Reviewing

Book and movie reviews were an early staple for the blog and because books remain a point of fascination for me the reviews have continued on and off. Here's a short post on reviewing, from January 2019, and what it means to me. I also review TV programs and exhibitions held in galleries (either commercial ones or public ones). There is also the occasional theatre review but not much.

For movie reviews the date shown is the date of first release. For book reviews the date shown is the publication date or, for translations, the date of first publication in English.

When I started blogging, posts on the blog were composed in the Johnsonian way, all in a rush, and each one took me about an hour to complete; there was very little time spent reviewing posts once they were published. The good doctor was said to compose his journal columns in twenty-minute flurries. Then in the middle of 2017 I started to use a word processing program to write posts, a step which has allowed me to slow down the process, take breaks, and come back to do more work later on. This change in the production process has resulted in a much better product.

The types of books I review are, in fiction:
  • Novels
  • Novellas
  • Short stories
  • Collections of poetry
And in nonfiction:
  • History
  • Biography
  • Memoir
  • Creative nonfiction
  • Journalism
  • Academic monographs
  • Criticism
I started to keep records of my reviews from 20 February 2019 and since that time up to when this summary was written, the bulk of the books I have reviewed have been from the Anglosphere. I read more books than I ever finish and during the surveyed period the overwhelming majority of my reviews have been either positive or offered a mixed assessment of the book in question. On 9 December 2019, I started putting a metadata table into reviews to help readers understand the books dealt with.

Most of these books were originally written in English but I have also reviewed books from Mexico, Argentina, Egypt, Syria, France, Iraq, Japan, Germany, and Bangladesh. Most of the time the author was alive when the book was reviewed and many reviews result in the author or editor or publisher thanking me for my effort.

A few responses to reviews

Zachary Nathanson, a Houston-based blogger who writes about music, in response to a tweet I put up with a link to my 19 September, 2019, review of John Carreyrou's book of journalism, 'Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup': "Excellent review of the book you did."

Nick Kapur, author of the history book 'Japan at the Crossroads: Conflict and Compromise after Anpo' (which I reviewed on the blog on 4 October 2019) tweeted, in response to the tweet I had sent him containing a link to my review: "Cool, thanks for sharing this!"

Karen Viggers, author of the ‘The Orchardist’s Daughter’, a novel I reviewed on 16 April 2019: “It was a very thoughtful and considered review.”

Namwali Serpell, author of ‘The Old Drift’, a novel I reviewed on 7 September 2019: “Thank you! A lovely review.”

Khaled Khalifa, author of ‘Death is Hard Work’, a novel in translation I reviewed on 4 September 2019: “Thank you dear Matthew.”

Mohammad Rabie, author of ‘Otared’, a novel in translation I reviewed on 31 August 2019: “Thank you Matthew.”

Simon Cleary, author of ‘The War Artist’, a novel I reviewed on 10 August 2019: “Many thanks for your marvellous review, Matthew!”

Lee Kofman, author of 'Imperfect', a work of creative nonfiction I reviewed on 1 April 2019: "Thank you for your deep engagement with my work, Matthew, I enjoyed reading your review."

Katherine Collette, author of 'The Helpline', a novel I reviewed on 25 March 2019: "What a lovely review!  Thanks @mattdasilva!"

Robert Lukins, author of 'The Everlasting Sunday', a novel I reviewed on 23 March 2019: "Much appreciated; thanks for the deep reading Matthew."

Mark Brandi, author of 'The Rip', a novel I reviewed on 4 March 2019: "Thanks Matthew - enjoyed reading your take on it."

Cassie Hamer, author of 'After the Party', a novel I reviewed on 25 February 2019: "Matthew this is a wonderful review. You've engaged so fully with the material which, for authors, is everything. Thank you for your careful attention to the prose and your insight."

Mascara Literary Review

In December 2018 an editor of this publication contacted me on Facebook after asking to be my friend there, an event that led me to accepting her approach. We had known each other in the 1980s as a result of my involvement with a publication named 'Neos: Young Writers'. I had become involved with it because I was friends with a bookshop owner name Paul Feain who had his store on Glebe Point Road (it's not in business now). Neil Whitfield, who was working with some young people on the magazine and who was a teacher, asked me, on a day we were both in the store, to get involved, so I did.

Glebe was a kind of turning point for me in many ways. I had spent 1981 living in a residential college at university but had found the culture there contrary to my own tastes. Too much alcohol and too many practical jokes that weren't really funny. So I moved to a place with one room, a bathroom, and a kitchen across the road from a printery behind what was then the Grace Bros carpark. Oddly enough the printery was owned by a man named Bob Green who was dad's fiercest rival sailing Hobie Cats on Watsons Bay, where I grew up. Bob boasted to dad that he didn't have a book in the house.  From time to time, to make a point, dad would comment acidly on this to us boys (my brother is two years older than me). Living in Glebe, literature was everything to me.

Michelle was also involved in 'Neos' at that time and had started Mascara in the 2000s. We met up at a cafe in the Sydney CBD and talked, and then on 31 January 2019 she asked me to write a review of a novel by an Australian author. Once the first review had been published, on 13 April I received from Michelle another, similar, request. And so on.

Divergism

I put forward an idea about what I see as a new paradigm in publishing, which I call “Divergism”. I have written about this in two blogposts that both went up in 2019 and you can read them here  and here.

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