Where to start? How to end?
I decided to write this the morning of because I just couldn’t think of where to begin last night, and last night I was exhausted. I thought a fresh morning brain would fix things right up, so let’s see if that’s true.
It’s slightly weird that I feel an urge to say goodbye. Although I’ll still be around, I won’t be here blogging about IJ every week, reading each blog post in the morning, tweeting out the blog posts in the morning (or in the afternoon when I had forgotten), and trying to get a guest blogger for each Friday. Quite literally, my life revolved around this blog. I don’t want to say “this book” because it wasn’t just IJ. In fact, reading IJ this time around seemed almost “in the way” of reading everyone else’s blog posts and comments. I was more interested, at least this time around, to see what other people had to say about one of my favourite books. It was my 4th time reading IJ within my 20s and that’s a lot. I found returning to the book a bit exhausting this time around because I had read it 2 or 3 years ago. But what made me keep reading, and what made me see a lot that I never saw before, was reading with all of you.
It was like I was reading it for the very first time.
And reading it with others was important to me. I really wanted to see what others brought to the book. But on my fourth time around, I was kinda done with loving the book as much as I did the first and second and even the third time around. I wanted to know it’s problems, its shortcomings, its flaws, its failures. And I wanted to acknowledge all of them and be able to talk about then with others. I think that’s important when you love a book, and it’s even more important when you study a book. So when Allie messaged me a bit ago about whether or not she could discuss not liking the book thus far in the reading group, I said absolutely and encouraged it. Because we’re a book club, not a fan club (although the majority of us writing on here have read the book before and are fans, so I understood the pressure). So, I want to thank her for doing just that: opening the doors to talking about the book’s shortcomings. I believe Infinite Summer also had a guide who disliked the book most of the way through, if not to the very end (I will have to re-read all of the posts again to make sure). But this is how discussion is carried on, and this kind of discussion is important to first-time readers (who I know read along with us but were shy or too busy to comment, which is totally cool!) to feel comfortable talking about any reservations that they may have. It was great, for me, to not only talk about this online but also offline.
And BUT so I think I should take some time right now to thank all of the guides. Shazia, Joe, Allie: thank you all so much. You all did a great, wondrous job. Because this is a lot of work. And the thought, the time, and the devotion that went into all of these posts (the pictures, the videos, the gifs, the links to elsewhere) was above and beyond what I expected. It was lovely to blog with you all, and it was lovely to read your reading. As guides, I think you were all exceptional because you each guided readers through the book in your own way. Let’s give a round of applause for all of the hard work that the guides put in!
I also want to thank ALL of the guests. Thank you for putting up with my sometimes vagueness, my last minuteness (“can you write a post for…next week!?”), and for your contributions. You all took time out of your busy schedules to write those posts and communicate back and forth with me about ideas and clarifications. My heart goes out to all of you: Danielle, Clare, Michael, Allan, Steve, Alana, Matt, Nat, Brett, Nathan, Eden, Corrie, Raoul, and Aimée. And I’m glad to just have noticed that the guests (in addition to the guides) have been an even 50/50 split between men and women. That is fantastic. I also want to thank the people who declined to guest appear. I won’t name names, but I want to say thank you for taking the time out of your day to talk with me and discuss possibilities but eventually having to turn down the offer.
There were some guests I was considering but decided not to. A little something about me: I have a good case of social anxiety. Although I can manage it well, it still takes me like an hour just to write an email to someone new with the line “Are you interested in writing a guest post for my blog”. The fact that I had to ask this to so many “strangers” (and I put “strangers” in quotation marks because I kinda “knew” most of you all, either through the wallace listserv or my own life or past reading groups) to write a blog post for me, sent me through like existential hell. It was really tough for me to do little things like tweet out the blog posts, write these blog posts, and to ask a number of people to write up a blog post. I feared rejection; I feared someone saying sure, then reading the blog and being like “what’s all this crap, you suck, phil, go away, I’ll never write a blog post for you, what is your LIFE.” Yeah, sometimes I imagine the worst. So, yeah, I had plans for “big names” but upon opening up my email, I just couldn’t. That being said, all of the guests, to me, were “big names” because they all made a big contribution to the blog and were more important to me because they were all, in some way or another, connected to me. And at some point or another, most of us met in person. It was more important to me to have guests that I wanted to get to know more, if that makes any sense.
