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Sunday, October 3, 2010
My Reading Journey In France: Reflections on Choice and Accessibility
A MV of a French book I just recently finished direct link in case embed vid doesn't work
Looking back, I can't believe so much time passed by since I last posted. My Blogoversary went by without any comment from me, my birthday shortly afterwards, and now, it's October. *guiltyface* My apologies.
My Reading Journey In France: Reflections on Choice and Accessibility
When my Blogoversary was coming up, I had a hard time figuring out what I would say for it, mostly because I have no idea how my reading experience would be like in a different country. Because, you know, crossing an ocean to a country that predominantly speaks a non-English language really changes my reading habits. I don't have those shiny ereader things so I must rely solely on the local bookstores for books, and... You guessed it, it's hard to find English books in their original English text. Well, the ones that aren't top bestsellers or classics, at any rate. That, combined with the fact that I'm basically in France to improve my French, means that I will be doing my best to read almost exclusively in French. (This also means I'll be reading less books in general since, as I've discussed before, I read slower in French.)
I had a feeling this would impact my blogging, and, you know, it does. I'm still struggling over how I'd review a French book in an English review when 1) the book may not be available in English and thus my readers will probably not care about what I'm reviewing, and 2) I'm actually not at all well-versed in the French literary canon, (I used to not really read more than 3-5 French novels in a year, and most of that - if not all - comes from those compulsory reading materials in my French classes.) and I feel like I'm not quite at the point wherein I can fairly gauge how well the book was written on a word-by-word scale.
I'm looking at my book buying habits here over last month, and I believe that I'm buying more translated into French texts than works written originally in the French language. To be honest, this mostly has to do with the fact that manga here is cheaper than back home, and France licenses quite a number of shoujo manga I can't find in English, or they're releasing the volumes here faster, etc. Aside from manga, I'm also buying more translated novels because... Well, I find that the US publishing industry is not really up in the forefront on translating novels from other places into English. For instance, I've always wanted to read The Sky Crawlers because the movie that was based on this book was simply stunning, but so far there's no trace of a translation in English project in the works. When I found it in the local bookstore here in French I possibly may have made a public display of myself and paid 14.99 euros without so much as blinking. Also, when the book is translated from a language I am not fluent enough to read in its original language like Japanese or Korean or Chinese or Italian or German, etc etc, I feel like whatever language I read it in won't matter since things will be lost-in-translation either way and if I choose to read it in French, my French reading materials also increase.
Also, a side effect of not having read much from the French literary scene is that I'm walking into the bookstore more or less clueless and not quite sure what to buy. I'm one of those really cautious book buyers, wherein every time I pick up a book, I try to think, will it be worth it? What if this book ends up not being my thing? (Aaaaaaaaand I also look for the cheapest book prices possible, lol.) I'm picking up less reading material, and the fewer books I read, the less book reviewing materials I have. However, I suppose this factor can change once I read more and get a feel for what kind of French book I like.
Another factor in my book selections is that recently I'm much less willing to accept novels that depict a white-washed world. (Please note that I'm saying 'less willing', not completely unwilling.) I do like to see at least a hint of diversity in what I read, and, well, when I scanned the 'jeunesse' section (mostly the equivalent of the Teen's and MG section in Canada/US if the two subcategories were meshed into one) of the bookstore and trying to gleam out the novels written originally in French from the translated novels (So many translated novels!! Almost all coming from the US publishing industry! They practically take up 80% of bookshelve space! This is so strange for me... And, you know, kind of visibly showed me the clout of the US publishing hand has on a more global scale.), it is all very overwhelmingly white European. This is not to say that they don't exist, just that the ones I see on the shelf can't be more than what I can count on one hand. So, I'm basically having trouble mustering up enough enthusiasm about the jeunesse titles I see to fork out the cash and buy them.
Besides the whole book buying scenario I have, I'd like to say that I am aware that there are other ways to get English books from the online community. It's a bit limiting for me however since I'm actively avoiding book giveaways available to me from the YA book blogging world (also even if I were to rely on these giveaways not many are international) and refusing ARCS unless I can, you know, pass them along to someone else afterwards in a tour thing. Why, you might ask? Well, as much as I'd like to read all the shiny books being given out, I'm returning to Canada in a year, and the idea of lugging around a pile of ARCS back home next summer makes me wither and die a little inside, lol. I suppose the perfect fit for me then would be to sign up for those blog tours wherein I get to pass along the ARC to the next reviewer when I'm done, but the big YA blog tour sign up requires me to hand out stats info and I don't keep stats on this blog. Seriously, if I did, it'd drive me nuts. I did that once for an old defunct non-book blog I had and I constantly refreshed the page and would curl up into a ball muttering 'omg no one read that post, NO ONE LOVES ME' and I basically became a crazy person. NEVER AGAIN, people. (Okay, I admit that maybe getting that stat thing that links you to whoever links to your post or blog is useful, but I haven't gotten around to installing it yet...) When I started this book blog I told myself that this blog with first and foremost be about ME ME ME and a place for MY thoughts and I will not care if my posts are not widely circulated, how many people visit, how popular this blog is, etc. (That is not to say I don't love each and every single reader that drops by, and special love to all who decide to follow and drop a comment once in a while. It's just that I refuse to be stressed out about how 'popular' this blog is.)
An easy solution for acquiring more English reading material would be to read those NetGalley books, but I'm really bad with reading novels or other long narrative works online. I'm much better at going about reading short stories stuff online from those SFF anthology magazines (did anyone read the latest Yoon Ha Lee work Flower, Mercy, Needle, Chain? It's BRILLIANT.) or fanfiction or fanzines of original works written by fandom people (my latest favourite from a pretty popular gay anthology called Shousetsu Bang*Bang: Strength, Gallantry, and Other Useless Bits - it's in two parts, set in an all-boys Chinese boarding martial arts school AND ITS HILARIOUS.) Haha, now that I think about it, online short stories are probably the only fiction pieces I've read in English in over a month...
(And I refuse to get a library card here. Apparently I have to buy a library card?! The cheapskate in me finds this an absolute scandal.)
Okay, so I'm going on and on retrospectively about my reading situation here, and you're all probably wondering, what exactly am I getting at? Well, looking at what I'm reading, I suspect that any books I will review in the future will probably be translated French books. And, you know, my ponderings over how one is limited to what they read by the resources that's available to them, book choices are shaped by one's environment etc. This is a terribly self-indulgent rambling blog spot wherein I'm thinking aloud through typing, which was helpful for me, and also is hopefully of interest to a handful of my readers.
Anyhow Question to my Readers? Do you find your reading habits or book buying choices changes? I'd be interested in hearing any stories anyone has to say about their experiences in the comments. Of course I'm not addressing just those readers who've undergone a similar going-off-to-live-in-a-foreign-country situation, but little changes, like if the seasons changes your taste in books, or a new school, etc. =D