Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Is writing a book review, writing?

On my other Blogger blog I wrote a preliminary assessment of a religious history focussed on mid 19th century Newfoundland. I am engaged in writing a review of this book for a scholarly journal, as I am an historian who specialized in Anglicanism.  Here I decided to post a few thoughts about writing book reviews and especially those for scholarly journals.

I am a writer, sometimes successful in terms of money earned, more often not. I don't think of myself as an author as the term seems too pretentious for me, though not for others. If I were indeed an author I think I would have to wear a tweed jacket and smoke a pipe and have one of those professional head shots you see on the back covers of hardback novels.  I am not that. I am merely someone who cannot stop writing words. I write poetry primarily, but also history. My main work is a combination of poetry, romance, prose, photographs, drawings, fonts, etc etc.

So, is writing a book review for a scholarly journal, writing? Am I functioning here as an historian which is my day job, or am I a writer firstly?

I don't yet have the answer, BTW. I am writing this blog post to sort this out in my own mind.  I tend at this point to say that a book review is evidence of my status as 'writer' more than my status as 'academic historian'.

But, is separating one's persona into discrete categories a reflection of reality?  I teach the history of religion and emphasize that the use of categories for all things and all people and all human constructs is part of modernity. But the world only began to enter 'modernity' about 500 years ago. Five hundred years is a long time in human terms, but a blip in terms of the existence of humanity which goes back perhaps a million years.

On my writer's web page I have this:

My brain is a dusty old attic with boxes on shelves in no particular order. Sometimes a box teeters and falls and the box spills open and poems, stories, observations fall scattered about on the floor. I may pick up one that attracts my gaze and bring it out for others to see.

he danced on the dusty floor sending clouds of dust  higher and more, laughing and sneezing all at one as he was draped in a fine powder of poems and things.

This is not a description of a man who categorizes anything much. Perhaps I should leave it at that. As long as I am making words fit together, I am writing. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017


I had actually forgotten about this blog!  I am so immersed now in actually writing rather than writing about writing that ... well.... look!  I haven't posted here since June of last year.

I was thinking tonight about my first efforts at writing. I was 13 and I scribbled away at my desk at home on yellow lined paper with a pencil. I had attended church with my family and something in the sermon sparked me. So while my mother made Sunday lunch I wrote about Religion & Science - my opinion then being that as Science advanced, Religion would decline. Nothing is ever that neat and simple, or at least not in my experience. But the act of writing was an expurgation to me. This is still a central motivation for me to write: to expunge built up accretions of ideas and emotions. I learned a second motivation in that early essay:  I like to fashion words into sentences... elegant, or clumsy or neat and concise... I enjoy moving words around. Now, with computers and word processors that is relatively easy, but then it involved erasing or scribbling out and writing in above, or worse if using a typewriter it means redoing an entire page and maybe the page after. I don't recall rewriting any of this first essay.

It was followed by others as I felt such release and such satisfaction in the act of writing. Hmmmm. This sounds like sex! Hmmmmm.