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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Five Questions: Tales From The Reading Room

1. Why do you blog?
I’d wanted a blog for ages, but my immense technical incompetence meant I had no idea how to go about getting one. Then my husband came across a recommendation for wordpress in a computer magazine and set me up with Tales from the Reading Room. I’m an academic in the arts and so I have to write for a living. But the nature of literary research means that I’m very constrained by the kind of discourse and structures of analysis that orthodox criticism requires. I’m hoping to explore different, freer, less formulaic kinds of writing in my blog, but I still find the old lit crit tumbles out when I start talking about books. Of course what began as a mild diversion has turned into a major obsession. I have a friend who rings me up to see if I’m blogging and says ‘I’m doing this for your own good. On the count of three, walk away from the keyboard . . . ‘

2. Which author and/or book has most influenced you?
It’s almost impossible to narrow it down to any one book or author, as I’ve spent my life reading as much as possible, and I’ve been influenced by so many different individual and collective schools of thought. I work with French literature mostly, and am inevitably beholden to its philosophies (few people outside France truly believe that literature can have revolutionary power, but it’s a thought I cling to). I suppose if I had to choose one author, it would be Colette. She broke every available mould with her writing, was a prolific writer across many genres and proved herself an incomparable wordsmith in them all. What’s more, she lived her life outrageously. Good on her, I say.

3. Which three blogs do you most visit?
Only three? I have a little circuit that I trot around on the blogosphere about twice a day in order to traverse the necessary time zones. Two blogs I really admire belong to a husband and wife team, writing independently. The Hobgoblin of Little Minds and Of Books and Bicycles (, Both write lucid, thoughtful and highly entertaining posts on a wide range of topics related to reading, writing and teaching literature. I’m on their sites so often that I’m beginning to get a very British paranoia of becoming a cyberguest who outstays her welcome . . . Beyond that I think I probably visit No Dependencies/No Logos ( most regularly. Napfisk was the first blogger to come to my site and start commenting, and we quickly became blog buddies. It’s an odd sensation to feel like you are friends with someone you’ve never met, but that’s the way it is. I love his eclectic range of posts; he can write on just about any topic.

4. Why do you read fiction?
Oh dear, for all kinds of excessive reasons. Because life would seem grey and impoverished without it. Because I hate travel in reality but will joyride just about anywhere in my mind. Because a well-turned sentence is a thing of wonder and beauty. Because the greatest pleasure I get in life is in contemplating and analysing experience and fiction writers process life with suppleness and skill.

5. What makes you laugh?
I soon made a policy decision that a sense of humour was going to be an essential tool for surviving the vagaries of existence, and I am always won over by anyone or anything that can make me laugh. My students have me regularly wiping the tears from my eyes. Being linguists they are often good mimics, and it’s surprising (and alarming) how many can take off the styles of various members of the teaching faculty to perfection. They also know it’s a sure fire way to distract me from their (lack of) essays. My 11 year old son also has a good line in the ridiculous. He often cracks me up.

Victoria aka Litlove blogs at Tales From The Reading Room, which can be found here:

5 Responses to “Five Questions: Tales From The Reading Room”

  1. […] Just in case you are interested, I’m appearing over at John Baker’s blog today…. […]

  2. Dorothy W. says:

    Why, litlove, I’m so immensely flattered at your kind words about my blog! Believe me, you could never outstay your welcome at my place. Thanks — you’ve made my day.

  3. renee says:

    Just a quick correction: No Dependencies/No Logo is at (no “s”)

  4. Napfisk says:

    I don’t know if I should comment on 1) Litlove’s kind mention of my blog (I’m really humbled and promise to continue my reading-up and my blogging ‘rebirth’) or 2) on the general idea of this post itself, to which I signed-up but haven’t got round to yet. Sorry John. Is there still time? I’ll finish the draft I had begun about a month ago (shame, shame shame).

    Btw, thanks Renee for the erratum. I knew I should have picked a more accessible URL. Grin.

  5. Charles says:

    I love you response to #4, why you read fiction. I actually think aside from the enjoyment of a good book, fiction can be a great idea generator for blog posts, discussion forums, the list goes on. I’m a lover of fiction and I know it has helped me businesswise as well.