Simon Thomas here, from Stuck-in-a-Book.
George Bernard Shaw (or someone like him) once said that Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language. Since he was Irish, that brings a whole other factor into the equation, and perhaps it’s best to pretend Dorothy Parker said it, and move on… because this is my roundabout way to say that Amy has very kindly asked me to write a bit for BBAW about the UK blogging scene. (Doesn’t the word ‘scene’ make that sound edgy? In half an hour or so, I’m going to join the cup-of-tea-and-biscuit scene. Wow, it works for anything.) Yes, that’s right, the country which brought you Shakespeare and Austen and Dickens and, erm, J.K. Rowling has also been busy a-blogging.
Of course we aren’t wholly divided blogging worlds – some of my favourite blogs are written Stateside, such as Danielle’s A Work in Progress – but most of the blogs I read are UK-based, and, as L.P. Hartley didn’t quite say in The Go-Between, the UK is another country; they do things differently there. For a start, we read different books, because different books are published here. The American blogs I read tend to be of an Anglophile persuasion, so perhaps the disparity isn’t so evident, but UK book blogs often go weak at the knees when Virago Modern Classics are mentioned, or Persephone Books, or proper orange-striped Penguins. UK’s independent publishers are celebrated, not least because they often prove most willing to send out review copies to blogs. We get excited when the Booker Longlist is announced – to American bloggers, Booker might just sound like a Creole equivalent of ‘reader’. We tend not to host reading challenges so much (don’t know why), our style is perhaps a little more dry, and, of course, over here 1800 isn’t very old and 1900 feels like yesterday. Jane Austen was dead before Herman Melville was in short trousers, etc. etc.
But we need some names, don’t we? Being a wee little place, our blogging community sometimes feels quite compact. There are doubtless thousands of literary blogs here in sunny Albion, but the ones I want to write about all more or less know each other – pop around for a cup of sugar, things like that. A whistle-stop tour of my favourite UK blogs always has to start with Cornflower. With a complementary ‘domestic arts blog’, Cornflower’s friendliness and charm comes with great book recommendations and beautiful things to look at as well. Elaine at Random Jottings is another favourite, since we share more or less the same taste in books – also does a sideline in opera-chat. And Simon S of Savidge Reads should get a mention, not just because his blog is always lively and witty and good, but because we follow each other all over the blogosphere – Simon S, Simon T, Simon S, Simon T. Try saying that five times whilst drinking a glass of water. Actually, don’t.
Alongside these old faithfuls, I must just mention one or two newer UK blogs to keep an eye on. I love Claire aka Paperback Reader and am rather excited by a very new blogger, Hayley at Desperate Reader. Of course there are many others – Brit Lit Blogs lists quite a few, though with slightly bizarre weightings given to some, and obscurity to others. Still worth a look, if you can navigate it.
One of the benefits of living on a small island (aside from never being more than 72 miles from the coast: fact) is that none of the UK bloggers are that far apart from each other. I can pop up to Edinburgh in much the same time it would take a Canadian to get a pint of milk. In fact, I will be doing that soon, hopefully, and seeing Karen from Cornflower whilst I’m there. Meeting bloggers in person is one of the fun, unexpected bonuses of writing a UK blog. Seeing the face behind the font is always exciting, and rather easier here than Across The Pond – I’ve met the good people behind Geranium Cat’s Bookshelf, Random Jottings, Dovegreyreader, Cornflower, Other Stories, Oxford Reader, The B Files, and Pursewarden – and there is talk of a UK blogger meet-up before the end of the year, watch this space.
If you can get on a ‘plane and join us, you’d be very welcome – but for now I hope I’ve done my bit for the blogs of Great Britain. Do stop by and say hello, forgive us when we –ise things instead of –izing them, and maybe we’ll make Anglophiles of you yet.