The Eloquent Page: Five Years of Waffle
Wow, five years have just flown by haven’t they? Way back in 2010 I thought it would be fun to start waffling about books on the Internet. It all began when Mrs Cheesecake demanded suggested that I get myself a hobby. Frankly, she felt I was making the place look untidy and she told me I had to do something about it. Half a decade later, and I’m still here and I’m still waffling. To celebrate this auspicious occasion, I thought I would do something a bit different and have a crack at interviewing myself.
Who is Pablo Cheesecake?
Just some guy who likes books a whole lot. I’m originally from Scotland, but my heart brought me south to Nottingham and that is where I now lay my hat. I’m six foot two, blue eyed, brown haired and currently incredibly hirsute. According to Mrs Cheesecake I look like the bastard child of Sasquatch and a Bee Gee. By day, I am a mild-mannered computer geek, but by night I am a something quite different… a mild mannered book reviewer! (Ok, perhaps not that different after all). If you look hard you can find me lurking on various social media channels, most commonly Twitter. One true fact I’ll reveal, that you wouldn’t know from looking at me, is that back in the dim and distant past I was an award winning musician #TrueFact
What is The Eloquent Page then?
When I started out it was just a place for me to collect my thoughts; my own little corner of the Internet. Everything is terribly sedate and genteel. Try to imagine me wearing a smoking jacket, slippers and a fez*, sat in a comfortable chair surrounded by many books. The air surrounding me would be a heady mix of musty old books and rich mahogany (that is absolutely nothing like the reality of it at all but I like the image). Basically when I’m not working, or asleep, my favourite thing is to read. The Eloquent Page is a virtual extension of my passion for the written word. I think a lot about the titles that I chose to devour and I needed somewhere to keep all those collected thinks.
What I’m not…
I’m not a writer, nor do I have any interest in pursuing any endeavours in that area. I have a pretty vivid imagination but the link between the wonders that appear in my brain and what I can externalise is hopelessly broken (brain surgery will do that to you, ask me about it sometime). Needless to say I am insanely jealous of any person who has the magical ability to tell a story. Damn you, all authors! DAMN YOU ALL! I hate you, yet I am entirely in thrall to your literary majicks.
The other thing I’m not is massively interested in trends. I don’t really care what the next big thing is. I often find that I am blissfully ignorant of who has won or is in the running for awards. The only exception to this rule is the BFS awards. I was a judge for one of the categories last year, and I actually read all the novellas on the short list. I’ll let you into a little secret; more often than not I’ve never heard of the books that get mentioned on awards lists. I read the books I choose to read based on gut instinct. For me, reading is an entirely emotive experience. The truth of the matter is that if a novel or short story doesn’t grab my attention (and hold on to it) I’m not really interested in writing what I think about it. I’ve tried to write about books I didn’t enjoy in the past, and ultimately I kept coming to the same conclusion – those books just weren’t for me. That doesn’t mean that they weren’t for someone else however. I do genuinely believe that there is an audience for every book out there. In the same way that there is in audience for every film, every television show. Just because I don’t like a book doesn’t mean you won’t. Art is an entirely subjective experience innit?
Why do you like to read then?
I am naturally a shy big lump of a man. Once you get to know me there is no shutting me up but often I feel quite socially awkward. Seriously, you should see me in a room where authors are present and then watch the unintentional comedy of errors ensue.
I read to explore, to learn, to escape. For me it has always all about the story. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that I’m incredibly lucky; I have a partner who is the love of my life. I have a job that pays the bills and I can tolerate on daily basis. When I get to read though, I feel like a collector. I love discovering new fiction, especially that blissful moment when you read something that really connects and you feel like it has been written just for you. I also really enjoy revisiting books that I’ve read before (I call this the cosy sock syndrome. There is literally NOTHING better in this life than slipping on a pair of your favourite socks). That sense of familiarity is a joy. There is a very select list of books that I could just read over and over again. They’re like old friends.
I read fiction almost exclusively and in all honesty I would happily give anything a go. If you forced me to choose, then my favourite genre is always going to be horror. Why? It’s really a family thing. My maternal grandmother was a pretty strong influence in my formative years and she read all the time. She used to scour charity shops and always had piles of books lying around. She pointed me in the direction of James Herbert and Stephen King probably way too early, but that love of the macabre has stuck ever since. I’ll happily admit that I am more than mildly obsessed with apocalyptic horror. I have read tons of the stuff and it really speaks to me. The end of the world is my jam (that’s what the kids say isn’t it?)
Go on then, admit it. While no-one is actually looking… what is your favourite book? After all my waffle in the last answer, you might think that it would be a horror novel, but surprisingly it’s not. Back on the early days of the Internet (well early for me anyway) a friend I met online recommend The Age of Misrule by Mark Chadbourn. I read it and it just blew my tiny little mind. The best thing about it was that by the time I finished (it is an omnibus of three books collected together) I had far more questions than answers. The topics covered in the book, a work of fiction no less, were so awe inspiring that it forced me to examine and change the way I thought about a lot of things. I never expected that reading a book could ever do that. Entertain me, sure, but I was blown away. Still am. The thought that fiction could provoke such introspection was new ground for me. Since then, I’ve been extremely lucky. I’ve had the opportunity to read many books and a lot of them have left their mark. That said, The Age of Misrule was the first and will always have a special place in my life. Ironically, I’ve never actually reviewed it and if I’m honest I probably never will. I don’t think I could ever adequately put into words what the particular tome means to me.
What have you learned in the last 5 years of book blogging? Ignore everyone else. No, not in a nasty way. No need to be rude. All I mean is, do your own thing. Whatever works for you, do that. If it doesn’t work, don’t do it. There is a metric fuck-ton of advice out there and if you wish to use it then use it. Pick what works for you and discard the rest.
One key thing I learned the hard way is don’t overextend yourself. Back in 2012 I read over one hundred books in a twelve month period. I think I got as close to blowing a mental fuse as I’ve ever come. I forgot that golden rule I try to live by – I do this for FUN. Find your own pace, I can guarantee your brain will let you know when you reach your limit.
Oh, and be nice. A bit of civility goes a long damn way. People will wholeheartedly disagree with some/all of your opinions. That is completely allowed. We’re all different. If we were all the same it would be terribly boring wouldn’t it? There have been many books of the last few years that I just didn’t get. Doesn’t mean I have to trash talk about them. A snarky review is no help to anyone. Remember what I said earlier about things being subjective. A few paragraphs later in this interview and surprisingly that hasn’t changed.
What’s next for The Eloquent Page? I’d love to tell you that I’m heading for world domination, but that would be a lie. Realistically it is going to be more of the same. I’m pretty happy with where I am right now. I’m terrible at contacting anyone regarding review copies of books (still shy about bothering people). The good news is that some lovely publishers still send me the odd book now and then and I get to waffle a bit about them online. Life in the slow, comfortable lane suits me just fine. I suspect that I may never be as exciting, sexy or crowd pleasing as some other review sites, but that’s cool. At the end of the day I’ll be the one sat in the corner reading quietly with a big old smile on my big old hairy face.
Hmmm, that said I have been toying around with an idea for a new site. More on that soon perhaps.
I just remains for me to thanks each and every single one of you that has visited the site over the last five years. I work in blissful isolation but I do I appreciate each and every visit. Please remember that if you do ever bump into me in real life being a site visitor to The Eloquent Page entitles you to one free hug. (Regular visitors to the site get the option of some additional complimentary spooning.)
Till next time denizens of the Internet.
Be cool, be nice and for goodness sake read a bloomin’ book or two.
*probably trousers as well but they are entirely optional. Choice is entirely yours.