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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Five Questions: Grumpy Old Bookman

1. Why do you blog?
Here is a copy of a piece that I wrote in May 2006 on the whys and wherefores of blogging:
One post on the Arts Journal blog which caught my eye deals with the question of why people bother to create blogs anyway. And it asks a question which, for many bloggers, is a key one: how can you make any money out of the damn thing?
Well, admittedly it’s very difficult, and I for one have never made a penny out of mine – not directly, anyway, and I can’t say that I’ve noticed a dramatic effect on the sales of my various books. However, in my case, I am not too fussed about the money because I am retired.
So, if I’m not doing it for the money, why am I doing it? And I don’t mind admitting that it’s only recently that I figured it out. The answer is, it’s a continuation of a lifetime preoccupation, namely education. And it combines very neatly with another lifetime occupation, namely writing.
Almost my entire working life was spent in education, either as a teacher or an administrator. So I was, in various capacities, an educator. I was also, at one point, an educationist, in the sense that I made a formal study of education, including a PhD. And I even wrote a book about education.
As far as I’m concerned, therefore, the blog is just a natural extension of all that. It’s an attempt to pass on knowledge of various sorts: knowledge about how to do things, and how not to do things. What to expect, particularly if you’re a writer, and what not to expect. Information about books which are worth reading (imho) and also those which are not worth reading.
Of course you’d probably prefer not to know that I am interested in education, since most people have an aversion to being educated, in the formal sense. But we try, my sources and I, to make it as painless as possible.

2. Which author and/or book has most influenced you?
Well, of course, there are a great many. However, outside of my main career in education (mentioned above), my principal interest has been writing, in particular the writing of novels. I have made a lifelong study of the technique of fiction, and the single best book on the subject, in my judgement, is one which is long out of print:
Thomas H. Uzzell: Narrative technique (originally 1929; 3rd edition 1934)
You can still get secondhand copies – or you could, last time I looked.
Uzzell also wrote a later book – the Technique of the Novel. This is almost as good.

3. Which three blogs do you most visit?
In alphabetical order:
Blog of a bookslut
Maud Newton
Next come:
The Literary Saloon
Buzz, balls and hype

4. Why do you read fiction?
Because it generates emotions in me. With the right book, these are powerful and positive emotions, which counteract (somewhat) the negative emotions forced on me by the world in general.
If you’re reading novels for any other reason, you’re in the wrong place.

5. What makes you laugh?
That which is funny. Ho ho ho.
Oh, my dear chap, if only one could identify what it is that makes me (or anyone) laugh, bottle it, and sell it, you would be very rich. And famous.
Making people laugh is the most honourable and moral activity on the face of the earth.
Fortunately, if you study the book trade, there is much to laugh about. Unless, of course, you feel obliged to cry.
Michael Allen blogs at Grumpy Old Bookman, which can be found here:

6 Responses to “Five Questions: Grumpy Old Bookman”

  1. John how strange I should visit you today when this is part of your post, why blog? I know so many people who think it’s the lowest form of human life to be a blogger and I just end up whispering that for some of us out here it is the only way we can do a bit of writing on whatever subject, have the courage to let other people read it and get a few comments back.
    After 34 years in the caring professions I have for the first time in my life assumed the discipline of writing something each day that I know a few people will read, might want to read the book I have written about or just smile at life down here in rural Devon. I’m up to a thrilling 60 or so hits a day which whilst not quite the 31,000 that the lady in Paris managed,seems amazing for a bog standard community nurse who loves to read!

  2. Oops, apologies, I now see this is an ongoing 5 questions feature and you didn’t ask me but you you got my 5 penny’s worth anyway:-)

  3. I just came on here to say thanks to John for bringing us the man behind GOB, and then I saw your comments dovegrey…

    Many might like to tarnish bloggers as the pits of written humanity, but I beg to differ. It’s a mode of communication, first and foremost, with software that makes it easy and simple to communicate… That’s the upside. The downside is that anyone can do it and, for whatever reason, good or bad.

    It’s always the content of the blog that keeps readers coming back, once they know its nature and the fact that it’s there to start with.

    Some blogs take a long time in hitting the big time; others happily reside in their own community; others eventually die; others never make it into a true public arena.

    60 hits a day is good, dovegrey. It’s a sign you’re moving on, so don’t give up now!

  4. Thanks for the encouraging words crimeficreader,no plans to give up the day job which does give a firm feet on the ground perspective to this rather unreal but strangely tangible community.
    I agree, it’s a new mode of communication and I and a lovely group of friends are really enjoying it so no plans to throw in the blog towel yet.

  5. Pearl says:

    Yes, interesting to see an interview of someone I see so many links to. The link to Grumpy Old Bookman is broken, even if it is easy to figure out.

  6. Dovegrey,

    I’m not about to give up the day job either!

    And, as you say “…a firm feet on the ground perspective to this rather unreal but strangely tangible community” is the key to all this.

    We may blog and we may make contact across the www, but the important relationships in our lives remain the face to face ones. Through the www we may make friends and it’s good if we meet up eventually. That makes “feet on the ground”.

    It’s an opening and a wonderful opening to new friends and colleagues who share the same interests.

    Do keep at it, dovegrey – you’ve got slightly better stats than me for a start!