. I think we may have reached a sort of plateau. I'm as guilty as anyone of not engaging with others in discussion. The board's still trundling along at the moment, but it needs more people around for it to develop. I wonder how we get more people to join in. Suggestions?
Evie

I think part of the problem is that our reading doesn't often overlap - the discussions you enjoyed, RN, were on authors you love, and as you say, not many others have responded to those authors.  That's bound up with the fact that we are fewer in number - smaller numbers means there is less chance of overlaps.

I've really enjoyed our Good Read discussions, especially this time around, and I do think group reads are generally a good thing - but with a smallish group, and everyone with their own TBRs and reading plans, and some reading things for face to face book groups, it's not easy to organise these.  But something vaguely structured helps - that's when the board becomes a virtual book group.  There must be other ways of generating some livelier discussions, and maybe someone will come up with something!  I will certainly give it some thought.
Evie

Another thing I keep thinking - and this really is looking back - is that I still miss the old BBC board, before they changed their software, when you could add to individual threads in a more specific way.  Rather than a list of comments, as we have here (and as the BBC board became), you could follow tangents, and it made specific and focused discussions easier.  However, there is no way around that with the format we have, so a pointless comment...still miss it, though!
county_lady

Yes I still miss the old BBC board which  was fun.
I am always grateful for those busy people who also make time to post. I often think I'll join a thread but then sit at the keyboard with a completely blank mind.
Also this year I had hoped to increase last year's low of 32 books but have only now reached book 25.
Evie

25 books in a year (or 11 months!) sounds pretty good to me.

I'd also add that I still enjoy the board very much - every so often a good discussion comes along, and in between there are lots of interesting posts - I don't always respond, but I do always read and enjoy.  It's like a common room for me - I drop in with a cup of coffee and see who's around, and enjoy the bookish but relaxed atmosphere - lovely.
chris-l

I know that in the early days, I was much more ready to post an instant response, even if it was just a one liner! Now I do try to come up with something rather more considered, as I think do others.

This probably improves the quality of the board, but it does mean that more careful reading of the contributions is needed, and I don't always feel that I have time to do justice to them. This applies particularly to the blogs - if I have missed looking at the board for a few days, there is often too much content there to be easily caught up with.

Reading the posts on here is still a great pleasure. I suppose it has just matured a bit with the passing years. Like us!
Caro

I often find, too, that I compose a long and sensible post while driving in the car, but sitting in front of the computer it just feels too much work or time-consuming to try and recreate it, so it doesn't always get written.

I have been for several days reading two books but still haven't got to put them on the What are you reading thread, though I will.  I will.  Not yet, though - I am off out in half an hour, and there is still washing to hang out, sandwiches to make, and make-up to put on. (That doesn't take the 80 minutes women apparently spend getting ready to go out; men take 65 - ludicrous statistics.  I take several seconds to put on lipstick, perfume and foundation.  Well, perhaps you didn't need to know all that!  Once I get writing I don't stop.)

Cheers, Caro.
mike js

Ah, the noisy times on the original Big Readers board! I do think it is great that this offspring of the original is still going; strong we hope, if quiet. Of course, I haven't helped much to keep things flowing nicely.

I do recall that my free-flowing post history in the good old Beeb days was founded on the principle of being mostly very silly. In exceptional circumstances, I would mention a book.
Evie

Perhaps we need more silliness!
Ann

Evie I second that as I do like some silliness in life. I've just added a fairly silly post to Gareth's comment about Kenneth Williams' letters.
I am always pleased to add to the gaity of nations
mike js

Well, I shall try to be a bit more acitve, and not very sensible!
county_lady

mike js wrote:
Well, I shall try to be a bit more acitve, and not very sensible!


Very Happy
Caro

Hi Joe,

You wrote that you were waiting for someone to show the same enthusiasm for Patrick O'Brian that you have.  I hope Himadri will forgive me for stealing a quote from him over on his blog to cheer you up.  He wrote (among a lot more, condemning The Shadow of the Wind):  

Quote:
Just read any page of George Macdonald Fraser, say, or of Patrick O’Brian to confirm that aiming for a popular market need not necessitate such characterless writing.


That shows some enthusiasm, I think.  Maybe not as much as yours, but people never seem to quite feel the same about some writers as I do; it goes with the territory.

Cheers, Caro.
TheRejectAmidHair

To be fair, I haven't yet read a Patrick O'Brian novel, but a friend of mine is a big fan, and is constantly recommending them to me. I've read several extracts, and, just as it is possible to identify a crap writer from just a few passages, so it's possible also to identify a good one. Patrick O 'Brian was obviously a very fine writer - and that is apparent even from a few passages.