Are there things that I wish I can do better? Of course. One of the things I will be doing in the next coming weeks is just organizing this blog a bit better and making it easier to go through all of the blog posts (making them excerpts). So that way, if someone wants to do a scheduled read, they can just use our Week categories and “follow along” with us that way. I apologize for any messiness. All of the messiness is on me. As in it’s my fault. I don’t literally have messiness on me. Although sometimes I can be a mess.
I would also like to thank everyone that followed along, even if you weren’t reading the book. Like, thanks so much to everyone that retweeted the blog posts and liked them. I think Nick Maniatis reblogged every single one, sometimes catching up on a few all in one night, making my phone make me look like I was super important. I want to thank all of the commenters, and I hope discussion never got too too heated! I also want to thank the lurkers. Sometimes a lurker would chime in and message me that they are really enjoying the blog. Other times, I’d hear that someone in KW was like following along and was like OH YOU’RE THE ONE RUNNING THE BLOG!? These little instances made me feel good, that we weren’t just sending a signal into space and not getting anything back. There is someone, something, life, out there. All jokes aside, I hope you all enjoyed Poor Yoricks’ Summer, which I realized I just could’ve called Poor Summer. Ah, poor me, poor me, pour me a drink. Sometimes we make mistakes! If you haven’t commented on the blog and would like to say thanks or give some kind of feedback, you can do so in the comments below. That would be nice.
Of course, this blog is not quite done. Well, I’m not quite done with the blog. It is now going to become a chapter in my dissertation, a chapter devoted to auto/biography and IJ reading groups. The focus is Infinite Summer, but I am using this blog to write about my experiences moderating, organizing, and participating in a reading group like Infinite Summer. What direction will this chapter go? Well, I think one of the major points I’ve realized and what I kinda touched upon above is how much I have had to go outside of myself, and how these blog posts have been a presentation of myself shaped by the idea of people reading along and responding and by my fellow guides. What drew me to Infinite Summer was the amount of auto/biographical writing that occurred in that space. And even in here, autobiographical moments emerged. I found myself sharing with you all that I was going through a difficult time one week. Joe would share pictures and in-jokes about his dad. Shazia brought in why she missed her post one week. Allie would bring in the kinds books and films and music she loves, weaving this auto/biographical narration with the explanation of her title choice and the gifs she used. And look at the guests, too. Although I won’t go through all of them, the one that stood our for me was Clare’s discussion of motherhood and parenting.
So why this book in this kind of setting (an online reading group). Auto/biographical theory aside, I think part of it is because of how drawn out the reading of this books is (and also how long the book is). Like I said earlier, I was waking up to IJ posts, writing at least once a week IJ posts, and reading IJ nearly every day. Just as I was managing reading the book into my life, the book was making its way into my life and vice versa. It became a platform to look at my life and discuss it in relation to others. There are other aspects of why this book spoke to me: there are events and ideas in IJ that have occurred to me in some form or another. When I first read this book, I realized how much the novel spoke to me at that moment in my life. Shortly after I read the book a third time, I stopped smoking pot because I noticed I had the same tendencies of Hal – being secretive and doing it alone, and just feeling altogether lonely because of it. So there’s that, too. I think when I read auto/biographical posts in relation to this book, it’s a combo of them identifying with events and characters in the book and the fact that the book is being reading for nearly 4 months, exactly 14 weeks.
So, how do I end this? I’m nearly at 2000 words, here. And I think I should wrap this up. But I’m not sure how. I want to say, one last time, thank you. To everyone. This meant a lot to me. It all really meant a lot.