This will be the final post to appear at The Reading Experience, at least in its current form. After six years of posting on subjects that have no doubt become familiar to regular readers of this blog, I have decided that I have more or less expressed what I had to say on most of those subjects and therefore that this version of The Reading Experience should be retired. I will continue to maintain a new version of TRE, as well as other side blogs as I will explain later in this post, but readers should expect a change in emphasis and a new look.
Having concluded that I had in effect fulfilled my ambitions for TRE, I also decided that I should put together some kind of summary statement that might represent what the blog had attempted and accomplished. Thus at the same time I am shuttering TRE the blog I am making available a book version of The Reading Experience. This book consists of a selection of the posts that most directly state and develop the concerns I consistently explored over the course of the blog's existence, edited, rearranged, and supplemented with some new content. It is not simply a collection of posts, nor a "greatest hits" selection, but, as I say in the preface, is the book I might have written had I not created the weblog instead.
The Reading Experience can be acquired and/or read in the following formats:
--Free at Scribd.
This site allows you to read the book online in a book-like facsimile, download the text in .pdf or .txt versions, download and print it, download it to various devices (I'm not sure how the formatting will hold up on some of them), or add it to your very own Scribd "collection." In this configuration you can navigate to individual sections of the book through links on the TOC page.
--Free at Yudu.
This site mostly displays the book in a facsimile (although the display is pretty cool), but you can also print it, download it to a Zip file, bookmark and annotate pages, etc. There is a search function that allows you to go to a specific page as well.
--As a free-standing .pdf file.
This also allows you to go to specific sections through links in the Table of Contents.
--As a Kindle e-book.
This will cost you $0.99. I'd like it to be free, but this is the minimum I'm allowed to charge.
This version is printed by CreateSpace. It costs $17, which is way too expensive, but it was the cheapest printed text I was able to construct. Again I'd like to make it free, but current technology (and my expense account) does not make that possible. If any bloggers, editors, or reviewers would like a complimentary copy for review or discussion, I can certainly try to get you one. I don't imagine I'll sell many copies of this, but I'd like a paperback version to be available nonetheless.
(I initially assumed I would make the paperback available through Lulu. However, their site proved impossible to negotiate and their support virtually nonexistent, so I went with CreateSpace instead. Based on my experience, I cannot recommend Lulu for anyone who wants to be his/her own publisher.)
The archives of The Reading Experience 1.0 will continue to be accessible, but I hope that this book version will provide interested readers with a coherent distillation of the writing I posted to the blog. It is not intended as a substitute for or improvement of the blog but as a complement, an adaptation of the blog's content to another medium. To the extent that a "book" is regarded as a more appropriate medium for extended literary criticism than a blog, perhaps it will attract some readers who might not have been willing to consider weblog-based criticism, although I continue to believe these readers are nevertheless mistaken in their assumptions about the quality of discussion that can be found on blogs and other online sources of critical commentary.
I will myself still be attempting to illustrate the possibilities of such commentary on the successor to The Reading Experience, The Reading Experience 2.0. TRE2 will likely feature shorter posts than those I have offered on TRE1, but I will continue to post reviews of new works of fiction, as well as briefer essays on issues of literary criticism, most likely beyond those immediately relevant to contemporary fiction. I would like to include more posts on poetry, which will I hope force me out of my critical comfort range but also help me become more conversant with contemporary poetry and the modes of criticism appropriate to its intelligent consideration. I also plan to include more posts on "classic" literature (pre-WW II) and on literary history more generally, subjects about which I feel I have the requistite knowledge to comment intelligently, and on translated fiction and philosophy, about which I have less knowledge but much interest, and I hope, as with poetry, through the act of writing about them to further educate myself (and perhaps engage in discussions with new readers who do know something about them.)
I will also still be writing some longer posts on postwar American fiction, but will do so on a new side blog that will feature only these longer considerations of American fiction of the second half of the twentieth century (or at least of writers a substantial part of whose career falls within this period). I have already moved posts like these from the TRE archive to this new blog, and my goal for the site is that it will ultimately provide, through essays on particular writers and their work, a sort of panoramic view of American fiction from this period. Since American fiction post-1945 was/is my academic area of expertise, I am hoping this project will afford me the opportunity to write about the subject in some depth and breadth. A future book collecting these essays might eventually result.
Finally, I will continue to maintain two other side blogs, The Critical Sphere, intended to direct readers to worthwhile critical posts from around the lit/critosphere, and Secondary Sources, which I regard as a source of what I think of as more "scholarly" posts such as reviews of academic books on contemporary fiction or even the occasional foray back to scholarly essays of the sort I wrote when I still considered myself an academic critic. I have already posted there a new essay of the former kind, and have re-posted a couple of TRE posts that seem more scholarly in tone and scope.
Maintaining a single blog no longer seems to me an adequate way to cover all of the subjects, and address the various audiences engaged by those subjects, that interest me as a critic, although I continue to find the medium itself entirely adequate for writing about literary subjects. I hope not to fragment my attention so thoroughly that readers find the multi-blog approach incoherent, and I certainly do not intend to burden readers' attention with posts in competition with each other, but the old practice of alternating briefer commentary with longer reviews and essays with shout-outs to other blogs has come to seem counterproductive. I feel that TRE's identity has become somewhat slippery, its perspective somewhat blurry, and thus a refreshment of purpose will perhaps be salutary, both for me and for whatever readers still find their way here.
I am very grateful to those readers (collectively accounting for nearly a million pageviews) who have already made their way here since TRE's inception in January 2004. I never really expected still to be blogging these many years later, so however much longer the new TRE and its satellites remain active it will be time already redeemed by TRE1.
I welcome comments, positive or otherwise, about any of the announcements I have made in this post.