About this [blank] garden
“I am younger each year at the first snow.”
– Anne Sexton, in a letter to W. D. Snodgrass, in 1958.
A Self-portrait in Letters, (2004)
This is my blank space. A white page, as good as a garden covered in snow, not yet cultivated, but with some strong Spring hidden within; something simple, clean, yet to be stained; a seed with some flower all curled up inside, first waiting, then slowly unraveling.
About my scarlet letters
“From Blank to Blank — / A Threadless Way” – Emily Dickinson
My reading life is a conversation made in silence with writers I most probably will never meet. I see the books I read (and the posts I write about them) as a letter exchange. You are invited to open these letters I send to the void. Cor ad cor loquitur.
I live, love and write in Portuguese, English, and German – three languages that took hold of my mouth like parasites that latch into the tongue of a fish and eat it, replacing it with their own body – something grotesque and gorgeous I have to live with.
For better or worse, I try to model myself after the whale:
“It does seem to me, that herein we see the rare virtue of a strong individual vitality, and the rare virtue of thick walls, and the rare virtue of interior spaciousness. Oh, man! admire and model thyself after the whale! Do thou, too, remain warm among ice. Do thou, too, live in this world without being of it. Be cool at the equator; keep thy blood fluid at the Pole. Like the great dome of St. Peter’s, and like the great whale, retain, O man! in all seasons a temperature of thine own.” ― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick or, the Whale (1851)
This is my reading journal and commonplace book. I am a passionate reader and my posts are mostly efforts of affection: writing about books is my personal way of learning how to read them.
You will hardly ever find entirely negative reviews on my blog, because I don’t finish books that completely fail to engage me. And I prefer to bring grace and intuition to a book, rather than bile. –
“The only sensible procedure for a critic is to keep silent about works which he believes to be bad, while at the same time vigorously campaigning for those which he believes to be good, especially if they are being neglected or underestimated by the public. (…) Attacking bad books is not only a waste of time but also bad for character. If I find a book really bad, the only interest I can derive from writing about it has to come from myself, from such display of intelligence, wit and malice as I can contrive. One cannot review a bad book without showing off.” – W. H. Auden, The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays (1968)
I am an amateur –
“I am and wish to remain a reader, an amateur, and a fan, unburdened by the weight of ceaseless evaluation. Sometimes the book itself is my main subject; at other times it’s just a pretext for spinning out various loose associations. Anyone who calls these pieces sketches will be correct. Anyone insisting on ‘reviews’ will incur my displeasure.” Wisława Szymborska, Nonrequired Reading (2002), tr. Clare Cavanagh (Lektury nadobowiazkowe, 1973)
– and I subscribe to “The Reader’s Bill of Rights”:
“The Reader’s Bill of Rights
1. The right to not read
2. The right to skip pages
3. The right to not finish
4. The right to reread
5. The right to read anything
6. The right to escapism
7. The right to read anywhere
8. The right to browse
9. The right to read out loud
10. The right to not defend your tastes”
— Daniel Pennac, Better Than Life, tr. David Homel (1994)
I own my words. Even if I occasionally have to eat them.
Join the conversation
You can tweet or PM me, comment on this blog, comment or message me over on Goodreads, LibraryThing, Instagram, or Youtube. I also host Clássicxs Sem Classe (‘Classics without Class’), a literary podcast in Portuguese, where I talk about classics written by forgotten women writers, as well as queer classics in general. If you speak Portuguese, you can listen to it here.
** If you are a publisher, literary agent or author, please read my review policy & my guidelines, before contacting me. Please bear in mind that I do not review self-published work, I do not accept unsolicited books for review, I do not accept money in exchange for a review or a post, I do not finish bad books nor books that fail to engage me, I do not guarantee a positive review, and I do not participate in blog tours. In the biography Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World (1982), Elisabeth Young-Bruehl wrote that Arendt gave a clear message to editors who asked for reviews and articles about books she was not interested in: “I have a funny rule never to review a book I do not respect.” This is my golden rule, too. Thank you for your understanding.
*** About my rating system: My rating system is very personal, it is fallible, it changes as I change, and you can read more about it here. And yes, I know, you don’t have to enlighten me about it: the reading experience can never be reduced to numbers, nor be translated to a scale without undergoing some kind of loss. But there are some interesting things you learn about yourself when you try to do it.
**** A note to the readers: Please bear in mind that, when I review a book, I’m not giving shopping advice: I’m trying to explain how I think the book works or not, and what is interesting or not about it. In the same vein, when I read a review, I’m not looking for endless recommendations, but for a good discussion. ‘Like/don’t like’ are not the only criteria at use when reviewing a book – in fact, “like” and “enjoy” are not even the two most important words when talking, writing, or thinking about literature.
***** A special note to students: if you quote from this blog, please cite it properly. Judging by traffic statistics, your teachers are not stupid. 😉
****** Finally: The posts and videos published here are not sponsored, I earn nothing from them, and the material published in this blog is in conformation with Fair Use – criticism and comment, research and scholarship, and other educational uses. This is a personal blog. To know more about the blog policies, visit this page. All artworks posted here are the property of their respective copyright owners. Any works posted against the wishes of the copyright owner will be removed asap upon request.
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Thank you for your visit! 🙂
Lucas Cranach the Elder, ‘Adam and Eve’, 1526 [Detail]