What does, I admit, annoy me is that there appear to be a great many people who really cannot put sentences together, and who yet appear to make a good living from writing. It's not a question of highbrow vs lowbrow: whatever the height of one's brow, a professional writer should be able to write well, and, to judge from my bookshop browsing sessions, there are many who can't.
Caro

But they're not writing for you, Himadri.  They're writing for people who do want to get through a book quickly, who want to read but not have their brain extended, who enjoy a story alone and not the writing that produced it, and who want nothing but entertainment.

The same as I listen to music in the car - even good light music is not really what I want; I want drivelly tuneful music to sing along to and not think about.  Jim Reeves will do fine, or The Mavericks, or Slim Whitman, or any number of people who sing ordinary country music or silly 60s hits.  (Not as silly as My Boy Lollipop, but as silly as Sylvia's Mother.)
TheRejectAmidHair

I don't know that it matters to me much that they aren't writing for me. And neither am I talking about books that "extend one's brain": there are many books I love which require no intellectual effort at all, but which nonetheless display a quality of craftsmanship that, for me, is a prerequisite for any professional writing. But we've been here before, I think.
Caro

They might not involve intellectual effort but they still refer some effort.  I wouldn't actually call either Patrick O'Brian or George Macdonald Fraser (always have to look up his name to get the last two names in the right order!) light reading - certainly not light in the sense people who read someone like Janet Trotter or Emma Blair want.  Wodehouse is light, but he has a particular style and setting that wouldn't appeal to people just wanting a family saga/romance.  You still have to think to read Wodehouse.  Not so much for Conan Doyle perhaps, but the books I am thinking of aren't crime novels either.

Last night my husband said he quite liked the cask wine he'd bought me (I have reservations about it).  I said, "You just like because it's cheap."  And he said, "No, it's unchallenging."  And that's what some people, older women mostly, want in the books they are reading.  It does interest me though, that readers of westerns almost unanimously say Louis L'Amour is the best of them, for his writing, his knowledge and his stories.  

Cheers, Caro.

So much for silliness!  Have managed to divert even a thread like this to quite serious discussion.  Sorry.
Apple

Yes its is quiet on here, and has been for a long while, there is only a handful of people left who post reasonably regularly.  I look in from time to time and think there are going to be loads of unread posts to read but there never seems to be.

The problem seems to be (from my point of view) all the characters have gone from the old board, the people who gave the board its different perspectives, its fun and edge and gave life to the discussions - Dai, Luna, Miranda, the Baron, Not smart just lucky, Raunchyducky are the first few absences and in my opinion greatly missed absences which spring to my mind who gave most discussions their own unique take, they have all long since stopped posting and its a real shame.
Chibiabos83

Well, it's a very good thing you're still around, Apple Smile
Apple

Oh you can't get rid of me!!  Wink
TheRejectAmidHair

Caro wrote:
They might not involve intellectual effort but they still refer some effort.  I wouldn't actually call either Patrick O'Brian or George Macdonald Fraser (always have to look up his name to get the last two names in the right order!) light reading - certainly not light in the sense people who read someone like Janet Trotter or Emma Blair want.  Wodehouse is light, but he has a particular style and setting that wouldn't appeal to people just wanting a family saga/romance.  You still have to think to read Wodehouse.  Not so much for Conan Doyle perhaps, but the books I am thinking of aren't crime novels either.

Last night my husband said he quite liked the cask wine he'd bought me (I have reservations about it).  I said, "You just like because it's cheap."  And he said, "No, it's unchallenging."  And that's what some people, older women mostly, want in the books they are reading.  It does interest me though, that readers of westerns almost unanimously say Louis L'Amour is the best of them, for his writing, his knowledge and his stories.  

Cheers, Caro.

So much for silliness!  Have managed to divert even a thread like this to quite serious discussion.  Sorry.


Caro, to deny the validity of ranking certain things above certain other things is to deny the very concept of quality itself.

I really have no problem whatever with what others choose to read, and to enjoy. People are entitled tio read and to enjoy whatever they want.  But equally, I too am entitled to exercise whatever critical faculty I have, irrespective of whether or not the book in question is aimed towards me.

The fact of a shoddily crafted book being widely enjoyed does not make the book any less shoddily crafted; and neither is such a fact a good enough reason for anyone to suspend their critical faculties.
Caro

I don't think I am denying the validity of ranking things or of considering quality.  What I am saying is that some people are actually looking for what is really poor quality.  I look for it in music, apparently the other day my husband was looking for it in wine (though he doesn't usually), and some readers look for it in books.  They don't want good quality - they find it difficult and threatening, even if the writing seems light to you or me.  I think also they want a certain story line, so someone like Alex McCall Smith doesn't fit either.  

It's what these readers like, Himadri - I see them all the time at the library and if you try to branch them out a bit they just bring the books back saying they didn't like them much.
TheRejectAmidHair

Once again, people are entitled to like books of poor quality. I have no problem with that. I am merely standing up for my right to say that these books are of poor quality. That's all.

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